The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, was one of those books that I kept seeing mentioned on the internet. Lots of powerful people would recommend it and when I was choosing the 2016 reading list for PropelHer’s Book Club it was an easy choice.
Greene states that
“To build your power’s foundation can take years…success that is built up slowly and surely is the only kind that lasts”.
Since a solid foundation take years to build it definitely is for someone who is dedicated to the cause and then spending the time to read this 400+ page book.
A key theme in the book is holding back. This is discussed in Law 4: Always Say Less Than Necessary and then reinforced by Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions. This law explored the idea of not letting people know your intentions. If people know your intentions they can use it against you, stand in your way etc. This totally makes sense, however, feels very at odd to me since so much of what I read talks about being true to you and showing your authentic, whole self.
A key part of power is knowing your opponent. Greene is very clear about the need to understand your opponent and in Law 19: Know Who You’re Dealing With – Do Not Offend the Wrong Person) he identifies 5 types of people: The Arrogant and Proud Man, The Hopelessly Insecure Man, Mr. Suspicious, The Serpent with a Long Memory and The Plain, Unassuming, and Often Unintelligent Man.
A large part of being a powerful individual depends on your reputation. Greene discusses how to protect it Law 5: So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard It With Your Life, but also how you can change it Law 25: Recreate Yourself. The ideas around recreating yourself are particularly important since power is a long-term game. Therefore, as you rise you will need to recreate yourself in order to continue rising.
Another idea that is discussing is your relationships with people. Law 20: Do Not Commit to Anyone explores the idea that you shouldn’t commit to anyone but yourself. Do not take sides and help people with their cause. At all times you need to remember what you want to achieve. This may make you think that you by committing to yourself you should keep yourself to yourself. However, Law 18: Do Not Build Fortesses to Protect Yourself – Isolation is Dangerous explains that solitary is dangerous. By isolating yourself you will make it easier for people to attack you and you will lose out on hearing information from others. This results in you being in a very vulnerable position.
Overall, I found The 48 Laws of Power a difficult read. It felt very masculine in tone and I am not comfortable with being calculated, manipulative, concealing the truth and wanting to crush my opponent. In addition, lots of examples referred to major rulers and con artists. This made the book hard to relate to.
However, I do think the showed the harsh reality of the games people play to gain power. Although, that degree of power is not something I want so thankfully I don’t have to follow the laws, it is definitely worthwhile understanding them. Knowing
I read The 48 Laws of Power as part of PropelHer’s Book Club for Ambitious Women. For more information and to join PropelHer click here.