It’s your boy with the most, back it at it again. I don’t usually do book reviews. So you know that when I decide to do this, then shit just got real. This will be one of my shorter articles since it’s a book review. But I hope that by the end of this article, you would be motivated to buy or read online copies and give me your feedback.
Have you ever read a book that made you feel like a kid, finally learning the outrageous shit grown ups are really up to behind closed doors?
Okay. I’ll get right into it then.
Gaining, observing, or defending against ultimate control and power. That is the underlying premise of this book. At first glance, Robert Greene 1988’s The 48 Laws of Power is a book that makes venomous snakes out of earthworms, ravenous wolves out of sheep and opportunistic vultures out of pigeons. At least that is what a moral idealist would say (with a self-righteous frown of course). And I cannot really fault anyone for thinking that way.
However, if you are an open-minded individual or realist who recognizes corporate society for the greedy, unforgiving and unfair environment it really is, then you know this book is as a reference Bible for any individual that seeks to move up in almost any workplace or corporate setting.
Quoting various historical strategists and courtiers such as Sun Tzu and Machiavelli, The 48 Laws of Power lays down the ‘congenial, yet cunning’ , ‘diplomatic, yet devious‘ characteristics that are essential in battle and gaining the affection of your king. Except in the modern sense, the battlefield is the work environment and the king is your boss. That is, if you’re not an entrepreneur and are totally down with that ass-kissing sort of thing. At the same time, the book gives some very valuable insight into the mindset of superiors. While also stressing the fragility of egos and proposing various skills to adapt in order to overcome or defend against various obstacles.
With a writing style that is so blunt and unforgivably ruthless, it is no surprise that there has been serious backlash online from readers that read it with the wrong mindset. Honestly, despite some negative reviews online about the ruthlessness, cunning and deviousness of the book’s contents, I was surprised that very little in the book came as a complete shock to me. I realised while reading, that I consciously or subconsciously apply some of these ‘laws’ to a certain degree in my work life. And on a daily basis.
I’m not a very ambitious person. But there are two main things I always aim to achieve in a work environment: respect and peace of mind. And in order to achieve these things, I make a genuine effort to understand my superiors, peers and subordinates. Having an insight into each person’s strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, securities and insecurities, gives me a blueprint that allows me to interact and deal with each individual differently.
Oh I see, Tell me more🤔
Delegating a certain job to Thomas may not have the same desired effect as delegating the same job to Christine. Communicating a certain way to Karla does not mean that same style of communication would work with Tiwa. And so on. I’ve observed many a person get this simple fact wrong. Workplace pressures sometimes cause people to be so enveloped in their own problems, that they fail to develop the patience to create this understanding and cause more pain for themselves instead. As a result, I’ve watched people come in with such vibrant hope and vigour, only to be consumed by the fast-pace and harsh demands of the work environment, burn out and then quit. I am not one to let my work get in the way of my peace of mind and overall happiness. As a result, I’ve developed and adopted various characteristics that are very much akin to the 48 Laws of Power, while also keeping an eye out for others who would use these negatively against me.
While containing a great collection of examples and lessons to meditate upon, I can also see how this book runs the risk of making some readers adopt its teachings too literally. This book is not teaching anyone to be amoral. It is simply showing the reader how people really are in the real world. It identifies the behaviors and tactics of historical legends who have both succeeded and failed to maintain power into 48 “Laws.” And I have to admit it is a solid explanation of power in the only way it can be expressed – bluntly. So if you go into this book with an open-minded mindset, then you are far more likely to come out of it feeling more enlightened than offended. Only a reader who is incapable of making sensible, objective assessments would do something as radical as trusting their enemies far more than their own friends.
So. Should you…
Strongly consider? Yes.
Literally adopt? No.
The burden will always remain on the reader to read in between the lines. And to learn to identify and/or apply these laws with genuine consideration for the human element. That is, if you don’t wanna run the risk of being so much of a chameleon that you lose your true sense of self. Still, it is interesting to get beautiful insight into how the people at the highest echelons of power (generals, CEOs, kings and queens) and the greatest con men of antiquity have gained, maintained or lost power. This type of near-sociopathic mindset is especially invaluable in today’s corporate environment, where ability alone does not necessarily get you to the top. Other elements such as cunning, charm, charisma and connections help to play as big a role as ability.
It is also no surprise that Robert Greene himself has had to defend his book several times since its release, even going as far as having to explain that he’s simply a realist and not an evil cunt. The risk that inexperienced readers would religiously adopt the book as a manual for cold, calculating and manipulative purposes is going to be ever present. But we need to understand that Robert’s crude hard-hitting book, though very true, is also meant to create a literary dramatic effect that is missing in many books out there that are more educational than fictional.
I’ll give this 7.5 solid stars out of 10. This is definitely one I will be coming back to from time to time. For both offense and defense.
Thank you. 🙂
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