Release year: 1998

Author: Robert Greene

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Link to my handwritten notes


Recently, my colleague Pierre-Francois noticed I was reading The 48 Laws of Power and asked me, “Are you sure you want to read something like this in public?”

I totally get where his question came from. Long before the book landed in my hands, I was asking myself the same question. Would this book make me a manipulator? Would it corrupt my soul and turn me into an evil, untrustworthy politician? How will this book change me?

For one, this book made me better appreciate what power truly is. Power, contrary to what I was lead to believe for the longest time, is neither good nor bad. Like money, power simply amplifies what you already are, because being powerful is getting people to act according to your desires. For example, reading this book made me appreciate how truly powerful our children are, despite not being in a “position of authority.”

What I feared when I started this book was that the author would focus on the reader and treat coldly the people who would become subjected to the reader’s newly-found power. Actually, if anything, it’s power itself that the book treats coldly. It explains the mechanics of acquiring power, using power, and keeping power. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the early laws in the book – the ones about acquiring power, which seem all about manipulating each other – I was fascinated by the later chapters, notably law 46 (“Never appear too perfect”) which discussed the destructive power of envy.

I believe that, at multiple points and turns in my life, I have broken every one of the 48 rules. In that sense, it felt like the author was coaching me to learn from my mistakes, in order to guide me toward living a life where I felt in control. I expect to use the teachings from this book for many years to come.

Félix rating:

⭐ Star quotes

  1. (p. xxi) If deception is the most potent weapon in your arsenal, then patience in all things is your crucial shield. Patience will protect you from making moronic blunders.
  2. (p. xxi) Power is a game, and in games you do not judge your opponents by their intentions but by the effect of their actions.
  3. (p. 21) In seduction, set up conflicting signals, such as desire and indifference, and you not only throw them off the scent, you inflame their desire to possess you.
  4. (p. 31) The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.
  5. (p. 33) A person who cannot control his words shows that he cannot control himself, and is unworthy of respect. Power cannot accrue to those who squander their treasure of words.
  6. (p. 39) Even those who argue against fame still want the books they write against it to bear their name in the title and hope to become famous for despising it.
  7. (p. 41) Your reputation inevitably increases your presence and exaggerates your strengths without your having to spend much energy. It can also create an aura around you that will instill respect, even fear.
  8. (p. 47) The worst fate in the world for a man who yearns fame, glory, and, of course, power is to be ignored.
  9. (p. 51) The mysterious cannot be grasped. And what cannot be seized and consumed creates power.
  10. (p. 54) If you find yourself trapped, cornered and on the defensive in some situation, try a simple experiment: Do something that cannot be easily explained or interpreted.
  11. (p. 65) The essence of power is the ability to keep initiative, to get others to react to your moves.
  12. (p. 69) Demonstrate, do not explicate.
  13. (p. 74) Never argue. Give only results.
  14. (p. 85) The best you can hope for is that others will grow so dependent on you that you enjoy a kind of reverse dependence: Their need for you frees you.
  15. (p. 98) Referencing past acts of generosity only irritates because it subtly asks the other to feel guilty and puts them under obligation.
  16. (p. 130) You are shielded from your enemies by the crowd.
  17. (p. 131) As the emperor withdrew deeper and deeper into the palace to protect himself, he slowly lost control of the realm.
  18. (p. 134) Never imagine yourself so elevated that you can afford to cut yourself off from even the lowest echelons.
  19. (p. 180) Learn to flatter indirectly by downplaying your own contribution.
  20. (p. 181) By expressing modest admiration for other people’s achievements, you paradoxically call attention to your own. The ability to express wonder and amazement, and seem like you mean it, is greatly valued.
  21. (p. 186) Do not overstep your bounds. Do what you are assigned to do, to the best of your abilities, and never do more. To think that by doing more you are doing better is a common blunder.
  22. (p. 186) If you are a crown-keeper, be a crown-keeper. Save your excess energy for when you are not in the court.
  23. (p. 197) The key to keeping the audience on the edge of their seats is letting events unfold slowly, then speeding them up at the right moment, according to a pattern and tempo that you control.
  24. (p. 217) Your listeners will make their own connections and see what they want to see.
  25. (p. 217) Once people have begun to gather around you, two dangers will present themselves; boredom and skepticism. Boredom will make people go elsewhere; skepticism will allow them the distance to think rationally about whatever it is you are offering.
  26. (p. 228) Hesitation puts obstacles in your path, boldness eliminates them.
  27. (p. 235) Timidity has no place in the realm of power; you will often benefit, however, by being able to feign it.
  28. (p. 240) The person who goes too far in his triumphs creates a reaction that inevitably leads to a decline.
  29. (p. 272) One sign of weakness is that when you touch on it the person will often act like a child. Be on the lookout, then, for any behavior that should have been outgrown.
  30. (p. 273) An overt trait often conceals its opposite. People who thump their chests are often big cowards a prudish exterior may hide a lascivious soul; the uptight are often screaming for adventure; the shy are dying for attention.
  31. (p. 278) The stronger the passion, the more vulnerable the person.
  32. (p. 290) Never make the mistake of thinking that you elevate yourself by humiliating people.
  33. (p. 292) Power rarely ends up in the hands of those who start a revolution, or even of those who further it; power sticks to those who bring it to a conclusion.
  34. (p. 295) Space we can recover, time never.
  35. (p. 297) Success that is built up slowly and surely is the only kind that lasts.
  36. (p. 300) Disdain things you cannot have: ignoring them is the best revenge.
  37. (p. 305) The more interest you show, the more you repel the object of your desire. Uncontrollable desire makes you seem weak, unworthy, pathetic.
  38. (p. 306) If there is something you want but realize you cannot have, the worst thing you can do is draw attention to your disappoint by complaining about it.
  39. (p. 313) If you have to explain yourself your power is already in question.
  40. (p. 346) Greed does not pay.
  41. (p. 355) You are your own father. Do not let yourself spend years creating yourself only to let your guard down and allow the ghost of the past – father, habit, history – to sneak back in.
  42. (p. 372) There is no more infuriating feeling than having your individuality ignored, your own psychology unacknowledged.
  43. (p. 385) The goal of power is always to lower people’s resistance to you. For this you need tricks, and one trick is to teach them a lesson.
  44. (p. 394) Just as you cannot make people see the world your way, you cannot wrench them into the future with painful changes. They will rebel. If reform is necessary, anticipate the reaction against it and find ways to disguise the change and sweeten the poison.
  45. (p. 398) A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
  46. (p. 398) The changes you make must seem less innovative than they are.
  47. (p. 405) Of all the disorders of the soul, envy is the only one no one confesses to.
  48. (p. 405) As you gain power, those below you will feel envious of you. They may not show it but it is inevitable.
  49. (p. 406) The naturally perfect have to work the most to disguise their brilliance, displaying a defect or two to deflect envy before it takes root.
  50. (p. 407) Subtly emphasize how lucky you have been, to make your happiness seem more attainable to other people, and the need for envy less acute. But be careful not to affect on false modesty that people can easily see through. This will only make them more envious.
  51. (p. 407) Political power of any kind creates envy, and one of the best ways to deflect it before it takes root is to seem unambitious.
  52. (p. 407) Disguise your power as a kind of self-sacrifice rather than a source of happiness and you make it seem less enviable. Emphasize your troubles and you turn a potential danger (envy) into a source of moral support (pity)
  53. (p. 408) In some Arab countries, a man will avoid arousing envy by showing his wealth only on the inside of his home.
  54. (p. 408) Do not try to help or do favors for those who envy you; they will think you are condescending to them.
  55. (p. 408) Envy is the tax which all distinction must pay.
  56. (p. 414) Success makes you feel invulnerable while also making you more hostile and emotional when people challenge your power. It makes you less able to adapt to circumstance. You come to believe your character is more responsible for your success than your strategizing and planning.
  57. (p. 414) The greatest danger occurs at the moment of victory.
  58. (p. 416) The wheel of fortune will hurtle you down as easily as up. If you prepare for the fall, it is less likely to ruin you when it happens.
  59. (p. 416) The rhythm of power often requires an alternation of force and cunning. Too much force creates a counterreaction; too much cunning, no matter how cunning it is, becomes predictable.
  60. (p. 417) There is no better time to stop and walk away than after a victory.
  61. (p. 424) Where chess is linear and direct, the ancient game of go is closer to the kind of strategy that will prove relevant in a world where battles are fought indirectly, in vast, loosely connected areas. Its strategies are abstract and multidimensional, inhabiting a plane beyond time and space.