48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene was and still is one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read.
I’ll admit, when I first finished the book I was convinced I was equipped to rule some small island – mainly Cuba; as it seemed like the perfect book for the tyrant, dictator, master manipulator or sociopath.
It took me days to come off the intoxication of wanting to become Li’l Fidel Castro, and I finally began exploring how I could actually apply these laws to my everyday life without stepping into the dark side.
Fortunately, the Power & Politics course at NYU Stern did just that, as it normalized the conversation and made me realize that Power is only bad when you don’t have it.
No matter where you are in the hierarchy, there’s always a way to position yourself for power. I found the following similarities between the Laws and the Lessons in this course:
Law 1: Never Outshine the Master
This law reminds you to always “Please the Boss” by always making “those above you feel comfortably superior.”
Law 13: When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest, Never to Their Mercy or Gratitude
“Uncover something in your request, or in your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emphasize it out of all proportion.”
Law 14: Pose as Friend, Work as a Spy
“Knowing about your rival is critical. Use spies to gather valuable information that will keep you a step ahead. Better still: Play the spy yourself… Learn to probe.” Spy on the Boss!
Law 18: Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself; Isolation is Dangerous
“Isolation exposes you to more dangers than it protects you from – it cuts you off from valuable information and makes you conspicuous and an easy target.”
Law 19: Know Who You’re Dealing With; Do Not Offend the Wrong Person
“Choose your victims and opponents carefully; never offend or deceive the wrong person.”
Law 22: Use the Surrender Tactic; Transform Weakness into Power
“Make surrender a tool of power. Surrender gives you time to recover.”
Law 24: Play the Perfect Courtier
“The perfect courtier has mastered the art of indirection; he flatters, yields to superiors, and asserts power over others in the most oblique and graceful manner.” This law is another reminder to “Please the Boss.”
Law 29: Plan All the Way to the End
“Gently guide fortune and help determine the future by thinking far ahead.” Be deliberate and strategic in achieving our goals.
Law 38: Think as You Like but Behave Like Others
“If you make a show of going against the times, flaunting your unconventional ideas and unorthodox ways, people will think that you only want attention and that you look down on them.”
Law 43: Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others
“Coercion creates a reaction that will eventually work against you. You must seduce others into wanting to move in your direction. Ignore the hearts and minds of others and they will grow to hate you.” Do not rely on “positional power” alone.
Law 48: Assume Formlessness
“By taking a shape, by having a visible plan, you open yourself to attack.”