There are two types of people in this world. There are people who focus on the way the world should work and there are people who focus on the way the world actually works.
Those who focus on the way the world should work often find themselves suffering for it. They ignore human nature and get blindsided by other people. They look at the world with an idealistic lens and never get ahead because they don’t understand reality.
Those who know how the world actually works are the ones that get ahead because they understand what drives people, they know how to persuade, they know what to say and when to say it.
You don’t have to use power, persuasion, and strategy for evil purposes. Ironically, it’s the people who don’t learn how to use power, persuasion, and strategy that are doing both themselves and other people a disservice.
Persuasion helps bring people to your cause. On a subconscious level, people like playing social games, being seduced, and doing the indirect dance. We don’t always want to know how the sausage is made. We love our illusions.
Your inability to do that dance prevents people from being in your life or following you that would love to be there under the right circumstances. It also invites unnecessary strife and pain.
Enter Robert Greene.
Author of books like the 48 Laws of Power, Mastery, The Art of Seduction, and the Laws of Human Nature, his entire catalog is dedicated to showing you not only how the world works, but how to use it to your advantage.
I love his work because he shares truths about human nature without sugarcoating them. He doesn’t label these truths right or wrong. He simply shares how they work and gives recommendations on what you should do based on knowing them.
Let’s take a look at some of my favorite pieces of wisdom from one of my favorite writers of all time.
“Understand this: society wants to assign you a role. As soon as you accept that role, you’re doomed.”
You’ve been manipulated by society since you were a child to live certain life paths. They do this because they need to keep the majority of people in a position of weakness and complacency to maintain the current top-down structure of society.
You combat this by choosing yourself. You do what you want to do.
From Greene again:
“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 audience. Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define if for you. Incorporate dramatic devices into your public gestures and actions – your power will be enhanced and your character will seem larger than life.”
How do you get there?
Greene has a few recommendations:
In his Ted Talk, he talks about the journey that lead to him writing the 48 laws of power. He bounced around a ton of odd jobs, writing in different forms the whole time, and used his observations from those jobs as seeds for what would become the book.
“Think As You Like But Behave Like Others If you make a show of going against the times, flaunting your unconventional ideas and unorthodox ways, people will think that you only want attention 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.”
This is an interesting one for me. Oftentimes, I do share controversial opinions in my writing, on social media, and in public. Sometimes they even spill into personal conversations depending on who I’m talking to. But, I try to remind myself that some forums are better than others.
On the one hand, you’re trying to build this empire and you have a sort of evil master plan you’re working on. But you don’t talk about it. As much as I run my mouth online, I don’t spend much time in my personal life trying to convert people to my cause. I’m not an evangelist on a day to day basis.
Often, when you hear an opinion you disagree with or you’re around someone who has a worldview you don’t share, just smile, nod, and agree. Learn how to be a social chameleon. This doesn’t make you fake. It makes you smart. Some bears simply aren’t worth poking,
“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 to say something foolish.”
You ever notice how people seem to talk out of a sense of anxiety? Like they have to talk or else they’d be too uncomfortable to sit with the present moment?
Or how about someone who spots out at the mouth with all the appearances of confidence, but you can tell just how insecure they are? Or how about running across someone you thought was interesting, only to find out minutes later that you don’t want to be around them?
Think of all the little subconscious feelings you pick up when you’re listening to people talk and know that they’re reading you the exact same way.
It’s weird. You get the sense of gratification from talking, even though it can be a strategic fumble. Happens to me all the time. I’ll hear someone say something false and want to correct them. Someone will talk about an accomplishment that I know I can one up. I’ll have this deep philosophical treatise I want to share with a group.
But nine times out of ten it’s just better to shut the fuck up.
Why? So you can listen. You can pick up so much more information when you’re not concerned with your own words. People will tell you what they want if you just listen. You’ll be able to see them for who they really are if you pay attention. You can stay in their good graces by, not faking, but modeling yourself as best you can to the traits they like.
All of this is easier if you’re not distracted by your own mouth.
“Never Appear Too Perfect. Appearing better than others is always dangerous, but most dangerous 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 appear more human and approachable. Only gods and the dead can seem perfect with impunity.”
Who do sports fans hate? The team that wins the championships every year. Who do kids in class despise? They know it all or Mr. or Ms. perfect.
Humans have a natural tendency to drag each other down, gossip, and feel envy. And the thing is, the psychological pull is so deep and it sits at such a subconscious level that people can’t help themselves.
This is going to sound cold, but it’s better to look at human beings not so much as having free-will, but people who think they have free will and respond to certain triggers. Standing out and appearing perfect will trigger people to dislike you, no matter how nice or well-intentioned they are.
You still want to thrive. You still want to be the best in your field and master your craft. And you can. It doesn’t take much to get rid of a perfect persona.
Look at my writing for example. I share stories about my own screw-ups on purpose because I know people hate self-important gurus that act like they have zero problems.
“Be wary of friends—they will betray you more quickly, for 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.”
I take this quote and use it as a broader approach for how to deal with people. I’m not Machiavellian. I just understand how people are. It’s strange to look at your friends and think they’ll betray you, especially when things are going well, but, you’ve been betrayed by friends before, haven’t you?
Friends, family, romantic partners, can lull you into a sense of complacency. You think they’re going to love you forever. But things change. The most severe pain comes when someone who once loved and cared for you does a complete 180 on you.
Is the moral of the story to never have any human connections? Obviously not. It’s to be more mindful of human nature, especially the dark elements of it. It’s to stop being naive when it comes to relationships, period.
You want to have multiple sets and types of alliances with people. You have to understand that there are different areas to bring certain people into. This quote comes to mind:
“Keep your friends for friendship, but work with the skilled and competent”
Be careful mixing friendship and business. Be mindful of the information you leak out. Remember the crabs in a barrel effect that drives human behaviors, even the people closest to you. Especially them.
“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.”
It’s hard to be persuasive, powerful, and strategic because you’re so prone to letting your own emotions drive your behavior. You can’t avoid feeling certain emotions because they’re snap judgments:
“You cannot repress anger or love, or avoid feeling them, and you should not try.”
But you can decide what to do with these emotions. Look at the society we live in right now filled with — outraged, emotionally driven, juvenile people. It’s a horrible time for them to live in, but a perfect time for those with enough emotional intelligence to see through the noise and take advantage while everyone is distracted with their petty little feelings.
That’s what emotions are, petty fleeting feelings. We just never notice how petty and fleeting they are because we feel them constantly.
I always try to ask myself whether or not my emotions and beliefs are useful. Are they going to help me get what I want? Will they make me a better leader, friend, or partner? Will I let my emotions destroy me or build a foundation by flipping them on their head — turning anger into purpose, envy into action, outrage into inward focus.
You can learn to control your emotions more by understanding that you can take control of your life in the long-run. If you keep your mouth shut in the short-term, work on your plan in silence in the short term, get along well with others in the short term, and play the societal role in the short term, you can have everything you want when it’s all said and done.
This leads me to my last and favorite quote.
“Always seem patient, as if you know everything you want is going to come to you eventually.”
Notice a theme here yet? You’re never too up or down, you’re just moving forward. You’re not overly preoccupied with the world or what others think, you’re following your plan.
When people ask, “how’s that thing going?” You smile politely and say “good.” You don’t get too much into it in public. You work in private. It doesn’t matter whether or not others think you can pull your dream off. You’re the only one who needs to believe that.
You’re not sitting passively. You just know the universe will eventually catch up to your efforts if you work on yourself, develop useful skills, and master the different elements of persuasion and social dynamics.
You need a ton of emotional restraint to pull any of this off, but these lessons are like a cheat code to life. Patience itself is a cheat code to life. Everyone else is frantic and stuck in hell or their short-term emotions running on a loop.
Be different. Sit back, plan, work, plot, obverse.
Then, when you ‘make it’ everyone around you will wonder how you did it, how you became successful overnight. You’ll know all the work you did to get there, but you won’t talk about that with other people. You’ll just continue on your journey with the quiet confidence that got you this far in the first place.