Notes and Quotes: The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

The following are my favorite quotes from Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power:
  1. Niccolo Machiavelli wrote, "Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good."
  2. But if, to avoid the taint of power, you attempt to treat everyone equally and fairly, you will confront the problem that some people do certain things better than others.
  3. Treating everyone equally means ignoring their differences, elevating the less skillful and suppressing those who excel.
  4. Being perfectly honest will inevitably hurt and insult a great many people, some of whom will choose to injure you in return.
  5. The use of honesty is indeed a power strategy, intended to convince people of one's noble, good-hearted, selfless character.  It is a form of persuasion, even a subtle form of coercion.
  6. Those who make a show or display of innocence are the least innocent of all.
  7. If the world is like a giant scheming court and we are trapped inside it, there is no use in trying to opt out of the game.  That will only render you powerless, and powerlessness will make you miserable.
  8. If the game of power is inescapable, better to be an artist than a denier or a bungler.
  9. An emotional response to a situation is the single greatest barrier to power, a mistake that will cost you a lot more than any temporary satisfaction you might gain by expressing your feelings.
  10. Love and affection are also potentially destructive, in that they blind you to the often self-serving interests of those whom you least suspect of playing a power game.
  11. Deception and masquerade should not be seen as ugly or immoral.
  12. Deception is a developed art of civilization and the most potent weapon in the game of power.
  13. Power is a game -- this cannot be repeated too often -- and in games you do not judge your opponents by their intentions but by the effect of their actions.
  14. Half of your mastery of power comes from what you do not do, what you do not allow yourself to get dragged into.
  15. Never waste valuable time, or mental peace of mind, on the affairs of others -- that is too high a price to pay.
  16. An understanding of people's hidden motives is the single greatest piece of knowledge you can have in acquiring power.
  17. Never trust anyone completely and study everyone, including friends and loved ones.
  18. The gods of power frown on the frivolous; they give ultimate satisfaction only to those who study and reflect, and punish those who skim the surfaces looking for a good time.
  19. "Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good.  Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires." Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
  20. Always make those above you feel comfortably superior.
  21. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.
  22. When it comes to power, outshining the master is perhaps the worst mistake of all.
  23. Never take your position for granted and never let any favors you receive go to your head.
  24. By letting others outshine you, you remain in control, instead of being a victim of their insecurity.
  25. Do not be merciful -- your master had no such scruples in his own cold-blooded climb to the top.
  26. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.
  27. "When you see water flowing uphill, it means that someone is repaying a kindness." African Folk Tale
  28. "Lord, protect me from my friends; I can take care of my enemies." Voltaire
  29. "Pick up a bee from kindness, and learn the limitations of kindness." Sufi Proverb
  30. "Why, madam," [Abraham] Lincoln replied, "do I not destroy my enemies when I can make them my friends?"
  31. The key to power, then, is the ability to judge who is best able to further your interests in all situations.  Keep friends for friendship, but work with the skilled and competent.
  32. A person who has something to prove will move mountains for you.
  33. Whenever you can, bury the hatchet with an enemy, and make a point of putting him in your service.
  34. All of this would push her into the state of emotional confusion that is a prerequisite for successful seduction.
  35. Honesty is actually a blunt instrument, which bloodies more than it cuts.  Your honesty is likely to offend people; it is much more prudent to tailor your words, telling people what they want to hear rather than the course and ugly truth of what you feel or think.  More important, by being unabashedly open you make yourself so predictable and familiar that is almost impossible to respect or fear you, and power will not accrue to a person who cannot inspire such emotions.
  36. The paranoid and wary are often the easiest to deceive.  Win their trust in one area and you have a smoke screen that blinds their view in another, letting you creep up and level them with a devastating blow.
  37. The human tongue is a beast that few can master.
  38. Once the words are out, you cannot take them back.
  39. Since we must live in society and must depend on the opinions of others, there is nothing to be gained by neglecting your reputation.  By not caring how you are perceived, you let others decide this for you.
  40. It is better to be attacked, even slandered, than ignored.
  41. An air of mastery heightens your presence; it also creates anticipation -- everyone will watching you to see what happens next.
  42. If you find yourself trapped, cornered, and on the defensive in some situation, try a simple experiment: Do something that cannot be easily explained or interpreted.  Choose a simple action, but carry it out in a way that unsettles your opponent, a way with many possible interpretations, making your intentions obscure.
  43. In the beginning of your rise to the top, you must attract attention at all cost, but as you rise higher you must constantly adapt.
  44. Never do yourself what others can do for you.
  45. [Henry] Kissinger played the game expertly: He took credit for the work of those below him while graciously giving credit for his own labors to those above.  That is the way to play the game.
  46. Make your enemy respond on your terms.
  47. The Arguer does not understand that words are never neutral, and that by arguing with a superior he impugns the intelligence of one more powerful than he.
  48. In the realm of power you must learn to judge your moves by their long-term effects on other people.
  49. The power of demonstrating your idea is that your opponents do not get defensive, and are therefore more open to persuasion.  Making them literally and physically feel your meaning is infinitely more powerful than argument.
  50. The most powerful persuasion goes beyond action into symbol.
  51. When aiming for power, or trying to conserve it, always look for the indirect route.  And also choose your battles carefully.
  52. "Never argue.  In society nothing must be discussed; give only results." Benjamin Disraeli
  53. Flee the infector's presence or suffer the consequences.
  54. In the game of power, the people you associate with are critical.
  55. There is only one solution to infection: quarantine.
  56. Never associate with those who share your defects -- they will reinforce everything that holds you back.
  57. The more you are relied on, the more freedom you have.
  58. Be the only one who can do what you do, and make the fate of those who hire you so entwined with yours that they cannot possibly get rid of you.
  59. Necessity rules the world.  People rarely act unless compelled to.  If you create no need for yourself, then you will be done away with at first opportunity.
  60. The essence of deception is distraction.
  61. A gift is the perfect object in which to hide a deceptive move.
  62. "Self-interest alone moves some men." Aesop's Fables
  63. Appeals to justice and gratitude have occasionally succeeded in the past, but more often than not they have had dire consequences.
  64. When people choose between talk about the past and talk about the future, a pragmatic person will always opt for the future and forget the past.
  65. 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 for help will magically fall away.
  66. No one sees the source of your power, and what they cannot see they cannot fight.
  67. "Trust is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies." Winston Churchill
  68. Reconciliation is out of the question.  Only one side can win, and it must win totally.
  69. "Those who seek to achieve things should show no mercy." Kautilya
  70. Have no mercy.  Crush your enemies as totally as they would crush you.  Ultimately the only peace and security you can hope for from your enemies is their disappearance.
  71. What withdraws, what becomes scarce, suddenly seems to deserve our respect and honor.  What stays too long, inundating us with its presence, makes us disdain it.
  72. In a land plagued with anarchy, the most powerful man is the judge and the arbiter.
  73. Make yourself less accessible and you increase the value of your presence.
  74. Only the terminally subordinate act in a predictable manner.
  75. As in warfare and most games of strategy, isolation often precedes defeat and death.
  76. Never assume that the person you are dealing with is weaker or less important than you are.
  77. Desire is like a virus: If we see that someone is desired by other people, we tend to find this person desirable too.
  78. Once you step into a fight that is not of your own choosing, you lose all initiative.
  79. 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.
  80. Always make people believe they are smarter and more sophisticated than you are.
  81. People trying to make a show of their authority are easily deceived by the surrender tactic.
  82. "When the great lord passes, the wise peasant bows deeply and silently farts." Ethiophan proverb
  83. For every famous martyr there are thousands more who have inspired neither a religion nor a rebellion.
  84. Concentrate on a single goal, a single task, and beat it into submission.
  85. Perfection resides in quality, not quantity.
  86. "Hence politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax." Arthur Schopenhauer
  87. You must change your style and way of speaking to suit each person.  This is not lying, it is acting, and acting is an art, not a gift from God.  Learn the art.
  88. The greatest skill of all is the ability to make the master look more talented than those around him.
  89. Do not overstep your bounds.  Do what you are assigned to do, to the best of your abilities, and never do more.
  90. Do not except the roles that society foists on you.
  91. Understand this: 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.
  92. Working on yourself like clay should be one of the greatest and most pleasurable life tasks.
  93. Know how to be all things to all men.
  94. "One should not be too straightforward.  Go and see the forest.  The straight trees are cut down, the crooked ones are left standing." Kautilya, Indian Philosopher
  95. As humans, we have a desperate need to believe in something, anything.
  96. To keep your followers united, you must now do what all religions and belief systems have done: create an us-versus-them dynamic.
  97. Always aim high.  The bigger and bolder your illusion, the better.
  98. If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it.  Your doubts and hesitations will infect your execution.
  99. The path of pleasure never leads to glory.
  100. Boldness and hesitation elicit very different psychological responses in their targets: Hesitation puts obstacles in your path, boldness eliminates them.
  101. Overcome your natural timidity and practice the art of audacity.
  102. Ask for the moon and you will be surprised how often you get it.
  103. "Fear of failure in the mind of a performer is, for an onlooker, already evidence of failure... Actions are dangerous when there is doubt as to their wisdom; it would be safer to do nothing." Baltasar Gracian
  104. The problems created by an audacious move can be disguised, even remedied, by more and greater audacity.
  105. Most men are ruled by the heart, not the head.
  106. So much of power is not what you do but what you do not do -- the rash and foolish actions that you refrain from before they get you into trouble.
  107. Teach no one your tricks or they will be used against you.
  108. Nature does not reveal its tricks, and what imitates nature by appearing effortless approximates nature's power.
  109. As a person of power, you must research and practice endlessly before appearing in public, onstage or anywhere else.  Never expose the sweat and labor behind your poise.
  110. Power depends vitally on appearances and the illusions you create.
  111. The more mystery surrounds your actions, the more awesome your power seems.
  112. The best deceptions are the ones that seem to give the other person a choice: Your victims feel they are in control, but are actually your puppets.
  113. The main weakness of a show of force is that it stirs up resentment and eventually leads to a response that eats at your authority.
  114. The illusion of choice, married to the the possibility of future good fortune, will lure the most stubborn sucker into your glittering web.
  115. When examined closely, the choices we have -- in the marketplace, in elections, in our jobs -- tend to have noticeable limitations: They are often a matter of choice simply between A and B, with the rest of the alphabet out of the picture.
  116. For people who are choosing between alternatives find it hard to believe they are being manipulated or deceived; they cannot see that you are allowing them a small amount of free will in exchange for a much more powerful imposition of your own will.
  117. Never be distracted by people's glamorous portraits of themselves and their lives; search and dig for what really imprisons them.  Once you find that, you have the magical key that will put great power in your hands.
  118. Change is slow and gradual. It requires hard work, a bit of luck, a fair amount of self-sacrifice, and a lot of patience.
  119. The key to fantasy is distance.
  120. By probing beyond appearances, you will often find people's weaknesses in the opposite of the qualities they reveal to you.
  121. When searching for suckers, always look for the dissatisfied, the unhappy, the insecure.  Such people are riddled with weaknesses and have needs that you can fill.
  122. Man's need to conquer women actually reveals a tremendous helplessness that has made suckers out of them for thousands of years.
  123. People's need for validation and recognition, their need to feel important, is the best kind of weakness to exploit.  First, it is almost universal; second, exploiting it is so very easy.
  124. The way you carry yourself will often determine how you are treated.
  125. It is within your power to set your own price.  How you carry yourself reflects what you think of yourself.  If you ask for a little, shuffle your feet and lower your head, people will assume this reflects your character.  But this behavior is not you -- it is only how you have chosen to present yourself to other people.
  126. Coming to expect less from the world, we accept limitations that are really self-imposed.
  127. Never make the mistake of thinking that you elevate yourself by humiliating people.
  128. Never seem to be in a hurry -- hurrying betrays a lack of control over yourself, and over time.
  129. Power rarely ends up in the hands of those who start a revolution, or even those who further it; power sticks to those who bring it to a conclusion.
  130. Sometimes the spirit of the times is obscure: Recognize it not by what is loudest and most obvious in it, but by what lies hidden and dormant.
  131. Time is an artificial concept that we ourselves have created to make the limitless of eternity and the universe more bearable, more human.
  132. To build your power's foundation can take years; make sure that foundation is secure.
  133. To some degree you must guide time or you will be its merciless victim.
  134. By acknowledging a petty problem you give it existence and credibility.  The more attention you pay an enemy, the stronger you make him; and a small mistake is often made worse and more visible when you try to fix it.  It is sometimes best to leave things alone.
  135. The less interest you reveal, the more superior you seem.
  136. You choose to let things bother you.  You can just as easily choose not to notice the irritating offender, to consider the matter trivial and unworthy of your interest.  That is the powerful move.
  137. By ignoring people you cancel them out.  This unsettles and infuriates them -- but since they have no dealings with you, there is nothing you can do.
  138. Desire often creates paradoxical effects: The more you want something, the more you chase after it, the more it eludes you.  The more interest you show, the more you repel the object of your desire.  This is because your interest is too strong -- it makes people awkward, even fearful.  Uncontrollable desire makes you seem weak, unworthy, pathetic.
  139. Your search for power depends on shortcuts.  You must always circumvent people's suspicions, their perverse desire to resist your will.
  140. Never neglect the way you arrange things visually.  Factors like color, for example, have enormous symbolic resonance.
  141. Always find a symbol to represent your cause -- the more emotional associations, the better.
  142. People who flaunt their infatuation with a different culture are expressing a disdain and contempt for their own.
  143. Their is no point in making a display of your dangerous ideas if they only bring you suffering and persecution.  Martyrdom serves no purpose -- better to live on in an oppressive world, even thrive in it.
  144. When you go into society, leave behind your own ideas and values, and put on the mask that is most appropriate for the group in which you find yourself.
  145. To show your frustration is to show that you have lost your power to shape events; it is the helpless action of the child who resorts to a hysterical fit to get his way.  The powerful never reveal this kind of weakness.
  146. The angrier they become, the less control they have.
  147. What is offered for free is dangerous -- it usually involves either a trick or a hidden obligation.  What has worth is worth paying for.  By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit.  It is also often wise to pay the full price -- there is no cutting corners with excellence.
  148. Generosity is a sign and a magnet for power.
  149. In the realm of power, everything must be judged by its cost, and everything has a price.
  150. The powerful learn early to protect their most valuable resources: independence and room to maneuver.
  151. "The power of money is not in its possession, but in its use." Aesop's Fables
  152. Power requires self-discipline.
  153. Make power your goal and money will find its way to you.
  154. Powerful people give freely, buying influence rather than things.
  155. The sudden, unexpected, one-time gift will not spoil your children; it will keep them under your thumb.
  156. An essential aspect of money: that it is humans who have created it and humans who instill it with meaning and value.
  157. The more your gifts and your acts of generosity play with sentiment, the more powerful they are.
  158. When you insist on paying less, you may save your five ryo, but the insult you cause and the cheap impression you create will cost you in reputation, which is the thing the powerful prize above all.  Learn to pay the full price -- it will save you a lot in the end.
  159. Money gives its possessor the ability to give pleasure to others.  The more you can do this, the more you attract admiration.
  160. Dangling the lure of a free lunch is the con artist's stock in trade.
  161. People are essentially lazy, and want wealth to fall in their lap rather than to work for it.  For a small sum, sell them advice on how to make millions, and that small sum will become a fortune when multiplied by thousands of suckers.
  162. What happens first always appears better and more original than what comes after.  If you succeed a great man or have a famous parent, you will have to accomplish double their achievements to outshine them.
  163. The pampered, indulged son almost always squanders the inheritance, for he does not start with the father's need to fill a void.
  164. Fathers envy their sons' youth and vigor and their desire is to control and dominate.
  165. Privileges of birth are impediments to power.
  166. In many ancient kingdoms, for example Bengal and Sumatra, after the king had ruled for several years his subjects would execute him.  This was done partly as a ritual of renewal, but also to prevent him for growing too powerful -- for the king would generally try to establish a permanent order, at the expense of other families and of his own sons.
  167. Burn all the books, and train yourself to react to circumstances as they happen.
  168. You must be prepared to return to square one psychologically rather than growing fat and lazy with prosperity.
  169. The father must not be allowed to return; he must be slain at every step of the way.
  170. In every group, power is concentrated in the hands of one or two people, for this is one area in which human nature will never change: People will congregate around a single strong personality like planets orbiting a sun.
  171. Powerful people never waste time.
  172. Understanding who controls the group dynamic is a critical realization.
  173. It is often better to isolate your enemies than to destroy them -- you seem less brutal.  The result, though, is the same, for in the game of power, isolation spells death.
  174. "Persuasion is more effective than force." Aesop's Fables
  175. "Working on the masses, however, is the stroke of genius that changes the face of the world." Napoleon Bonaparte
  176. Instead of manipulating lifeless pawns, make those on your side convinced and excited by the cause you have enlisted them in; this will not only make your work easier but it will also give you more leeway to deceive them later on.
  177. To find the key that will motivate them, first get them to open up.  The more they talk, the more they reveal about their likes and dislikes -- the handles and levers to move them with.
  178. The wider your support base the stronger your power.
  179. To follow the movements of others is to gain valuable insights into their habits and routines.
  180. Simply echoing the moves of others gives you the space you need to develop a strategy of your own.
  181. The goal of power is always to lower people's resistance to you.
  182. We habitually accept appearances, and this is a credulity you can use.
  183. Just as you cannot make people see the world your way, you cannot wrench them into the future with painful changes.  They will rebel.
  184. Habit and history give any act weight.  Use this to your advantage
  185. The fact that the past is dead and buried gives you the freedom to reinterpret it.  To support your cause, tinker with the facts.  The past is a text in which you can safely insert your own lines.
  186. "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." Max Planck
  187. Those who finish a revolution are rarely those who start it.
  188. Once envy eats away at someone, everything you do only makes it grow, and day by day it festers inside him.  Eventually he will attack.
  189. All simplicity on the outside, all elegance and opulence within.
  190. Let envy turn inward and it poisons the soul; expel it outward and it can move you to greater heights.
  191. There is nothing more intoxicating than victory, and nothing more dangerous.
  192. History is littered with the ruins of victorious empires and the corpses of leaders who could not learn to stop and consolidate their gains.
  193. "When you have won a victory, tighten the strings of your helmet." Japanese saying
  194. The proper response is to accept the favor graciously and withdraw.  Any subsequent favors you should earn without having to ask for them.
  195. As Machiavelli says, either destroy a man or leave him alone entirely.
  196. Leave momentum for those who have nothing better to rely upon.
  197. The best way to protect yourself is to be as fluid and formless as water; never bet on stability or lasting order.  Everything changes.
  198. No system of money or trading was allowed in Sparta; acquired wealth, they believed, would sow selfishness and dissension, weakening their warrior discipline.
  199. Learn to move fast and adapt or you will be eaten.
  200. Play the chameleon -- conform on the surface, while breaking down your enemy from the inside.
  201. In evolution, largeness is often the first step toward extinction.  What is immense and bloated has no mobility, but must constantly feed itself.
  202. Too much respect for other people's wisdom will make you depreciate you own.  Be brutal with the past, especially your own, and have no respect for the philosophies that are foisted on you from outside.