In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power

In The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene contends that since you can’t opt out of the game of power, you’re better off becoming a master player by learning the rules and strategies practiced since ancient times.
People can’t stand to be powerless. Everyone wants power and is always trying to get more. Striving for and wielding power is a game everyone participates in, whether they want to or not. You’re either a power player or a pawn someone else is playing with.
So, what is The 48 Laws of Power book about? Greene has codified 48 laws of power based on examples and writings going back 3,000 years of people who’ve excelled or failed at wielding power, with glorious or bloody results. Greene argues that following the 48 laws will generally increase your power, while failing to follow them will decrease it, or worse. He provides details on how to practice the laws, plus examples and analysis.
Whether your aim is conquest, self-defense, or simply to understand the rules of the game, we summarized the 48 laws of power for you


In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power1
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Present your ideas in such a manner that they may be ascribed to your master, or could be viewed as an echo of your master’s thoughts.
• If you are more intelligent than your master, act as if you are not.
• Never take your position for granted.
• Never let favors you receive go to your head.
• Discreet flattery is much more powerful. Make it seem like you want to seek his expertise and advice.


In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power2
Wisdom in a nutshell:
Do not rely on friends. They will never be totally honest with you. They will not openly disagree with you in order to avoid arguments.
• Enemies expect nothing so they will be surprised when you are generous.
• An enemy spared the guillotine will be more grateful to you than a friend.
• When you decide to hire a friend you will discover qualities she has kept hidden.
• Skill and competence are more important than friendly feelings.
• Hiring friends will limit your power.
• All working situations require a kind of distance between people.
• You destroy an enemy when you make a friend of him.
• An enemy at your heels keeps you sharp, alert, and focused.

LAW 3: Conceal your intentions

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power3
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Use decoyed objects of desire and red herrings to throw people off scent.
• Use smoke screens (a poker face) to disguise your actions.
• False sincerity is one powerful tool that will send your rivals on a wild goose chase.
• Publicly declare your false intentions to give misleading signals.
• A noble gesture can be a smoke screen to hide your true intentions.
• Blend in and people will be less suspicious.

LAW 4: Always say less than necessary

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power4
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Saying less will keep you from saying something foolish or even dangerous.
• Once the words are out you cannot take them back.
• Keeping silent makes people reveal more about themselves. This is information you may be able to use against them later on.

LAW 5: So much depends on reputation - guard it with your life

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power5
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Sow doubt and spread rumors about your rival. Even if they vehemently deny it, people will still be wondering why they are so defensive.
• Use humor or gentle mockery at your rival’s expense.
• A solid reputation increases your presence and exaggerates your strengths without your having to spend much energy.
• Never appear desperate in your self-defense against the slander of others.
• Be careful not to go too far in attacking another’s reputation, it draws more attention to your vengefulness than to the person you are slandering. Use subtler tactics like satire and ridicule.

LAW 6: Court attention at all cost

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power6
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Surround your name with the sensational and the scandalous.
• Create an air of mystery.
• It is better to be attacked and slandered than ignored.
• Make yourself appear larger than life.
• Any sort of notoriety will bring you power.

LAW 7: Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power7
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Save time and energy by hiring others to do the work.
• Your helpers will be forgotten and you will be remembered.
• Borrow from history. Use the past and profit by others’ experience.
• You can only exploit others’ talents if your position is unshakable.

LAW 8: Make other people come to you - use bait if necessary

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power8
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• For negotiations and meetings, it is wise to lure others into your territory, or a territory of your choice.
• Once someone suspects you are manipulating him, it will be harder to control him. Making him come to you gives the illusion he is in control.
• Most often the effective action is to stay back, keep calm, and let others be frustrated by the traps you set for them.

LAW 9: Win through your actions, never through argument

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power9
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Demonstrate, do not explicate.
• Arguing will only offend your superior.
• Learn to demonstrate the correctness of your ideas indirectly.
• Choose your battles carefully.
• Don’t bother demonstrating if time and experience will eventually teach the other person what you are trying to say. Save your energy and walk away.
• No one can argue with a demonstrated proof.

LAW 10: Infection: avoid the unhappy and unlucky

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power10
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• In the game of power, the people you associate with are critical.
• An infector can be recognized by the misfortune they draw on themselves, their turbulent past, a long line of broken relationships, unstable careers, the very intensity of their emotions, and the force of their character.
• Gravitate towards prosperous, cheerful, and gregarious people.
• Never associate with those who share your defects.

LAW 11: Learn to keep people dependent on you

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power11
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Be the only one who can do what you do. Make the fate of those who hire you so entwined with yours they cannot possibly get rid of you.
• If you are ambitious, it is wiser to seek out weak masters with whom you can create a relationship of dependency.
• Possess a talent or creative skill that sets you apart from the crowd.
• By knowing other people’s secrets and holding information they wouldn’t want made public, you seal your fate with theirs.


In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power12
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• The essence of deception is distraction. An act of kindness, generosity, or honesty will distract and disarm people and turn them into gullible children.
• Give before you take.
• Nothing in the realm of power is set in stone. Overt deceptiveness may sometimes cover your tracks. If you have a history of deceit behind you, then play the rogue, be consistent and this will be interpreted as you simply being yourself. Your dishonesty becomes an act of honesty.

Law 13: When asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power13
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Understand the other person’s motivation.
• See things their way and offer suggestions that will advance their cause.
• For others who want to feel superior and do not want to appear selfish, appeal to their need to display their charity in the public eye.

LAW 14: Pose as a friend, work as a spy

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power14
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Gather information at social events when people’s guards are down.
• Use other people to give you the information you need.
• Mislead others by giving out false information. Watch them react and base your next action on what you discover.

LAW 15: Crush your enemy totally

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power15
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Show no mercy. Crush your rivals or else you will give them time to regroup and plot their revenge.
• Banish enemies or plot for the best time to render them harmless.
• Leave your enemies no options.
• Sometimes enemies will destroy themselves.
• Thoughts of reconciliation will open you up to attack.

LAW 16: Use absence to increase respect and honour

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power16
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Create value through scarcity. Make yourself less accessible; otherwise the aura you have created around yourself will wear away

LAW 17: Keep others in suspended terror: cultivate an air of unpredictability

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power17
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• A person of power instills fear by deliberately unsettling those around him to keep the initiative on his side.
• Only the terminally subordinate act in a predictable manner.

LAW 18: Do not build fortresses to protect yourself - isolation is dangerous

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power18
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• A fortress may be impregnable, but everyone knows you are there and it may easily turn into a prison.
• Power depends on social interaction and circulation.
• Isolation is deadly for the creative arts. Shakespeare was always producing plays for the masses. He was in constant touch with reality and what people wanted.
• Mobility and social contact protects you from plotters.

LAW 19: Know who you’re dealing with - do not offend the wrong person

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power19
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Measure up your opponent, but never rely on instinct. Do some research on concrete facts about that person’s character and history.
• Never trust appearances.

LAW 20: Do not commit to anyone.

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power20
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• By refusing to commit, but allowing yourself to be courted, you become powerful because you are ungraspable.
• As your reputation for independence grows, more people will desire you and want to conquer you.
• Politely decline. You cannot allow yourself to feel obligated to anyone.
• Seek promises from both sides, so no matter what the outcome of an election or battle, your position is secure.
• Observe quarreling parties and stay neutral but supportive to both sides. Gain power as a mediator.
• You may commit to one to prove you are capable of attachment, but be emotionally uninvolved. Preserve the unspoken option of being able to leave anytime and reclaim your freedom. The friends you made while being courted will help you jump ship.

Law 21: Play a sucker to catch a sucker - seem dumber than your mark

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power21
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Intelligence is an important part of people’s vanity. Subliminally reassure your opponent of his superiority.
• Playing naïve lets you see opportunities to deceive others.

LAW 22: Use the surrender tactic: transform weakness into power

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power22
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Do not fight aggression with aggression. Put your opponent off-guard by yielding, and in effect have more control over the situation.
• Surrender is a way of mocking your enemies.
• Surrender disguises your real motives and allows time to plan your next move

LAW 23: Concentrate your forces

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power23
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Single-mindedness of purpose and total concentration on one goal will overwhelm the enemy every time.
• A single patron appreciates your loyalty and becomes dependent on your services.
• In the arts, being too single-minded can make you an intolerable bore.

LAW 24: Play the perfect courtier

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power24
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Avoid ostentation. Talk less about yourself. Modesty is generally preferable.
• Practice nonchalance. All your hard work must come off as effortless.
• Be frugal with flattery.
• Arrange to be noticed.
• Alter your style and language according to the person you are dealing with.
• Never be the bearer of bad news.
• Never affect friendliness and intimacy with your master.
• Never criticize those above you directly.
• Be frugal in asking those above you for favors.
• Never joke about appearances or taste.
• Do not be the court cynic.
• Be self-observant.
• Master your emotions.
• Fit the spirit of the times.
• Be a source of pleasure.

LAW 25: Re-create yourself

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power25
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Control your appearances and emotions. Play sincere, but not necessarily be sincere.
• Create a memorable character. Do not limit yourself to the role society assigns to you.

LAW 26: Keep your hands clean

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power26
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Conceal your mistakes. Your good name and reputation depends more on what you conceal than on what you reveal.
• Always have a convenient scapegoat.
• Never do the dirty work yourself.

LAW 27: Play on people’s need to believe to create a cult like following

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power27
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Keep it simple; keep it vague. Create new words for vague concepts.
• Emphasize the visual and sensual over the intellectual.
• Borrow the forms of organized religion to structure the group. Create rituals. Use names and ranks and titles. Ask them to make sacrifices and give alms. Act like a guru or a prophet.
• Disguise your source of income.
• Set up an us-versus-them dynamic. Keep followers united by identifying outsiders as a devious enemy.
• The tendency to doubt and reason is broken down when we join a group.

LAW 28: Enter action with boldness

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power28
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• The bolder the lie, the better.
• Lions circle the hesitant prey.
• Boldness strikes fear; Fear creates authority.
• Going halfway digs the deeper grave. Do not negotiate if you opponent will more likely take the opportunity to destroy you.
• Hesitation creates gaps. Boldness obliterates them. Move swiftly and surely.
• Audacity separates you from the herd.

LAW 29: Plan all the way to the end

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power29
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Take into account all possible obstacles and circumstances that may prevent you from achieving your goal, and plan how you will overcome them.
• When you see several steps ahead, you will no longer need to improvise along the way, and risk deviating from your plan.
• Prepare alternatives and be open to adapt new routes to your goal.

Law 30: Make your accomplishments seem effortless

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power30
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• What imitates nature by appearing effortless and natural approximates nature’s power.
• Never show your work until it is finished. When people see the effort and time it takes to make it, and if they witness a work-in-progress, the magic of the finished piece is spoiled.

LAW 31: Control the options: get others to play with the cards you deal

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power31
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Withdrawal and disappearance are classic ways of controlling the options. You give people a sense of how things will fall apart without you, and you offer them the choice: I stay away and you suffer, or I return under my conditions.
• We actually find choices between a small number of alternatives more desirable than complete freedom of options.
The following are among the most common forms of controlling the options:
• Color the Choices: Propose multiple solutions, but present the preferred one in the best light compared to the others. Excellent device for the insecure master.
• Force the Resister: This is a good technique to use on children and other willful people who enjoy doing the opposite of what you ask them to: Push them to choose what you want them to do by appearing to advocate the opposite.
• Alter the Playing Field: In this tactic your opponents know their hand is being forced, but it doesn’t matter. The technique is effective against those who resist at all costs.
• The Shrinking Options: A variation on this technique is to raise the price every time the buyer hesitates and another day goes by. This is an excellent negotiating ploy to use on the chronically indecisive, who will fall for the idea that they are getting a better deal today than if they wait till tomorrow.
• The Weak Man on the Precipice: He would describe all sorts of dangers, exaggerating them as much as possible, until the duke saw a yawning abyss in every direction except one: the one Retz was pushing him to take. This tactic is similar to "Color the Choices," but with the weak you have to be more aggressive. Work on their emotions—use fear and terror to propel them into action. Try reason and they will always find a way to procrastinate.
• Brothers in Crime: This is a classic con-artist technique: You attract your victims to some criminal scheme, creating a bond of blood and guilt between you. They participate in your deception, commit a crime (or think they do), and are easily manipulated. It is often wise to implicate in your deceptions the very person who can do you the most harm if you fail. Their involvement can be subtle—even a hint of their involvement will narrow their options and buy their silence.
• The Horns of a Dilemma: This is a classic trial lawyer’s technique: The lawyer leads the witnesses to decide between two possible explanations of an event, both of which poke a hole in their story. They have to answer the lawyer’s questions, but whatever they say they hurt themselves. The key to this move is to strike quickly: Deny the victim the time to think of an escape. As they wriggle between the horns of the dilemma, they dig their own grave.
• Controlling the options has one main purpose: to disguise yourself as the agent of power and punishment.

LAW 32: Play to people’s fantasies

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power32
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• People need a fantasy to escape from the humdrum of everyday life. The more vague and exotic, the more captivating.
• Promise a pot of gold and instant gratification, rather than a gradual improvement through hard work.
• Keep your distance so the fantasy remains intact

LAW 33: Discover each man’s thumbscrew

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power33
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Every person has a weakness or insecurity you can use to your advantage.
• Train yourself to probe for weaknesses in everyday conversation.
• Find the childhood need that went unfulfilled, supply it, and your victim will be unable to resist you.
• People’s weaknesses are the opposite of the qualities they reveal to you. The shy person is actually dying for attention; a prude may be hiding a lascivious soul, etc.
• Find the weak link or the one person in a group who will bend under pressure.
• Feed on uncontrollable emotions or motive – paranoia, lust, greed, vanity, or hatred.
• When searching for suckers, always look for the unhappy, insecure and dissatisfied.

LAW 34: Be royal in your own fashion: act like a king to be treated like one

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power34
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• How you carry yourself reflects what you think of yourself. Exude confidence and the feeling you were destined for greatness.
• Do not confuse regal bearing with arrogance.
• Dignity is the mask you assume under difficult circumstances. Act like nothing can affect you and you have all the time in the world to respond.
• Set your price high and do not waver.
• Deal with the highest person in the building.
• A gift is an equalizer. You do not beg but ask for help in a dignified way

LAW 35: Master the art of timing

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power35
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Never look as though you are in a hurry. It betrays a lack of control.
• Learn to stand back and be patient. Strike only when the time is right.
• Anticipate events and work with the spirit of the times.
• Recognizing the prevailing winds does not necessarily mean running with them.

Law 36: Disdain things you cannot have: ignoring them is the best revenge

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power36
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• The more attention you pay an enemy, the stronger you make him. The less interest you show, the more superior you seem.
• Remember: You choose to let things bother you. You can just as easily choose to consider the matter trivial and unworthy of your interest. That is the powerful move.
• If it is impossible to ignore, then secretly get rid of it. Sometimes threats just go away by themselves.

LAW 37: Create compelling spectacles

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power37
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Never neglect the way you arrange things visually.
• Associate yourself with colors, images and symbols that communicate strong messages.
• People are always impressed by the superficial appearance of things, the grand, and the spectacular, what is larger than life.

LAW 38: Think as you like but behave like others

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power38
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Wise and clever people learn early on that they can display conventional behavior and mouth conventional ideas without having to believe in them.
• Put on the mask appropriate to the group you are joining.

LAW 39: Stir up waters to catch fish

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power39
Wisdom in a nutshell:
Anger and emotion are strategically unproductive. Make your enemies angry but stay calm yourself.
• Angry people usually end up looking ridiculous.
• Nothing in the game of power is personal.
• An occasional outburst may be powerful, but use anger too often and it loses its power.

LAW 40: Despise the free lunch

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power40
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• By paying your own way you stay free of gratitude. What is offered for free normally has a hidden obligation.
• Generosity is a sign of power. Most powerful people spend freely and are not misers.
• Use money as a way to give pleasure to others and win them over.

LAW 41: Avoid stepping into a great man’s shoes

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power41
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Choose a different path and personal style if you are the daughter or son of a great person. You will forever be in your predecessor’s shadow unless you find a way to shine on your own.
• Only after the father figure has been done away with will there be space to establish a new order.
• Do not become complacent once you reach success and security. Prosperity makes us lazy. Writers like Tennessee Williams and Fyodor Dostoyevsky preferred the struggle to security; the way poverty or emotional difficulties pushed them to create good work.

LAW 42: Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power42
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Within any group, trouble can be traced to a single source, the unhappy, chronically unsatisfied one who stirs up dissension and infects the group. Recognize troublemakers by their complaining nature. Separate him from the group.
• In every group power is concentrated in the hands of one or two people. Human nature shows people will orbit around a single strong personality.

LAW 43: Work on the hearts and minds of others

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power43
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Aim at the primary emotions: love, hate, and jealousy. Be alert to people’s individual psychologies and their basic emotional responses.
• Maintain a stable of writers, artists, or intellectuals who are very good at appealing to people’s hearts and minds.

LAW 44: Disarm and infuriate with the mirror effect

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power44
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• The neutralizing effect: Do what your enemies do, follow their actions and they will not see what you are up to. When you mirror them, if mocks and humiliates them. Mimicry infuriates.
• The Shadow effect: Shadow your opponents’ every move, gather information, and gain insight to their routines and habits without them seeing you.
• The Mirror effect: Show you understand by reflecting their innermost feelings.
• The Moral effect: Teach others a lesson by giving them a taste of their own medicine.
• The Hallucinatory effect: offer a perfect copy of an object, place or person and see how people take the bait.

LAW 45: Preach the need for change, but never reform too much at once

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power45
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Make change and reform seem like a gentle improvement on the past. People are creatures of habit and the sudden change will cause some to rebel.
• Disguise change by dressing it in tradition.

LAW 46: Never appear too perfect

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power46
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• Never underestimate the power of envy. Occasionally reveal a weakness, defect, or anxiety, or find new friends. It is the people in your own circle of peers who will be the first to envy your success.
• Envy is often a problem for people who have great natural talent. You may think you are charming people with your natural talent when in fact they are coming to hate you for it.
• To deflect envy, employ a display of weakness, or a harmless vice.
• Envy is disguised sometimes as excessive praise, or slander and criticism. Win your revenge by ignoring the envious.
• Reversal: Display the utmost disdain for those who envy you. Instead of hiding your perfection, make it obvious. Make every triumph an opportunity to make the envious squirm.

LAW 47: Do not go past the mark you aimed for; in victory, learn when to stop

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power47
Wisdom in a nutshell:
• The powerful know that the essence of strategy is controlling what comes next.
• There is no better time to stop and walk away than after a victory

LAW 48: Assume formlessness

In Summary: The 48 Laws of Power48
Wisdom in a nutshell:
Accept the fact that nothing is certain and no law is fixed. Be as fluid and formless as water, adapting and moving with change naturally. The powerful are creative in expressing something new. This feminine, formless style of ruling as practiced by Elizabeth of England and Catherine of Russia, allows flexibility and makes subjects feel less coerced. Play the chameleon but break your enemy from the inside. Morph and adapt but keep your long-term strategy in mind at all times.

Reference: IRGST
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