You should read this book if you want to learn how to ascend to a position of power or if you are interested in the fundamental conditions behind one’s rise to power. Some people have a problem with the way Greene articulates these laws. They say that Greene’s laws and the examples he had chosen encourage foul play and manipulation. I found it refreshing. This is is how Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People would’ve read if it were written by a pompous punk who didn’t give a damn.
1 Never outshine your master
- Reversal: Unless you sense your master is on his way out, then strike with all your might. Be sure to crush him completely.
4 Always say less than necessary
- Oysters open completely when the moon is full; and when the crab sees one it throws a piece of stone into it and the oyster cannot close agains so that it serves the crab for meat. Such is the fate of him who opens himself at the mercy of the listener.
- Once the words are out, you cannot take them back.
- Reversal: Know when it is unwise to be silent, as it can arouse suspicion and insecurity, especially in your superiors.
5 So much depends on reputation, guard it with your life
- It is easier to cope with a bad conscience than with a bad reputation.
- In the beginning, work to establish a reputation for one outstanding quality, this quality sets you apart and gets other people talking about you.
- Once you have a reputation, a lot of your work is done for you before you arrive on the scene.
- This law admits of no reversal. By not caring how you are perceived, you let others decide this for you.
8 Make other people come to you
- Most often the most effective action is to stay back, keep calm and let others be frustrated.
- Two things must happen: 1. be master of your own emotions and 2. play on people’s natural ability to react angrily when pushed and baited.
9 Win through your actions, never through argument (words)
- Any momentary triumph you think you have gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory.
- Reversal: fast attacks can force the other person to react without the time to think or plan.
10 Avoid the unhappy and unlucky
- You can die from someone else’s misery – emotional states are as infectious as diseases.
- Humans are extremely susceptible to the moods, emotions and even the ways of thinking of those with whom we spend our time.
- The most insidious is the sufferer from chronic dissatisfaction.
- Judge people on the effects they have on the world and not on the reasons they give for their problems.
- This law admits of no reversal.
13 When asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude
- Not only is a man not obliged to the grateful, gratitude is often a terrible burden that one gladly discards.
- A pragmatic person will always opt for the future and forget the past. It is always best to speak pragmatically to a pragmatic person.
- Do not confuse your needs with the needs of the person you’re seeking help from.
- The best way to make your fortune is to let people see clearly that it is in their interests to promote yours.
- Reversal: When they ooze greed, do not appeal to their charity. When they want to look charitable and noble, do not appeal to their greed.
16 Use absence to increase respect and honour
- You must learn when to leave. Create value through scarcity.
- Absence diminishes minor passions and inflames great ones, as the wind douses a candle and fans a fire.
- Gain respect by presenting people with the possibility that they will lose you for good; create a pattern of presence and absence.
- Reversal: Apply this law only when a certain level of power has been attained, or you will be forgotten.
20 Do not commit to anyone
- The moment you commit, the magic is gone.
- The goal is not to put people off, or to make it seem that you are incapable of commitment. You need to stir the pot, excite interest, lure people with the possibility of having you. Seem interested and supportive, but find a way to remain neutral.
- Slowness to pick up a weapon can be a weapon itself.
21 Play a sucker to catch a sucker – seem dumber than you mark.
- Once convinced, they will never suspect that you may have ulterior motives.
- Intelligence, taste and sophistication are all things you can play down to lower others’ guard.
25 Recreate yourself
- Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define it.
- The world wants to assign you a role in life. And once you accept that role you are doomed, confined to the limits of the role you have been forced to assumed.
- The first step in the process of re-creation is self-consciousness – being aware of yourself as an actor and taking control of your appearance and emotions. The next step is to create a memorable character, one that compels attention. The key to keeping the audience engaged is letting events unfold slowly, then speeding them up at the right moment, according to a pattern and tempo that you control. Learn to play many roles, to be whatever the moment requires.
28 Enter action with boldness
- Although we may disguise our timidity as a concern for others, a desire not to hurt or offend them, in fact it is the opposite – we are really self-absorbed, worried about ourselves and how others perceive us.
- Reversal: Not to be the strategy behind all actions, plan and think ahead, use it tactfully and make the final element the bold move that will bring you success.
29 Plan all the way to the end
- By planning to the end you will not be overwhelmed by circumstances and you will know when to stop.
- Many people believe that they are in fact aware of the future, that they are planning and thinking ahead. They are usually deluded: What they are really doing is succumbing to their desires, to what they want the future to be.
- The dangers that are remote, that loom in the distance – if we can see them as they take shape, how many mistakes we avoid.
- So much of power is not what you do but what you do not do.
32 Play to people’s fantasies, not the harsh truth of reality
- As you search for the fantasy that will take hold of the masses, keep your eye on the banal truths that weigh heavily on us all. Search and dig for what really imprisons the masses.
- The Reality: Change is slow and gradual. It requires hard work, a bit of luck, a fair amount of self-sacrifice, and a lot of patience.
- The Fantasy: A sudden transformation will bring a total change in one’s fortunes, bypassing work, luck; self-sacrifice, and time in one fantastic stroke.
35 Master the art of timing
- Never seem to be in a hurry – hurrying betrays a lack of control over yourself, and over time. Always seem patient, as if you know that everything will come to you eventually.
- Learn to stand back when the time is not yet ripe, and to strike fiercely when it has reached fruition.
36 For things you can’t have, ignore them
- Remember, you choose to let things bother you.
- Sour grapes – for the thing you want, act as if it never interested you in the first place.
- When you’re attacked by an inferior, deflect people’s attention by making it clear that the attack has not even registered.
- There is no revenue like oblivion, for it is the entombment of the unworthy in the dust of their own nothingness.
- Reversal: Develop the skill of sensing problems when they are still small.
37 Create compelling spectacles
- People do not always want words, or rational explanations; they want an immediate appeal to their emotions.
- You must circumvent people’s suspicions, their perverse desire to resist your will. Images are an extremely effective shortcut.
- The visual short-circuits the labyrinth of words. The visual is the easiest way to people’s hearts.
38 Think as you like but behave like others
- Share your originality only with tolerant friends and those who are sure to appreciate your uniqueness.
- There are those who have a need to prove the superiority of their values and beliefs. In the end though, their arguments convince only a few and offend a great deal more. This is because most people hold their ideas without thinking about them. There is a strong emotional content in their beliefs: They really don’t want to have to rework their habits of thinking and when you challenge them, they are hostile.
- Once you have established yourself in a position of power, you can try to convince a wider circle of the correctness of your ideas.
- The black sheep straggles behind, or wanders away from the herd, where it is cornered by wolves and promptly devoured.
39 Stir up waters to catch fish
- Repression of anger or emotional responses drain us of energy and push us into strange behaviour. Instead we have to change our perspective: We have to realise that nothing in the social realm, and in the game of power, is personal.
- Reversal: Some fish are best left at the bottom of the pond. If you have nothing to gain, best to leave the sharks alone.
46 Never appear too perfect
- Envy is a weed that should not be watered. The fool dares the gods of envy by flaunting his victories.
- Upon occasion, reveal a harmless defect in your character.
47 Do not go past the mark you aimed for; in victory, learn when to stop
- Do not let success to go to your head. There is no substitute for strategy and careful planning. Set a goal, and when you reach it, stop.
- When you gain victory, understand the part played by the particular circumstances of a situation.
- Reversal: Your caution after victory should never make you hesitate, or lose momentum, but rather act as safeguard against rash action.
48 Assume formlessness
- First psychological requirement is to train yourself to take nothing personally.