One of the most powerful self-development books I have read is a manual called The Concise 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. The laws are based on ancient wisdom and the writings of great thinkers, including Machiavelli, Sun-tzu and Carl von Clausewitz.
The book’s premise is twofold: Everyone wants to have a sense of control or power over self and others. The lack of control or loss of power is in fact a detriment to wellbeing. While we all believe in decency and fairness, the reality is that sometimes to make it in the real world, you just have to play by the rules of the game. And the game indeed does have rules.
Some might reject these premises on the grounds that they are pessimistic, vulgar or adverse. The truth, however, is that this book is considered one of the strongest manuals on how to make it for a reason: It expresses how reality works, with rawness and gut.
1. Never outshine the master.
2. Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies.
3. Conceal your intentions.
4. Always say less than necessary
5. So much depends on reputation; guide it with your life.
6. Court attention at all courts.
7. Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit.
8. Make other people come to you ¨C use bait if necessary.
9. Win through your actions, never through argument.
10. Infection: Avoid the unhappy and unlucky.
11. Learn to keep people dependent on you.
12. Use selective honesty and generosity to disarm your victim.
13. When asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude.
14. Pose as a friend, work as a spy.
15. Crush your enemy totally.
16. Use absence to increase respect and honour.
17. Keep others in suspense: Cultivate an air of unpredictability.
18. Do not build fortresses to protect yourself ¨C isolation is dangerous.
19. Know who you’re dealing with ¨C do not offend the wrong person.
20. Do not commit to anyone.
21. Play a sucker to catch a sucker ¨C seem dumber than your mark.
22. Use the surrender tactic: Transform weakness into power.
23. Concentrate your forces.
24. Play the perfect courtier.
25. Re-create yourself.
26. Keep your hands clean
27. Play on people’s need to believe to create a cult-like following.
28. Enter action with boldness
29. Plan all the way to the end.
30. Make your accomplishments seem effortless.
31. Control the options: Get the others to play with the cards you deal.
32. Play to people’s fantasies.
33. Discover each man’s thumbscrew.
34. Be royal in your own fashion: Act like a king to be treated like one.
35. Master the art of timing
36. Disdain things you cannot have: Ignoring them is the best revenge.
37. Create compelling spectacles.
38. Think as you like but behave like others.
39. Stir up waters to catch fish
40. Despise the free lunch.
41. Avoid stepping into a great man’s shoes.
42. Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter.
43. Work on the hearts and minds of others.
44. Disarm and infuriate with the mirror effect.
45. Preach the need for change, but never reform too much at once.
46. Never appear too perfect.
47. Do not go past the mark you aimed for; in victory, learn when to stop
48. Assume formlessness.