You know your book was actionable when it gets banned from prisons as a safety precaution.
With over 1.2 million copies sold in the U.S. since its first publication in 1998, Robert Greene’s debut book "The 48 Laws Of Power" has had a divisive response from day one. Sometimes referred to as “the sociopath’s bible”, its success spawned a series of listicle-on-steroids sequels, including The Art Of Seduction, The Laws Of Human Nature, and The 33 Strategies Of War (Another publication banned in some prisons).
In a 2012 interview with The Guardian, Greene stated his motivation for The 48 Laws Of Power was “to demystify the dirty tricks of the executives he encountered during a dispiriting period as a Hollywood screenwriter.”
Clearly, the book’s content struck a chord with celebrities, who never want to waste valuable time. Jay-Z has referenced the work in song lyrics. Calvin Harris has law number 28 — “Enter with boldness” — tattooed on his arm. And before vertical-video startup Quibi went up in flames, an adaptation of the book into a series with Drake as executive producer had been given the green light. The bestseller became so prevalent in rap circles in the mid-2000’s that The New Yorker coined Greene “Hip hop’s Machiavelli”.
As entrepreneurs, we must be privy to the dynamics of persuasion and influence. These six laws of power in particular are ones you’ll want to know like the back of your hand.
Law 9: “Win Through Actions, Never Through Argument”
Instead of endlessly pitching yourself, your product, or results you’ve never actually accomplished yourself… walk your talk instead.
To land your message more deeply with an audience, explore ways to demonstrate and show your point rather than argue it. Our brains process visual information 90,000 times faster than text, with imagery registering in our minds after just 14 milliseconds, according to research from MIT. Nothing that comes from the human tongue will ever be able to match this speed.
The literary device version of this law is “Show, don’t tell.” This is one of the most productive 48 Laws of Power quotes, and appeals to many a serious thinker who doesn't want to waste valuable time.
Important:Never tell that which you can show instead.
Law 10: “Infection: Avoid The Unhappy And Unlucky”
As the saying goes, you are the average of the five people you surround yourself with the most. Envy creates silent enemies; to cultivate mental pace, choose your social circles with care.
Unhappy, complaining-centric people are like entrepreneur kryptonite and will sink your spirit rapidly. This is especially important if you spend most of your day around non-entrepreneurs. Occupy your mind with quality brain food from those who walk the talk. Nothing sidelines an aspiring entrepreneur faster than a peanut gallery of naysayers — distance yourself from misery and victim mentalities.
Important:Take care of the company you keep.
Law 13: “Appeal to People’s Self-Interest, Never Their Mercy or Gratitude”
As you develop content, a product, or an offer, always be asking yourself “Why would people care about this?”
- Why make your own bone broth instead of buying it from a store?
- Why set up an email list instead of dick around on Instagram?
- Why care?
Outline for your consumers not only why they should care, but also what’s in it for them.
Your readers aren’t egomaniacs. It’s the human condition and we can’t help ourselves; we want to read that which can help us feel fulfilled or move our personal interests forward.
Add context around what people will get out of reading, watching, or listening to your content and you’ll find it much easier to hold someone’s attention.
Important:Outline not only why readers should care, but also what’s in it for them.
Law 18: “Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself–Isolation Is Dangerous”
Here’s something no one tells you about entrepreneur life: It gets lonely real quick. It’s a loneliness that is simultaneously kind of shaming, because you theoretically have freedom, creative autonomy, and the ability to create whatever income you choose… so you should be happy and fulfilled all the time, right?
As you chug along with the grind, a trusted network will not only help you keep your sanity, but also provide a valuable sounding board. The mind is a dangerous place — don’t go there alone.
It’s rare for an entrepreneur to get everything right on the very first try. Missteps are guaranteed, and having confidantes can help you get out of your head and back into action. Resilience is a virtue.
Important:The mind is a dangerous place — don’t go there alone.
Law 23: “Concentrate Your Forces”
A lack of focus has killed off millions of brilliant business ideas over the years. Ensure that your efforts actually move you closer to your goals.
One process I like is the 1–1–1 framework, which I first learned from business coach Rachel Rodgers. In it, you focus your efforts on the following:
- One promotional platform.
- One sales mechanism.
- One offer or sequence of offers that results in a transformation.
In switching to a 1–1–1 framework, I have fewer decisions to make and fewer excuses to choose from. My decisions actually move my business forward.
Also, as it turns out, I actually like funnels. I just hate most funnel marketers.
Important:The more you clarify your focus, the less often distraction will derail your efforts.
Law 41: “Avoid Stepping Into a Great Man’s Shoes”
It’s good to study other content creators and entrepreneurs. But if you spend all your time attempting to mimic the success of other people, your North star will become more about trail following than trailblazing.
Ask yourself these questions to stay unique.
- How can what you offer be better or more relevant?
- How is working with you different or unique?
- What problems does your market have that go on unsolved?
As Sally Hogshead says: “Different is better than better”.
Tons of people sell what I sell and write about what I write about. If I try to be just like them… it’s game over. When I’m myself, the rules can shift in my favor. Clarify how your approach is different or unique and you’ll have an easier time slicing through the online noise.
Important:Follow trails to learn the ropes. Then get out there and blaze your own.
Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws Of Power is not a light read. But its lessons from history give critical insights on influence and persuasion, which are imperative if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur.
Dial in your power generators, make the necessary adjustments, and you’ll find yourself better positioned for success both now and in the future.
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