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48 Laws of power is famous book written by Robert Greene that encapsulates 3000+ years of wisdom and strategy and tactics about success and power. The book contains knowledge passed down over the centuries from famous luminaries like Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Henry Kissinger, and P.T. Barnum.
The 48 Laws of Power is a “must-have” manual for anyone interested in gaining, observing, or defending against being manipulated by others. The author thinks of power play as a game. So you can use the book to learn about power in general. Or study the topic deeply. Or even for nefarious purposes.
You can pick up a copy of this amazing book here.
According to Green, the better you become and understanding and handling power, the better you will become as a friend, a lover, a business associate. You will learn how to make others feel good and that will make them dependent on you since you will be a source of great pleasure.
The 48 Laws of Power Quotes
“The 48 Laws of Power” is structured as a detailed list that delves into each law in detail. In this “48 Laws of Power” summary, we look at the best quotes from the book as we take you through a top line summary of the 48 Laws of Power mentioned in the book.
Summary of the 48 Laws of Power
Law 1. Never Outshine the Master
Always make those above you in a power hierarchy to feel superior to you. Let the person trying to be “alpha” be that person so they don’t see you as competition.
Hide the extent of your own talents, so you won’t make them feel threatened or insecure. The trick is to be sympathetic and non-threatening. The better you make them appear, the more they will feel you are there to serve them and that will help you attain greater power.
You will help the people above you feel secure and superior to you and that will flatter their ego and they won’t feel threatened. You can even make some harmless mistakes or have easy questions to ask them so they can feel important by letting you help show your mastery or solve them.
Law 2. Never Put Too Much Trust in Friends, Learn How to Use Enemies
Friends are more prone to envy and more likely to betray you. So you have more to fear from your friends than your enemies.
Often your friends aren’t really sharing their true beliefs and intents so you may think you know your friends better than you do. According to Greene, honesty rarely strengthens bonds so friends frequently hide their true feelings about each other.
It is better not to hire friends because they will feel entitled and tend to slack off more than a stranger. That will help you not have your judgment negatively impacted by emotions.
Law 3. Conceal Your Intentions
Always conceal your intentions and keep them hidden or obscured.
If your opponents don’t know your true intentions, it is harder for them to defend themselves. Lead them astray and then it will be too late for them when they realize your plans. It will be too late for them to respond properly. You can use human’s tendency to trust appearances and manipulate it to your own advantage.
Remember the story of the Trojan horse?
By dangling a decoy set of intentions in front of your opponents or enemies, they won’t see what you are really up to!
If you cloak your intentions and appear to be cooperative, people will perceive you to be friendly and honest and that will lead them further down the wrong path.
Also, if you blend in and don’t appear to be trying to get attention, people will trust the familiar and be even less likely to cast suspicions.
Law 4. Always Say Less Than Necessary
The saying “less is more” applies here. If you are a powerful person, you can impress others by saying less.
In fact the more you say, the more likely you will end up saying something foolish. This is common sense, right? But you would be surprised that most people forget this constantly!
Because people are constantly trying to work out what others appear to be thinking, silence will make them feel uncomfortable.
Finally, by controlling what you reveal, you can wield great power. The person you’re speaking with is likely to fill in the silences you leave, revealing more information about their own intentions and weaknesses.
Law 5. So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard It With Your Life
Your reputation precedes you as the old saying goes. You can use your reputation to intimidate others and “win” but if your reputation is tarnished or negative, you become vulnerable to attack.
If you make your reputation strong and impenetrable you can predict attacks before they occur.
You can aid yourself here by finding and exploiting holes in your enemies’ reputations and letting their public reputations destroy them.
Law 6. Court Attention at All Costs
People will judge you initially and superficially by your appearances. So take advantage of this knowledge and make yourself appear more interesting and mysterious to the masses – that will make you stand out!
One tactic is to surround your name with sensation and scandal. Think of what celebrities do here to keep their name in the gossip tabloids.
Notoriety of any sort brings power and it is preferable to have negative attention and even be slandered, than to be ignored!
An effective technique is to create an air of mystery around yourself by keeping your cards close to your chest. People tend to be drawn to those who seem enigmatic. If you are mysterious, people will be wondering what your next move is and that will create anticipation and curiosity in you and your actions.
Law 7. Get Others to Do the Work for You, but Always Take the Credit
Never do for yourself what the efforts of others can do for you. This is a core principle of allowing others to help yo and let their wisdom and knowledge further your own cause.
This will help you appear to be knowledgeable. Over time, people will remember you not the people that worked behind the scenes to help you.
You will be less productive with your life if you try to do everything yourself and you won’t get far. So find people who have skills you lack because they will help you. You can hire them and they can contribute to your efforts. To do this effectively, your position must be secure and you will cause major pushback if you appear to take credit for others’ actions. Instead, acknowledge their contributions and make them feel valued so they will continue working for you and advancing your efforts.
Law 8. Make Other People Come to You – Use Bait if Necessary
It is best to have your opponent come to you. It is ideal to lure them in and then attack them. If they seek you out, they will have to abandon their plans and strategies in the process and will be reacting to you. They can’t be proactive and lead things if they are reactive.
If you play the long (term) game, you can sit back and stay calm as the others get stuck in the traps you’ve planned out for them.
Keep in mind that your traps are only as good as the perceived attractiveness of the bait in those traps. You need to use bait that is really good and will blind your opponent to the reality of their emotions so you can gain the upper hand.
Law 9. Win Through Your Actions, Never Through Argument
There really isn’t such thing as “winning” an argument because if you make the other person resentful, they will become a stronger opponent and if you haven’t been persuasive in getting them to change their opinions, you have only gained a momentary satisfaction at making them surrender.
A more effects strategy is to let your actions speak for you. If you can change peoples’ minds and obtain their agreement with your actions, you are more likely to change lasting opinions.
Words are cheap – as the old phrase goes “words are a dime a dozen” – and people will say anything to make a point but it requires little effort. Look to change actions instead because that will lead to lasting change and support and agreement for your positions.
Law 10. Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and the Unlucky
Emotional states can be contagious and infect people like diseases. If you spend too much time around people who are unhappy, negative, unlucky, or otherwise always constantly having bad things happen to them, their emotional energy will take you down if you spend too much time in their presence. So make sure you associate with happy, prosperous and successful people.
The chronically unhappy types of people tend to view themselves as victims and will never see themselves as the cause of their own misfortune and misery. If you associate too much with the miserable, you waste your valuable time and drain your potential power.
Law 11. Learn to Keep People Dependent on You
For you to be independent, you need to make others want and need you. They need to be dependent on you, so you can experience your own freedom. If you teach the people around you how to do everything, they will gain autonomy and not longer be dependent on you. Once you have people who are dependent on you, you will have more power over them.
Law 12. Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm Your Victim
Even a single honest gesture can help provide cover for many dishonest acts. And if you are generous you can disarm even the most untrusting and suspicious people. If you are able to disarm people, you can manipulate them at will.
The key to successful deception is distracting people. By being generous, you will distract the people you wish to deceive while also flattering them with affection. They will become like docile kids and they will see your actions in a positive way and refuse to see your dishonesty, even when others point it out.
Law 13. When Asking for Help, Appeal to the Self-interests of Others, Never to Their Mercy or Gratitude
If you must ask others for help, make sure your request includes a benefit for your ally. That way, when they seem that they will get a benefit in helping you, they will respond enthusiastically. Just remember that appealing to self interest is the greatest motivator for people.
Once you figure out what others want and can appeal to their self- interest, you will have no limits on what you can accomplish as you can get an army to help you advance your own plans and gain power.
Law 14. Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy
The best way to gain power over your rivals is to have knowledge about them. If they see you a friendly person you can ask questions and get to know them and you will understand their weaknesses and intentions. Then you will be able to understand how they will perceive situations. How they will react, and you will be able to predict their actions.
You can also leverage other people to get them to spy for you. If you do that and involve others, you do open yourself up to vulnerabilities by letting others do your work for you. So ultimately it’s best to do your own spying and keep the circle small.
Law 15. Crush Your Enemy Totally
If you only partially crush your enemy, they will eventually recover and come back too eek revenge!
You can only gain peace and serenity if your enemies cease to exist. If you manage to remove all of your opponent’s options, then they will have no choice but to bend to your will. By giving them nothing to negotiate with and no room to maneuver, you will have crushed them.
Law 16. Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor
If you are always around and present and available, people will take you for granted.
So create higher perceived value and an air of scarcity around yourself by selectively being less available. In short, withdraw from time to time and be less available.
Law 17. Keep Others in Suspended Terror: Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability
In general, humans are creatures of habit. As humans we look for familiar, consistent behaviors in others to see patterns.
If you act unpredictably, your opponents will tire themselves out as they try to predict and analyze your moves. Occasionally you can strike without warning.
When you act predictably, you give others’ power over you but if you act unpredictably, others will feel they they don’t understand you and will be intimidated.
If you are the underdog, you can confuse your enemies so they make a tactical blunder by using this strategy of making unpredictable moves.
Law 18. Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself – Isolation is Dangerous
You might think you should gain power and then build a fortress to protect yourself from others. But this is wrong!
If you isolate yourself from the world and your enemies you will become cut off from others and society. And that makes you actually more vulnerable to attack because you will lose your social connections. Power comes from social interaction.
So rather than stay isolate and apart from others, become the center of the social scene. Control the environment by directing social events where you can even further expand your social circle. Instead of turning inward and becoming socially isolated, turn your attention outward socially and seek out old allies, re-connect with others, and expand your social circles.
Law 19. Know Who You’re Dealing With – Don’t Offend the Wrong Person
Be careful not to defeat your enemies so strongly that they just want to spend their days plotting to get back and you and seeking revenge. It pays to avoid offending the wrong people. How do you know? By having the skill to properly assess people and see how they respond to minor issues.
Also if you work or get close to someone, make sure you really know them. Never trust initial appearances – make sure you understand them over time and have deep knowledge.
Law 20. Don’t Commit to Anyone
You should be committed to yourself and to your independence, rather than to others.
This allows you to play people off each other because you will be more flexible.
Avoid small and petty fights and drama. Let others fight while you watch from the sidelines.
Sometimes, it’s even a good tactic to create conflict between to other parties because you can gain power by acting as the go between.
Law 21. Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker – Appear Dumber Than Your Mark
No one likes feeling stupid, so a great trick is to make your opponents feel smarter than you.
That way they will think they are more intelligent and won’t feel threatened by you and never suspect that you have any ulterior motives.
Law 22. Use the Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakness Into Power
If you are about to be defeated, sometimes it’s best to surrender. This will give you more time to plot your revenge.
Also, by surrendering, you can deny them the satisfaction of destroying you and turn your act of surrender into an advantage, which is very counter-paradoxical!
When you yield, you gain the upper hand. You can lull your enemy into believing they have “won” even as you are plotting their downfall down the road.
Law 23. Concentrate Your Forces
Conserve your energy and focus on a single source of power.
Look for a specific thing that will sustain you for a long time to come as that will give you deeper knowledge and power over time.
Just remember that power exists in a concentrated form. For example, in an organization, there are typically a small group that holds most of the power. You need to focus your energies and become part of the power elite.
Law 24. Play the Perfect Courtier
A perfect courtier wield power through discretion. You can gain power by the use of flattery, charm and grace. There are a few specific steps you can take to become a perfect courtier that involve practicing nonchalance, being frugal with flattery, adapting your style and language to your audience, avoid being the bearer of bad news, not criticizing your superiors, being self observant, mastering your emotions, and being a source of pleasure.
Law 25. Recreate Yourself
Rather than accepting the role that society has given you, forge your own identity!
Construct an identity that commands attention and master and create your image, rather than letting others dictate it for you. In essence you are your own public relations firm.
Remake yourself into a figure of power as though you are molding yourself from clay.
To achieve this aim, you must have a level of self awareness and learn to master your emotions. Then you must create a memorable character. After you do that you can learn to play many roles to adapt to a given situation.
Law 26. Keep Your Hands Clean
To gain power you must maintain a spotless appearance so you can never be associated with any bad things. If you are involved in nefarious activities, it’s important to use others as scapegoats to disguise your involvement. Your reputation depends more on what you conceal so you should always have a scapegoat on hand if you need a person to blame for any sketchy or dubious activities.
Besides using a scapegoat, there is a “cat’s paw” – someone who does your dirty work for you while obscuring your involvement. This might mean letting someone else be the bearer of bad needs so you can be associated with the good news. And that helps keep your reputation positive and your hands clean.
Law 27. Create a Cult-like Following by Playing on People’s Need to Believe
People need someone to follow and something to believe in.
If you can create a cult like leader persona and gain a large group of loyal followers, they will give you massive amounts of power.
Law 28. Enter Action With Boldness
People admire and look up to boldness. But the timid are typically frowned upon.
It is always better to act boldly.
Few people are born bold though so this is a habit that requires cultivation, practice and effort.
If you are timid, you will have to work hard to change this habit and replace it with boldness.
Law 29. Plan All the Way to the End
People that are weak leaders usually can’t think things through or in chess language, “plan a few moves ahead.”
It is critically important to always plan things out to the end. You must think through all possibilities that could prevent you from achieving your end goal. With proper scenario planning, you will be able to adapt and change and deal with surprises and obstacles and detours along the journey.
Most people do not plan carefully or think things through. If you plan ahead in this way, you will have an upper hand.
Having vision is key to becoming a great and powerful leader.
Law 30. Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless
If you make your accomplishments seem effortless, it makes you seem even more capable than others. What might be hard for others, is “effortless” for you – that is the impression you always want to convey.
So hide the great effort and tactics you used to achieve your goals and don’t tell them how you got there so they can’t copy you.
You can maintain a tactical advantage over others by remaining silent.
Law 31. Control the Options: Get Others to Play With the Cards You Deal
If you give your opponents a choice, they will feel they are in control of their destiny. But what they won’t realize is that you are using them because they are choosing between options hat you have given them.
No matter what they choose, it should benefit you.
Set up a narrow range of options that benefit you and then you can guide them toward a decision that they think they made…but benefits you the most!
Law 32. Play Into People’s Fantasies
Reality and truth are often challenging and ugly. If you appeal to that, people may be angry and feel disenchanted.
So instead of focusing on reality, play to fantasy. People will flow to you as you offer an alternative to the disillusionment of reality.
See where reality causes people negative emotions and use those topics and themes to conjure up fantasies that appeal to how they would like things to be.
Law 33. Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew
Find your opponents weakness and pain points.
Often this will be an insecurity, a secret desire, or an emotion or desire that is not in control.
Law 34. Be Royal in Your Own Fashion: Act Like a King to Be Treated Like One
People will treat you in the way you present yourself to the world.
So…carry yourself with self respect, confidence, and dignity.
Make it seem like you were destined for power.
Radiant your beliefs outwards so that others believe it too.
Law 35. Master the Art of Timing
Patience is a virtue and it conveys you have choices and options.
Neve appear to be in a rush. People who are in a rush are either emotional or don’t have options.
But you are powerful and have options, so you can wait and strike while the iron is hot.
Law 36. Disdain Things You Cannot Have: Ignoring Them is the Best Revenge
You can seem superior by taking less interest in the things that irritate you.
If you focus on your enemy or things that are negative, they sap your power and energy.
Law 37. Create Compelling Spectacles
You can heighten your presence and power by creating grand, attention getting gestures.
People will be too dazzled by the style to uncover what you’re really up to.
The value of visual gestures is that they convey emotive power and will be very memorable.
Remember the old adage “a picture is worth a 1000 words.”
Law 38. Think as You Like, but Behave Like Others
It is best to practice blending in and hiding your true feelings and intentions. That way you will blend in as part of the crowd and people will not see you as a worthy opponent…until it is too late!
Law 39. Stir Up Waters to Catch Fish
If you are able to stay calm while you get your opponents emotional and infuriated, you can gain an advantage.
If you discover their weaknesses, you can manipulate and control them at will.
The more emotional and angry they become, the more ridiculous they will appear. And the calmer you will become. You will seem more powerful by contrast.
Law 40. Despise the Free Lunch
Be untrusting of things that seem to be granted “for free.” Anything that has worth, has a cost associated with it and is also worth paying for.
If you get something for free, you may feel obligated to the person who gave it. Your emotions will be at play.
Instead, pay for things yourself and avoid having emotional or psychological obligations for accepting free lunches, gifts, or other items.
Law 41. Avoid Stepping Into a Great Man’s Shoes
If you are first with something you will always be remembered historically as the “original” one.
You must establish your own name and identity so you don’t get forgotten in the shadows of the original founders.
Find a way to stand out and be unique, and create your own presence that won’t be forgotten.
Law 42. Strike the Shepherd, and the Sheep Will Scatter
If there is trouble, seek the primary source. Find them and take them out of the process, situation, company, etc. That will stop their influence.
In most groups, power is concentrated among a few leaders. So if you understand who controls the group, you can have the greatest impact on reducing their power quickly.
Law 43. Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others
Coercion makes people resentful. So instead of using coercion it is better to seduce others so they act how you want without you having to ask them.
By understanding their psychology and their weaknesses, you can play with their emotions and conquer their hearts and minds so they are loyal to you.
Gradually soften people up (think of softening butter) and then they will be molding to your will over time without realizing it.
Law 44. Disarm and Infuriate With the Mirror Effect
If you can mirror your opponents and do what they do, you can humiliate them and cause them to overreact.
If you make them believe you share their values, they will be blinded by your mirroring and find it challenging to work out a strategy to challenge you.
Law 45. Preach the Need for Change, but Never Reform Too Much at Once
If you have recently gained a position of power you should respect the way people have been living up to this point.
If you change things too quickly you may create a revolt and create massive resistance to your attempts at change.
You will be a more effective leader if you make gradual improvements and win people over to your side and form alliances as you go.
Law 46. Never Appear Too Perfect
While appearing superior to others is dangerous, to appear faultless and without weakness is even more perilous. By displaying harmless vices, you prevent envy from developing, and you make yourself appear more approachable. By letting envy fester, it can manifest in a host of problematic ways that will ultimately try to rob you of your power. Stop it in its tracks by making yourself seem powerful but not faultless.
Law 47. Don’t Go Past the Mark You Aimed For: In Victory, Learn When to Stop
This law is very counter intuitive. If you start to have success, it is good to savor it but be careful not to let it go to your head because in the moment of feeling that power and strong emotions, you will actually be quite weak and vulnerable.
Be cautious so you don’t get overconfident.
Law 48. Assume Formlessness
If you are adaptable and malleable you are formless which makes you less vulnerable to attack.
Everything changes all the time, so embrace this concept of fluidity and accept that reality is ever-shifting.
Remember what Charles Darwin said that the survival of the fittest refers to those who are most adaptable to change!
48 Laws of Power Video
In this excellent video, you can get a quick fun summary of the 48 Laws in an animated, educational format.
This video will help you understand how politicians and other people try to control or take advantage of you. You will learn how not to get taken advantage of and that will help you stop being a victim.
Watch the video for a full summary of all the 48 laws of power.
If you’ve read this far, you are definitely serious about this topic. It’s very interesting and this book is much more nuanced than it is often portrayed in the media. It is fairly inexpensive for a book that you will come back to again and again over your entire life.
If you are interested in learning more from Robert Greene himself, buy a copy of the 48 Laws of Power here