Robert Greene

Robert Greene

How to Use Humanity’s Flaws to Get Ahead


Although he is an author of six international bestsellers, Robert Greene believes words are overrated.

According to him, body language, facial expressions, and behavior are much more reliable sources of truthful information than words. Behaviorparticularly how to understand and use people’s weaknesses to achieve your goalsis what Robert Greene writes about it in his debut book The 48 Laws of Power. This book, just like his five others, draws upon famous historical figures to illustrate the conventions of human behaviour that he describes. Greene’s works on human behavior have influenced the ways that governments, militaries, and corporations conceptualize and use power and seduction to make decisions and influence populations.

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.

– Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

On their shoulders

For millennia, great thinkers and scholars have been working to understand the quirks of the human mind. Today, we’re privileged to put their insights to work, helping organizations to reduce bias and create better outcomes.

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First idea/legacy

According to Greene, power is amoralit is neither good nor evil.

This is the idea behind his first book, The 48 Laws of Power, which offers readers the opportunity to de-villainize power and repair their complex relationship to it. The next step is understanding the 48 rules of gaining and maintaining power in a workplace or other social setting.

This book has major implications for how we conceptualize power, and therefore how we behave in hierarchical institutions we participate in.

“When you show yourself to the world and display your talents, you naturally stir all kinds of resentment, envy, and other manifestations of cannot spend your life worrying about the petty feelings of others.”

― Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

For Greene, this idea came from a lifetime of reading history books. While working in Hollywood, Greene noticed parallels between today’s powerful elite and historical figures such as Alexander the Great and Thomas Edison. Greene began compiling information on the similarities he noticed, eventually distilling them into his 48 laws.

The idea that power is amoral teaches us that we should not resent those who are power-hungry, nor should we condemn ourselves when we remain powerless. We can, in fact, conceptualize power as something natural that everyone can attain through artful tactics, and thus learn to behave in ways that inflate our own.

“Do not leave your reputation to chance or gossip; it is your life's artwork, and you must craft it, hone it, and display it with the care of an artist.”

― Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

For example, if your boss waltzes into a meeting you’re running and interrupts you to interrogate you in front of your team of staff, you may suddenly feel small and powerless. If you see your coworker vying for a promotion by sucking up to the boss, you may feel resentful because you believe you deserve that promotion but lack the chutzpah of your pushy coworker. In both these instances, according to Greene, power is not your enemyyour relationship to it is. Instead of getting angry, you must work on your relationship to power by using the 48 laws to attain power tactfully.

The 48 Laws of Power has sold over 1.2 million copies in the United States alone and turned Greene into a household name. It is one of the most requested books in US prison libraries and it has even been banned in some prisons for fear of organizing inmates against power structures.

The book is said to be used as a Bible by career-driven people looking for power in the workplace. That being said, the book has also stirred controversy, as some readers criticize Greene for promoting manipulative and deceptive ways of achieving success. According to Greene, however, manipulation and deception are an inevitable part of human nature, and understanding that is an important step on the ladder of success.

“Understand: people will constantly attack you in life. One of their main weapons will be to instill in you doubts about yourself – your worth, your abilities, your potential. They will often disguise this as their objective opinion, but invariably it has a political purpose – they want to keep you down.”

― Robert Greene, The 50th Law

Second legacy

Seduction is a skill, and its artful execution can prove more important in a relationship than compatibility or chemistry.

When courting a love interest, many people look to factors such as compatibility or chemistry. Greene’s idea that the practice of artful seduction is just as or more important as chemistry affects how people may change their behavior when trying to attract a romantic partner.

Like The 48 Laws of Power, Greene came at his idea from mere observation of humanity over the course of his life. He even uses himself as his own subject, admitting that he used these tactics to attract his current partner, Anna Biller. The nine types of “seducers” he exposes are a product of his observations of relationship proceedings throughout his lifetime, and he characterizes himself as one of the nine.

“If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it. Your doubts and hesitations will infect your execution. Timidity is dangerous: Better to enter with boldness. Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.”

―Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

There are two main ideas behind the importance of seduction: the first is that if you are aware of how to seduce someone, you can use your knowledge to achieve your romantic goals. The second, and the flip side of the first, is that if you are aware of how seduction occurs, you can be on guard and avoid falling prey to others’ use of the tactics.

Like the “bad boy” character you see on TV, emotionally unavailable partners are often master manipulators and smooth seductors. Some women are too often attracted to these types of people: think of someone proclaiming, “Why do I always go for the wrong type of guy?” Greene preaches the importance of being aware of the art of seduction, so that you can stop yourself before falling prey to these charming seducers, and choose someone better off for you in the long run.

“Grand strategy is the art of looking beyond the present battle and calculating ahead. Focus on your ultimate goal and plot to reach it.”

―Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

Understanding the art of seduction has had both positive and negative effects. While the book can help innocent hopeless romantics be more aware of how “bad boys” may try to seduce them, it may also reinforce and encourage the bad behaviors of the seducers themselves. Neil Strauss’s The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, an investigative book examining pickup artistry, cites Greene’s ideas as some of the leading ones in the pickup artist community (a community of people disguised as dating coaches who use manipulative tactics to achieve sexual success with women, mostly through the Internet).

“Lord, protect me from my friends; I can take care of my enemies.”

― Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

Like his other ideas and written works, The Art of Seduction faces criticism for promoting deceitful and manipulative ideals. Greene cannot argue with this fact, but rather maintains that understanding the natural manipulation to which humans are prone can help us better understand each other and achieve our goals.

In regard to her neglectful parents and a subsequent series of unhealthy relationships with men, Comedian Whitney Cummings recently told Robert Greene on her podcast, “You are my father. You raised me. Your work undid all my dysfunctional programming. Everything I have I believe I have because of you.”

“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.”

―Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

Historical biography

Robert Greene grew up in a Jewish household in Los Angeles. He began his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley, and finished at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he studied classical studies.

Greene always dreamed of being a writer and worked an estimated 80 other jobs before achieving any success. In his early writing days, he worked in Hollywood where he began to first notice and think about the importance of power. While working at the Italian art and media school Fabrica, Greene met book packager Joost Elffers, who asked him if he had any book ideas.

“There is too little mystery in the world; too many people say exactly what they feel or want.”

―Robert Greene, The Art of Seduction

On the spot, Greene pitched the idea behind his most well-known book, The 48 Laws of Power. He’d been inspired by the way he saw Hollywood celebrities gain and maintain their power, and he’d been reminded of many other powerful historical figures he’d read about in the past.

This book was his “big break”. Elffers offered to take care of Greene for six months while he completed a treatment of the book, which was then published by Viking Press in 1998.

Celebrities, particularly rappers such as Jay Z, Kanye West, and Drake have referred to The 48 Laws of Power in their music, and 50 Cent even collaborated with Greene on a follow-up book entitled The 50th Law.

Greene’s work has been featured in The New York Times, CNN, The New Yorker, USA Today, and the Huffington Post, to name a few. He’s spoken multiple times at both TED and Google events and he has been interviewed on a variety of podcasts.

“Hide your intentions not by closing up (with the risk of appearing secretive, and making people suspicious) but by talking endlessly about your desires and goals-just not the real ones.”

―Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power


Books and other content

The 48 Laws of Power: Published in 1998, this debut book of Robert Greene’s details the importance of power, and how to “ammoralize” your conception of it. In other words, power, he argues, is not something to which moral value can be attached. Rather, power is a neutral facet of life that can be artfully attained using his 48 rules.

The Art of Seduction: In this book, Robert Greene describes how people tactfully seduce others and argues that chemistry/compatibility are not as key to romantic relationship success as we may believe. It describes nine different types of seducers and offers tips both for how to seduce others as well as how to recognize these tactics in potential partners.

The 33 Strategies of War: This book draws on the military wisdom of figures such as Margaret Thatcher and Alfred Hitchcock and applies this wisdom to how we deal with workplace and relationship conflict in our daily lives. It offers both offensive and defensive strategies that are used explicitly in war, and subtly in our daily social interactions, allowing us to become more aware of how we choose to react to our own and others’ behavior.

The 50th Law: The 50th Law, written collaboratively by Greene and 50 Cent, details how the concept of fearlessness impacted 50 Cent’s early days in the music industry. In Greene’s traditional style, it draws upon the examples of historical figures to analyze how fearlessness functions for successful people.

Mastery: This book examines people who are masters of their craft, including the Wright brothers, Darwin, and Thomas Edison, asking and answering the question, “What traits led these people to become masters?”

The Laws of Human Nature: Greene’s most recent book, published in 2018, examines people’s conscious and unconscious drives, motivations, and cognitive biases, and how these typical patterns of human thought influence and fault our decision-making skills. In his lecture at Google, Greene explores these ideas in great detail.

Podcast interview with Whitney Cummings: This podcast interview takes a storytelling approach to Greene’s works. Comedian Whitney Cummings expresses her deep gratitude for Greene’s work and its impact on her life and goes into deep conversation with Greene about real-life examples of many of his theories that have shown up in her life.

TedTalk: In Greene’s 2013 TedTalk, he describes what he sees as “the key to transforming yourself.” According to him, spirituality and therapy are not as transformative experiences as throwing yourself into work. Greene details his own unpredictable life path as an adult and how throwing himself into work has always aided his mental wellbeing as well as his growth and development.


  1. Cummings, Whitney. Ep #54: ROBERT GREENE | Good For You Podcast with Whitney Cummings. Performance by Robert Greene, YouTube, Good For You Podcast, 5 Nov. 2020,
  2. Greene, Robert, and Joost Elffers. The Art of Seduction. Penguin Books, 2014.
  3. Greene, Robert. The Laws of Human Nature | Robert Greene | Talks at Google. YouTube, Google, 8 July 2019,
  4. “Home: The Blog of Robert Greene.” Power, Seduction and War, 3 Oct. 2018,
  5. “Robert Greene (American Author).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Nov. 2020,
  6. “The Art of Seduction.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Nov. 2020,
  7. “The 48 Laws of Power.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 26 May 2020,
  8. “The Key to Transforming Yourself -- Robert Greene at TEDxBrixton.” Performance by Robert Greene, YouTube, TEDxBrixton, 23 Oct. 2013,

About the Authors

Dan Pilat's portrait

Dan Pilat

Dan is a Co-Founder and Managing Director at The Decision Lab. He is a bestselling author of Intention - a book he wrote with Wiley on the mindful application of behavioral science in organizations. Dan has a background in organizational decision making, with a BComm in Decision & Information Systems from McGill University. He has worked on enterprise-level behavioral architecture at TD Securities and BMO Capital Markets, where he advised management on the implementation of systems processing billions of dollars per week. Driven by an appetite for the latest in technology, Dan created a course on business intelligence and lectured at McGill University, and has applied behavioral science to topics such as augmented and virtual reality.

Sekoul Krastev's portrait

Dr. Sekoul Krastev

Sekoul is a Co-Founder and Managing Director at The Decision Lab. He is a bestselling author of Intention - a book he wrote with Wiley on the mindful application of behavioral science in organizations. A decision scientist with a PhD in Decision Neuroscience from McGill University, Sekoul's work has been featured in peer-reviewed journals and has been presented at conferences around the world. Sekoul previously advised management on innovation and engagement strategy at The Boston Consulting Group as well as on online media strategy at Google. He has a deep interest in the applications of behavioral science to new technology and has published on these topics in places such as the Huffington Post and Strategy & Business.

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