The 48 Laws of Power
by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers

Law 1
Never Outshine the Master

Always make those above you feel comfortably superior.
In your desire to please or impress
them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite – inspire
fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain
the heights of power.

Law 2
Never put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn how to use Enemies

Be wary of friends-they will betray you more quickly, f
or they are easily aroused to envy. They
also become spoiled and tyrannical. But hire a former enemy
and he will be more loyal than a
friend, because he has more to prove. In fact, you have
more to fear from friends than from
enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.

Law 3
Conceal your Intentions

Keep people off-balance and in the dark by never revealing the
purpose behind your actions. If they have no clue what you are up to, they cannot prepare a def
ense. Guide them far enough down the wrong path, envelope them in enough smoke, and by the
time they realize your intentions, it will be too late.

Law 4
Always Say Less than Necessary

When you are trying to impress people with words, the more
you say, the more common you
appear, and the less in control. Even if you are saying
something banal, it will seem original if
you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike. Powerful people
impress and intimidate by
saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are t
o say something foolish.

Law 5
So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it with your Life
Reputation is the cornerstone of power.

Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win;
once you slip, however, you are vulnerable, and will be
attacked on all sides. Make your
reputation unassailable. Always be alert to potential a
ttacks and thwart them before they
happen. Meanwhile, learn to destroy your enemies by opening
holes in their own reputations.
Then stand aside and let public opinion hang them.

Law 6
Court Attention at all Cost

Everything is judged by its appearance; what is unseen counts
for nothing. Never let yourself get
lost in the crowd, then, or buried in oblivion. Stand o
ut. Be conspicuous, at all cost. Make
yourself a magnet of attention by appearing larger, more c
olorful, more mysterious, than the
bland and timid masses.

Law 7
Get others to do the Work for you, but Always Take the Credit

Use the wisdom, knowledge, and legwork of other people to furt
her your own cause. Not only
will such assistance save you valuable time and energy, it
will give you a godlike aura of
efficiency and speed. In the end your helpers will be for
gotten and you will be remembered.
Never do yourself what others can do for you.

Law 8
Make other People come to you – use Bait if Necessary

When you force the other person to act, you are the one
in control. It is always better to make
your opponent come to you, abandoning his own plans in the pro
cess. Lure him with fabulous
gains – then attack. You hold the cards.

Law 9 Win through your Actions, Demonstate

Never through Argument Any momentary triumph you think gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory:

The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts
longer than any momentary change of
opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree w
ith you through your actions, without
saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.

Law 10
Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky

You can die from someone else’s misery – emotional sta
tes are as infectious as disease. You
may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only pr
ecipitating your own disaster.
The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves;
they will also draw it on you.
Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.

Law 11
Learn to Keep People Dependent on You
To maintain your independence you must always be needed and
wanted.

The more you are
relied on, the more freedom you have. Make people depend o
n you for their happiness and
prosperity and you have nothing to fear. Never teach them
enough so that they can do without
you.

Law 12
Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm your Victim

One sincere and honest move will cover over dozens of
dishonest ones. Open-hearted gestures
of honesty and generosity bring down the guard of even the
most suspicious people. Once your
selective honesty opens a hole in their armor, you can
deceive and manipulate them at will. A
timely gift – a Trojan horse – will serve the same purpo
se.

Law 13
When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest,
Never to their Mercy or Gratitude

If you need to turn to an ally for help, do not bother to r
emind him of your past assistance and
good deeds. He will find a way to ignore you. Instead, unc
over something in your request, or in
your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emph
asize it out of all proportion. He will
respond enthusiastically when he sees something to be gained
for himself.

Law 14
Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy

Knowing about your rival is critical. Use spies to gat
her valuable information that will keep you
a step ahead. Better still: Play the spy yourself. I
n polite social encounters, learn to probe. Ask
indirect questions to get people to reveal their weaknesse
s and intentions. There is no occasion
that is not an opportunity for artful spying.

Law 15
Crush your Enemy Totally

All great leaders since Moses have known that a feared
enemy must be crushed completely.
(Sometimes they have learned this the hard way.) If o
ne ember is left alight, no matter how
dimly it smolders, a fire will eventually break out.
More is lost through stopping halfway than
through total annihilation: The enemy will recover, and wil
l seek revenge. Crush him, not only
in body but in spirit.

Law 16
Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor

Too much circulation makes the price go down: The more y
ou are seen and heard from, the
more common you appear. If you are already established i
n a group, temporary withdrawal from
it will make you more talked about, even more admired. Yo
u must learn when to leave. Create
value through scarcity.

Law 17
Keep Others in Suspended Terror:

Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability

Humans are creatures of habit with an insatiable need to s
ee familiarity in other people’s actions. Your predictability gives them a sense of contro
l. Turn the tables: Be deliberately
unpredictable. Behavior that seems to have no consiste
ncy or purpose will keep them off-
balance, and they will wear themselves out trying to exp
lain your moves. Taken to an extreme,
this strategy can intimidate and terrorize.

Law 18
Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself –

Isolation is Dangerous

The world is dangerous and enemies are everywhere – ever
yone has to protect themselves. A
fortress seems the safest. But isolation exposes you t
o more dangers than it protects you from – it
cuts you off from valuable information, it makes you cons
picuous and an easy target. Better to
circulate among people find allies, mingle. You are shiel
ded from your enemies by the crowd.

Law 19
Know Who You’re Dealing with – Do Not Offend the Wrong Person

There are many different kinds of people in the world,
and you can never assume that everyone
will react to your strategies in the same way.

ve or outmaneuver some people and they will
spend the rest of their lives seeking revenge. They are
wolves in lambs’ clothing. Choose your
victims and opponents carefully, then – never offend or
deceive the wrong person.

Law 20
Do Not Commit to Anyone

It is the fool who always rushes to take sides. Do not
commit to any side or cause but yourself.
By maintaining your independence, you become the master o
f others – playing people against
one another, making them pursue you.

Law 21
Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker – Seem Dumber than your Mark

No one likes feeling stupider than the next persons. The
trick, is to make your victims feel smart
– and not just smart, but smarter than you are. Once co
nvinced of this, they will never suspect
that you may have ulterior motives.

Law 22
Use the Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakness into Power

When you are weaker, never fight for honor’s sake; choo
se surrender instead. Surrender gives
you time to recover, time to torment and irritate your c
onqueror, time to wait for his power to
wane. Do not give him the satisfaction of fighting and
defeating you – surrender first. By
turning the other check you infuriate and unsettle him. Make
surrender a tool of power.

Law 23
Concentrate Your Forces

Conserve your forces and energies by keeping them concent
rated at their strongest point.

You
gain more by finding a rich mine and mining it deeper, than by
flitting from one shallow mine to
another – intensity defeats extensity every time. Wh
en looking for sources of power to elevate
you, find the one key patron, the fat cow who will give
you milk for a long time to come.

Law 24
Play the Perfect Courtier

The perfect courtier thrives in a world where everythin
g revolves around power and political
dexterity. He has mastered the art of indirection; he
flatters, yields to superiors, and asserts
power over others in the mot oblique and graceful manner.
Learn and apply the laws of
courtiership and there will be no limit to how far you c
an rise in the court.

Law 25
Re-Create Yourself
Do not accept the roles that society foists on you.

Re-create yourself by forging a new identity,
one that commands attention and never bores the audien
ce. Be the master of your own image
rather than letting others define if for you. Incorpora
te dramatic devices into your public
gestures and actions – your power will be enhanced and your cha
racter will seem larger than life.

Law 26
Keep Your Hands Clean

You must seem a paragon of civility and efficiency: Your ha
nds are never soiled by mistakes and
nasty deeds. Maintain such a spotless appearance by using othe
rs as scapegoats and cat’s-paws
to disguise your involvement.

Law 27
Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cultlike Following

People have an overwhelming desire to believe in somethi
ng. Become the focal point of such
desire by offering them a cause, a new faith to follow.
Keep your words vague but full of
promise; emphasize enthusiasm over rationality and clear
thinking. Give your new disciples
rituals to perform, ask them to make sacrifices on your
behalf. In the absence of organized
religion and grand causes, your new belief system will b
ring you untold power.

Law 28
Enter Action with Boldness

If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it.
Your doubts and hesitations will infect
your execution. Timidity is dangerous: Better to enter
with boldness. Any mistakes you
commit through audacity are easily corrected with more a
udacity. Everyone admires the bold;
no one honors the timid.

Law 29
Plan All the Way to the End

The ending is everything. Plan all the way to it, takin
g into account all the possible
consequences, obstacles, and twists of fortune that mig
ht reverse your hard work and give the
glory to others. By planning to the end you will not be over
whelmed by circumstances and you
will know when to stop. Gently guide fortune and help dete
rmine the future by thinking far
ahead.

Law 30
Make your Accomplishments Seem Effortless

Your actions must seem natural and executed with ease. A
ll the toil and practice that go into
them, and also all the clever tricks, must be conceal
ed. When you act, act effortlessly, as if you
could do much more. Avoid the temptation of revealing how h
ard you work – it only raises
questions. Teach no one your tricks or they will be used a
gainst you.

Law 31
Control the Options: Get Others to Play with the Cards you
Deal

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. Give
people options that come out in your
favor whichever one they choose. Force them to make ch
oices between the lesser of two evils,
both of which serve your purpose. Put them on the horns
of a dilemma: They are gored wherever they turn.

Law 32
Play to People’s Fantasies

The truth is often avoided because it is ugly and unpleas
ant. Never appeal to truth and reality
unless you are prepared for the anger that comes for disenc
hantment. Life is so harsh and
distressing that people who can manufacture romance or c
onjure up fantasy are like oases in the
desert: Everyone flocks to them. There is great power i
n tapping into the fantasies of the masses.

Law 33
Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew

Everyone has a weakness, a gap in the castle wall. That
weakness is usual y an insecurity, an
uncontrollable emotion or need; it can also be a small
secret pleasure. Either way, once found, it
is a thumbscrew you can turn to your advantage.

Law 34 Be Royal in your Own Fashion: Act like a King to be treated
like one

The way you carry yourself will often determine how you a
re treated; In the long run, appearing
vulgar or common will make people disrespect you. For a
king respects himself and inspires the
same sentiment in others. By acting regally and confiden
t of your powers, you make yourself
seem destined to wear a crown.

Law 35
Master the Art of Timing

Never seem to be in a hurry – hurrying betrays a lack of c
ontrol over yourself, and over time.
Always seem patient, as if you know that everything wil
l come to you eventually. Become a
detective of the right moment; sniff out the spirit of
the times, the trends that will carry you to
power. Learn to stand back when the time is not yet r
ipe, and to strike fiercely when it has
reached fruition.

Law 36 Disdain Things you cannot have: Ignoring them is the best Revenge

By acknowledging a petty problem you give it existence and cr
edibility. The more attention you
pay an enemy, the stronger you make him; and a small mist
ake is often made worse and more
visible when you try to fix it. It is sometimes best t
o leave things alone. If there is something
you want but cannot have, show contempt for it. The le
ss interest you reveal, the more superior
you seem.

Law 37
Create Compelling Spectacles

Striking imagery and grand symbolic gestures create the aura
of power – everyone responds to
them. Stage spectacles for those around you, then full
of arresting visuals and radiant symbols
that heighten your presence. Dazzled by appearances, no o
ne will notice what you are really
doing.

Law 38
Think as you like but Behave like others

If you make a show of going against the times, flaunting y
our unconventional ideas and
unorthodox ways, people will think that you only want atten
tion and that you look down upon
them. They will find a way to punish you for making them
feel inferior. It is far safer to blend
in and nurture the common touch. Share your originality
only with tolerant friends and those who
are sure to appreciate your uniqueness.

Law 39
Stir up Waters to Catch Fish

Anger and emotion are strategically counterproductive. Yo
u must always stay calm and
objective. But if you can make your enemies angry while s
taying calm yourself, you gain a
decided advantage. Put your enemies off-balance: Find the
chink in their vanity through which
you can rattle them and you hold the strings.

Law 40
Despise the Free Lunch

What is offered for free is dangerous – it usually involv
es either a trick or a hidden obligation.
What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own wa
y 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. Be lavish with your money and keep it circul
ating, for generosity is a sign and a
magnet for power.

Law 41
Avoid Stepping into a Great Man’s Shoes

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. Do not get lost in their
shadow, or stuck in a past not of your
own making: Establish your own name and identity by chang
ing course. Slay the overbearing
father, disparage his legacy, and gain power by shining in your o
wn way.

Law 42
Strike the Shepherd and the Sheep will Scatter

 

Trouble can often be traced to a single strong individual
– the stirrer, the arrogant underling, the
poisoned of goodwill. If you allow such people room to operate
, others will succumb to their
influence. Do not wait for the troubles they cause to mu
ltiply, do not try to negotiate with them
– they are irredeemable. Neutralize their influence by iso
lating or banishing them. Strike at the
source of the trouble and the sheep will scatter.

Law 43
Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others

Coercion creates a reaction that will eventually wor
k against you. You must seduce others into
wanting to move in your direction. A person you have s
educed becomes your loyal pawn. And
the way to seduce others is to operate on their individual
psychologies and weaknesses. Soften
up the resistant by working on their emotions, playing on wh
at they hold dear and what they
fear. Ignore the hearts and minds of others and they will
grow to hate you.

Law 44
Disarm and Infuriate with the Mirror Effect

The mirror reflects reality, but it is also the perfe
ct tool for deception: When you mirror your
enemies, doing exactly as they do, they cannot figure out
your strategy. The Mirror Effect
mocks and humiliates them, making them overreact. By h
olding up a mirror to their psyches,
you seduce them with the illusion that you share their v
alues; by holding up a mirror to their
actions, you teach them a lesson. Few can resist the
power of Mirror Effect.

Law 45
Preach the Need for Change, but Never Reform too much at Once

Everyone understands the need for change in the abstract
, but on the day-to-day level people are
creatures of habit. Too much innovation is traumatic, an
d will lead to revolt. If you are new to a
position of power, or an outsider trying to build a power b
ase, make a show of respecting the old
way of doing things. If change is necessary, make it fe
el like a gentle improvement on the past.

Law 46
Never appear too Perfect

Appearing better than others is always dangerous, but most da
ngerous of all is to appear to have
no faults or weaknesses. Envy creates silent enemies
. It is smart to occasionally display defects,
and admit to harmless vices, in order to deflect envy and appe
ar more human and approachable.
Only gods and the dead can seem perfect with impunity.

Law 47
Do not go Past the Mark you Aimed for; In Victory, Learn whe
n to Stop

The moment of victory is often the moment of greatest
peril. In the heat of victory, arrogance
and overconfidence can push you past the goal you had aimed f
or, and by going too far, you
make more enemies than you defeat. Do not allow success
to go to your head. There is no
substitute for strategy and careful planning. Set a goal, a
nd when you reach it, stop.

Law 48
Assume Formlessness

By taking a shape, by having a visible plan, you open yoursel
f to attack. Instead of taking a form
for your enemy to grasp, keep yourself adaptable and on the mo
ve. Accept the fact that nothing
is certain and no law is fixed. The best way to protec
t yourself is to be as fluid and formless as
water; never bet on stability or lasting order. Every
thing changes.

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