The 48 Laws Of Power
Author: Robert Greene
Power – possession of control, authority, or influence over others; mental or moral efficacy.
I’m not sure exactly what I expected there to be in the contents of this book, but I know it wasn’t what I found. I can honestly say that I did not enjoy reading this book. I consistently read books about the power integrity, generosity, and helping others have on achieving greatness and how good it makes a person feel. I guess I assumed this book would be similar in explaining ways to achieve power through acts of kindness and/or significance…I was definitely wrong. Almost every law written in this book seems to root from deception and manipulation. Each one is even accompanied with a story about how these morally ambiguous laws have helped someone achieve power. As I read each new law, I kept noticing how much the principles of the law did not sit well with me. Of course, the book is a national bestseller for a reason; clearly, people like it. I just would not consider myself one of those people. I’m going to share two of the laws that really stood out to me and why I do not agree with them.
Law #7: Get Others to Do the Work for You, But Always Take the Credit
I feel like there’s a silver lining in this one. After all, this is exactly what every company in the world does. They have employees who do the work that makes them profitable and they assume the credit. However, they pay these employees for the work they do and don’t just force anyone to work for free in order to generate themselves a profit; that’s called slavery. This law relates more to stealing someone else’s work or ideas and then claiming them as your own. The example used in this law is the story of Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. As told in the book, Nikola Tesla was hired by Thomas Edison to complete a task that Edison deemed nearly impossible and potentially non-profitable. The task was to greatly improve Edison’s direct current system. Edison promised Tesla $50,000 upon completion of the task, assuming it would not get done. Tesla worked 18-hour days and after only a year, he presented Edison the improved version and asked for his $50,000. Edison laughed it off, gave him a small raise, and took all the credit for the newly designed product. That’s not the only time Tesla got screwed over either. He was known for working hard on an alternating current (ac) system, whereas Edison believed solely in the direct current (dc) system. Edison continued to refuse Tesla’s work and later on even did everything he could to sabotage it. Tesla went to George Westinghouse, who had started his own electricity company, with the AC system. Westinghouse agreed to fund all of the research and promised Tesla a royalty agreement on future profits. Not long after that, J. Piermont Morgan took over the company and forced Westinghouse to rescind his royalty contract with Tesla and pay him a buyout of $216,000. That was still a shitload of money, especially back then, but his work was worth millions. Eventually, Tesla’s name was lost in the shuffle of business and Westinghouse was credited with all of his work. Tesla invented an induction motor as well as the AC power system, and he is the real “father of radio.” Yet none of these discoveries bear his name. As an old man, he lived in poverty. The book makes the point of this law to essentially steal someone else’s work and claim it as your own. I think it could, and should, be used in a different context. I think the lesson from this law is that you should always protect your work at all costs. Always have contracts signed, patents created, and insurance for yourself so you don’t get fucked over the way Tesla did.
Law #12: Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm Your Victim
The story used to back this law is about a con man in the early 1900’s. The man visits Al Capone, a well-known gangster at the time, and offers him a deal. The con man tells Capone that if he gives him $50,000, the con man will double it in less than 60 days. After some light negotiating, Capone agrees. 60 days later, the conman returns with the $50,000 and is overly apologetic to Capone explaining that things did not go as planned and how embarrassed he is. Capone tells the man that he is not surprised the money hasn’t been doubled, but that he is surprised he brought the full amount back. He believed the conman was as sorry as he claimed to be, and for his failed efforts gave $5,000 out of pity. That was the conman’s motive all along. He never even attempted to double the money. He simply held onto it in hopes that Capone would reward him just for trying. Again, I feel the best way to interpret this law is to look at it backwards, similar to how I twisted the lesson in law #7: always protect yourself and understand what you are getting into. Personally, I would never promote conning someone out of their money. Using trickery and deception will only give you a bad name and make people cautious of you. Nobody of good character wants to associate or do business with shady people.
Like I said before, almost every law in the book is built off of some form of deception. That’s not my style. Albeit, some of the laws do hold valuable ideas, the bulk of the book is not for me. I wouldn’t really recommend it to anybody to read for the purpose of acquiring power or influence. It may, however, serve as a sort of defensive tool to learn how some people may try to take advantage of you. Again, it was a national bestseller, and books don’t become bestsellers for no reason. I just didn’t appreciate the twisted morals and values this book preached.
Have you read this book? Would you agree with what I felt? Let me know!