The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene [Book Summary]

As a kid, starting primary school can be a little bit of a shock. If you were brought up by parents who are conscientious and trusted all the things they told you about honesty and fairness, probabilities are there was a steep learning curve in front of you when placed with your new classmates. All of a sudden it became obvious that fairness is for suckers and cowards!

The truth is, attempting to be fair all the time can extremely hamper your success. Definitely, if you’re a top-level business manager or politician, you understood that already. However, you still have hope even if you’re not.

At a time, Robert Greene was just like you; however, he chose to search deep into the history and machinations of power to learn everything about how to obtain it, make use of it and safeguard against abuse of it. He devised a huge 48 laws of power, and these book chapters will concentrate only on the seven most illuminating laws of power.

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Chapter 1 – Showing off your intelligence won’t gain you your boss’s favor; however, making your boss shine will.

Have you ever attempted to sway your boss, just to embarrass yourself? Well, if you’ve never succeeded to impress a person in a position of power, it could really be the outcome of outshining them. Nevertheless, people that are powerful want to be the focus of attention; attempting really hard to sway them can change the focus away from them to you, hurting their pride while doing that.

However, what’s even worse is behaving better than them, something that could make your boss see you as a threat to their position and, hence, to let leave the company.

Consider the connection between King Louis XIV of France and the king’s finance minister named Nicolas Fouquet. A clever and loyal advisor, Fouquet became vital to his king; however, this didn’t assure him the status of prime minister when the current minister died. In order to get the king’s favor, Fouquet held an extravagant party at his lavishly furnished chateau to reveal to the king how really connected and powerful he was.

The following day, Fouquet was arrested and it was the king that ordered the arrest. The king felt dominated and dubiously blamed the minister of stealing to accumulate that kind of expensive riches. Poor Fouquet was forced to live out his life in jail.

Hence, you understand how not to sway your boss; however, how can you win her favor? A better approach is to constantly make your boss look clever than every other person, as well as you.

For instance, Galileo Galilei the astronomer and mathematician seriously needed money for his research and discovered a clever means to get the fund. When he found the four moons of Jupiter in 1610, he made sure to connect his finding to the enthronement of Cosimo II de’ Medici.


In an act of ingenious, Galileo mentioned that the four moons signified Cosimo II as well as his three brothers, whereas Jupiter itself was similar to Cosimo I, the four brothers’ father. All thanks to working to his ruler’s ego, Galileo was declared the actual philosopher and mathematician of Cosimo II.

Chapter 2 – Take credit for the work of others and make sure you defend your own.

Would you ever think claiming part of someone else’s work as your own by copying a few clever pieces? During a math test, did you ever secretly steal answers from a classmate of yours? Perhaps you did or perhaps you didn’t; however, the reality is that achieving power usually entails using other people’s work to your own benefit.

Why should you waste your energy doing things by or yourself if another person can do them for you? For example, are you aware that the Serbian scientist Nikola Tesla worked for the popular creator Thomas Edison? Also, it was really Tesla, and not Edison, who was key in making Edison’s famous dynamo by enhancing what was at the time Edison’s somewhat old design.

To get this finding, Tesla worked non stop for a full year, usually spending 18-hour days in the lab. However, now, it’s Edison’s name that is credited to the dynamo.

Just a bit has changed since Edison’s era. Just ponder on how few politicians write their own speeches and how popular novelists “borrow” from other writers.

However, getting the advantage of work done by other people isn’t sufficient – you’ll have to take credit for it as well. For instance, Edison and his firm claimed the entire credit for the work of Tesla on the dynamo. Edison didn’t so much as to give a cent of his gains with Tesla, although he had guaranteed him $50,000!

Therefore, having Tesla’s experience in mind, bear in mind that the credit assigned for an invention or creation of any sort is just as vital as the creation itself. If you don’t take the credit, another person will jump in, steal your concept as well as the whole that accompanies it.

Chapter 3 – Gaining power over a person entails getting to know who they are – and the best method to do that is acting like their friend.

Perhaps you’ve come across this issue before: you’re trying to outdo the opponent; however, you can’t quite succeed to correctly predict your opponents’ tactics. How can you do this?

Another trick you can use to gaining power is to collect significant detail about the people you want to have control over. Also, to collect something from a person, you have to know about them. Nevertheless, understanding a person’s tactics, weaknesses and wants will assist you both win their favor and control actions.

Consider art dealer Joseph Duveen, who decided to win over the industrialist Andrew Mellon as a customer in the year 1920. However, Mellon was not easily swayed; therefore, Duveen chose to bribe Mellon’s staff to give him secret detail about their employer.

When the industrialist went to London, Duveen made it a must to follow him. The dealer appeared at the exact art gallery Mellon was visiting, apparently by accident, and engaged him in a lively discussion.

Because Duveen knew a lot about the interest of Mellon, he easily gained his favor by making him think that they shared the same tastes in art, among other things. Due to that, the meeting ended on good notes and Mellon immediately became Duveen’s best customer.

Therefore, how can you achieve what Duveen did?

You can employ informants or, better still, act as a spy yourself by acting as a friend of the person. Although the majority of the people prefer to hire spies as Duveen did, this method is risky. Nevertheless, how can you be certain that your spies are being truthful with you?

To be certain that your detail is correct, it’s better to do the spying yourself. This is no easy job, as people usually hesitate to share private details with people they don’t know.

But, they’re not as secretive when in the midst of a person they see as a friend, which makes posing as a friend an extremely effective approach.

Chapter 4 – Act in a way that cannot be predicted to confuse the competition.

You are likely aware that the majority of the people don’t like unexpected changes; however, are you aware that that you can use unpredictability to your competitive edge? Acting unpredictably can keep your competition off-balance, and this is how:

In competitive cases, your competitors will possibly try hard to understand you by observing your habits and decision making, and they won’t delay using this detail against you. In this case, the best thing you can do is to act erratically – being unpredictable will protect you from being read by your competitors, which will intimidate and frighten them.

Consider the popular 1972 chess game between Bobby Fischer and the Russian champion Boris Spassky. Fischer understood that Spassky’s method was to target the habits and predictability of his competitor, and Fischer made use of this knowledge to his advantage by playing the game as unpredictably as possible.

Even in the days before the game, Fischer made it look uncertain if he would be able to make it or not to Reykjavik, where the pair was set to play. And when he came, it was minutes before the match was set to be canceled as a result of his absence. After this act, Fischer went on to complain about everything such as the lighting, the chairs, and noise in the room.

When they eventually started the tournament’s first game, Fischer made reckless errors before giving up, a strange move considering he was well known for his persistence. Spassky couldn’t determine if he was really making errors or just pretending.

At this stage, Fischer had Spassky just where he wanted him to be: when your opponent is really confused, you’re in a good position to win.


Doing things that confuse your competitor will prompt him to attempt to describe your action and divert him from the present task, offering you the opportunity to strike.

Therefore, after two games of chess, Fischer started winning game after game with brave moves. When everything was over, Spassky surrendered and Fischer was proclaimed world champion.

Chapter 5 – Surrendering to a more powerful contender will assist you to gain power eventually.

Have you competed with a person knowing that you’d never win? Although it’s normal for people to fight for honor against all odds, it’s not the way to power. Therefore, what should you do when confronted with a rival stronger than you?


This may look like an odd method, particularly since humans naturally fight their foes to defend themselves. However, when a rival behaves with hostility, he will expect you to react in an exact manner. In situations when you are aware that the competition has you beat, the best thing you can do is to do the opposite and give up.


If you surrender or at least show your opponent that you’ve done so, you can guarantee that he won’t cause much harm. Not just that; however, your opponent, believing he has succeeded, will as well let down his guard. When he lets his guard down, you’ll get a golden chance to recover your strength and plan your next move.

Consider the example of Bertolt Brecht, a writer of revolutionary, communist ideas who immigrated to the United States in the year 1941 to join the other intellectuals exiled from Europe. After World War II ended, Brecht, as well as his colleagues, were called before the US Congress, which was investigating an alleged communist infiltration of Hollywood.

While his fellow rebels provoked a commotion and defied the authority of Congress by shouting and being uncooperative, Brecht was patient and gently answered the questions they asked him.

As a result of his good conduct, the government released Brecht, which even endeavored to assist him with his immigration process– eventually, their offer was pointless since he left the country and kept on writing about his strong beliefs.

What about stubborn friends?

They were blacklisted, and they were unable to publish for several years!

Therefore, do what Brecht did and make surrender a tool of self-empowerment. Form long-term strength instead of making extreme sacrifices for short-lived periods of glory.

Chapter 6 – If you wish to be treated like a superior, you need to behave like one.

Are you above on the ladder than another person? If that is the case, it’s significant to act the part – except, of course, you like to be viewed as their equal. However, a word of advice: behaving as if you’re equal to other people while maintaining a superior position to them will just cause contempt.

Consider Louis-Philippe, king of France between the 1830s and 40s. He flouted royal ceremonies and all the symbols related to the throne. In resistance to the customs of his position, he was notorious for putting on a gray hat and carrying an umbrella instead of his crown and scepter. As a matter of fact, he didn’t even have friends that are royalty, usually friends with bankers instead.

However, the king’s action didn’t bring him any good – he was quickly despised by both the rich and the poor. Rich people complained of the strange king, whereas the poor people didn’t like a king who behaved like the lower classes that didn’t care for them. Also, his banker friends criticized him when they discovered they could abuse him without the fear of being punished.

This whole hatred piled up until the people rebelled against him and he was obliged to leave the throne.

Generally speaking, people are skeptical of people that are in a higher position who behave like their equals; doing that makes people assume that you’re dishonest, as they’ll believe your humble ways are a cunny trick to cloud your rights.

Then what’s a better method?

Rather, you should employ the tactic of the crown to make people handle you like royalty. Basically, if you think you’re above other people and behave in this manner, other people will start to think you’re superior as well. When people notice you behaving superiorly, they’ll believe there is a good cause for you to do so.

For example, Christopher Columbus acted like royalty and, hence, the majority of the people saw him as such. As a matter of fact, it was his bold socializing with the Spanish royal family that ultimately influenced the Spanish throne to fund his trips.

Chapter 7 – To acquire power over other people, seduction works well than coercion.

Imagine yourself as Chuko Liang, the leader of the strategist for the ancient Chinese state of Shu: War has only been announced on China by King Menghuo from the south and preventing him as well as saving the nation rests in your hands.

However, before knowing what you should do, it’s vital to understand what not to do.

Firstly, making use of force and coercive tactics is never smart, even when they’re the easiest decisions. As a matter of fact, if you actually use your strength, people will hate you secretly since force breeds resistance. Liang was aware of this and didn’t strike with force, although he would have most likely conquered the invading army.

But, if he had, Menghuo would have hated both China and Liang and the nation would have to defend itself regularly. This would have made everyone involved tired and caused paranoia.

Seduction is a better approach. People have a tendency to be influenced by their feelings, and by playing on their feelings, you can control them how you want– of their own free will.

This can be done by threatening your rival so that they anticipate suffering and then all of a sudden treating them nicely. For instance, when Menghuo invaded China, Liang arrested him and his whole army. Menghuo was kept apart from his soldiers and anticipated the worst; however, to his great astonishment, he was given a nice meal and wine instead.

Although Liang freed his foe’s soldiers, he would just allow Menghuo to leave when the enemy king assured that if he was ever taken again, he would bow to the Chinese king.

Also,  although Liang caught Menghuo many more times, he usually let him leave. Then, went he captured him on the seventh time, Menghuo dropped to Liang’s feet, surrendering himself as well his kingdom.

Although Liang could have murdered Menghuo when he got hold of him, a reality that the enemy king knew of, he offered him a lot of opportunities and treated him well every time. Due to that, Menghuo grew more thankful and indebted to the Chinese king, until he eventually surrendered of his own will.

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene Book Review

The universe has historically been governed by power and conquest. Definitely, a lot has transformed into this present age; however, the significance of control and power has stayed. By learning from the failures and wins of historical power struggles, you as well can become a force to be reckoned with.

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