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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2004
I am not earning over a million bucks a year so I might not be qualified to judge the value of the book. However, as somebody in his late thirties and always stuck in the middle of world class big corps, I can tell just knowing the laws can greatly improve your ability to defend against arrows shooting at your back.
For your easy reference, the laws are:-
1. Never outshine the master
2. Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies
3. Conceal your intentions
4. Always say less than necessary
5. So much depends on reputation - guard it with your life
6. Court attention at all cost
7. Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit
8. Make other people come to use - use bait if necessary
9. Win thru your actions, neer thru argument
10. Infection: Avoid the unhappy and unlucky
11. Learn to keep people dependent on you
12. Use selective honesty and generosity to disarm your victim
13. When asking for help, appeal to people's self interest, never to their mercy or gratitude
14. Pose as a friend, work as a spy
15. Crush your enemy totally
16. Use absence to increase respect and honor
17. Keep others in suspended terror: cultivate an air of unpredictability
18. Do not build fortresses to protect yourself - isolation is dangerous
19. Know who you are dealing with - do not offend the wrong person
20. Do not commit to anyone
21. Play a sucker to catch a sucker - seem dumber than your mark
22. Use the surrender tactic: transform weakness into power
23. Concentrate your forces
24. Play the perfect courtier
25. Re-create yourself
26. Keep your hands clean
27. Play on people's need to believe to create cultlike following
28. Enter action with boldness
29. Plan all the way to the end
30. Make your accomplishments seem effortless
31. Control the options: get others to play with the cards you deal
32. Play to people's fantasies
33. Discover each man's thumbcrew
34. Be royal in your own fashion; act like a king to be treated like one
35. Master the art of timing
36. Disdain things you cannot have: ignoring them is the best revenge
37. Create compelling spectacles
38. Think as you like but behave like others
39. Stir up waters to catch fish
40. Despise the free lunch
41. Avoid stepping into a great man's shoes
42. Strike the shepherd and the sheep with scatter
43. Work on the hearts and minds of others
44. Disarm and infuriate with the mirror effect
45. Preach the need for change, but never reform too much at once
46. Never appear too perfect
47. Do not go past the mark you aimed for: in victory, learn when to stop
48. Assume formlessness
I hope you wont find the above "laws" too repugnant. Anyway, this book is well written with plenty of lively and interesting examples or stories. An excellent read for both leisure and self improvement, I must say. Highly recommended.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2004 something for nothing.
Yes, it is possible to achieve financial success and political power using the laws in this book, but at what cost? I have read extensively on the principles that successful, powerful people both past and present have used to access power. The greatest people of all time have realized that unlike what Mr. Greene suggests, real, sustainable power comes from within--it cannot be had be had through the manipulation of external conditions, i.e. effects not causes. The most powerful people (some who used their power for good, others for not so good), accessed the power we all have WITHIN us.
My analysis has demonstrated to me that the only people who are able to become very powerful in business, politics and socially and yet still have excellent health, great relationships and above all PEACE OF MIND, accessed the power within.
I believe that all those who want to rise to positions of power and authority (and enjoy the associated benefits of such) yet still maintain good friendships, good marriages, have good health and peace of mind, should spend more time accessing the power within because this is the only power than enables one to "have it all".
This book was good because it enables those who live by certain ethical principles to identify and protect themselves against those ideas that are discussed (and very likely used) by many readers of this book.
I would recommend reading Joseph Murphy's book Power of The Subconscious Mind for a better understanding of the true source of power.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2004
In one's life, you're better off following the teachings of Moses, Jesus, or Buddha to gain long-term happiness. But the sad fact is, many people live by a very different set of rules, and while most of these folks eventually self-destruct, they can inflict severe damage on our personal and professional lives in the process.
48 Rules of Power is a good primer for learning how these people think. I've spotted a number of similar books in the Business section (like "Career Warfare" and classics like the "Art of War") of my local bookseller, but none put things quite as succinctly as this one. In today's predatory work culture, with good jobs (read: jobs that let you own a home and pay all the bills month to month with a little left over) becoming harder and harder to find, you almost certainly will be the target of these techniques at some point. A friend once made an innocent and extraordinarily minor faux pas at an office Christmas party, and had a homicidal CEO attempt to destroy his future using methods as varied as slander and identity theft, all done through middle manager proxies to keep his own hands clean. You need to read books like these to know how too many people at the top think. But don't live out some of these rules in real life (e.g., crush your enemy completely) - there'll always be someone who does it better, and you will get crushed. Martha Stewart got hers, so don't think you're going to smash people and live to tell the tale. Reality simply doesn't work that way - and even if you survive professionally, the spiritual rot and personal decay will leave you an isolated, paranoid wreck. Read this book in the spirit of C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, in which a master demon gives advice to a protege on how to destroy mortals. Learn how to spot people who live like this - and then stay very, very far away. Jesus said, "Be wise as serpents but innocent as doves." This book, read in the right spirit, will help you with both.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2007
This title makes you pump your fist and feel like Caeser in his prime. An alternate title could be the Devil's Guide to Success. Anyone who has ever felt tired of being manipulated and played by smooth words (and discovering it far too late), will tear through these pages. It is a clear bombshell into analyzing effective influence and deception, via lessons learned from recent to centuries past. Psychological warfare in the business world is a very real thing, and you can either uses the tools to your advantage, or get taken to the cleaners. The choice is yours, and this book will break down every facet in great detail. The author writes with good intentions, and arms you with protecting yourself from being a victim, and selectively using the skills to your advantage.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2004
In our world of political correctness and appearances, where society is depicted as fair, democratic, at times altruistic and transparent, the reality of the situation is far different. And as Greene proposes, no one wants to be seen as power hungry, and those that do, are generally scorned. Power is a game. And to play this game successfully, duplicity is the key: to win power, we must, on the surface, at least appear to be fair, altruistic and transparent, however we must scheme, manipulate, deceive, charm and seduce, if we are to get what we achieve power, as Napoleon suggested, we should use an iron fist with a velvet glove, smiling as we stab our opponents in the back. Attaining power is war, though according to Greene, a civilized war.
Any person with an essential good nature should find this book a little disturbing. The message from Greene is clear - living the virtuous life is the road to failure and powerlessness. Appealing to the better angels of our natures is a lost cause and will get us nowhere but the bottom of the food chain. In other words, "nice guys finish last." The only way to the top is through treachery, seduction, observing others' weaknesses to then play on those weaknesses to your advantage. Greene's advice is basically a negative strategy to power and success. And to be sure, there are other positive strategies out there to attain power and success without resorting to deception and covert manipulation. But none are presented here.
That said, understanding the 48 laws presented here, at least will make us aware of the depths some people will go to in order to get what they desire. In this regard, this text is worth the time, energy and money.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2013
Once again, I listened to the book on my Android phone and after many hours of meditation, I’m still not sure whether the author wanted us to absorb his message literally or if he was highlighting the absurd.

Mr. Greene tries to teach us how to obtain power by cunning, manipulation and lying. He states his 48 laws of power and then uses historical examples to show a “transgression of the law” and an “observance of the law.” The historic examples are taken from three thousand years of history from leaders of ancient China and Greece to our present days. Many of the stated laws are distilled from the teachings of well known philosophers such as Machiavelli, Sun-tzu and a few others.

I belief that Mr. Green purposely showed the most shrewd ways to gain power and ignored the many ways that people can obtain power by honesty, by giving, by showing gratitude and by serving others; the bookstores are already full of those books. Mr. Green found a fantastic way to differentiate himself in a crowded market.

It is my believe that obtaining power by deceit and cunning is way more difficult than obtaining power by honesty and by a desire to help others. At a given moment, the mask becomes too heavy to carry and if you manage to carry it all the time, you obtain power by giving up your true self. It is not different from the professional who becomes rich by working so many hours that he never gets to enjoy his wealth. Is it worth it?

All that being said some laws make perfect sense:

“5. So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it with your Life.” This is my own interpretation of the law: You might be loyal to your spouse all you life, but it only takes one incident of infidelity in order to destroy your reputation as a faithful spouse.

“9. Win through your actions, never through argument.” This one is self evident, every action that we take speaks louder than words.

Some of the laws totally disgusted me. Here are two examples.

“7. Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit.” This law it way too common in the corporate and politics world. Sure, this law helps us obtain power, but do we feel good about ourselves?

“14. Pose as a friend, work as a spy.” People pose as your friend just to find out what you are doing, how they can take advantage of you and how they can betray you when the time is right. This is what Mr. Greene teaches us to do.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. The writing is delicious and I recommend it even if I don’t agree with most of the content. The book is entertaining and a great history lesson.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2003
This must have been my most disappointing buy of these last few years. Greene's techniques are all focussed on using people's weaknesses, on creating confusion and being selective with the truth (lying). I find his approach negative and the book depressing. To create win-win situations and be a lasting leader, better read 'Getting to Yes' by Roger Fisher and William Ury. Follow Greene's advice and you might be in power but not admired and with very few friends...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2004
Robert Greene has done an excellent job of distilling how power works at the macro level, among great generals, statesmen, larger-than-life seducers, and even top CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. But most of us do not experience power in the way that is presumed by these examples. Most of us experience a much more fluid, shifting, and consensus-based form of power among people whom we must work with over and over again over many years and cannot afford to treat as disposable. This book is of limited value for understanding power in such normal, everyday situations where those exercising power lack the ability to behead, poison, or even to fire those with whom they work.
The book works very well as a history of how absolute power has been accumulated, preserved, and lost. It works much less well as an set of instructions for how to exercise influence in a world where power is much more diffuse and unstable than it is in almost any of the examples that the author relies on as the basis for his "laws."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2004
If gaining power means using trickery, cunning and deceipt, then this book is the roadmap. In reading other reviews, I see that many are struck by the 'evil' that is obvioius in much of what Greene advocates here. He uses fascinating historical examples and quotations in support of his philosophies; like them or not, they lessons are hard to refute. It's just that they are distasteful. This is a cynical book. But there is a fine line between being cynical and realistic: this book is both. Five stars for depth, research, and an interesting take on the darker side of humanity; that doesn't mean you have to adopt it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2014
Never thought I would go out of my way to post a negative review but damn, this book was terrible. I don't really mind the 'self-help for bro' genre so I really went into this with an open mind. Turns out it consists of a series of boring and useless anecdotes.

Literally the formula for each 'Law' is as such:
1. Anecdotes in which using said law was effective.
2. Anecdotes in which using said law was ineffective.

Re-titles this trite as '48 Things You Should Do To Get Power, Except When You Shouldn't.'
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