The 50th Law Summary and Quotes

Here’s my summary of the book 50th Law by Robert Greene and a few of my favorite quotes:

Ch. 1 – Intense Realism

Don’t waste time on fantasy world – the ideal world that we wish existed, the way the world ought to be. Thinking like this is like living in a permanent denial. We must accept that the world is what it is (unjust, unfair). This does not mean agreeing, and doing nothing, but rather, not being in denial about the cold objective truth that the world really is as it is. We must accept that the world is currently like this and move ahead. It’s not worth the trouble to ponder about it. “It sucks, yes, but that’s how it is. What can I do about it?” Just as Josh Waitzkin had to face some Tai Chi practitioners who were cheating, instead of wasting time thinking that they should not be like that being disgusted and angry, he using his energy on thinking of ways to win them (not by cheating but by using their own anger against themselves) – which he did and ended up Tai Chi champion.

“The firmer your grasp on reality, the more power you will have to alter it for your purposes.”
― 50 Cent, The 50th Law

“If you find yourself confronting an unjust and corrupt system, it is much more effective to learn its codes from the inside and discover its vulnerabilities.”
― Robert Greene, The 50th Law

Ch. 2 – Self Reliance

Move forward towards being as independent as possible, towards being able to do the most important things on your own. Get through the phase of childhood dependency and stand on your own feet.

There’s only one like you. You are a chemical mixture of character characteristics that will never repeat itself in history. This singularity is rarely, however, so different from the others that it must be hidden. So we should not feel bad for expressing what we really are.

“True ownership can come only from within. It comes from a disdain for anything or anybody that impinges upon your mobility, from a confidence in your own decisions, and from the use of your time in constant pursuit of education and improvement. Only from this inner position of strength and self-reliance will you be able to truly work for yourself and never turn back.”

“A lower paying position that offers more room to make decisions and carve out little empires is infinitely preferable to something that pays well but constricts your movements.”
― Robert Greene, The 50th Law

Ch. 3 – Opportunism

For the universe there are no positive or negative events, they are all neutral. It is the way you look at them that gives them the positive or negative connotation. With this perspective, you should look at the events you would consider as negative, as containing an opportunity for something positive.

“Opportunism comes with a belief system that is eminently positive and powerful—one known to the Stoic philosophers of ancient Rome as amor fati, or love of fate. In this philosophy every event is seen as fated to occur. When you complain and rail against circumstances, you fall out of balance with the natural state of things; you wish things were different. What you must do instead is accept the fact that all events occur for a reason, and that it is within your capacity to see this reason as positive. Marcus Aurelius compared this to a fire that consumes everything in its path—all circumstances become consumed in your mental heat and converted into opportunities. A man or woman who believes this cannot be hurt by anything or anyone.”
― Robert Greene, The 50th Law

Ch. 4 – Keep moving

The universe is so full of chaos, that trying to control everything will make us crazy. It is best to accept this chaos and learn to guide ourselves through the confusion. Do not see moments of chaos with fear but with excitement of the possibility of new opportunities.

In this way you learn to be in constant motion. Walls are not barriers but only obstacles that you can work around and reveal an opportunity for improvement.

“Fear creates its own self-fulfilling dynamic – as people give into it, they lose energy and momentum. Their lack of confidence translates into inaction that lowers confidence levels even further, on and on.”
― Robert Greene, The 50th Law

Ch. 5 – Aggression

You must learn not to be afraid to confront people and be assertive, otherwise people not only take advantage of you but they come to perceive you as weak which makes them less fearful of beating you – by offering no resistance, you’re showing that you are weak and you are opening yourself up to be beaten.Like this kid.

Moreover, in the midst of such wickedness, if you will always do good, you will be confronted by the many who use evil. That is why we must know how to use evil when it is necessary. (Hm…. these are the words of a Sith!)

“Big words and promises mean nothing, only actions carry weight.”
― Robert Greene, The 50th Law

Ch. 6 – Authority

If you are a leader and you want to continue to be a leader you must continually prove that you deserve such a position. You continually act for a plan and you bring positive results. A leader must be a visionary with a plan. At the same time because of the human nature of wanting to share, it must have a unifying spirit, of trying to bring people together. You are able to make difficult and tough decisions, and not be afraid to be assertive. You must have a fearless attitude.

“Fears are a kind of prison that confines you within a limited range of action. The less you fear, the more power you will have and the more fully you will live.”
― 50 Cent, The 50th Law

Ch. 7 – Connection

The public is never wrong. The public is what it is. If they are not responding to what you are doing, they are telling you something very clearly.

One way to better reach your target audience is to eliminate the distance between you and them. Feel what they feel, be in the midst of them and go through the same things. You must take a stance of radical equality with the public. This means losing the fear of having your visions of the world attacked, and of seeing someone with different views and opinions as “the other.” Hidden attitudes usually transpire through body language and are difficult to hide. Hence the importance of being genuine.

“The goal in connecting to the public is not to please everyone or to spread yourself out to the widest possible audience. Communication is a power of intensity, not extensity and numbers. In trying to widen your appeal, you will substitute quantity for quality and will pay a price. You have a base of power – a group of people, small or large, which identifies with you.”

“To interact closely with the public and get its feedback might mean having to adjust your “brilliant” ideas, your preconceived notions.”
― Robert Greene, The 50th Law

Ch. 8 – Mastery

Take the tedium of battling the same thing until you become good at it. You need to have the ability to do tasks that are often repetitive, with effort to improve, and the boringness of seeing results very gradually.

There are two paths: 1) To let the reptilian brain make the decisions and enjoy the available immediate pleasures. 2) To create discipline and methods so that even when willpower is weak (when the reptilian takes over) we can keep on the path we planned.

Accept the reality that learning is a not beautiful process. It is boring, requires patience, stoic ability and navigating through distractions and temptations.

We are immersed in the day to day and we have difficulty managing the long periods of time to be good. In that day to day we are inundated by a myriad of distractions and temptations that at the moment are more attractive and make us lose sight of the long-term goal.

A good idea is to start with something simple and very gradually increase the size of the accomplishments so that the progress give us confidence that we are capable of doing what we want.

Finally have the end goal clear in mind to keep you motivated, for example by writing a 10 year plan.

“All human activities involve a process of mastery. You must learn the various steps and procedures involved, proceeding to higher and higher levels of proficiency. This requires discipline and tenacity—the ability to withstand repetitive activity, slowness, and the anxiety that comes with such a challenge.”
― Robert Greene, The 50th Law

Ch. 9 – Self Belief

Make the tough decisions. The ones you’ve been putting off for a long time.

Your opinion of yourself becomes your reality. If you feel helpless in the face of adversity, if you feel shaken by the tide and that you can’t do nothing about it, then that is what will happen, because whoever does not fight against the tide is taken by it.

Your identity is not something immutable and innate. Much of it has been shaped by the opinions and judgments of people with whom you crossed, opinions and judgments that are subjective and derived from their own projections on you.

It is frightening that we cannot understand someone, so we put people inside boxes, according to our perception of them. Sometimes, even though we do not know what box the person is in, we put them there in the hopes through our judgment and them wanting our approval, they put themselves inside it. The same was done to us, especially as children when we didn’t have our critical or argumentative ability developed. Over time we have come to identify ourselves as belonging to these boxes. Thus we must hold ourselves against the pressure of others to categorize us as we lose the unconventional parts of our character that make us into a unique blend that has never before or ever will be, and come out of the lukewarm conformity. We may lose some social acceptance, but only then can we create something unique and stand out. Only then can we give the extra to the ordinary.

The greatest fear people have is that of being themselves. They want to be 50 Cent or someone else. They do what everyone else does even if it doesn’t fit where and who they are. But you get nowhere that way; your energy is weak and no one pays attention to you. You’re running away from the one thing that you own – what makes you different.”
― 50 Cent, The 50th Law

Ch. 10 – The sublime

Occasionally we get haunted by the following question: what’s the point of working so much, reaching objectives at the expense of delaying the pleasures, if later on death cancels all our efforts, making everything a nihilistic Eden?

In the face of our mortality we can do 1 of 3 things. The first two are the ones we humans tend to do when we want to avoid the pain of facing death and the nihilistic sensation that it brings us.

1) The most primitive is to imagine that it never ends – religion. It gives meaning to our actions and calms our fears.

2) Nowadays we tend to avoid thinking about it, repressing any thought related to death, and the unsettling moments that surround it, clinging to the illusion that we have too much time and burying our heads in the moment, in routines and banal worries. From time to time we are reminded of death’s uncomfortable existence when someone close to us dies and when we are very sick and we have a visit to the hospital, but we generally drown death under the daily worries.

3) The least common one, but probably the most useful: Face and accept it by converting our consciousness of death into energy that spurs us forward. It is at this point that the proportion of the importance of things is set in black and white.

Ephemeral. Imagine a time centuries in the future or what has happened exactly where you are millions of years ago. Be aware that everything is in a state of flux and that nothing is permanent. Learn to see the beauty of all things that fade away. Experiencing this can lead us to an ecstatic feeling as opposed to contemplating the morbidity of contemplating death.

A scrape with death, a visit to the graveyard, or be remembered in some dramatic way from the brevity of our lives can have a therapeutic effect. Knowing the brevity of life and of our counted days instigates us to have a sense of urgency and mission in our lives. Many fearless people often get this insight through some traumatic experience. This insight energizes them to take full advantage of all actions.

We all share the same fleeting existence. This is ultimately, if nothing else, what binds us. See death as something you carry within you and from which you can not separate.

Look forward (not in the sense of wishing, but in the sense of imagining and facing it) to the final moment of your death and look at it as bravely as possible.

Death represents an end to our days and efforts in a definitive way. It is a moment that we face alone and where we leave behind everything that is unique to us, everything we know and have ever loved – a complete separation.

Let us learn to look at other people and see in the gleam of their eyes a flame extinguishing very slowly from a reservoir of finite fuel. The countdown has already begun and is unstoppable. With a lower or higher margin, the remaining value has already been established.

“When your time to die comes, as it will someday, you will not cringe and cry for more time, because you have lived well and have no regrets.”

“If we are afraid of death, then we are afraid of life.”
― Robert Greene, The 50th Law

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *