His book the 48 Laws of Power has sold millions of copies all over the world.
The Laws of Human Nature
His book Mastery is now a classic for anyone pursuing a craft and a calling. All of that work has culminated in a masterwork called The Laws of Human Nature , which has just been released. We sat down with Robert and interviewed him in person about the book. Why in person?
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Because Robert is fighting to recover from a serious stroke that has currently left him without the use of his left hand and leg. One thing I learned is that it was an excruciating book to write because people are so complicated and so complex that whenever I wrote something and came upon an idea, I almost instantly could think of exceptions — I know this could be that or it could be this. We live in a computerized age where everything is about algorithms and formulas, but people are so much more complex than any machine or any computer.
Every person is so different and complicated and we tend to simplify them. We simplify human behavior.
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We think of everything going back to a single cause — they did this because of that. We turn people into cartoons or caricatures, but everybody comes from an extremely unique place in life. If you add in all the variables — they were born in a particular moment in history, in a particular social class with particular parents who have their own weirdness from their own parents and then they meet all of these people who have an effect upon them.
No two people are the same. But that altered. That was sort of the main thing that I discovered. I wanted to really understand why. So for instance—when it comes to narcissism—we tend to think of narcissists in a particular way. We think of them as people who are in love with themselves or who are just sort of wrapped up in their own world. Then we have our diagnosis of them. Every single human being is a narcissist by our nature. We cannot help it.
And so I wanted to see why that is. I wanted to see what the roots of it are.
The Natural Law Tradition in Ethics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
But the idea of having a self and your relationship to yourself and how that defines you is much more complicated than just the superficial way we label people as narcissists. The Stoics talk about our faculty for reasoning and the importance of logic and appealing to reason and the importance of reason, but obviously the theme of your book is just how irrational and unreasonable people are.
How do you reconcile that? I believe the Stoics express it similarly. The lower self is our animal nature, our primate nature. We descended from chimpanzees. And we tend to always want things to be easier to take the path of least resistance. Generally in life, we are slaves to our emotions. The faculty for reasoning and cognition is a totally separate part of the brain than where we process emotions. We never really know why we are angry. It comes from some unconscious place and so we have no way of analyzing it.
To be rational is an ideal. The world is this place that has existed for millions of years, billions of years. Life goes on.
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Everything changes and is impermanent , and my emotions have nothing to do with reality. So you want to be able to have the power to subtract your emotions. To become rational is an effort and an ideal. We tend to think of rational as cogito ergo —I think therefore I am. But humans who are truly rational are extremely rare. Socrates has this idea that he starts from a position of ignorance. Socrates began from a premise of ignorance. Well, how many people do you know personally that ever applied that form of rationality, to begin from a premise of ignorance?
In fact, I could be wrong. All of my ideas could be wrong.
Lesson 2: We all have both feminine and masculine traits and we should embrace them both.
I need to educate myself in every single instance. The moments of humans being rational are one out of a thousand. One of the things that Marcus Aurelius talks about a lot is understanding the people who drive you crazy. He even talks a lot about when someone does something to you, think about when you have done that to other people.
Indeed, the writer points out that each of us needs to get in touch with our masculine and feminine sides. We are oppressed by expectations to conform to certain norms that do not entirely suit us and which prevent us from blooming into complete humans. We can make these negative tendencies into the stuff of creativity, to improve ourselves, our relationships, and the world. No human exists in a vacuum—we are shaped by our relationships.
Greene argues that by getting to know human nature, we are not just learning how to advance socially for personal gain but also developing emotional intelligence that helps everyone. Ultimately, he believes, if we can see people more clearly, we can also accept them for who they are and become more adept at relating, making interactions less painful for all.
This does not preclude being aware of your uniqueness and your calling in life. Greene acknowledges what is good and evil in the human spirit, but he assigns our characteristics no ultimate value. Ultimately, he says, we are all formed by the conditions of our birth and all live in the shadow of our fear of death. But if we face facts and learn to act on what we observe, we can make greatness out of flaws. These included fashion and arts, but also physical combat.
Refusing to succumb to gender stereotypes made her one of the most fascinating public figures of her time. Men and women are different. Us males are usually better at focusing, zeroing in on something, and going after it. We want to separate the world into categories that make sense and neatly file everything in our brains.
Women, on the other hand, tend to be more pattern-focused. They like to collect, not just things, but information too, and weave it into a coherent web that connects. And yet, only when we embrace both our male and female tendencies as people can we reap the benefits of these different mental characteristics. Khaldun saw four types of generations, which repeat over and over.
They are all defined by certain trades and attitudes:. Future generations might even be global, as the world is more and more connected.
What generation are you a part of? How does it shape your life?