Robert Greene (American author)

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Robert Greene

Robert Greene (born May 14, 1959, in Los Angeles) is an American author specializing in books about strategy, power and seduction. His first book was The 48 Laws of Power (1998), which became a best-seller with more than 1 million copies sold in the US.

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The 48 Laws of Power (1998)[edit]

  • Always make those above you feel comfortably superior.
    • Ch.1 Law 1 "Never Outshine the Master and you can it very easily

The Laws of Human Nature (2018)[edit]

  • You like to imagine yourself in control of your fate, consciously planning the course of your life as best you can. But you are largely unaware of how deeply your emotions dominate you. They make you veer toward ideas that soothe your ego. They make you look for evidence that confirms what you already want to believe. They make you see what you want to see, depending on your mood, and this disconnect from reality is the source of the bad decisions and negative patterns that haunt your life. Rationality is the ability to counteract these emotional effects, to think instead of react, to open your mind to what is really happening, as opposed to what you are feeling. It does not come naturally; it is a power we must cultivate, but in doing so we realize our greatest potential.
    • Chap. 1 : Master Your Emotional Self
  • Emotions are continually affecting our thought processes and decisions, below the level of our awareness. And the most common emotion of them all is the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Our thoughts almost inevitably revolve around this desire; we simply recoil from entertaining ideas that are unpleasant or painful to us. We imagine we are looking for the truth, or being realistic, when in fact we are holding on to ideas that bring a release from tension and soothe our egos, make us feel superior. This pleasure principle in thinking is the source of all of our mental biases. If you believe that you are somehow immune to any of the following biases, it is simply an example of the pleasure principle in action. Instead, it is best to search and see how they continually operate inside you, as well as learn how to identify such irrationality in others.
    • Chap. 1 : Master Your Emotional Self
  • We all naturally possess the most remarkable tool for connecting to people and attaining social power—empathy. When cultivated and properly used, it can allow us to see into the moods and minds of others, giving us the power to anticipate people’s actions and gently lower their resistance. This instrument, however, is blunted by our habitual self-absorption. We are all narcissists, some deeper on the spectrum than others. Our mission in life is to come to terms with this self-love and learn how to turn our sensitivity outward, toward others, instead of inward. We must recognize at the same time the toxic narcissists among us before getting enmeshed in their dramas and poisoned by their envy.
    • Chap. 2 : Transform Self-love into Empathy
  • The first step, then, is the most important: to realize you have a remarkable social tool that you are not cultivating. The best way to see this is to try it out. Stop your incessant interior monologue and pay deeper attention to people. Attune yourself to the shifting moods of individuals and the group. Get a read on each person’s particular psychology and what motivates them. Try to take their perspective, enter their world and value system. You will suddenly become aware of an entire world of nonverbal behavior you never knew existed, as if your eyes could now suddenly see ultraviolet light. Once you sense this power, you will feel its importance and awaken to new social possibilities.
    • Chap. 2 : Transform Self-love into Empathy
  • People tend to wear the mask that shows them off in the best possible light—humble, confident, diligent. They say the right things, smile, and seem interested in our ideas. They learn to conceal their insecurities and envy. If we take this appearance for reality, we never really know their true feelings, and on occasion we are blindsided by their sudden resistance, hostility, and manipulative actions. Fortunately, the mask has cracks in it. People continually leak out their true feelings and unconscious desires in the nonverbal cues they cannot completely control—facial expressions, vocal inflections, tension in the body, and nervous gestures. You must master this language by transforming yourself into a superior reader of men and women. Armed with this knowledge, you can take the proper defensive measures. On the other hand, since appearances are what people judge you by, you must learn how to present the best front and play your role to maximum effect.
    • Chap. 3 : See Through People’s Masks
  • Your task as a student of human nature is twofold: First, you must understand and accept the theatrical quality of life. You do not moralize and rail against the role-playing and the wearing of masks so essential to smooth social functioning. In fact, your goal is to play your part on the stage of life with consummate skill, attracting attention, dominating the limelight, and making yourself into a sympathetic hero or heroine. Second, you must not be naive and mistake people’s appearances for reality. You are not blinded by people’s acting skills. You transform yourself into a master decoder of their true feelings, working on your observation skills and practicing them as much as you can in daily life.
    • Chap. 3 : See Through People’s Masks
  • In general, the best thing to do when you suspect people of trying to distract you from the truth is not to actively confront them in the beginning, but in fact to encourage them to continue by showing interest in what they are saying or doing. You want them to talk more, to reveal more signs of tension and contrivance. At the right moment you must surprise them with a question or remark that is designed to make them uncomfortable, revealing you are onto them. Pay attention to the microexpressions and body language they emit at such moments. If they are really deceiving, they will often have a freeze response as they take this in, and then quickly try to mask the underlying anxiety. This was the favorite strategy of detective Columbo in the television series of the same name—facing criminals who had tried to reverse engineer the evidence to make it look like someone else had done it, Columbo would pretend to be perfectly friendly and harmless but then would suddenly ask an uncomfortable question and then pay extra attention to the face and body.
    • Chap. 3 : See Through People’s Masks
  • When choosing people to work and associate with, do not be mesmerized by their reputation or taken in by the surface image they try to project. Instead, train yourself to look deep within them and see their character. People’s character is formed in their earliest years and by their daily habits. It is what compels them to repeat certain actions in their lives and fall into negative patterns. Look closely at such patterns and remember that people never do something just once. They will inevitably repeat their behavior. Gauge the relative strength of their character by how well they handle adversity, their ability to adapt and work with other people, their patience and ability to learn. Always gravitate toward those who display signs of strength, and avoid the many toxic types out there. Know thoroughly your own character so you can break your compulsive patterns and take control of your destiny.
    • Chap. 4 : Determine the Strength of People’s Character
  • The most significant indicator of people’s character comes through their actions over time. Despite what people say about the lessons they have learned (see Howard Hughes), and how they have changed over the years, you will inevitably notice the same actions and decisions repeating in the course of their life. In these decisions they reveal their character. You must take notice of any salient forms of behavior—disappearing when there is too much stress, not completing an important piece of work, turning suddenly belligerent when challenged, or, conversely, suddenly rising to the occasion when given responsibility. With this fixed in your mind, you do some research into their past. You look at other actions you have observed that fit into this pattern, now in retrospect. You pay close attention to what they do in the present. You see their actions not as isolated incidents but as parts of a compulsive pattern. If you ignore the pattern it is your own fault.
    • Chap. 4 : Determine the Strength of People’s Character
  • Absence and presence have very primal effects upon us. Too much presence suffocates; a degree of absence spurs our interest. We are marked by the continual desire to possess what we do not have—the object projected by our fantasies. Learn to create some mystery around you, to use strategic absence to make people desire your return, to want to possess you. Dangle in front of others what they are missing most in life, what they are forbidden to have, and they will go crazy with desire. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Overcome this weakness in yourself by embracing your circumstances, your fate.
    • Chap. 5 : Become an Elusive Object of Desire
  • People may point to all of this as evidence that we humans are becoming more honest and truthful, but human nature does not change within a few generations. People have become more obvious and forthright not out of some deep moral calling but out of increasing self-absorption and overall laziness. It requires no effort to simply be oneself or to blast one’s message. And the lack of effort simply results in a lack of effect on other people’s psychology. It means that people’s interest in you will be paper thin. Their attention will quickly move on and you will not see the reason for this. Do not swallow the easy moralism of the day, which urges honesty at the expense of desirability. Go in the opposite direction. With so few people out there who understand the art of desirability, it affords you endless opportunities to shine and exploit people’s repressed fantasies.
    • Chap. 5 : Become an Elusive Object of Desire
  • It is in the animal part of your nature to be most impressed by what you can see and hear in the present—the latest news reports and trends, the opinions and actions of the people around you, whatever seems the most dramatic. This is what makes you fall for alluring schemes that promise quick results and easy money. This is also what makes you overreact to present circumstances—becoming overly exhilarated or panicky as events turn one direction or the other. Learn to measure people by the narrowness or breadth of their vision; avoid entangling yourself with those who cannot see the consequences of their actions, who are in a continual reactive mode. They will infect you with this energy. Your eyes must be on the larger trends that govern events, on that which is not immediately visible. Never lose sight of your long-term goals. With an elevated perspective, you will have the patience and clarity to reach almost any objective.
    • Chap. 6 : Elevate Your Perspective
  • If possible, avoid deep contact with those whose time frame is narrow, who are in continual react mode, and strive to associate with those with an expanded awareness of time.
    • Chap. 6 : Elevate Your Perspective
  • Life is harsh and people competitive. We naturally must look after our own interests. We also want to feel that we are independent, doing our own bidding. That is why when others try to persuade or change us, we become defensive and resistant. To give in challenges our need to feel autonomous. That is why to get people to move from their defensive positions you must always make it seem like what they are doing is of their own free will. Creating a feeling of mutual warmth helps soften people’s resistance and makes them want to help. Never attack people for their beliefs or make them feel insecure about their intelligence or goodness—that will only strengthen their defensiveness and make your task impossible. Make them feel that by doing what you want they are being noble and altruistic—the ultimate lure. Learn to tame your own stubborn nature and free your mind from its defensive and closed positions, unleashing your creative powers.
    • Chap. 7 : Soften People’s Resistance by Confirming Their Self-opinion
  • Creating this feeling of validation is the golden key that will unlock people’s defenses. And we cannot survive and thrive in this highly competitive world without possessing such a power.
    • Chap. 7 : Soften People’s Resistance by Confirming Their Self-opinion
  • Each of us has a particular way of looking at the world, of interpreting events and the actions of people around us. This is our attitude, and it determines much of what happens to us in life. If our attitude is essentially fearful, we see the negative in every circumstance. We stop ourselves from taking chances. We blame others for mistakes and fail to learn from them. If we feel hostile or suspicious, we make others feel such emotions in our presence. We sabotage our career and relationships by unconsciously creating the circumstances we fear the most. The human attitude, however, is malleable. By making our attitude more positive, open, and tolerant of other people, we can spark a different dynamic—we can learn from adversity, create opportunities out of nothing, and draw people to us. We must explore the limits of our willpower and how far it can take us.
    • Chap. 8 : Change Your Circumstances by Changing Your Attitude
  • We humans like to imagine that we have an objective knowledge of the world. We take it for granted that what we perceive on a daily basis is reality—this reality being more or less the same for everybody. But this is an illusion. No two people see or experience the world in the same way. What we perceive is our personal version of reality, one that is of our own creation. To realize this is a critical step in our understanding of human nature.
    • Chap. 8 : Change Your Circumstances by Changing Your Attitude
  • Learn to measure the people you deal with by the depth of their soul, and if possible associate as much as you can with those of the expansive variety.
    • Chap. 8 : Change Your Circumstances by Changing Your Attitude
  • People are rarely who they seem to be. Lurking beneath their polite, affable exterior is inevitably a dark, shadow side consisting of the insecurities and the aggressive, selfish impulses they repress and carefully conceal from public view. This dark side leaks out in behavior that will baffle and harm you. Learn to recognize the signs of the Shadow before they become toxic. See people’s overt traits—toughness, saintliness, et cetera—as covering up the opposite quality. You must become aware of your own dark side. In being conscious of it you can control and channel the creative energies that lurk in your unconscious. By integrating the dark side into your personality, you will be a more complete human and will radiate an authenticity that will draw people to you.
    • Chap. 9 : Confront Your Dark Side
  • Your task as a student of human nature is to recognize and examine the dark side of your character. Once subjected to conscious scrutiny, it loses its destructive power. If you can learn to detect the signs of it in yourself (see the following sections for help on this), you can channel this darker energy into productive activity. You can turn your neediness and vulnerability into empathy. You can channel your aggressive impulses into worthwhile causes and into your work. You can admit your ambitions, your desires for power, and not act so guiltily and stealthily. You can monitor your suspicious tendencies and the projection of your own negative emotions onto others. You can see that selfish and harmful impulses dwell within you as well, that you are not as angelic or strong as you imagine. With this awareness will come balance and greater tolerance for others.
    • Chap. 9 : Confront Your Dark Side
  • We humans are naturally compelled to compare ourselves with one another. We are continually measuring people’s status, the levels of respect and attention they receive, and noticing any differences between what we have and what they have. For some of us, this need to compare serves as a spur to excel through our work. For others, it can turn into deep envy—feelings of inferiority and frustration that lead to covert attacks and sabotage. Nobody admits to acting out of envy. You must recognize the early warning signs—praise and bids for friendship that seem effusive and out of proportion; subtle digs at you under the guise of good-natured humor; apparent uneasiness with your success. It is most likely to crop up among friends or your peers in the same profession. Learn to deflect envy by drawing attention away from yourself. Develop your sense of self-worth from internal standards and not incessant comparisons.
    • Chap. 10 : Beware the Fragile Ego
  • Admiration is the polar opposite of envy—we are acknowledging people’s achievements, celebrating them, without having to feel insecure.
    • Chap. 10 : Beware the Fragile Ego
  • We humans have a deep need to think highly of ourselves. If that opinion of our goodness, greatness, and brilliance diverges enough from reality, we become grandiose. We imagine our superiority. Often a small measure of success will elevate our natural grandiosity to even more dangerous levels. Our high self-opinion has now been confirmed by events. We forget the role that luck may have played in the success, or the contributions of others. We imagine we have the golden touch. Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last. Look for the signs of elevated grandiosity in yourself and in others—overbearing certainty in the positive outcome of your plans; excessive touchiness if criticized; a disdain for any form of authority. Counteract the pull of grandiosity by maintaining a realistic assessment of yourself and your limits. Tie any feelings of greatness to your work, your achievements, and your contributions to society.
    • Chap. 11 : Know Your Limits
  • Your task is the following: After any kind of success, analyze the components. See the element of luck that is inevitably there, as well as the role that other people, including mentors, played in your good fortune. This will neutralize the tendency to inflate your powers. Remind yourself that with success comes complacency, as attention becomes more important than the work and old strategies are repeated.
    • Chap. 11 : Know Your Limits
  • All of us have masculine and feminine qualities—some of this is genetic, and some of it comes from the profound influence of the parent of the opposite sex. But in the need to present a consistent identity in society, we tend to repress these qualities, overidentifying with the masculine or feminine role expected of us. And we pay a price for this. We lose valuable dimensions to our character. Our thinking and ways of acting become rigid. Our relationships with members of the opposite sex suffer as we project onto them our own fantasies and hostilities. You must become aware of these lost masculine or feminine traits and slowly reconnect to them, unleashing creative powers in the process. You will become more fluid in your thinking. In bringing out the masculine or feminine undertone to your character, you will fascinate people by being authentically yourself. Do not play the expected gender role, but rather create the one that suits you.
    • Chap. 12 : Reconnect to the Masculine or Feminine Within You
  • Unlike animals, with their instincts to guide them past dangers, we humans have to rely upon our conscious decisions. We do the best we can when it comes to our career path and handling the inevitable setbacks in life. But in the back of our minds we can sense an overall lack of direction, as we are pulled this way and that way by our moods and by the opinions of others. How did we end up in this job, in this place? Such drifting can lead to dead ends. The way to avoid such a fate is to develop a sense of purpose, discovering our calling in life and using such knowledge to guide us in our decisions. We come to know ourselves more deeply—our tastes and inclinations. We trust ourselves, knowing which battles and detours to avoid. Even our moments of doubt, even our failures have a purpose—to toughen us up. With such energy and direction, our actions have unstoppable force.
    • Chap. 13 : Advance with a Sense of Purpose
  • We have a side to our character that we are generally unaware of—our social personality, the different person we become when we operate in groups of people. In the group setting, we unconsciously imitate what others are saying and doing. We think differently, more concerned with fitting in and believing what others believe. We feel different emotions, infected by the group mood. We are more prone to taking risks, to acting irrationally, because everyone else is. This social personality can come to dominate who we are. Listening so much to others and conforming our behavior to them, we slowly lose a sense of our uniqueness and the ability to think for ourselves. The only solution is to develop self-awareness and a superior understanding of the changes that occur in us in groups. With such intelligence, we can become superior social actors, able to outwardly fit in and cooperate with others on a high level, while retaining our independence and rationality.
    • Chap. 14 : Resist the Downward Pull of the Group
  • As part of this experiment we must not only accept human nature but work with what we have to make it productive. We inevitably feel the need for status and recognition, so let’s not deny it. Instead, let’s cultivate such status and recognition through our excellent work. We must accept our need to belong to the group and prove our loyalty, but let’s do it in more positive ways—by questioning group decisions that will harm it in the long run, by supplying divergent opinions, by steering the group in a more rational direction, gently and strategically.
    • Chap. 14 : Resist the Downward Pull of the Group
  • Although styles of leadership change with the times, one constant remains: people are always ambivalent about those in power. They want to be led but also to feel free; they want to be protected and enjoy prosperity without making sacrifices; they both worship the king and want to kill him. When you are the leader of a group, people are continually prepared to turn on you the moment you seem weak or experience a setback. Do not succumb to the prejudices of the times, imagining that what you need to do to gain their loyalty is to seem to be their equal or their friend; people will doubt your strength, become suspicious of your motives, and respond with hidden contempt. Authority is the delicate art of creating the appearance of power, legitimacy, and fairness while getting people to identify with you as a leader who is in their service. If you want to lead, you must master this art from early on in your life. Once you have gained people’s trust, they will stand by you as their leader, no matter the bad circumstances.
    • Chap. 15 : Make Them Want to Follow You
  • On the surface, the people around you appear so polite and civilized. But beneath the mask, they are all inevitably dealing with frustrations. They have a need to influence people and gain power over circumstances. Feeling blocked in their endeavors, they often try to assert themselves in manipulative ways that catch you by surprise. And then there are those whose need for power and impatience to obtain it are greater than others. They turn particularly aggressive, getting their way by intimidating people, being relentless and willing to do almost anything. You must transform yourself into a superior observer of people’s unsatisfied aggressive desires, paying extra attention to the chronic aggressors and passive aggressors in our midst. You must recognize the signs—the past patterns of behavior, the obsessive need to control everything in their environment—that indicate the dangerous types. They depend on making you emotional—afraid, angry—and unable to think straight. Do not give them this power. When it comes to your own aggressive energy, learn to tame and channel it for productive purposes—standing up for yourself, attacking problems with relentless energy, realizing great ambitions.
    • Chap. 16 : See the Hostility Behind the Friendly Façade
  • See through their narrative and their shrewd attempts at distraction. They will often present themselves as holier-than-thou or as the victim of other people’s malice. The louder they proclaim their convictions, the more certain you can be they’re hiding something.
    • Chap. 16 : See the Hostility Behind the Friendly Façade
  • You are born into a generation that defines who you are more than you can imagine. Your generation wants to separate itself from the previous one and set a new tone for the world. In the process, it forms certain tastes, values, and ways of thinking that you as an individual internalize. As you get older, these generational values and ideas tend to close you off from other points of view, constraining your mind. Your task is to understand as deeply as possible this powerful influence on who you are and how you see the world. Knowing in depth the spirit of your generation and the times you live in, you will be better able to exploit the zeitgeist. You will be the one to anticipate and set the trends that your generation hungers for. You will free your mind from the mental constraints placed on you by your generation, and you will become more of the individual you imagine yourself to be, with all the power that freedom will bring you.
    • Chap. 17 : Seize the Historical Moment
  • In human culture, we can see a phenomenon—changes in fashions and styles—that at first glance might appear trivial, but that in fact is quite profound, revealing a deep and fascinating part of human nature. Look at clothing styles, for instance. In the stores or in fashion shows we can perhaps detect some trends and changes from a few months before, but they are usually subtle.
    • Chap. 17 : Seize the Historical Moment
  • Sometimes the changes that are generated in a revolutionary period are rather trivial and do not last past the cycle. But sometimes, from a strong crisis, a revolution forges something new that lasts for centuries and represents progress toward values that are more rational and empathetic. In seeing this historical pattern, we must recognize what seems to be an overall human spirit that transcends any particular time and that keeps us evolving. If for any reason the cycle stopped, we would be doomed.
    • Chap. 17 : Seize the Historical Moment
  • Most of us spend our lives avoiding the thought of death. Instead, the inevitability of death should be continually on our minds. Understanding the shortness of life fills us with a sense of purpose and urgency to realize our goals. Training ourselves to confront and accept this reality makes it easier to manage the inevitable setbacks, separations, and crises in life. It gives us a sense of proportion, of what really matters in this brief existence of ours. Most people continually look for ways to separate themselves from others and feel superior. Instead, we must see the mortality in everyone, how it equalizes and connects us all. By becoming deeply aware of our mortality, we intensify our experience of every aspect of life.
    • Chap. 18 : Meditate on Our Common Mortality

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