Robert Greene

The Laws of Human Nature – Robert Greene

The Laws of Human Nature – by Robert Greene
Date read: 1/1/19. Recommendation: 10/10.

As close to perfection as a book can get. This is the culmination of Greene’s lifetime of work focused on power, influence, and mastery, brought together in a single text focused on the truths of human nature. It’s an instructive guide to human nature and people’s behavior, based on evidence rather than a particular viewpoint or moral judgment. As Greene emphasizes throughout the book, understanding human nature in a deep way is advantageous for countless reasons. It helps you become a strategic observer, better judge of character, outthink malicious people, motivate and influence those around you, alter negative patterns, develop greater empathy, and recognize your true potential. True to form, Greene pulls stories from both sides throughout history–masters and those who have failed spectacularly–to breathe life into each law. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s an incredible resource and an investment that will pay dividends for your entire life. The sooner you read it, the better.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

My Notes:

The book is an instructive guide to human nature and people’s behavior, based on evidence rather than a particular viewpoint or moral judgment. “It is a brutally realistic appraisal of our species, dissecting who are we so we can operate with more awareness.”

Chapter 1: Master Your Emotional Self, The Law of Irrationality

Rational people, through introspection and effort, are able to subtract emotions from their thinking and counteract their consequences. Generates more mental space to be creative and focus on what’s within your control. Irrational people lack this awareness. Rush into action without considering consequences.

Bubbles are the result of an intense emotional pull on people. Stimulate our desire for instant gratification (easy money, fast results).

People of high rationality (Pericles, Marcus Aurelius Leonardo da Vinci, Margaret de Valois, Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, Margaret Mead, Warren Buffett), all share certain qualities–“a realistic appraisal of themselves and their weaknesses; a devotion to truth and reality; a tolerant attitude toward people; and the ability to reach goals they have set.”

Resistance training: resist reacting immediately. The longer you wait, the more mental space you have for reflection and the stronger your mind.

Accept people as facts: Stop judging people and wishing they would be something they’re not. View people as neutral–they are what they are–and you’ll stop projecting your own emotions onto them. Improves your own balance, calmness.

Deliberation + Conviction: “The horse and the rider must work together. This means we consider our actions beforehand; we bring as much thinking as possible to a situation before we make a decision. But once we decide what to do we loosen the reins and enter action with boldness and a spirit of adventure. Instead of being slaves to this energy, we channel it. that is the essence of rationality.”

Chapter 2: Transform Self-love into Empathy, The Law of Narcissism

We were all built for social interaction. Involving ourselves less with others atrophies our social muscle and has a negative effect on the brain.

Give people the same level of indulgence that you give yourself. Tone down your incessant interior monologue and pay deeper attention to those around you. Be eager to hear someone else’s point of view and give them your full attention. Mirror back the things they said.

Understand the value systems of other people and how it differs from your own. Allows you to enter their spirit and perspective when you might otherwise turn defensive.

Chapter 3: See Through People’s Masks: The Law of Role-playing

The harshness of life makes people turn inward. Recognize this level of self-absorption and how little you actually observe.

Detecting hostility or negativity early on increases your strategic options and room to maneuver–lay a trap, win them over, create distance.

Depth: “Cloak yourself in some mystery, displaying some subtly contradictory qualities. People don’t need to know everything about you. Learn to withhold information.” Coupled with some selective absence (not always being visible), this makes people want to see more of you.

Chapter 4: Determine the Strength of People’s Character, The Law of Compulsive Behavior

“It is not spirits or gods that control us but rather our character.”

Character is deeply ingrained in us (our layers), compels us to act in certain ways, often beyond our awareness/control. Layers include: genetics, early childhood, later experiences/habits.

“Train yourself to ignore the front that people display, the myth that surrounds them, and instead plumb their depths for signs of their character.” Patterns from their past, quality of decisions, how they solve problems, how they delegate, how they work with others.

“If you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Lincoln

We each face insecurities. But this can be turned to a positive if channeled correctly. It’s about examining the deepest layers of your character, realizing your true potential, and redirecting this energy.

Chapter 6: Elevate Your Perspective, The Law of Shortsightedness

When you face an obstacle, slow things down, take a step back. You lack perspective in the present, but as time passes you gather more information and the truth reveals itself.

“Alarmed by something in the present, we grab for a solution without thinking deeply about the context, the roots of the problem, the possible unintended consequences that might ensure. Because we mostly react instead of think, our actions are based on insufficient information.”

Avoid lazy, non-consequential thinking (action A leads to result B), the world is more complex than that. “You want depth of thinking, to go several degrees in imagining the permutations, as far as your mind can go.”

“And in life as in warfare, strategists will always prevail over tacticians.”

Having a clear sense of your long-term goals allows you to withstand emotional overreactions of those around you.

“The years teach much which the days never know.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Chapter 7: Soften People’s Resistance by Confirming Their Self-opinion, The Law of Defensiveness

Influence does not come from charming people with your own ideas. Instead, put the focus on others. This validation will lower their defenses and open their minds.

Play the long game by asking for advice. People love the attention and the opportunity to talk about their wisdom and experience. Then you can initiate series of small favors. They will continue to work on your behalf because stopping would call their initial evaluation of you (and their own intelligence/judgment) into question.

“He who goes away pleased with himself and his own wit is also greatly pleased with you.” Jean de La Bruyère

Confirm people’s self opinion to lower defenses and instill a feeling of inner security. What matters most is how people perceive their own character. We all have these ideas of who we are and the values that represent us, but we also struggle with self doubt. Providing people this validation lowers their guard and opens their own mind.

Look at people’s interpretations of situations, ideas, philosophies, films, books for signs of who they are.

Autonomy: “No attempt at influence can ever work if people feel in any way that they are being coerced or manipulated. They must choose to do whatever it is you want them to do, or they must at least experience it as their choice.”

Pick your battles: let the small changes go to bring down people’s guard for more important/larger items.

If you need a favor, do not remind others of the good things you have done for them in the past. Remind them of the good things they have done for you. Helps confirm their self-opinion.

Never follow praise with a request for help. Flattery is a setup and requires passage of time.

The Flexible Mind: Ideal state of mind retains flexibility of youth with reasoning powers of adult. Soften rigid mental patterns that you hold.

Recognize that you are not as good as the idealized image you hold of yourself. This awareness allows you to stop seek validation of others. Instead establishing your own independence and concern for the welfare of others (rather than getting lost behind the illusion you have of yourself).

Chapter 8: Change Your Circumstances by Changing Your Attitude, The Law of Self-sabotage

“Freedom comes from adopting a generous spirit–toward others and toward ourselves. By accepting people, by understanding and if possible even loving them for their human nature, we can liberate our minds from obsessive and petty emotions.”

Power of attitude to alter your circumstances: “You are not a pawn in a game controlled by others; you are an active player who can move the pieces at will and even rewrite the rules.”

“You do not need to be so humble and self-effacing in this world. Such humility is not a virtue but is rather a value that people promote to help keep you down. Whatever you are doing now, you are in fact capable of much more, and by thinking that, you will create a very different dynamic.”

The more tolerant you are towards others, the smoother your interactions and the more they are drawn towards you.

Measure people by their authenticity and the depth of their soul.

Chapter 9: Confront Your Dark Side, The Law of Repression

Learn to harness your own shadow by developing deeper awareness and channeling it. It’s a source of authenticity and energy.

Authenticity = self-awareness. The ability to laugh at yourself and admit shortcomings, maintain playfulness and spontaneity. No need to make a great show of your originality. The authentic individuals is someone who has managed to integrate child and adult, dark and light, unconscious and conscious.

Great art expresses depths of human nature (traumas from early years, emotions we try to forget). Powerful reaction triggered by repressed feelings.

Being too nice becomes a habit which can turn into timidity, lack of confidence, and indecision.

Subtract the shadow (assertive, ambitious side) of powerful, creative people and they would be just like everyone else.

“You pay a greater price for being so nice and deferential than for consciously showing your shadow.”

  1. Learn to respect your own opinions more than others, especially in your area of expertise. Trust your internal compass and your own ideas.

  2. Assert yourself more and compromise less. Do this at opportune times.

  3. Care less about what people think of you.

  4. You will have to offend or hurt people who block your path, have poor values, or who attack your character. Fuel your shadow in these moments.

Chapter 10: Beware the Fragile Ego, The Law of Envy

To combat envy…

  1. Practice gratitude by downward comparison.

  2. Move closer to what you envy and you’ll begin to see flaws (nothing is as perfect as it seems).

  3. Build confidence in yourself–your ability to learn and improve.

“People who are lazy and undisciplined are much more prone to feeling envy.”

Euthymia: Focus on yourself, your own sense of purpose, and your plans. Satisfaction comes realizing your potential, not earning praise or attention.

Pursue more moments where you experience dissolution of your ego and happiness is derived from beyond you and your achievements (observing beautiful landscapes or contemplating immensity of universe).

Chapter 11: Know Your Limits, The Law of Grandiosity

Recognize the role of luck. With success, raise your vigilance, keep your feet planted.

“The power you will build up in this slow and organic way will be more real and lasting. Remember: the gods are merciless with those who fly too high on the wings of grandiosity, and they will make you pay the price.”

Fantastical grandiosity: flake from one project to the next, believing they can try their magical touch at anything or become anything they want. Big talkers with vague vision.

Practical grandiosity: sense of proportion, recognize your limits, role of luck. Ability to focus deeply on a single project. Look for challenges just above your skill level. Cultivates intense connection/state of flow in your work.

Chapter 12: Reconnect to the Masculine or Feminine Within You, The Law of Gender Rigidity

Depth: Your character has natural depth and dimension. Bring out the masculine (adventurous, exploratory) or feminine (empathetic, sensitive) undertones to be more authentic and draw people in.

To become more creative, blend the analytical with the intuitive.

You lose depth and become rigid when you overidentify with certain gender roles (i.e. hyper masculinity). Power is in the golden mean between masculine and feminine. If you achieve this, mind will recover its natural fluidity.

Defy expectations…expand the roles you play so you’re not easy to categorize. This fascinates and draws people in so you can alter perceptions at will.

As children we had more fluid sense of self…wider range of emotions, open to more experiences, but as we defined our social self, we closed ourselves off this freer-flowing spirit.

The muse lies within. Move closer to the part of you that you’ve closed off (blending mind/soul to achieve depth). Here’s where creativity and a fascination in your work is found.

Chapter 13: Advance with a Sense of Purpose, The Law of Aimlessness

Operating with a high sense of purpose = a force multiplier. Greater connection to cause, higher morale, translates into greater force.

Humans crave a sense of direction…seeking a sense of purpose has a gravitational pull that no one can avoid. Keep watch over whether people have false (external sources, belief systems, conformity) or noble (sense of mission that you feel personally, intimately connected to) purposes.

Strategies for developing a high sense of purpose:

  1. Discover your calling - reflect on inclinations in your earliest years, examine moments when activities felt natural or easy, figure out the particular form of intelligence that your brain is wired for (mathematics, logic, physical activity, words, images, music). This will not appear to you overnight, it demands hard work and introspection.

  2. Use resistance - “Frustration is a sign that you are making progress as your mind becomes aware of higher levels of skill that you have yet to attain.”

  3. Lose yourself in the work - “peak experiences” where you are immersed in your work with a profound sense of calmness and joy. Create more, consume less. Design an environment where you have higher likelihood of achieving this experience.

Chapter 14: Resist the Downward Pull of the Group, The Law of Conformity

“When people operate in groups, they do not engage in nuanced thinking and deep analysis. Only individuals with a degree of calmness and detachment can do so.”

To combat this, develop ability to detach yourself from group and create mental space for independent, rational thinking.

Create a shared sense of purpose: Make people feel like a integral part of a group and you satisfy a deep, rarely met human need.

Infect people with productive emotions: Phil Jackson focused on communicating calmness so team wouldn’t overreact (rather than normal pep talks that overexcited/angered players).

Chapter 15: Make Them Want to Follow You, The Law of Fickleness

“Authority is the delicate art of creating the appearance of power, legitimacy, and fairness while getting people to identify with you as a leader who is in their service.”

Twin pillars of authority: far-reaching vision and empathy. Without these, group will sense lack of direction and constant tactical reactions to events.

Elevate your perspective and presence of mind above the moment and you’ll tap into visionary powers of human mind. Once you have a vision, work backwards with a flexible plan to reach your goal.

Bring out your natural complexity and stir conflicting emotions: make yourself hard to categorize, forces people to think of you more and results in larger presence. Blend prudence and boldness, spiritual and pragmatism (Martin Luther King Jr.), folksy and regal (Queen Elizabeth I), masculine ad feminine.

Balance presence and absence: you cannot project authority with an ordinary presence. If you appear too available or visible, you’ll seem banal. Social media might make you relatable, but also makes you seem like everyone else.

“Silence is a form of absence and withdrawal that draws attention; it spells self-control and power.”

Create more, consume less: “The world needs constant improvement and renewal. You are here not merely to gratify your impulses and consume what others have made but to make and contribute as well….Add to the needed diversity of culture by creating something that reflects your uniqueness.”

Leonardo da Vinci’s motto in life was ostinato rigore, “relentless rigor.”

“We distinguished the excellent man from the common man by saying that the former is one who makes great demands on himself, and the latter the one who makes no demands on himself…” José Ortega y Gasset

Chapter 16: See the Hostility Behind the Friendly Facade, The Law of Aggression

Put your opponents in a position where they feel rushed and impatient, makes them more emotional and less able to strategize.

Sophisticated aggressors cloak their maneuvers and play on emotions. People don’t like confrontation or long struggles so they’re intimidated and worn down by this. Primary motivation of aggressors is gaining control over environment and people. By seeing through their insecurities and anxieties and they will no longer be able to intimidate you.

Aggression is wired into us, but you have to learn how to channel it productively. What sets humans apart is aggressive energy, intelligence, and cunning. This powerful energy made us bold, adventurous and relentless (mentally and physically) in childhood.

Aggression stems from underlying insecurity, deep wound, reverberating feelings of helplessness or anxiety. Aggressors have less tolerance for these types of feelings which become their triggers.

“The more clearly you see what you want, the likelier you are to realize it.”

“Almost nothing in the world can resist persistent human energy. Things will yield if we strike enough blows with enough force.” (Painstaking perseverance: Edison, Marcie Curie, Einstein)

Preserve your bold spirit: losing this means losing a deep part of yourself. Recover the fearlessness that you had as a child. Speak up and talk back to people if they are insensitive or suggest poor ideas. Start small then you can can demand more from people and apply this growing boldness to your work.

Carefully channeling anger into your art (film, music, book, product) strikes a deep chord with people because it provides them an outlet. In our day to day we’re too careful and correct about communicating our own anger.

“In your expressive work, never shy away from anger but capture and channel it, letting it breathe into the work a sense of life and movement. In giving expression to such anger, you will always find an audience.”

Mastery – Robert Greene

Mastery – by Robert Greene
Date read: 9/30/17. Recommendation: 10/10.

You would be hard-pressed to find a more profound, relevant book, no matter your position in life. If I had to recommend a single book of Greene's to get you started, this would be it. He begins by defining mastery as the sensation we experience when we feel that we have a greater command of reality, other people, and ourselves. The book offers a deep dive into every element of mastery–including insight for those just starting out and searching for their life's task. True to form, Greene also provides detailed accounts from some of the greatest masters in history–Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Paul Graham, and dozens more.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

Mastery–the feeling that we have a greater command of reality, other people, and ourselves.

For animals, time is their great enemy...To a remarkable extent, our hunting ancestors reversed this process. The longer they spent observing something, the deeper their understanding and connection to reality. With experience, their hunting skills would progress. With continued practice, their ability to make effective tools would improve. The body could decay, but the mind would continue to learn and adapt. Using time for such effect is the essential ingredient of mastery.

When we take our time and focus in depth, when we trust that going through a process of months or years will bring us mastery, we work with the grain of this marvelous instrument that developed over so many millions of years. We infallibly move to higher and higher levels of intelligence. We see more deeply and realistically. We practice and make things with skill. We learn to think for ourselves. We become capable of handling complex situations without being overwhelmed.

The basic elements of this story are repeated in the lives of all of the great Masters in history: a youthful passion or predilection, a chance encounter that allows them to discover how to apply it, an apprenticeship in which they come alive with energy and focus. They excel by their ability to practice harder and move faster through the process, all of this stemming from the intensity of their desire to learn and from the deep connection they feel to their field of study.

Powerful inclination towards a particular subject = reflection of a person's uniqueness. Those who stand out for their mastery experience this inclination more deeply and clearly than others.

This intense connection and desire allows them to withstand the pain of the process–the self-doubts, the tedious hours of practice and study, the inevitable setbacks, the endless barbs from the envious,. They develop a resiliency and confidence that others lack.

Feeling motivated and energized, we can overcome almost anything. Feeling bored and restless, our minds shut off and we become increasingly passive.

People who are passive create a mental landscape that is rather barren. Because of their limited experience and action, all kinds of connections in the brain die off from lack of use.

I. Discover Your Calling: The Life's Task
The first move toward mastery is always inward–learning who you really are and reconnecting with that innate force.

Leonardo da Vinci's mind worked best when he had several different projects at hand, allowing him to build all kinds of connections between them.

What we lack most in the modern world is a sense of a larger purpose to our lives. In the past, it was organized religion that often supplied this. But most of us now live in a secularized world...But without a sense of direction provided to us, we tend to flounder. We don't know how to fill up and structure our time...Feeling that we are called to accomplish something is the most positive way for us to supply this sense of purpose and direction. It is a religious-like quest for each of us.

"Become who you are by learning who you are." -Pindar

If you allow yourself to learn who you really are by paying attention to that voice and force within you, then you can become what you were fated to become–an individual, a Master.

A false path in life is generally something we are attracted to for the wrong reasons–money, fame, attention, and so on.

Ignore your weaknesses and resist the temptation to be more like others. Instead, direct yourself toward the small things you are good at.

This strategy applies as well to any setbacks and difficulties we may experience. In such moments, it is generally wise to stick to the few things we know and do well, and to reestablish our confidence.

II. Submit to Reality: The Ideal Apprenticeship
"One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself." -Leonardo Da Vinci

Often in their Apprenticeship Phase (self-directed period that lasts 5-10 years), these types are not yet much different from anyone else. Under the surface, however, their minds are transforming in ways we cannot see but contain all the seeds of their future success.

The pain and boredom we experience in the initial stage of learning a skill toughens our minds, much like physical exercise. Too many people believe that everything must be pleasurable in life, which makes them constantly search for distractions and short-circuits the learning process. The pain is a kind of challenge your mind presents–will you learn how to focus and move past the boredom, or like a child will you succumb to the need for immediate pleasure and distraction?

It is better to dedicate two or three hours of intense focus to a skill than to spend eight hours of diffused concentration on it. You want to be as immediately present to what you are doing as possible.

The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.

You cannot make anything worthwhile in this world unless you have first developed and transformed yourself.

There are two kinds of failure. The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from, and such timidity will destroy you. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit. If you fail in this way, the hit that you take to your reputation is greatly outweighed by what you learn.

You want to learn as many skills as possible, following the direction that circumstances lead you to, but only if they are related to your deepest interests.

You see what kind of work suits you and what you want to avoid at all cost. You move by trial and error. This is how you pass your twenties. You are the programmer of this wide-ranging apprenticeship, within the loose constraints of your personal interests.

In this new age, those who follow a rigid, singular path in their youth often find themselves in a career dead end in their forties, or overwhelmed with boredom. The wide-ranging apprenticeship of your twenties will yield the opposite–expanding possibilities as you get older.

III. Absorb the Master's Power: The Mentor Dynamic
The knowledge that you need to become a Master exists out there in the world–it is like a base metal or dead stone. This knowledge needs to be heated up and come alive within you, transforming itself into something active and relevant to your circumstances.

The best mentors are often those who have wide knowledge and experience, and are not overly specialized in their field–they can train you to think on a higher level, and to make connections between different forms of knowledge.

IV: See People As They Are: Social Intelligence
Social intelligence is the ability to see people in the most realistic light possible. By moving past our usual self-absorption, we can learn to focus deeply on others, reading their behavior in the moment, seeing what motivates them, and discerning any possible manipulative tendencies.

In all Benjamin Franklin's interactions with people he would force himself to take an initial step backward and not get emotional. From this more detached position, he would focus completely on the people he was dealing with, cutting off his own insecurities and desires from the equation.

Naive Perspective: Tendency to project idealizations and distortions upon teachers, parents, and friends that reflect what we want and need to see. Our view of people becomes saturated with various emotions–worship, admiration, love, need, anger. If you use this lens, focus is on what other people have done to you and the mistreatments you have endured.*

*Instead you must turn this around and begin with yourself–how you saw in others qualities they did not possess, or how you ignored signs of a dark side to their nature. In doing this, you will be able to clearly see the discrepancy between your illusions about who they are the and the reality, and the role you played in creating this discrepancy.

Often it is the quiet ones, those who give out less at first glance, who hide greater depths, and who secretly wield greater power.

The personality we project to the world plays a substantial role in our success and in our ascension to mastery.

We are quick to discern the mistakes and defects of others, but when it comes to ourselves we are generally too emotional and insecure to look squarely at our own.

V: Awaken the Dimensional Mind: The Creative-Active
As your thinking grows more fluid your mind will become increasingly dimensional, seeing more and more aspects of reality...Such originality will bring you to the heights of power.

Original Mind: Quality of looking at the world more directly–not through words and received ideas. If we think deeply about our childhood, not just about our memories of it but how it actually felt, we realize how differently we experienced the world back then. Our minds were completely open.

Retaining a memory of this Original Mind, we cannot help but feel nostalgia for the intensity with which we used to experience the world.

We may seek to retain the spirit of childhood here and there, playing games or participating in forms of entertainment that release us from the Conventional Mind. Sometimes when we visit a different country where we cannot rely upon everything being familiar, we become childlike again, struck by the oddness and newness of what we are seeing.

Masters and those who display a high level of creative energy are simply people who manage to retain a sizeable portion of their childhood spirit despite the pressures and demands of adulthood.

Some people maintain their childlike spirit and spontaneity, but their creative energy is dissipated in a thousand directions, and they never have the patience and discipline to endure an extended apprenticeship. Others have the discipline to accumulate vast amounts of knowledge and become experts in their field, but they have no flexibility of spirit, so their ideas never stay beyond the conventional and they never become truly creative. Masters manage to blend the two–discipline and childlike spirit–together into what we shall call the Dimensional Mind.

The Conventional Mind is passive–it consumes information and regurgitates it in familiar forms. The Dimensional Mind is active, transforming everything it digests into something new and original, creating instead of consuming.

You must let go of your need for comfort and security. Creative endeavors are by their nature uncertain.

To negate the ego you must adopt a kind of humility towards knowledge.

We indulge in drugs or alcohol, or engage in dangerous sports or risky behavior, just to wake ourselves up from the sleep of our daily existence and feel a heightened sense of connection to reality. In the end, however, the most satisfying and powerful way to feel this connection is through creative activity. Engaged in the creative process we feel more alive than ever, because we are making something and not merely consuming. Masters of the small reality we create.

"And this is the miracle of the human mind–to use its constructions, concepts, and formulas as tools to explain what man sees, feels and touches. Try to comprehend a little more each day. Have holy curiosity." -Albert Einstein

You do not look at the parts separately but at how they interact, experiencing what you produce as a whole.

Instead of a straight-line development from idea to fruition, the creative process is more like the crooked branching of a tree.

What constitutes true creativity is the openness and adaptability of our spirit. When we see or experience something we must be able to look at it from several angles, to see other possibilities beyond the obvious ones.

Creativity and adaptability are inseparable.

To create a meaningful work of art or to make a discovery or invention requires great discipline, self-control, and emotional stability.

VI: Fuse the Intuitive with the Rational: Mastery
But the types of intuitions discussed by various Masters cannot be reduced to a formula, and the steps they took to arrive at them cannot be reconstructed.

Through intense absorption in a particular field over a long period of time, Masters come to understand all of the parts involved in what they are studying. They reach a point where all of this has become internalized and they are no longer seeing the parts, but gain an intuitive feel for the whole.

Fluid form thinking comes in flashes and insights as the brain makes sudden connection between disparate forms on knowledge.

The key, then, to attaining this higher level of intelligence is to make our years of study qualitatively rich. We don't simply absorb information–we internalize it and make it our own by finding some way to put this knowledge to practical use.

Every moment, every experience contains deep lessons for us. We are continuously awake, never merely going through the motions.

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." -Albert Einstein

Whatever field of activity we are involved in, there is generally an accepted path to the top....But Masters have a strong inner guiding system and a high level of self-awareness. What has suited others in the past does not suit them, and they know that trying to fit into a conventional mold would only lead to a dampening of spirit, the reality they seek eluding them.

Inevitably, Masters make a choice at a key moment in their lives: they decide to forge their own route, one that others will see as unconventional, but that suits their own spirit and rhythms and leads them closer to discovering the hidden truth of their objects of study. This key choice takes self-confidence and self-awareness.

The ability to connect deeply to your environment is the most primal and in many ways the most powerful form of mastery the brain can bring us.

It is easy to become enamored with the powers that technology affords us, and to see them as the end and not the means.

Although we tend to imagine Einstein as the ultimate abstract thinker, his way of thinking was remarkably concrete...If he had any qualities that were extraordinary, they were his patience mixed with his extreme tenacity.

In any competitive environment in which there are winners or losers, the person who has the wider, more global perspective will inevitably prevail. The reason is simple: such a person will be able to think beyond the moment and control the overall dynamic through careful strategizing. Most people are perpetually locked in the present.

Ideal of the Universal Man–a person so stepped in all forms of knowledge that his minds grows closer to the reality of nature itself and sees secrets that are invisible to most people.

Your false self is the accumulation of all the voice you have internalized from other people...who want you to conform to their ideas of what you should be like and societal pressures to adhere to certain values....It also includes the voice of your own ego, which constantly tries to protect you from unflattering truths.

Mastery is not a question of genetics or luck, but of following your natural inclinations and the deep desire that stirs you from within.

It is in fact the height of selfishness to merely consume what others create and to retreat into a shell of limited goals and immediate pleasures.

The 50th Law – Robert Greene

The 50th Law – by Robert Greene
Date read: 9/12/17. Recommendation: 8/10.

Greene pairs up with Curtis Jackson (50 Cent) to offer a real-world look into the laws of power and perseverance. He details stories from Jackson's rise and dissects how he was able to evolve and create momentum to escape dire circumstances. The more interesting sections of the book examine the underlying themes in Jackson's stories, such as fearlessness, self-reliance, and persistence.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

If we go the opposite direction, cultivating a fearless approach to life, attacking everything with a boldness and energy, then we will create a much different dynamic.

We are all too afraid–of offending people, of stirring up conflict, of standing out from the crowd, of taking bold action.

The genius of Lincoln was his ability to focus intensely on reality and see things for what they were.

"Know the other, know yourself, and the victory will not be at risk; know the ground, know the natural conditions, and the victory will be total." -Sun Tzu

As an individual you cannot stop the tide of fantasy and escapism sweeping a culture. But you can stand as an individual bulwark to this trend and create power for yourself. You were born with the greatest weapon in all of nature–the rational and conscious mind.

[Socrates'] superiority, he realized, was that he knew that he knew nothing. This left his mind open to experiencing things as they are, the source of all knowledge.
^This position of basic ignorance was what you had as a child...Everything was a source of wonder. With time our minds tend to close off. Imagine that the world is still full of mystery.

If you have a long-term goal for yourself, one that you have imagined in detail, then you are better able to make the proper decisions in the present. You know which battles or positions to avoid because they don't advance you towards your goal.

Look at your most recent actions as if they were the maneuvers of another person. Imagine how you could have done it all better.

When you work for others, you are at their mercy...Instead you should have a greater fear of what will happen to you if you remain dependent on others for power. Your goal in every maneuver in life must be ownership, working the corner for yourself. When it is yours, it is yours to lose–you are more motivated, more creative, more alive. The ultimate power in life is to be completely self-reliant, completely yourself.

True ownership can come only from within. It comes from a disdain for anything or anybody that impinges upon your mobility, from a confidence in your own decisions, and from the use of your time in constant pursuit of education and improvement.

We live in a culture that offers you all kinds of crutches–experts to turn to, drugs to cure any psychological unease, mild pleasures to help pass or kill time, jobs to keep you just above water. It is hard to resist. But once you give in, it is like a prison yu enter that you cannot ever leave.

You cannot get this requisite inner strength from books or a guru or pills of any kind. It can come only from you. It is a kind of exercise you must practice on a daily basis–weaning yourself from dependencies, listening less to others' voice and more to your own, cultivating new skills.

If we succumb to the illusion and the comfort of a paycheck, we then neglect to build up self-reliant skills and merely postpone the day of reckoning when we are forced to fend for ourselves.

If there is ever a choice–more money or more responsibility–you must always opt for the latter.

Your goal in life must be to always move higher and higher up the food chain, where you alone control the direction of your enterprise and depend on no one.

There are ideas unique to you, a specific rhythm and perspective that are your strengths, not your weaknesses. You must not be afraid of your uniqueness and you must care less and less what people think of you. This has been the path of the most powerful people in history.

An opportunist in life sees all hindrances as instruments for power. The reason is simple: negative energy that comes at you in some form is energy that can be turned around–to defeat an opponent and lift you up.

The greatest ancient Greek hero of them all, Odysseus, was a supreme opportunist. In every dangerous moment in his life, he exploited some weakness in his enemies left open to trick them and turn the tables.

As part of this new concept, you are replacing the old stalwart symbols of power–the rock, the oak tree, etc.–with that of water, the element that has the greatest potential force in all of nature. Water can adapt to whatever comes its way, moving around or over any obstacle.

Momentum in life comes from increased fluidity, a willingness to try more, to move in a less constricted fashion.

Model in any venture that involves groups of people: You provide the framework, based on your knowledge and expertise, but you allow room for this project to be shaped by those involved in it.

The inability to deal with what is inevitable in life is the cause of so many problems. We work to postpone or avoid conflicts, and when they reach a point where we can no longer play such a passive game, we lack the experience and the habit of meeting them head on.

If leaders are fearful, hesitant to take any risks, or overly concerned for their ego and reputation, then this invariably filters its way through the entire group and makes effective action impossible

Thinking ahead requires a particular thought process that comes with practice. It means seeing something practical and achievable several years down the road, and mapping out how this goal can be achieved. It means thinking in branches, coming up with several paths to get there, depending on circumstances.

The fearless types in history inevitably display in their lives a higher tolerance than most for repetitive, boring tasks. This allows them to excel in their field and master their craft.

We too could have some or all of that power by a patient immersion in any field of study. Many people cannot handle the boredom this might entail; they fear starting out on such an arduous process. They prefer their distractions, dreams, and illusions, never aware of the higher pleasures that are there for those who choose to master themselves and a craft.

"All of man's troubles come from not knowing how to sit still, alone in a room." –Blaise Pascal

The real secret, the real formula for power in this world, lies in accepting the ugly reality that learning requires a process, and this in turn demands patience and the ability to endure drudge work.

We are creatures who make things; we don't simply imagine them. To master any process you must learn through trial and error. You experiment, you take some hard blows, and you see what works and doesn't work in real time.

If you find yourself confronting an unjust and corrupt system, it is much more effective to learn its codes from the inside and discover its vulnerabilities. Knowing how it works, you can take it apart–for good.

Try to look at boredom from the opposite perspective–as a call for you to slow yourself down, to stop searching for endless distractions.

Your sense of who you are will determine your actions and what you end up getting in life...Ask for more, aim high, and believe that you are destined for something great....People follow those who know where they are going, so cultivate an air of certainty and boldness.

Conforming to people's expectations is safer and more comfortable, even if doing so makes you feel miserable and confined. In essence, you are afraid of yourself and what you could become.

When you raise your opinion of yourself and what you are capable of it has a decided influence on what you do. For instance, you feel more comfortable taking some risk, knowing that you are always able to get back up on your feet if it fails.

Free action has a momentum of its own.

The powerful learn early in life that they have the freedom to mold their image, fitting the needs and moods of the moment. In this way, they keep others off balance and maintain an air of mystery.

The higher your self-belief, the more your power to transform reality.

We cling to jobs, relationships, and comfortable positions, all to elude the feeling of separation. We grow overly conservative because any kind of risk might entail adversity, failure, or pain.

Whenever life feels particularly dull or confining, we can force ourselves to leave familiar ground. This could mean traveling to some particularly exotic location, attempting something physically challenging (a sea voyage or scaling a mountain), or simply embarking on a new venture in which we are not certain we can succeed. In each case we are experiencing a moment of powerlessness in the face of something large and overwhelming.

In the face of this undeniable reality, of this eternal expanse, how can we not feel the preciousness of the present? It is a miracle to be alive even one more day.

There are two kinds of time we can experience–the banal and the sublime variety.
-Banal time is extremely limited in scope. It consists of the present moment and stretches out to a few weeks ahead of us. See things as being far more important than they are, unaware that in a few weeks or a year, what stirs us all up will not matter.
-Sublime time we become aware that everything is in a state of flux; nothing is permanent.

Contemplating sublime time has innumerable positive effects–it makes us feel a sense of urgency to get things done now, gives us a better grasp of what really matters, and instills a heightened appreciation of the passage of time, the poignancy and beauty of all things that all things that fade away.

The 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene

The 48 Laws of Power – by Robert Greene
Date read: 4/17/17. Recommendation: 10/10.

This took me months to read because there's so much to it. Perhaps the most detailed, convincing book I've ever read. Greene sets forth the individual laws of power and offers countless historical examples of each in practice. Not a book you're going to finish over the weekend, but a very important book and investment. Greene makes the argument that it's not a question of ethics, the game of power is inescapable, even in our daily lives. We might as well learn the game and master the laws of power so we're more aware, less distracted, and better able to negotiate situations in our favor. 

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

If the game of power is inescapable, better to be an artist than a denier or a bungler.

An emotional response to a situation is the single greatest barrier to power.

Emotions cloud reason, and if you cannot see the situation clearly, you cannot prepare for and respond to it with any degree of control.

Deception is a developed art of civilization and the most potent weapon in the game of power. Patience in all things is your crucial shield. Impatience is a principal impediment to power.

Law 3: Conceal your intentions
Hide your intentions not by closing up (with the risk of appearing secretive, and making people suspicious) but by talking endlessly about your desires and goals–just not your real ones. You will kill three birds with one stone: You appear friendly, open, and trusting; you conceal your intentions, and you send your rivals on time-consuming wild good chases.

Law 4: Always say less than necessary
The more you say, the more common you appear

Law 8: Make other people come to you - use bait if necessary
When you make the other person come to you, he wears himself out, wasting his energy on the trip...also create the illusion that he is controlling the situation.

Law 9: Win through your actions, never through argument
Words have that insidious ability to be interpreted according to the other person's mood and insecurities...Action and demonstration are much more powerful and meaningful.

Law 10: Infection: Avoid the unhappy and unlucky
You can die from someone else's misery - emotional states are as infectious as diseases. You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only precipitating your own disaster. The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortunate on themselves; they will also draw it on you. Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.

The answer lies in judging people on the effects they have on the world and not on the reasons they give for their problems.

Law 13: When asking for help, appeal to people's self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude
Self-interest is the lever that will move people. Once you make them see how you can in some way meet their needs or advance their cause, their resistance to your requests fro help will magically fall away. At each step on the way to acquiring power, you must train yourself to think your way inside the other person's mind, to see their needs and interests, to get rid of the screen of your own feelings that obscure the truth. Master this art and there will be limits to what you can accomplish.

Law 19: Know who you're dealing with–do not offend the wrong person
We forget a lot in our lives, but we rarely forget an insult...There is nothing to be gained by insulting a person unnecessarily. The satisfaction is meager compared to the danger than someday he or she will be in a position to hurt you.

Law 20: Do not commit to anyone
Slowness to pick up your weapons can be a weapon itself, especially if you let other people exhaust themselves fighting, then take advantage of their exhaustion.

That is what holding back from the fray allow you: time to position yourself to take advantage of the situation once one side starts to lose.

In the forest, one shrub latches on to another, entangling its neighbor with its thorns, the thicket slowly extending its impenetrable domain. Only what keeps its distance and stands apart can grow and rise above the thicket.

Law 25: Re-create yourself
Do not accept the roles that society foists on you. Re-create yourself by forging a new identity.

The world wants to assign you a role in life. And once you accept that role you are doomed. Your power is limited to the tiny amount allotted to the role you have selected or have been forced to assume. An actor, on the other hand, plays many roles...forge a new identity, one of your own making, one that has had no boundaries assigned to it by an envious and resentful world.

Law 28: Enter action with boldness
If boldness is not natural, neither is timidity. It is an acquired habit, picked up out of a desire to avoid conflict.

Law 34: Be royal in your own fashion: act like a king to be treated like one
David and Goliath Strategy: By choosing a great opponent, you create the appearance of greatness.

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 upon them.

It is an old but powerful trick: You pretend to disagree with dangerous ideas, but in the course of your disagreement you give those ideas expression and exposure. You seem to conform to the prevailing orthodoxy, but those who know will understand the irony involved. You are protected.

Wise and clever people learn early on that they can display conventional behavior and mouth conventional ideas without having to believe in them.

Law 39: Stir up waters to catch fish
If a person explodes with anger at you, you must remind yourself that it is not exclusively directed at you–do not be so vain. The cause is much larger, goes way back in time, involves dozens of prior hurts...

Law 40: Despise the free lunch
The powerful learn early to protect their most valuable resources: independence and room to maneuver. By paying the full price, they keep themselves free of dangerous entanglements and worries.

Powerful people judge everything by what it costs, not just in money but in time, dignity, and peace of mind. And this is exactly what Bargain Demons cannot do. Wasting valuable time digging for bargains, they worry endlessly about what they could have gotten elsewhere for a little less.

Law 47: Do not go past the mark you aimed for; in victory learn when to stop
Set a goal, and when you reach it, stop.

Law 48: Assume formlessness
The best way to protect yourself is to be as fluid and formless as water; never bet on stability or lasting order. Everything changes.