The 48 Laws of Power Summary & Review (3 Most Fascinating Lessons + List)

the 48 laws of power
Table of Contents Show
  1. Introduction
  2. Law 1: Never Outshine The Master
  3. Law 2: Never Trust Your Friends Too Much; Learn How To Use Enemies
  4. Law 3: Hide Your Intentions
  5. Law 4: Always Say Less Than Necessary
  6. Law 5: A Lot Emphasis On One’s Reputation – Secure It With All That You Have Even If It’s Your Life
  7. Law 6: Court Attention At All Costs
  8. Law 7: Let Others Do The Work For You, But Still Take The Credit
  9. Law 8: Let Others Come To You – Use Bait If Need Be
  10. Law 9: Win With Your Actions, Never With Arguments
  11. Law 10: Infection: Avoid The Unlucky And Unhappy
  12. Law 11: Endeavor To Make Others Dependent On You
  13. Law 12: Use Selective Generosity And Honesty To Neutralize Your Victim
  14. Law 13: While Asking For Aid, Request To People’s Self-Interest, Never Their Gratitude Or Mercy
  15. Law 14: Act As A Friend, Work As A Spy
  16. Law 15: Completely Crush Your Enemy
  17. Law 16: Use Absence To Increase Honor And Respect
  18. Law 17: Put People In Dangling Terror: Develop A Touch Of Unpredictability
  19. Law 18: Don’t Build Fortresses To Protect Yourself – Isolation Is Dangerous
  20. Law 19: Know Who You Are Facing – Don’t Offend The Wrong Person
  21. Law 20: Do Not Commit To Anyone
  22. Law 21: Play A Sucker To Catch A Sucker – Look Dumber Than Your Mark
  23. Law 22: Use The Surrender Tactic: Turn Weakness Into Power
  24. Law 23: Focus Your Powers
  25. Law 24: Play The Perfect Courtier
  26. Team 25: Recreate Yourself
  27. Law 26: Keep Your Hands Clean
  28. Law 27: Play On People’s Need To Actualize A Cult-Like Following
  29. Law 28: Enter Action With Boldness
  30. Law 29: Plan To The End
  31. Law 30: Keep Your Accomplishments Simple
  32. Law 31: Control The Options – Get Others To Play With The Cards You Deal With
  33. Law 32: Play To People’s Fantasies
  34. Law 33: Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew
  35. Law 34: Be Royal In Your Way: Act Like A King To Be Treated As One
  36. Law 35: Master The Art Of Timing
  37. Law 36: Disdain Things You Can’t Have – Disregarding Them Is The Ideal Revenge
  38. Law 37: Create Compelling Spectacles
  39. Law 38: Think As You Like, Yet Act Like Others
  40. Law 39: Stir Up Waters To Catch Fish
  41. Law 40: Despise The Free Lunch
  42. Law 41: Don’t Follow In The Footsteps Of A Great Man
  43. Law 42: Strike The Shepherd, And The Sheep Will Be Scattered
  44. Law 43: Work On The Minds And Hearts Of People
  45. Law 44: Block And Disrupt The Mirror Effect
  46. Law 45: Announce The Need For Change, But Never Reform Too Much At The Same Time
  47. Law 46: Never Look Too Perfect
  48. Law 47: Do Not Go Beyond Your Goal; In Victory, Learn When To Stop
  49. Law 48: Assume Formlessness
  50. 3 Most Fascinating Lessons from The 48 Laws of Power
    1. Lesson One
    2. Lesson Two
    3. Lesson Three
  51. Conclusion
  52. Who Should Read The 48 Laws of Power?

The 48 Laws of Power are based on many of the most famous power struggles in history to show you what power looks like, how to get it, what to do to defend yourself against the power of others, and most importantly, how to use it right and keep it.

…While Mastery is a good book, it is not the book that made Robert Greene famous. The 48 laws of power was. This great book was published in 1998 after taking a huge risk quitting his previous job which he hated, became a bestseller and has since sold over a million copies.

It is especially popular with rappers and hip-hop artists, but many celebrities cite the book, citing the influence of the law on their lives. 50 Cent is just one of them that Greene eventually collaborated with on another book. Most of the 48 laws are based on a particular historical situation, and although some of them seem to contradict each other, there is a valuable lesson to be learned from each law.

Here are three fascinating lessons to help you better understand The 48 Laws of Power Summary:

  • Always make managers appear smarter than you.
  • Confuse competitors by acting unpredictably.
  • Don’t force others to do what you want; seduce them.

Want to know where Kanye gets his strength from?

Let’s study the real laws of the world!

You can pick up a copy of the MAIN book, The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene from Amazon

Introduction

An excellent book that will undoubtedly remain a classic for a long time to come. The 48 Laws of Power describe the laws used to gain power in life, business, and more, giving historical examples of each law in practice and examples of those who do not obey those laws.

A book that I will come back to again and again. Those who are cynical may view some laws as manipulative; some are. However, they are all based on the reality of human nature, and it is more important to understand them and then decide how, when, and what to apply than to simply ignore them and not acknowledge their existence.

The 48 Laws of Power is a long read with 864 pages, but worth it and always entertaining.

Law 1: Never Outshine The Master

Always make those above you feel pleasantly superior. Don’t go too far to show off your talents in your desire to please or impress them. When you do this, you can do the opposite – stir up fear and insecurity. Make your masters brighter than they are, and you will reach the heights of power.

Law 2: Never Trust Your Friends Too Much; Learn How To Use Enemies

Be careful with your friends. Friends are often more likely to betray you because they are more likely to be aroused by envy. Friends can also become spoiled and tyrannical. So hire an old enemy. This old enemy will be more loyal than a friend because he has more to prove. As a matter of fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. When you don’t have enemies, find a means to make one.

Law 3: Hide Your Intentions

Keep people off-balance and grope in the dark by never exposing the intent of your actions. If they have no idea what you are doing, they cannot prepare a defense. Instead, deceive them enough and lock them up with enough smoke. Then by the time they identify your intents, it will be very late.

Law 4: Always Say Less Than Necessary

When trying to impress people with words, limit your comments. The more you say, the less control you seem to have. Even if you say something trite, it will sound original if you do it vaguely and openly. Influential people impress and terrify by saying less. On the other hand, the more you say, the more likely you will say something stupid.

Law 5: A Lot Emphasis On One’s Reputation – Secure It With All That You Have Even If It’s Your Life

Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Reputation alone can frighten and win. But if you slip, you are vulnerable and will be attacked from all sides. Make your reputation unassailable. Always be aware of potential attacks and counter them before they happen. In the meantime, learn how to destroy your enemies by making holes in their reputation. Then step aside and let public opinion cling to you.

Law 6: Court Attention At All Costs

Its appearance judges everything; the invisible counts for nothing. Never get lost in the crowd and never be forgotten. Excel. Be visible at all costs. Make yourself an attention magnet by appearing bigger, more colorful, and more mysterious.

Law 7: Let Others Do The Work For You, But Still Take The Credit

Use the wisdom, knowledge, and back-breaking work of others to advance your own cause. This aid saves you precious time and energy and gives you a divine aura of efficiency and speed. At some point, your assistants will be forgotten, and you will be remembered. So never do for yourself what others can do for you.

Law 8: Let Others Come To You – Use Bait If Need Be

When you force people to act, you are in control. It’s often best to let your opponent come to you while abandoning his own plans in the process. Lure him with noticeable gains, then attack. You hold the cards.

Law 9: Win With Your Actions, Never With Arguments

Any fleeting triumph that you think will result from a discussion is not worth it. The anger and hurt you will cause is stronger and outlasts any temporary change of mind. It is much more powerful through your actions to get others to agree with you without saying a word. Demonstrate, not explain.

Law 10: Infection: Avoid The Unlucky And Unhappy

You can die of someone else’s misery – emotional states are as contagious as illness. You may feel like you are helping the drowning man, but you are only hastening your own disaster. The unhappy sometimes bring on themselves misfortune; they’ll shoot it on you too – hang out with the lucky ones and the fortunate ones instead.

Law 11: Endeavor To Make Others Dependent On You

To sustain your independence, you must always be wanted and needed. The more you are relied on, the more control you will have over them. Let people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity, and you have nothing to fear. Never teach them enough to survive without you.

Law 12: Use Selective Generosity And Honesty To Neutralize Your Victim

One fair and just gesture will cover dozens of unfair actions. Sincere gestures of honesty and generosity awaken even the most suspicious of people. When your selective honesty opens a hole in their armor, you can trick and manipulate them however you see fit. A quick gift – a Trojan horse – serves the same purpose.

Law 13: While Asking For Aid, Request To People’s Self-Interest, Never Their Gratitude Or Mercy

If you must ask an ally for aid, do not bother reminding him of your good deeds and past help. They will often find a way to ignore you. Instead, find out something in your request or in your alliance that will benefit them. Emphasize it out of all proportion. They will react with enthusiasm when they see something to be gained for themselves.

Law 14: Act As A Friend, Work As A Spy

Knowing your rival is important. Use spies to gather useful information that will give you a head start. You are playing the spy yourself. Learn to investigate in polite social gatherings. Ask indirect questions often to get others to disclose their strategies and weaknesses. There is no opportunity that does not offer the possibility of artistic espionage.

Law 15: Completely Crush Your Enemy

All great leaders since Moses knew that a feared enemy had to be completely destroyed. If a glow continues to burn, no matter how much it smokes, eventually a fire will start. Stopping halfway will lose more than total destruction: the enemy will recover and take revenge. So crush it, not only in the body but also in the spirit.

Law 16: Use Absence To Increase Honor And Respect

Too many copies lower the price: the more you are seen and heard, the more you appear less valued. A temporary retreat will make you even more admired and talked about if you are already in a group. You have to know when to go. Create value through scarcity.

Law 17: Put People In Dangling Terror: Develop A Touch Of Unpredictability

Humans are creatures of habits with an insatiable urge to see familiarity in the actions of others. Your predictability provides them a sense of control. Reverse roles: be intentionally unpredictable. Conducts that seem to have no outcomes and no purpose will throw them confused, and will get themselves exhausted trying to know your ways. Taken to extremes, this strategy can intimidate and terrorize.

Law 18: Don’t Build Fortresses To Protect Yourself – Isolation Is Dangerous

The world is terrible, and enemies are everywhere – everyone needs to protect themselves. A fortress seems the safest. However, isolation puts you in more danger than protected, almost cuts out valuable information, sets you apart, and is an easy target. It is better to move among the people, find allies, and mingle. The crowd protects you from your enemies.

Law 19: Know Who You Are Facing – Don’t Offend The Wrong Person

Never guess that the person you are dealing with is weaker or less important than you. Some persons are slow to take offense, which might result in you misjudging their skin’s thickness and failing to worry about insulting them. But if you provoke their pride and honor, they may overwhelm you with a force that, in the face of their slow anger, seems extreme and sudden. If you want to say no to people, it’s best to do so politely and with respect, even if you think their request is rude or their offer is ridiculous. “- Robert Greene

There are many different types of people in the world, and you can never assume that they will all react or respond the same to your strategies. If you cheat or outwit some people, they will spend the rest of their lives seeking revenge. They are lambskin wolves. Choose your victims and opponents thoughtfully – never insult or cheat on the wrong person.

Law 20: Do Not Commit To Anyone

It is the jerk who always rushes to take sides. Do not commit to any cause or side or cause other than yourself. By maintaining your independence, you will become a master over others. Play people against each other and let them chase you.

Law 21: Play A Sucker To Catch A Sucker – Look Dumber Than Your Mark

No one likes to feel less intelligent than the next person. So the trick is to make your victims feel smart – and not just smart, but smarter than you. Immediately they are sure convinced of this, they’ll never assume that you have any ulterior motives.

Law 22: Use The Surrender Tactic: Turn Weakness Into Power

Never fight for glory’s sake when you are weaker; choose surrender instead. Surrendering offers you enough time to recover, time to torment and irritate the conqueror, and time to wait for the conqueror’s power to wane. Don’t give him the satisfaction of fighting and conquering you – give up first.  By turning the other cheek, you provoke and unsettle him. Turn surrender into a power tool.

Law 23: Focus Your Powers

Maintain your strength and energy by focusing them on their stronger side. You earn more by finding a rich mine and digging deeper than going from one shallow mine to another. Intensity beats extensity every time. So if you are looking for sources of strength to stand up, you are looking for the one key patron. Find the fat cow that will give you milk for a long time.

Law 24: Play The Perfect Courtier

The perfect courtier thrives in a world of power and political agility. He masters the indirection. He flatters, yields to superiors, and exercises control over others most obscenely and graciously. Learn and apply the laws of courtiers, and there is no limit to how far you can go in the court.

Team 25: Recreate Yourself

Don’t accept the roles that society assigns to you. Instead, recreate yourself by creating a new identity – one that will grab attention and never bore audiences. Own your image instead of letting others define it for you. Use dramatic means in your public gestures and actions – your strength will be increased, and your character will look larger than life.

Law 26: Keep Your Hands Clean

You must be a model of courtesy and efficiency. Your hands should never be stained by mistake or evil deeds. Keep that look flawless by using others as scapegoats and cat’s-paws to hide your involvement.

Law 27: Play On People’s Need To Actualize A Cult-Like Following

People have an overwhelming urge to believe in something. Become the focal point of such a desire by offering them a cause and a new faith to follow. Keep your words vague yet full of promise. Emphasize enthusiasm over rationality and clear thinking. Give rituals to your new followers and have them make sacrifices on your behalf. Your new belief system will give you untold power in the absence of organized religion and grandiose causes.

Law 28: Enter Action With Boldness

If you are unsure about what to do, don’t try. Your doubts and hesitations will hurt your execution. Timidity is dangerous. It is better to enter it boldly. Any faults committed through audacity can be simply corrected with more audacity. Everybody admires the bold and fearless; Nobody honors the timid.

Law 29: Plan To The End

The ending is everything. Plan all the way, facing all possible consequences, obstacles, and twists of fortune. You won’t be overwhelmed by the circumstances by planning to the end, and you will know when to stop. Manage your wealth with care and help shape the future by thinking ahead.

Law 30: Keep Your Accomplishments Simple

Your actions should appear natural and executed with ease. All the work and practice involved and all the smart tips should be hidden. When you act, act effortlessly. Act as if you could do much more. Avoid the trap to reveal how hard you work because it only triggers questions. Do not teach your tricks to anyone, or they will be used against you.

Law 31: Control The Options – Get Others To Play With The Cards You Deal With

The ideal deceptions are those that appear to offer the other person a choice. Your victims feel in control but are your puppets. Give people options that will work to your advantage no matter what they choose. Compel them to choose between the lesser of two evils, in which both serve your purpose.

Law 32: Play To People’s Fantasies

The truth is usually avoided because it is ugly and uncomfortable. Never appeal to truth and reality except you are prepared for the anger that comes with despair. Life is so complex and disturbing that the people who can create romance are like oases in the desert: everyone comes to them. There is enormous power in exploiting the fantasies of the masses.

Law 33: Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew

Everyone has a weakness. Greene calls it a hole in the castle wall. This weakness is usually insecurity or an uncontrollable feeling or need. Plus, it can also be a bit of secret fun. However, once you find it, it’s a thumbscrew that you can use to your advantage.

Law 34: Be Royal In Your Way: Act Like A King To Be Treated As One

Your behavior often determines how you are treated. In the long run, if you look vulgar or ordinary, people will not respect you. A king respects himself and makes others feel the same. By acting royally and believing in your powers, you seem destined to wear a crown.

Law 35: Master The Art Of Timing

Never be in a rush – haste reveals insufficient control over yourself and over time. Always be patient, as if you know that eventually, everything will come back to you. Become a detective when the time is right. Take advantage of the ages and trends that bring you to power. Learn to go back when the time is not right and hit hard when the time is right.

Law 36: Disdain Things You Can’t Have – Disregarding Them Is The Ideal Revenge

By recognizing a petty problem, you give it existence and credibility. The more you pay attention to an enemy, the stronger you make them. Often a tiny bug worsens and becomes more noticeable when you try to fix it. Sometimes it’s better to leave things alone. When you want something yet can’t have it, show it contempt. The less interest you offer, the better off you are.

Law 37: Create Compelling Spectacles

Striking imagery plus grand symbolic gestures constitute the aura of power – everyone responds to them—stage spectacles for the environment full of striking images and brilliant symbols that bolster your presence. Dazzled by the looks, no one will notice what you are doing.

Law 38: Think As You Like, Yet Act Like Others

If you make a show of going against the time showing off your unconventional ideas and unorthodox ways. People will assume you want attention and look down on them. They will figure a way to punish you for making them feel inferior. It is much safer to go deeper and nurture the common touch. Share your originality only with tolerant friends and people who will definitely appreciate your uniqueness.

Law 39: Stir Up Waters To Catch Fish

Anger and emotion are strategically counterproductive. You should always remain calm and objective. Although if you can make your enemies angry while still being calm yourself, you have a clear advantage. Unbalance your enemies: find the crack in their vanity through which you rattle them, and you hold the strings.

Law 40: Despise The Free Lunch

What is served for free is dangerous – it is usually a trick or a hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. If you pay your way, you will be free from gratitude, guilt, and deceit. It’s also usually advisable to pay a premium or full price – there’re no cutting corners with excellence. Be generous with your money and circulate it because generosity is a sign and a magnet for power.

Law 41: Don’t Follow In The Footsteps Of A Great Man

What comes first always seems more original than what comes later. If you are successful with a great man or have a famous relative, you need to double the achievements to surpass them. Don’t get lost in their shadow or get carried away by a past that you didn’t create for yourself. Instead, establish your own name and identity by changing course. Slay the overbearing father, gain power by shining in your own path and discredit his legacy.

Law 42: Strike The Shepherd, And The Sheep Will Be Scattered

Problems are often attributed to one strong person – the agitator, the arrogant underling, and the poisoned goodwill. If you give these people leeway, others will give in to their influence. Don’t wait for problems to multiply. Don’t try to negotiate with them – they are irreversible. Instead, neutralize their influence by isolating or banishing them. Strike at the source of the matter, and the sheep will scatter.

Law 43: Work On The Minds And Hearts Of People

Coercion creates a reaction that ends up frustrating you. You have to seduce others to go your way. A person you have seduced turns your loyal pawn. The way to seduce people is to operate on their psychologies and individual weaknesses. Reduce resistance by working on their emotions—play on what they like and what they fear. Overlook the hearts and minds of others, and they will grow to hate you.

Law 44: Block And Disrupt The Mirror Effect

The mirror depicts reality, but it is also the perfect tool for cheating. If you mirror your enemies and do exactly what they do, they can’t figure out your strategy. The mirror effect mocks them, humiliates them, and makes them overreact. By handling a mirror to people’s psyche, you seduce them with the feeling that you share their values. By bearing up a mirror to their actions, you are teaching them a lesson. Few people can resist the power of the mirror effect.

Law 45: Announce The Need For Change, But Never Reform Too Much At The Same Time

Everyone recognizes the need for change in the abstract, but people are daily habits. Too much innovation is traumatic and leads to rebellion. When you are new to a position of power, show that you respect the old ways. When a change is needed, make it look like a gentle improvement over the past.

Law 46: Never Look Too Perfect

Looking better than others is always dangerous, but not having flaws or weaknesses is the most dangerous thing. Envy creates silent enemies. It is wise to have faults and sometimes recognize harmless vices, ward off envy, and appear more human and accessible. It’s only the dead, and the gods can look perfect with impunity.

Law 47: Do Not Go Beyond Your Goal; In Victory, Learn When To Stop

The moment of victory is usually the moment of greatest danger. In the heat of victory, arrogance and pride can lead you beyond the goal you set for yourself. Going too far will produce more enemies than you defeat. Don’t let success get to your head. Nothing can replace strategy and careful planning. Set a goal for yourself and when you reach it, stop.

Law 48: Assume Formlessness

By taking shape and having a visible plan, you open yourself up to attack. Instead of taking on a form your enemy can understand, stay flexible and mobile. Accept the fact that nothing is guaranteed and that no law is fixed. The ideal way to protect yourself is to be as fluid and shapely as water. Never invest in instability or standing order – everything changes.

3 Most Fascinating Lessons from The 48 Laws of Power

Lesson One

Always Make Masters Appear More Intelligent Than You.

Here’s a sure-fire way to get out of the way: If your boss has a problem she can’t solve on her computer, go to her and when you’ve solved it, say, “Seeeeee? That’s how you do it. No problem, I’m happy to help!”

The only thing people in positions of power don’t want is to appear helpless. But if you show your skills in front of them, that’s exactly what happens. France’s Finance Minister under King Louis XIV, Nicolas Fouquet, paid this lesson with life imprisonment. When he threw a lavish party in his castle for the King, the King accused him of theft because no one could legally be so rich and threw him in jail.

So instead of showing how good you are, trick your boss into thinking she’s the smartest person in the room, even if you know she isn’t. Give credit, and you will be rewarded in return.

For example, when Galileo Galilei discovered the four moons of Jupiter, he could have claimed all this recognition. But, instead, he named it after Grand Duke Cosimo II de Medici and his brothers. Cosimo then appointed him an official philosopher and mathematician and secured funding for Galileo’s research for years to come.

Lesson Two

Make Deliberate Mistakes To Confuse Your Competition.

Sometimes the competition always seems to be one step ahead. This is probably because they have invested the time and energy in researching you and determining your behavior patterns. When this happens, the best thing you can do is act unpredictably. Do the opposite of what you think people expect, make a mistake on purpose, or walk away for a while.

Bad behavior or deliberate mistakes throws people out of their analysis game. While they’re busy finding your new model and explaining your behavior, you have a chance to fight back.

This is one of the first lessons learned by good poker players. Other players will spot you quickly and fold with every bet if you only play hands after hitting at least a pair or more. But throw a few tapped bluffs and push them back even if you lose your hands, and your opponents can’t be so sure anymore.

Bobby Fischer used this strategy to confuse Boris Spassky in his 1972 World Chess Championship play. He made an amateurish’s mistake in their opening game, didn’t even show up for the second one (and lose by forfeit, and returned only minutes before the third match started again, he started making crazy requests, such as camera moves, locker rooms and finally completely atypical openings for his usual style of chess, and finally beat Spassky to the title of world champion.

Lesson Three

Seduce Others To Voluntarily Do What You Want Instead Of Forcing Them.

Even if you are already in a position of power, people will not always do what you want. If so, never try to force people to obey. Instead, make it impossible for them not to do what you wish to by seducing him.

Chuko Liang, the chief military strategist of ancient China, used it to destroy King Meng Huo. But, instead of wasting their entire army, he captured them all when they attacked China, then …

… King Meng Huo was served good wine and good food. His soldiers saw this generosity, and after Liang was sure he had confused them, he freed them but held King Meng Huo hostage. Only after threatening that he’d have to bow to the Chinese King if he was capture again did he release the enemy.

Over the years, Liang arrested Meng Huo repeatedly with the same threat, but each time freeing his prisoner. Finally, after the seventh time, Meng Huo surrendered, bowed to the King, and gave up on his own initiative.

Raw force only creates anger, so use seduction instead.

Conclusion

The 48 Laws of Power is a revolutionary and the best guide to help readers understand for themselves what Machiavelli, Henry Kissinger, Queen Elizabeth I and Louis XIV find out the hard way. Based on the history of power, Robert Greene offers a guide on managing and using power effectively.

By following these unique 48 laws, you can gain from the knowledge that prominent rulers of the past learned on their own through personal mistakes.

Who Should Read The 48 Laws of Power?

The 19-year-old who is bullied in college for being a nerd, the 31-year-old “overnight” celebrity who struggles with sudden fame and attention, and anyone who needs practical lessons from history than they have learned in school.

We’re just scratching the surface here. If you don’t already have the original book, “The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene”, order it here on Amazon to learn the juicy details.

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