The 48 Laws of Power written by Robert Greene is a masterpiece of a book that details the laws for achieving success and power in all aspects of life. It’s essentially a field manual for how you can work strategically to achieve your goals in this competitive world that we live in.
Once you learn the laws of power, you’ll have a much easier time succeeding in your life since you know the best strategies. You may not choose to apply all of these laws as many of them are quite intense. Yet, it is critical that you at least understand them, so that you are aware of how other people might try to compete against you.
To get you started, here’s the best and only book summary you’ll ever need of The 48 Laws of Power.
Law 1: Never outshine the master
Never make yourself look too much better than your master (boss, superior, or authority figure). They will resent you for it and make your life difficult. In their mind, they should always be the superior ones.
Instead, make your masters appear more brilliant. Do things that make them look good in front of their own masters. In return, they will eventually reward you as they see that you are valuable to them. You should only ever outshine them once you are confident that you can fully overtake them.
Law 2: Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies
We often overestimate how much we can rely on and trust our friends. At the end of the day, everyone will do what is in their best interests.
Don’t rely on friends to always tell you the truth and do you favours. It's dangerous because you are going to be extra vulnerable and susceptible to manipulation from your friends. Don’t work with someone just because they’re your friend if it’s not best for you or your business.
Enemies can also become great allies. You know that the relationship is strictly business, so you never expect any more than that. In addition, an enemy will have a lot more to prove to you, so by working with them, you give them an incentive to work well.
Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions
It is rarely beneficial to reveal your true intentions. Other people might disagree or worse, see that your intentions will are against their interests, which will create a bad conflict. You never know what other people are thinking or if they will be offended by what you reveal.
It is best to simply use a front that is different from what you truly want. Then focus on your self-interest in your own mind.
Law 4: Always say less than necessary
Once you say something, you can never take it back. People have heard it and they will remember it. That is why you should choose your words very carefully. This law applies a hard rule to just always say less than necessary because in most cases people speak far too much.
There are a number of advantages to always saying less than necessary:
- You learn more by listening — because you are able to take in information from other people
- You can observe more — studies have shown that only 7% of our communication is done verbally, but 55% is done through body language. Saying less gives you the chance to observe that body language
- You can think before you speak — by always saying less, you can be sure that you’ll choose your words far more carefully. This also will ensure that you never give out too much information
- You command respect — the person who only speaks when they have something powerful to say is always well-respected
Always say less than necessary.
Law 5: So much depends on reputation, guard it with your life
People will often judge you by your reputation; this can be both a curse and a blessing.
If people start to label you as weak, soft, or unintelligent, then they will be far more brash and aggressive in trying to take advantage of you. On the other hand, if people see you as the smart and confident alpha, then they not only back off, but they even do you favours and will go out of their own way to serve you.
Make your reputation a powerful blessing. Bring it up so that people see you as someone who is strong, smart, and respected. Such a reputation will in turn fuel your growth as the world opens up to make achieving your goals much easier.
Law 6: Court attention at all costs
Attention is virtually always a great thing and should be acquired at any cost. Even a celebrity scandal brings in views for that person, which makes them more well-known, which gets them more sponsorships, which gets them paid. Popular people are simply treated better than unpopular people.
Get as many eyes on you as possible. Make sure people know who you are and give you their attention. That attention will make you stand out from the crowd as people take notice of you, giving you many more opportunities to grow, succeed, and achieve whatever you want.
Law 7: Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit
When it comes to things like getting promoted, striking business deals, or achieving any kind of monetary success, it is always the person who gets the credit that gets paid, regardless of who did the actual hard work. Strive to be that person, the one who is seen as responsible for the success of things. Let other people do the heavy lifting for you while knowing that the fruits go to the person who takes credit.
Law 8: Make other people come to you, use bait if necessary
Whenever you are in negotiations or meetings, get the other person to come into your territory and play your game. That way, you are the one in control while they have to stretch over to your side. For example, when negotiating for a salary, set the tone of the conversation to be in your favour with a high anchor so that the other person will have to pay more for your valuable services.
Law 9: Win through your actions, never through argument
Actions always speak louder than words. If you’re going to try to prove something, never stretch yourself trying to explain things with words. Show them through your actions. Do something that demonstrates the message you want to get across.
Law 10: Infection: Avoid the unhappy or the unlucky
Jim Rohn famously said that “You are the average of the five people spend the most time with.” That quote also goes the other way too. The mindset and luck of the people you spend time with rubs off on you one way or another, and may even influence your mindset. Do your best to avoid those people as they will only ever negatively affect your life.
Law 11: Learn to keep people dependent on you
If people don’t need you, then they won’t hesitate to leave or betray you if it benefits them. But if they depend on you, if they need you, then you know that your position is strong and safe. To do so, you must have something that is irreplaceable: a talent, skill, or unique thing.
Law 12: Use selective honesty and generosity to disarm your victim
You must learn to give before you take. People don’t trust those who always take, who are always dishonest, greedy, and acting in their self-interest. Use a simple gift, an act of generosity, or a favour in certain situations to gain people’s trust before you start looking for things to take. It will be far easier to do things that further your cause once you have people’s trust.
Law 13: When asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest, never their mercy or gratitude
If you beg and plead when asking for help, people will never listen. They simply don’t care to help you because they’re too busy thinking about themselves and their own desires. So you if you want something from someone, appeal to their self-interest. Put yourself in their shoes and think of what they really want, something that would make them feel good or satisfy their desires. If you can offer it to them, then they’ll do whatever you want as you dangle the carrot.
Law 14: Pose as a friend, work as a spy
Pay attention during social gatherings and more relaxed settings with people. This is when people’s guards are down, and they will reveal valuable information, including their true intentions. Act open and friendly during that time, which will, in turn, cause others to open up.
Law 15: Crush your enemy totally
If you’re going to hit someone (metaphorically speaking), make sure you hit them hard enough so that they’re totally discouraged or even better totally unable to hit you back. If you don’t they may come back and seek revenge when you least expect it. When you crush your enemy totally, you no longer have to worry about them.
Law 16: Use absence to increase strength and honor
Supply and demand apply here. The more you are available with your time and attention, the more people will take advantage of it. They will see you as average and common because you are always so available. But when you appear absent, busy, or in general less available, you will be seen as far more valuable and admired because of your scarcity. So leave early once in a while, don’t always be available and people will love you for it.
Law 17: Keep others in suspended terror, cultivate an air of unpredictability
Patterns are great for efficiency, but they also make you too predictable and easy to read. Every once in a while, do something out of the ordinary. This air of unpredictability will keep people on their toes and communicate to them that you aren’t someone who can be stepped on because they never know what they’re going to get.
Law 18: Do not build a fortress to protect yourself, isolation is dangerous
Isolation is dangerous. If you want to succeed, you will need friends, connections, and access to information. Never cut yourself off so much that you lose out on those things; you will need them at one point or another. You can still be protected while being out in the open by using the other laws of power.
Law 19: Know who you’re dealing with, do not offend the wrong person
Some people are sensitive, others more aggressive, and some still are in the middle; everyone requires their own special consideration. Knowing the personalities and qualities of the person who you are dealing with is critical. You don’t want to offend the wrong person, especially if they are strong enough to damage you with a hard hit. Be cautious in your words and actions, at least until you understand all the other players in the game.
Law 20: Do not commit to anyone
Minimize your commitments since they can often create big obligations on you that aren’t very beneficial. Your time and energy are limited and you must use them wisely. Don’t let other people drag you into their affairs, stay neutral in heated conversations, and never attach yourself to anything that you’re not 100% sure over. It helps to avoid all the fights that you possibly can.
Law 21: Play a sucker to catch a sucker, seem dumber than your mark
Everyone loves to think of themselves as intelligent, which is an opportunity to play your game on their ego. If someone thinks that they are smarter than you, then they will make rash, open moves, because they don’t perceive you as a threat. This gives you an opportunity to observe, learn, and take advantage if it will benefit you. It is to your advantage to make them think you’re less intelligent and not a threat.
Law 22: Use the surrender tactic: transform weakness into power
People who are trying to assert their authority, whether it’s in an argument or business deal, want to be seen as the winner. The way to give them that while ensuring that you still accomplish your goals is to pretend to surrender. You verbally agree and recognize their authority on the outside to avoid the fight. Then you can go about your way and do whatever is the best move for you.
Law 23: Concentrate your forces
Focus on a single goal, task, or mission. By having all of your energy and efforts aiming at the same target, you drastically increase your chances of succeeding in that endeavour. This is a concept greatly talked about in The Art of War as well.
Law 24: Play the perfect courtier
If you want to have great social skills, be a politician. Flatter people, be friendly, be respectful, be positive, be happy, avoid negativity, avoid criticism, avoid complaining. Overall: establish the reputation of being a great person among as many people as possible.
Law 25: Re-Create Yourself
You don’t have to always remain the same; your personality isn’t permanent. You can change who you are and what you do at any time if you feel that it will improve your life. You can change your style, career, beliefs, opinions, and overall personality, anything that will help you. People may complain and it may be scary at first. But if it’s going to help you, don’t hesitate to change your life.
Law 26: Keep your hands clean
Mistakes and wrongdoings will always have a negative impact on your persona and how people treat you. It’s best to keep your hands clean, feign innocence, and never let people see you as the bad guy. If you’re going to do something a bit “dirty” make sure that no one knows about it.
Law 27: Play on people’s need to believe to create a cult like following
People love to believe in something whether it be a cause, mission, or passion. You can gain great power by offering something to believe in, creating a valuable cult-like following for yourself. Give the people something to believe in like a higher-level mission or purpose. Make it seem surreal and sensational. Build the fantasy and then sell it to the end.
Law 28: Enter action with boldness
You should always go into things boldly, with supreme confidence. Confidence fuels your energy, motivating you to take the bigger risks that are necessary for big success. Your performance will be better, as higher confidence has been shown to beget higher performance. If other people are watching, they are much more likely to believe and follow you if you are bold, like a strong leader would be. People follow the alpha.
Law 29: Plan all the way to the end
The end result means everything. That’s where the rewards are reaped and you will see the fruits of your labour. When making plans, make sure you plan all the way to the final destination so that you have a clearer view of your path and can act in such a way that you keep your eye on the prize.
Law 30: Make your accomplishments seem effortless
Talent is mostly a lie, but people love to believe in it because it seems so out of the ordinary, almost magical. On the other hand, if you show all of the hard work that you put in to achieve things, you end up looking like the regular average jane or joe.
By making your accomplishments seem effortless, everything you achieve will look incredible. People will be in awe, totally seduced by your unmatched skills, believing that it’s somehow genetic or a gift from god. They will treat you as such.
Law 31: Control the options, get others to play with the cards you deal
When you control the options, you are able to give the illusion to the other person that they have a choice in the matter, while you really are holding all the cards. For example, if you’re selling something, give people several good options. They will gravitate towards one of them thinking they have made a good choice. Meanwhile, you are selling them in a way where you will be highly profitable no matter what they choose.
Law 32: Play to people’s fantasies
Most of life is boring, filled with rules and routines. So when you offer people a fantasy, they fall head over heels in love. If you’re going to sell something, don’t showcase it as a small, incremental improvement to someone’s life. Sell it as a transformational life-changer. In general, when trying to convince someone of something, make what you are offering to them seem grand and surreal, yet still easily within reach if they but follow you.
Law 33: Discover each man’s thumbscrew
Everyone has some kind of weakness. It could be that they’re emotional about a certain person, insecure about a certain quality of theirs, or they are susceptible to some specific pleasure. Either way, once you know what makes that person ticks, you will be in full control to nudge them in the direction that you want them to go.
Law 34: Be royal in your own fashion. Act like a king to be treated like one
People follow and listen to those who look like they are the best. So your solution is simple: act like the best to be treated like the best. Dress well, speak confidently, act as if you already deserve that which you desire. People will move out of the way and give it to you if you act like it’s already yours.
Law 35: Master the art of timing
Some things should be done quickly, others more patiently. Either way, think to understand when the most opportune moment is. That will usually be the moment of maximum leverage when you can make the smallest investment (in terms of time, energy, or money) and get the most results.
Law 36: Disdain things you cannot have, ignoring them is the best revenge
If something bothers you, that is your choice. If someone makes fun of you, you can choose to be hurt, or you can choose to see them as petty and just ignore it. If you fail at something, you can choose to see it as something negative, or you can choose to see it as an opportunity to learn and do better next time.
The ability to make a willful choice about how you feel about something is incredibly powerful. You can use it to always be at the top of your game no matter what the situation is.
Law 37: Create compelling spectacles
Boring things get overlooked, while flashy and exciting things get all the attention. If you’re going to explain something, use colourful visuals to convey your message. If you’re going to sell or convince someone of something, make it big and flashy, something exciting, something that they’ve never seen before and just have to experience. That will draw them in like bees to honey.
Law 38: Think as you like but behave like others
You may sometimes feel strongly about your opinion, beliefs, or actions. But if those are different from the crowd, it might rub people the wrong way. Being different could mean you’re very intelligent, but people don’t like different things. They might even hate it, which drives them to try to hurt you as a result.
It’s best to avoid offending people and creating conflict. Make sure that on the outside, especially in social situations, that you blend in and are in line with the mindset of the group. Think cleverly and creatively however you like, as long as it’s on the inside and doesn’t rock the boat.
Law 39: Stir up waters to catch fish
People do stupid things when they are emotional or angry. If you want someone to make a mistake or do something that is in your favour, make them feel some emotions. It clouds their judgement, puts them off-balance, and makes them look weak in the presence of others.
Law 40: Despise the free lunch
A thing that is offered for free is at best not valuable and at worst totally negative for you. It might come with a trick or hidden obligation attached to it. Instead of taking free things whether it be an item, favour, or something else, work to acquire and earn whatever you want through your own means. That way, you are in full control, not reliant on anyone or anything to get what you want.
Law 41: Avoid stepping into a great man’s shoes
Try not to set other people’s expectations of you too high. Because once you do, you have to perform at an extremely high level, else they will think less of you from your failure. Instead, set the expectations at a level that they think is impressive, but you know you can achieve. Then overdeliver to really wow them.
Law 42: Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter
Whenever there is trouble in anything, the cause can often be traced back to a single source. Find that single source and focus all of your energy there to solve it. That is how you win in the fastest and most efficient way possible.
Law 43: Work on the hearts and minds of others
In most situations, you can’t force people to do anything. Instead, you must seduce them into following you through two things: the heart and the mind.
Get them to be emotionally driven to do what you want, whether it be through love, lust, passion or fear, hate, jealousy. At the same time, convince them with some logic and rationale. Do so by demonstrating, as simply as possible, how an action will benefit them.
Law 44: Disarm and infuriate with the mirror effect
People will have their guard up to things that they perceive as different from themselves. But with the mirror effect, you act as they do, think as they think, talk like they talk, and make them see that you are really connected and similar. This will let their guard down, after which they will go into complete honesty and reveal their true nature.
Law 45: Preach the need to change, but never reform too much at once
If you are looking to bring in a new trend or something fresh to the table, do so gently and with caution. Even when people logically understand the need for change, they will be scared to do it because people always fear different things. Do things slowly, make it seem like the change is small or really no change at all. With small, incremental steps, people won’t notice the change until things have been drastically transformed.
Law 46: Never appear too perfect
Being royal and looking talented is often to your advantage, but avoid appearing too perfect. People don’t like to see others that are so much better than them. It stirs up envy and creates hidden enemies that strike at the most unexpected of times. To avoid this, display the occasional defect and show people that you have a human side to you.
Law 47: Do not go past the mark you aimed for. In victory, know when to stop
Once you’ve achieved victory, you may become overconfident, fooled by your own success. This often leads to poorly chosen risk-taking and many blunders. Instead, once you reach your goal, take a step back. Be cautious. Take everything in. The field has changed since you last planned your goals, so it’s time to re-plan and re-evaluate to see what the next best move is.
Law 48: Assume formlessness
Nothing in life is certain except for death. You cannot maintain the same plan, lifestyle, and way of thinking and acting as you did before. You should always survey the field and adapt your strategy to what is the most effective. Life is change. Adapt with it to seize the ever-flowing opportunities and succeed.
** Note: all 48 laws listed here are from the book: The 48 Laws of Power written by Robert Greene