The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene – Book Review

April 11, 2007 - Get free updates of new posts here

If there’s a legitimate reason why this book isn’t required reading in business schools, I’d really love to hear it.  My undergrad work was in Sport and Leisure studies, so learning about business was something I did on my own through trial and error and book reading. I was never into reading until about two years ago. I had the mentality of a high school hard ass who thought reading was just something dorks did. Looking back now, it makes me chuckle at how stubborn and close minded I was when it came to new business and self improvement ideas.

The 48 Laws of Power
After reading a few business books, I remember surfing through Amazon and checking out some other readers recommended lists. One reader highly recommended The 48 Laws of Power. Being the slight narcissist that I am, my attention was peaked and I had the book shipped right away. In my first reading, I remember going through it in about three or four days, and having a general feeling of confusion when I was done. The next time I sat down to read it, I made sure I had my Post it notes and highlighter on hand, so I could mark up the pages and make some notes. This made all the difference in the world. This book has literally become a guide for which I lead my life. Let me explain.

(Check out other Okdork book reviews like Mindless Eating, My Startup Life,  and The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.)

I have pages marked to death with highlighter, scribbled notes, rabbit eared corners and pretty much anything else you can think of.

It would be easy to dismiss this book as ruthless and amoral because of the rigid approach that Greene takes in his descriptions, but the laws are based on actual conflicts and situations that continue to happen over and over through the course of time.

Ignoring them would be nothing short of ignorant. Even if you have no intentions of becoming a person of power in business or in life, the rules should still be read, so you can spot these situations and not let yourself become a victim. In the preface Robert suggests that the book can be used in several ways. By reading the book straight through, you can learn about the ins and outs of power in general. Or you can also just access and read certain situations that pertain to you at the moment.

While reading the The 48 Laws of Power will increase your awareness in situations and help you improve your chances of success, the ultimate goal is to understand the laws and recognize the situation without even thinking about it. I believe it was the great fighter pilot, John Boyd who said “the greatest strategy you can reach is no strategy at all”. This is the point at which you have internalized all of the concepts and act naturally without even thinking of your next move. Robert also points this out at the end of the book by saying ” By taking shape, by having a visible plan, you open yourself to attack. Instead of taking form for your enemy to grasp, keep yourself adaptable and on the move. The best way to protect yourself is to be as fluid and formless as water.”

Here is my 48 Laws of Power review and my favorite laws in the book:

Law 1 – Never outshine the master – Always make those above you feel superior. Inspiring fear and security in your master is a recipe for disaster. Be a person that others can trust.

Law 5 – So much depends on your reputation
; guard it with your life – Your reputation will ultimately allow you to influence people and win battles with less effort.

Law 10 – Infection : Avoid the unhappy and unlucky
– If you surround yourself with people who are negative and emotionally draining, you have no chance of survival. By associating yourself with successful and happy people, you’re frame of mind will be much better. Surround yourself with positive people.

Law 16 – Use absence to increase respect and honor
– Robert also touches on this a lot in his book The Art of Seduction. If you’re a desired person to be around, give people the gift of missing you. It will only increase your prizability and make them want to be around you more. Too much of one thing is never good.

Law 29 – Plan all the way to the end
– One of the most important rules in warfare is to have an endgame or exit strategy. By planning all the way to the end, you’ll be prepared for more situations and circumstances.

Law 36 – Disdain things you cannot have
: Ignoring them is the best revenge – This is a great law that I think goes well with improving your life. When you acknowledge the petty things, you’re giving them merit. Some people have major problems with this type of thing, and they waste valuable time and energy fussing over trite ideas and situations.

Law 48 – Assume formlessness
– This is the end goal you should be striving for. The laws are not set in stone, and every situation is different. Don’t get caught thinking in concrete terms, or you’ll miss out on something important.

I review new books on my blog every once in a while, so stop on by and check it out. I’m actually in the process of reading a few more life/business books that I’ll be posting about soon and you definitely don’t wanna miss ’em. You can check me out at Hope to see ya there!

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17 responses to “The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene – Book Review

  1. Sean Tierney Reply

    Noah, i felt the same way when i did Roger Dawson’s “Power Negotiating” audio series- some of the tactics seem shady but you don’t have to use them, just be aware of them. i posted a mindmap overview of that whole program here->

    another one you might like is “Psychology of Influence.” It was written by a local professor at ASU but is very good for his explanation of the 7 pillars of influence and has been cited by people like Guy Kawasaki as being an important book for anyone in this space.

    i added 48 power laws to my reading list.


  2. Jason H. Reply

    Awesome book, 2 Thumbs Way up 🙂

    It’s a modern version of The Art of War. And, it’s the top reading by all the famous rappers, like 50 and JayZ…

  3. Joel Mueller Reply

    you’re = you are. your = your 🙂 I know, I know, correcting spelling in blogs is a Top 10 annoyance. But so is it to be a reader and read the word twice to figure out what context the post is in. 🙂

  4. Justin Reply

    Joel where did I misspell that? I just went through it and couldn’t find it. I’m a stickler for the misuse of your/you’re, so I usually follow it closely.

  5. J.T. Reply

    Ah, having an exit plan. Seems like not everyone in our current government has read that chapter. We could all learn from a book like this.

    In all seriousness, books like this are always foisted upon me as “must-reads.” The problem is that so many of them say the same things, in only slightly different ways. Would this be a better book to put on the reading list than overly-vaunted cornerstones like “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People?” Probably. But I guess I’ll remain skeptical until I get a chance to look beyond the dust jacket.

  6. Will Kern Reply

    Thanks for the tip on the book, I will have to check it out. Let me make a suggestion for reading…..The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. A lot of what he writes about can be translated into everyday situations, definitely worth a read.


  7. Lucy Reply

    I agree that its a great book to have even if you’re not into politcs this book will help you out in all kinds of situations. Even though to me its like common sense, because before I even read it I was alredy practicing it.

  8. Natasha Thornton Reply

    I had to get the book myself… Im on the 7th Law!!! I cannot get my nose out this book. My byfriend and I rad it together, try to critic the book, share different points. I recommend this book! Awesome awsome.

  9. karla Reply

    natasha go sit your ass down somewhere you fraudulent bitch! first hes not your man and you didnt buy the book you stole it

  10. altool25 Reply

    Interesting book, I bought the audiobook and while listening to it I used a pen and a notepad to form an outline on the 48 laws I get a sense of vindictiveness from the book 🙂 I think it was around 9 bucks on iTunes, good bargain.

  11. Jenny Reply

    I stumbled onto this book some two weeks ago and I could not buy it then. I got it 2 days ago and I think it is a good read if not to acquire power, then its good to protect one from the scheming narcissitic bastards…