The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene Summary

This book is an attempt to gather together this immense storehouse of knowledge and ideas from different branches, to piece together an accurate and instructive guide to human nature, basing itself on the evidence, not on particular viewpoints or moral judgments.

The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene Summary

Introduction

"If you come across any special trait of meanness or stupidity… you must be careful not to let it annoy or distress you, but to look upon it merely as an addition to your knowledge—a new fact to be considered in studying the character of humanity. Your attitude towards it will be that of the mineralogist who stumbles upon a very characteristic specimen of a mineral." — Arthur Schopenhauer

What if we could truly fathom why people suddenly behave irrationally and reveal a much darker side to their character, or why they are always ready to provide a rationalization for their behavior, or why we continually turn to leaders who appeal to the worst in us? What if we could look deep inside and judge people’s character, avoiding the bad hires and personal relationships that cause us so much emotional damage?

Similarly, with ourselves, what if we could look within and see the source of our more troubling emotions and why they drive our behavior, often against our own wishes? What if we could understand why we are so compelled to desire what other people have, or to identify so strongly with a group that we feel contempt for those who are on the outside? What if we could find out what causes us to lie about who we are, or to inadvertently push people away?

With that awareness we would be able to break the negative patterns in our lives, stop making excuses for ourselves, and gain better control of what we do and what happens to us.

Having such clarity about ourselves and others could change the course of our lives in so many ways, but first we must clear up a common misconception: we tend to think of our behavior as largely conscious and willed. To imagine that we are not always in control of what we do is a frightening thought, but in fact it is the reality. We are subject to forces from deep within us that drive our behavior and that operate below the level of our awareness. We see the results—our thoughts, moods, and actions—but have little conscious access to what actually moves our emotions and compels us to behave in certain ways.

Look at our anger, for instance. We usually identify an individual or a group as the cause of this emotion. But if we were honest and dug down deeper, we would see that what often triggers our anger or frustration has deeper roots. It could be something in our childhood or some particular set of circumstances that triggers the emotion. We can discern distinct patterns if we look—when this or that happens, we get angry.

We could say something similar about a whole slew of emotions that we feel—specific types of events trigger sudden confidence, or insecurity, or anxiety, or attraction to a particular person, or hunger for attention.

Let us call the collection of these forces that push and pull at us from deep within human nature.

The survival of our earliest ancestors depended on their ability to communicate with one another well before the invention of language. They evolved new and complex emotions—joy, shame, gratitude, jealousy, resentment, et cetera. The signs of these emotions could be read immediately on their faces, communicating their moods quickly and effectively.

Our need to continually rank ourselves and measure our self-worth through our status is a trait that is noticeable among all hunter-gatherer cultures, and even among chimpanzees, as are our tribal instincts, which cause us to divide people into insiders or outsiders.

We can add to these primitive qualities our need to wear masks to disguise any behavior that is frowned upon by the tribe, leading to the formation of a shadow personality from all the dark desires we have repressed. Our ancestors understood this shadow and its dangerousness, imagining it originated from spirits and demons that needed to be exorcised. We rely on a different myth—“something came over me.”

To understand human nature, we can exploit the vast literature in psychology amassed over the last one hundred years, including detailed studies of childhood and the impact of our early development (Melanie Klein, John Bowlby, Donald Winnicott), as well as works on the roots of narcissism (Heinz Kohut), the shadow sides of our personality (Carl Jung), the roots of our empathy (Simon Baron-Cohen), and the configuration of our emotions (Paul Ekman). We can now cull the many advances in the sciences that can aid us in our self-understanding—studies of the brain (Antonio Damasio, Joseph E. LeDoux), of our unique biological makeup (Edward O. Wilson), of the relationship between the body and the mind (V. S. Ramachandran), of primates (Frans de Waal) and hunter-gatherers (Jared Diamond), of our economic behavior (Daniel Kahneman), and of how we operate in groups (Wilfred Bion, Elliot Aronson).

We can also include in this the works of certain philosophers (Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, José Ortega y Gasset) who have illuminated so many aspects of human nature, as well as the insights of many novelists (George Eliot, Henry James, Ralph Ellison), who are often the most sensitive to the unseen parts of our behavior. And finally, we can include the rapidly expanding library of biographies now available, revealing human nature in depth and in action.

This book is an attempt to gather together this immense storehouse of knowledge and ideas from different branches, to piece together an accurate and instructive guide to human nature, basing itself on the evidence, not on particular viewpoints or moral judgments.

If people take an action that seems out of character, you will take note: what often appears out of character is actually more of their true character.

The ability to gauge people’s true worth, their degree of loyalty and conscientiousness (hard work and orderliness), is one of the most important skills you can possess, helping you avoid the bad hires, partnerships, and relationships that can make your life miserable.

Instead of being weighed down by these encounters with toxic types, you might even come to appreciate them as a chance to hone your skills of self-mastery and toughen yourself up. Outsmarting just one of these toxic types will give you a great deal of confidence that you can handle the worst in human nature.

You will train yourself to discern their insecurities and never inadvertently stir them up. You will think in terms of their self-interest and the self-opinion they need validated.

Understanding the permeability of emotions, you will learn that the most effective means of influence is to alter your moods and attitude. People are responding to your energy and demeanor even more than to your words. You will get rid of any defensiveness on your part. Instead, feeling relaxed and genuinely interested in the other person will have a positive and hypnotic effect. You will learn that as a leader your best means of moving people in your direction lies in setting the right tone through your attitude, empathy, and work ethic.

Chapter 1

Master Your Emotional Self

Emotions are continually affecting our thought processes and decisions, below the level of our awareness. And the most common emotion of them all is the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain.

All other mental biases stem from our desire for pleasure.

Chapter 2

Transform Self-love into Empathy

Listen to people and repeat what they said or what you infer they mean (in your own words).

Question all information and look for things that disprove your bias.

Chapter 3

See Through People’s Masks

Try to be less narcissistic even though you are inherently narcissistic.

You are not more rational than others.

Ask open-ended questions.

Stay away from extreme narcissists.

In general the word role-playing has negative connotations. We contrast it with authenticity. A person who is truly authentic doesn’t need to play a role in life, we think, but can simply be him- or herself. This concept has value in friendships and in our intimate relationships, where, hopefully, we can drop the masks we wear and feel comfortable in displaying our unique qualities. But in our professional life it is much more complicated. When it comes to a specific job or role to play in society, we have expectations about what is professional. We would be made to feel uncomfortable if our airplane pilot suddenly started to act like a car salesman, or a mechanic like a therapist, or a professor like a rock musician. If such people acted completely like themselves, dropping their masks and refusing to play their roles, we would question their competence.

Life in the public sphere means wearing a mask, and sometimes some people wear the mask of “authenticity.” Even the hipster or the rebel is playing a role, with prescribed poses and tattoos.

People have more freedom to bring more of their personal qualities into the role they play once they have established themselves and their competence is no longer in question. But this is always within limits.

Some may refuse to play this game, but in the end they are marginalized and forced to play the outsider role, with limited options and decreasing freedom as they get older. In general, it is best to simply accept this dynamic and derive some pleasure from it. You are not only aware of the proper appearances you must present but know how to shape them for maximum effect. You can then transform yourself into a superior actor on the stage of life and enjoy your moment in the limelight.

Know how to seem likable, flash genuine smiles, use welcoming body language, and mirror the people they deal with. Know the dominance cues and how to radiate confidence. Know that certain looks are more expressive than words in conveying disdain or attraction.

Be a method actor. In method acting you train yourself to be able to display the proper emotions on command. You feel sad when your part calls for it by recalling your own experiences that caused such emotions, or if necessary by simply imagining such experiences.

Learn how to consciously put yourself in the right emotional mood by imagining how and why you should feel the emotion suitable to the occasion or performance you are about to give.

Create the proper first impression. It has been demonstrated how much people tend to judge based on first impressions and the difficulties they have in reassessing these judgments. Knowing this, you must give extra attention to your first appearance before an individual or group. In general, it is best to tone down your nonverbal cues and present a more neutral front. Too much excitement will signal insecurity and might make people suspicious. A relaxed smile, however, and looking people in the eye in these first encounters can do wonders for lowering their natural resistance.

Project saintly qualities. No matter what historical period we are living through, there are certain traits that are always seen as positive and that you must know how to display. For instance, the appearance of saintliness never goes out of fashion. Appearing saintly today is certainly different in content from the sixteenth century, but the essence is the same—you embody what is considered good and above reproach. In the modern world, this means showing yourself as progressive, supremely tolerant, and open-minded. You will want to be seen giving generously to certain causes and supporting them on social media. Projecting sincerity and honesty always plays well. A few public confessions of your weaknesses and vulnerabilities will do the trick. For some reason, people see signs of humility as authentic, even though people might very well be simulating them. Learn how to occasionally lower your head and appear humble. If dirty work must be done, get others to do it. Your hands are clean. Never overtly play the Machiavellian leader—that only works well on television. Use the appropriate dominance cues to make people think you are powerful, even before you reach the heights. You want to seem like you were destined for success, a mystical effect that always works.

Chapter 4

Determine the Strength of People’s Character

Watch people’s real feelings through their face and voice. Then analyze everything about them: clothes, inflection, how things are arranged on their desk, how they hold objects.

Watch out for bias when judging people and analyzing their true feelings. You will think that someone you don’t like or someone who reminds you of someone you don’t like will be hostile and you will potentially read their feelings as negative even when they’re not.

When choosing people to work and associate with, do not be mesmerized by their reputation or taken in by the surface image they try to project. Instead, train yourself to look deep within them and see their character. People’s character is formed in their earliest years and by their daily habits. It is what compels them to repeat certain actions in their lives and fall into negative patterns. Look closely at such patterns and remember that people never do something just once. They will inevitably repeat their behavior. Gauge the relative strength of their character by how well they handle adversity, their ability to adapt and work with other people, their patience and ability to learn. Always gravitate toward those who display signs of strength, and avoid the many toxic types out there. Know thoroughly your own character so you can break your compulsive patterns and take control of your destiny.

This is the blind spot in human nature: we are poorly equipped to gauge the character of the people we deal with.

  • We can easily be duped by appearances. Their public image, the reputation that precedes them, easily mesmerizes us.
  • Instead of determining people’s character—their ability to work with others, to keep to their promises, to remain strong in adverse circumstances—we choose to work with or hire people based on their glittering résumé, their intelligence, and their charm.
  • But even a positive trait such as intelligence is worthless if the person also happens to be of weak or dubious character.
  • And so, because of our blind spot, we suffer under the irresolute leader, the micromanaging boss, the conniving partner. This is the source of endless tragedies in history, our pattern as a species.
  • At all costs, you must alter your perspective. Train yourself to ignore the front that people display, the myth that surrounds them, and instead plumb their depths for signs of their character. This can be seen in the patterns they reveal from their past, the quality of their decisions, how they have chosen to solve problems, how they delegate authority and work with others, and countless other signs. A person of strong character is like gold—rare but invaluable. They can adapt, learn, and improve themselves.
  • Since your success depends on the people you work with and for, make their character the primary object of your attention.

The 3 layers of character

Our character determines our success or failure in life.

Layer 1

The earliest and deepest layer comes from genetics, from the particular way our brains are wired, which predisposes us toward certain moods and preferences. This genetic component can make some people prone to depression, for instance. It makes some people introverts and others extroverts. It might even incline some toward becoming especially greedy—for attention or privilege or possessions.

There might be other genetic factors as well that predispose us toward hostility or anxiety or openness.

Layer 2

The second layer, which forms above this, comes from our earliest years and from the particular type of attachments we formed with our mother and caregivers. In these first three or four years our brains are especially malleable. We experience emotions much more intensely, creating memory traces that are much deeper than anything that will follow. In this period of life we are at our most susceptible to the influence of others, and the stamp from these years is profound.

John Bowlby, an anthropologist and psychoanalyst, studied patterns of attachment between mothers and children and came up with four basic schemas: free/autonomous, dismissing, enmeshed-ambivalent, and disorganized. The free/autonomous stamp comes from mothers who give their children freedom to discover themselves and are continually sensitive to their needs but also protect them. Dismissing mothers are often distant, even sometimes hostile and rejecting. Such children are stamped with a feeling of abandonment and the idea that they must continually fend for themselves. The enmeshed-ambivalent mothers are not consistent with their attention—sometimes suffocating and overinvolved, other times retreating because of their own problems or anxieties. They can make their children feel as if they have to take care of the person who should be taking care of them. Disorganized mothers send highly conflicting signals to their children, reflecting their own inner chaos and perhaps early emotional traumas. Nothing their children do is right, and such children can develop powerful emotional problems.

The quality of attachment that we had in our earliest years will create deep tendencies within us, in particular the way we use relationships to handle or modulate our stress. For instance, children of the dismissing parent will tend to avoid any kind of negative emotional situation and to wall themselves off from feelings of dependency. They might find it harder to commit to a relationship or will unconsciously push people away. The children of the enmeshed variety will experience a great deal of anxiety in relationships and will feel many conflicting emotions. They will always be ambivalent toward people, and this will set noticeable patterns in their life in which they pursue people and then unconsciously retreat.

In general, from these earliest years people will display a particular tone to their character—hostile and aggressive, secure and confident, anxious and avoidant, needy and enmeshing.

These two layers are so deep that we have no real conscious awareness of them and the behavior they compel, unless we expend great effort in examining ourselves.

Layer 3

Above this a third layer will form from our habits and experiences as we get older.

Based on the first two layers, we will tend to rely on certain strategies for dealing with stress, looking for pleasure, or handling people.

These strategies now become habits that are set in our youth. There will be modifications to the particular nature of our character depending on the people we deal with—friends, teachers, romantic partners—and how they respond to us. But in general these three layers will establish certain noticeable patterns.

We will make a particular decision. This is engraved in our brains neurologically. We are compelled to repeat this because the path is already laid. It becomes a habit, and our character is formed out of these thousands of habits, the earliest ones set well before we could be conscious of them.

Layer 4 (The Disguise)

There is a fourth layer as well. It often is developed in late childhood and adolescence as people become aware of their character flaws. They do what they can to cover them up. If they sense that deep inside they are an anxious, timid type of person, they come to realize that this is not a socially acceptable trait. They learn to disguise it with a front. They compensate by trying to appear outgoing or carefree or even domineering. This makes it all the more difficult for us to determine the nature of their character.

Some character traits can be positive and reflect inner strength. For instance, some people have a propensity toward being generous and open, empathetic, and resilient under pressure. But these stronger, more flexible qualities often require awareness and practice to truly become habits that can be relied upon. As we get older, life tends to weaken us. Our empathy is harder to hold on to. If we are reflexively generous and open to everyone we meet, we can end up in a lot of trouble. Confidence without self-awareness and control can become grandiosity. Without conscious effort, these strengths will tend to wear down or turn into weaknesses. What this means is that the weakest parts of our character are the ones that create habits and compulsive behavior, because they do not require effort or practice to maintain.

Finally, we can develop conflicting character traits, perhaps stemming from a difference between our genetic predispositions and our earliest influences, or from parents who stamp in us different values. We might feel both idealistic and materialistic, the two parts fighting within us. The law remains the same. The conflicted character, which is developed in the earliest years, will merely reveal a different kind of pattern, with decisions that tend to reflect a person’s ambivalence, or that swing back and forth.

First you must come to understand your own character, examining as best you can the elements in your past that have gone into forming it, and the patterns, mostly negative, that you can see recurring in your life. It is impossible to get rid of this stamp that constitutes your character. It is too deep. But through awareness, you can learn to mitigate or stop certain negative patterns. You can work to transform the negative and weak aspects of your character into actual strengths. You can try to create new habits and patterns that go with them through practice, actively shaping your character and the destiny that goes with it.

People often try to cover up their weaknesses by presenting them as something positive. We see them brimming with self-confidence, only to later discover that they are actually arrogant and incapable of listening. They seem frank and sincere, but over time we realize that they are actually boorish and unable to consider the feelings of others. Or they seem prudent and thoughtful, but eventually we see that they are in fact timid at their core and afraid of the slightest criticism.

We come to believe that a person who has success must by nature be generous, intelligent, and good, and that they deserve everything they have gotten. But successful people come in all shapes. Some are good at using others to get where they have gotten, masking their own incompetence. Some are completely manipulative. Successful people have just as many character flaws as anyone else. Also, we tend to believe that someone who adheres to a particular religion or political belief system or moral code must have the character to go with this. But people bring the character they have to the position they occupy or to the religion they practice. A person can be a progressive liberal or a loving Christian and still be an intolerant tyrant at heart.

Character Signs

The most significant indicator of people’s character comes through their actions over time. Despite what people say about the lessons they have learned, and how they have changed over the years, you will inevitably notice the same actions and decisions repeating in the course of their life. In these decisions they reveal their character. You must take notice of any salient forms of behavior—disappearing when there is too much stress, not completing an important piece of work, turning suddenly belligerent when challenged, or, conversely, suddenly rising to the occasion when given responsibility. With this fixed in your mind, you do some research into their past. You look at other actions you have observed that fit into this pattern, now in retrospect. You pay close attention to what they do in the present. You see their actions not as isolated incidents but as parts of a compulsive pattern. If you ignore the pattern it is your own fault.

You must always keep in mind the primary corollary of this law: people never do something just once. They might try to excuse themselves, to say they lost their heads in the moment, but you can be sure they will repeat whatever foolishness they did on another occasion, compelled by their character and habits. In fact, they will often repeat actions when it is completely against their self-interest, revealing the compulsive nature of their weaknesses.

You can see eloquent signs of people’s character in how they handle everyday affairs. If they are late in finishing simple assignments, they will be late with larger projects. If they become irritated by little inconveniences, they will tend to crumble under larger ones. If they are forgetful on small matters and inattentive to details, they will be so on more important ones. Look at how they treat employees in everyday settings and notice if there are discrepancies between the persona they present and their attitude toward underlings.

In everyday life people can often do well at disguising their character flaws, but in times of stress or crisis these flaws can suddenly become very apparent. People under stress lose their normal self-control. They reveal their insecurities about their reputation, their fear of failure and lack of inner resilience. On the other hand, some people rise to the occasion and reveal strength under fire. There’s no way to tell until the heat is on, but you must pay extra attention to such moments.

Similarly, how people handle power and responsibility will tell you a lot about them. As Lincoln said, “If you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Many people suddenly feel entitled to treat others differently when they have the power. That is what happened to Lyndon Johnson once he attained a position of ultimate security in the Senate, as Senate majority leader. Tired of the years he had to spend playing the perfect courtier, he now relished the power he had to upset or humiliate those who had crossed him in the past.

People’s choice of spouse or partner says a lot about them. Some look for a partner they can dominate and control, perhaps someone younger, less intelligent or successful. Some choose a partner they can rescue from a bad situation, playing the savior role, another form of control. Yet others look for someone to fill the mommy or daddy role. They want more pampering.

For instance, a person has a tremendous fear of being abandoned by the one they love, reflecting anxieties from infancy, and so they select a person who is noticeably inferior in looks or intelligence, knowing that person will cling to them no matter what.

Another realm to examine is how people behave in moments away from work. In a game or sport they might reveal a competitive nature that they cannot turn off. They have a fear of being overtaken in anything, even when they are driving. They must be ahead, out in front. This can be channeled functionally into their work, but in off hours it reveals deep layers of insecurities. Look at how people lose in games. Can they do so graciously? Their body language will say a lot on that front. Do they try whatever they can to circumvent the rules or bend them? Are they looking to escape and relax from work or to assert themselves even in such moments?

It is important to determine if someone is an introvert or an extrovert for a simple reason: introverts and extroverts do not naturally understand each other. To the extrovert, the introvert has no fun, is stubborn, even antisocial. To the introvert, the extrovert is shallow, flighty, and overly concerned with what people think.

Sometimes introverts and extroverts can work well together, particularly if people have a mix of both qualities and they complement each other, but more often than not they do not get along and are prone to constant misunderstandings. Keep in mind that there are generally more extroverts than introverts in the world.

What makes a person’s character good? Strength that emanates from a feeling of personal security and self-worth. This allows such people to take criticism and learn from their experiences. This means they do not give up so easily, since they want to learn how to get better. They are rigorously persistent. People of strong character are open to new ideas and ways of doing things without compromising the basic principles they adhere to. In adversity they can retain their presence of mind. They can handle chaos and the unpredictable without succumbing to anxiety. They keep their word. They have patience, can organize a lot of material, and complete what they start. Not continually insecure about their status, they can also subsume their personal interests to the good of the group, knowing that what works best for the team will in the end make their life easier and better.

People of weak character begin from the opposite position. They are easily overwhelmed by circumstances, making them hard to rely upon. They are slippery and evasive. Worst of all, they cannot be taught because learning from others implies criticism. This means you will continually hit a wall in dealing with them. They may appear to listen to your instructions, but they will simply revert to what they think is best.

We are all a mix of strong and weak qualities, but some people clearly veer in one or the other direction. As much as you can, you want to work and associate with strong characters and avoid weak ones. This has been the basis for almost all of Warren Buffett’s investment decisions. He looks beyond the numbers to the CEOs he will be dealing with, and what he wants to gauge above all else is their resilience, their dependability, and their self-reliance. If only we used such measurements in those we hired, the partners we take in, and even the politicians we choose.

Although in intimate relationships there are certainly other factors that will guide our choices, strength of character should also be considered. This was largely what led Franklin Roosevelt to choose Eleanor as his wife. As a handsome young man of wealth, he could have chosen many other more beautiful young women, but he admired Eleanor’s openness to new experiences and her remarkable determination. Looking far into the future, he could see the value of her character mattering more than anything else. And it ended up being a very wise choice.

In gauging strength or weakness, look at how people handle stressful moments and responsibility.

Look at their patterns: what have they actually completed or accomplished?

You can also test people. For instance, a good-natured joke at their expense can be quite revealing. Do they respond graciously to this, not so easily caught up in their insecurities, or do their eyes flash resentment or even anger?

To gauge their trustworthiness as a team player, give them strategic information or share with them some rumor—do they quickly pass along the information to others? Are they quick to take one of your ideas and package it as their own?

Criticize them in a direct manner. Do they take this to heart and try to learn and improve, or do they show overt signs of resentment?

Give them an open-ended assignment with less direction than usual and monitor how they organize their thoughts and their time.

Challenge them with a difficult assignment or some novel way of doing something, and see how they respond, how they handle their anxiety.

Remember: weak character will neutralize all of the other possible good qualities a person might possess. For instance, people of high intelligence but weak character may come up with good ideas and even do a job well, but they will crumble under pressure, or they will not take to kindly to criticism, or they will think first and foremost of their own agenda, or their arrogance and annoying qualities will cause others around them to quit, harming the general environment. There are hidden costs to working with them or hiring them. Someone less charming and intelligent but of strong character will prove more reliable and productive over the long run. People of real strength are as rare as gold, and if you find them, you should respond as if you had a discovered a treasure.

Toxic Types

You cannot help or save anyone with poor character. Stay away from them.

1 The Hyperperfectionist

Such people often have dependency issues stemming from their family background, similar to Howard Hughes. Any feeling that they might have to depend on someone for something opens up old wounds and anxieties. They can’t trust anyone.

Their compulsive need to micromanage leads to people feeling resentful and secretly resistant, which is precisely what they fear the most.

Hyperperfectionists will often have health problems, as they work themselves to the bone.

2 The Relentless Rebel

At first glance such people can seem quite exciting. They hate authority and love the underdog. Almost all of us are secretly attracted to such an attitude; it appeals to the adolescent within us, the desire to snub our nose at the teacher. They don’t recognize rules or precedents. Following conventions is for those who are weak and stodgy.

But if you happen to associate with this type more closely, you will see that it is something they cannot control; it is a compulsion to feel superior, not some higher moral quality.

In their childhood a parent or father figure probably disappointed them. They came to mistrust and hate all those in power. In the end, they cannot accept any criticism from others because that reeks of authority. They cannot ever be told what to do. Everything must be on their terms.

3 The Personalizer

These people seem so sensitive and thoughtful, a rare and nice quality. They might seem a little sad, but sensitive people can have it rough in life. You are often drawn in by this air of theirs, and want to help. Also, they can appear quite intelligent, considerate, and good to work with. What you come to realize later on is that their sensitivity really only goes in one direction—inward. They are prone to take everything that people say or do as personal. They tend to brood over things for days, long after you have forgotten some innocuous comment that they have taken personally. As children, they had a gnawing feeling that they never got enough from their parents—love, attention, material possessions. As they get older, everything tends to remind them of what they didn’t get. They go through life resenting this and wanting others to give them things without their having to ask. They are constantly on guard—are you paying them attention, do you respect them, are you giving them what they paid for? Being somewhat irritable and touchy, they inevitably push people away, which makes them even more sensitive. At some point they start to have a look of perpetual disappointment.

You will see in their life a pattern of many falling-outs with people, but they will always see themselves as the wronged party. Do not ever inadvertently insult such a type. They have a long memory and can spend years getting back at you. If you can recognize the type early enough, it’s better to avoid them, as they will inevitably make you feel guilty for something.

4 The Drama Magnet

They will draw you in with their exciting presence. They have unusual energy and stories to tell.

They are fun to be around, until the drama turns ugly. As children, they learned that the only way to get love and attention that lasted was to enmesh their parents in their troubles and problems, which had to be large enough to engage the parents emotionally over time. This became a habit, their way of feeling alive and wanted. Most people shrink from any kind of confrontation, but they seem to live for it. As you get to know them better, you hear more stories of bickering and battles in their life, but they manage to always position themselves as the victim.

You must realize that their greatest need is to get their hooks into you by any means possible.

Stay far away from this type.

5 The Big Talker

You are impressed by their ideas, the projects that they are thinking about. They need help, they need backers, and you are sympathetic, but step back for a moment and examine their record for signs of past achievements or anything tangible.

On the one hand they are secretly afraid of the effort and responsibility that go with translating their ideas into action. On the other hand, they crave attention and power.

In the end, they tend to blame others for not realizing their visions—society, nebulous antagonistic forces, or bad luck. Or they try to find a sucker who will do all of the hard work in bringing to life their vague idea but who will take the blame if it all goes wrong.

Often such people had parents who were inconsistent, would turn on them suddenly for the smallest misdeed. Consequently their goal in life is to avoid situations in which they might open themselves up to criticism and judgment.

Do not take their ideas or stories seriously.

6 The Sexualizer

They seem charged with sexual energy, in a way that is refreshingly unrepressed. They have a tendency to mix work with pleasure, to blur the usual boundaries for when it is appropriate to use this energy, and you might imagine that this is healthy and natural. But in truth it is compulsive and comes from a dark place. In their earliest years such people probably suffered sexual abuse in some way. This could have been directly physical or something more psychological, which the parent expressed through looks and touching that was subtle but inappropriate.

You cannot help or save them. Stay away from them.

7 The Pampered Prince/Princess

They will draw you in with their royal air. They are calm and ever so slightly imbued with a feeling of superiority.

In childhood, their parents indulged them in their slightest whim and protected them from any kind of harsh intrusion from the outside world.

As adults their greatest desire is to replicate this early pampering.

You will notice often that when they don’t get what they want, they display baby-like behavior, pouting, or even tantrums.

They are not equipped to handle the harsh aspects of adult life and either manipulate a person into the pampering role or resort to drinking and drugs to soothe themselves. If you feel guilty for not helping them, it means you are hooked and should look to take care of yourself instead.

8 The Pleaser

You have never met anyone so nice and considerate. You almost can’t believe how accommodating and charming they are. Then slowly you begin to have some doubts, but nothing you can put your finger on. Perhaps they don’t show up as promised or don’t do a job so well. It is subtle. The further this goes, however, the more it seems like they are sabotaging you or talking behind your back.

Smiling and a deferential front was their way of deflecting any form of hostility, and it becomes their pattern for life. They also probably resorted to lying to their parents, and they are generally practiced and expert liars.

Just as when they were children, behind the smiles and flattery is a great deal of resentment at the role they have to play. They secretly yearn to harm or steal from the person they serve or defer to.

They can turn out to be quite passive-aggressive, particularly hitting you when your guard is down.

9 The Savior

You cannot believe your good luck—you have met someone who will save you from your difficulties and troubles. Somehow they recognized your need for help and here they are with books to read, strategies to employ, the right foods to eat.

In childhood, these types often had to become the caregivers of their own mother, father, or siblings.

This sets a pattern: they gain their greatest satisfaction from rescuing people, from being the caregiver and savior. They have a nose for those in possible need of salvation. But you can detect the compulsive aspect of this behavior by their need to control you. If they are willing to let you stand on your own two feet after some initial help, then they are truly noble. If not, it is really about the power they can exercise. In any event, it is always best to cultivate self-reliance and tell saviors to save themselves.

10 The Easy Moralizer

They communicate a sense of outrage at this bit of injustice or that, and they are quite eloquent. But sometimes you detect cracks in their righteous veneer. They don’t treat their employees so well; they are condescending to their spouse; they may have a secret life or vice you catch glimpses of.

As children, they were often made to feel guilty for their own strong impulses and desires for pleasure. They were punished and tried to repress these impulses. Because of this they develop some self-loathing and are quick to project negative qualities onto others or look enviously at people who are not so repressed. They don’t like other people enjoying themselves. Instead of expressing their envy, they choose to judge and condemn.

They lack nuance. To them, people are good or evil, no middle ground. They are in fact at war with human nature, incapable of coming to terms with our less-than-perfect traits.

Their morality is as easy and compulsive as drinking or gambling, and it requires no sacrifices on their part, just a lot of noble words. They thrive in a culture of political correctness.

In truth they are secretly drawn toward what they condemn, which is why they will inevitably have a secret side.

More Toxic Types

The envious, grandiose, aggressive, and passive-aggressive are also toxic character types.

The Superior Character

This law is simple and inexorable: you have a set character. It was formed out of elements that predate your conscious awareness. From deep within you, this character compels you to repeat certain actions, strategies, and decisions. The brain is structured to facilitate this: once you think and take a particular action, a neural pathway is formed that leads you to do it again and again. And in relation to this law, you can go in one of two directions, each one determining more or less the course of your life.

The first direction is ignorance and denial. You don’t take notice of the patterns in your life; you don’t accept the idea that your earliest years left a deep and lasting imprint that compels you to behave in certain ways. You imagine that your character is completely plastic, and that you can re-create yourself at will. You can follow the same path to power and fame as someone else, even though they come from very different circumstances. The concept of a set character can seem like a prison, and many people secretly want to be taken outside themselves, through drugs, alcohol, or video games. The result of such denial is simple: the compulsive behavior and the patterns become even more set into place. You cannot move against the grain of your character or wish it away. It is too powerful.

The other direction is harder to take, but it is the only path that leads to true power and the formation of a superior character. It works in the following manner: You examine yourself as thoroughly as possible. You look at the deepest layers of your character, determining whether you are an introvert or extrovert, whether you tend to be governed by high levels of anxiety and sensitivity, or hostility and anger, or a profound need to engage with people. You look at your primal inclinations—those subjects and activities you are naturally drawn to. You examine the quality of attachments you formed with your parents, looking at your current relationships as the best sign of this. You look with rigorous honesty at your own mistakes and the patterns that continually hold you back. You know your limitations—those situations in which you do not do your best. You also become aware of the natural strengths in your character that have survived past adolescence.

Now, with this awareness, you are no longer the captive of your character, compelled to endlessly repeat the same strategies and mistakes.

You see your character as the clay that you will work with, slowly transforming your very weaknesses into strengths.

Always seek out constructive criticism from people you respect.

If you have a rebellious character, you have a natural dislike of conventions and the usual ways of doing things. Channel this into some kind of innovative work, instead of compulsively insulting and alienating people.

For each weakness there is a corresponding strength.

Finally, you need to also refine or cultivate those traits that go into a strong character—resilience under pressure, attention to detail, the ability to complete things, to work with a team, to be tolerant of people’s differences. The only way to do so is to work on your habits, which go into the slow formation of your character. For instance, you train yourself to not react in the moment by repeatedly placing yourself in stressful or adverse situations in order to get used to them. In boring everyday tasks, you cultivate greater patience and attention to detail. You deliberately take on tasks slightly above your level. In completing them, you have to work harder, helping you establish more discipline and better work habits. You train yourself to continually think of what is best for the team. You also search out others who display a strong character and associate with them as much as possible. In this way you can assimilate their energy and their habits. And to develop some flexibility in your character, always a sign of strength, you occasionally shake yourself up, trying out some new strategy or way of thinking, doing the opposite of what you would normally do.

In anything, it is a mistake to think one can perform an action or behave in a certain way once and no more. This is the mistake of those who say,  “Let us slave away and save every penny until we are thirty, then we will enjoy ourselves.” At thirty they will have a bent for avarice and hard work, and will never enjoy themselves any more.

Chapter 5

Become an Elusive Object of Desire

This chapter contains a great summary of the book Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History by Rhonda Garelick

How to make people desire your products like Coco Chanel:

First, she surrounded herself and what she made with an aura of mystery. She never talked about her impoverished childhood. She made up countless contradictory stories about her past. Nobody really knew anything concrete about her. She carefully controlled the number of her public appearances, and she knew the value of disappearing for a while. She never revealed the recipe for her perfume or her creative process in general. Her oddly compelling logo was designed to stimulate interpretations. All of this gave endless space for the public to imagine and speculate about the Coco myth.

Second, she always associated her designs with something vaguely transgressive. The clothes had a distinct masculine edge but remained decidedly feminine. They gave women the sense that they were crossing some gender boundaries—physically and psychologically loosening constrictions. The clothes also conformed more to the body, combining freedom of movement with sex. To wear the overall Chanel look was to make a statement about youth and modernity.

Finally, from the beginning she made sure her clothes were seen everywhere. Observing other women wearing such clothes stimulated competitive desires to have the same and not be left out. Coco remembered how deeply she had desired men who were already taken. They were desirable because someone else desired them. Such competitive impulses are powerful in all of us, and certainly among women.

In truth, the boater hats she originally designed were nothing more than common objects anyone could buy in a department store. The clothes she first designed were made out of the cheapest materials. The perfume was a mix of ordinary flowers, such as jasmine, and chemicals, nothing exotic or special. It was pure psychological magic that transformed them into objects that stimulated such intense desires to possess them.

Use top-tier packaging, a high price, and celebrities/influencers to make your product seem more desirable.

People do not want truth and honesty, no matter how much we hear such nonsense endlessly repeated. They want their imaginations to be stimulated and to be taken beyond their banal circumstances.

Create an air of mystery around you and your work. Associate it with something new, unfamiliar, exotic, progressive, and taboo. Do not define your message but leave it vague.

The grass always seems greener on the other side. We may be in a perfectly satisfying relationship, but our minds continually wander toward a new person, someone who doesn’t have the very real flaws of our partner, or so we think. On a political level, our government is corrupt and we need some real change, perhaps a revolution. In this revolution, we imagine a veritable utopia that replaces the imperfect world we live in. We don’t think of the vast majority of revolutions in history in which the results were more of the same, or something worse.

Our brains are neurologically predisposed to the grass-is-always-greener syndrome.

In relationships, imagine what they want from us instead of what we want from them.

Strategies for Stimulating Desire

1 Know how and when to withdraw

Know how and when to withdraw. This is the essence of the art.

Step 1: Your presence must have a touch of coldness to it, as if you feel like you could do without others. This signals to people that you consider yourself worthy of respect, which unconsciously heightens your value in their eyes. It makes people want to chase after you. This touch of coldness is the first form of withdrawal that you must practice. Add to this a bit of blankness and ambiguity as to who you are. Your opinions, values, and tastes are never too obvious to people. This gives them room to read into you what they want.

Be mysterious.

Step 2: Once you sense that you have engaged people’s imagination, that you have your hooks in them, then you must use physical absence and withdrawal. You are not so available. A day or week can go by without your presence. You create a feeling of emptiness inside them, a touch of pain. You occupy increasing amounts of their mental space in these absences. They come to want more of you, not less.

2 Create rivalries of desire

Human desire is never an individual phenomenon. We are social creatures and what we want almost always reflects what other people want.

As an individual you must make it clear that people desire you, that you have a past—not too much of a past to inspire mistrust but enough to signal that others have found you desirable. You want to be indirect in this. You want them to hear stories of your past. You want them to literally see the attention you receive from men or women, all of this without your saying a word. Any bragging or explicit signaling of this will neutralize the effect.

3 Use induction

We may think we live in a time of great freedom compared with the past, but in fact we live in a world that is more regulated than ever before. Our every move is followed digitally. There are more laws than ever governing all aspects of human behavior. Political correctness, which has always existed, can be more intense because of how visible we have become on social media. Secretly most of us feel bothered or crushed by all of these constraints on our physical and mental movement. We yearn for what is transgressive and beyond the limits that are set for us.

You want to associate your object with something ever so slightly illicit, unconventional, or politically advanced.

The fight between generations is always ripe material for this. What you offer is in bold contrast to the stodgy previous generation. John F. Kennedy did this by setting himself off against the 1950s and the Eisenhower era—a time of stultifying conformity. By contrast, voting for him meant youth, vigor, and a lost masculinity. In essence he played to the secret resentment of the father figure and the transgressive desire to get rid of him. This desire is always tacitly out there among the young, and it always has a taboo element attached.

Your object, however, offers the fantasy of a quick path to wealth and success, of recovering lost youth, of becoming a new person, and even of conquering death itself.

Once people get what they want or possess you, your value and their respect for you immediately begin to lower. Keep withdrawing, surprising, and stimulating the chase. As long as you do, you have the power.

The Supreme Desire

We are unhappy with the way our career is going and so we make a big change, which requires learning new skills and acquiring new contacts. We enjoy the newness of it all. But several years later we again feel the stirring of discontent. This new path isn’t right either. We would have been better off thinking about this more deeply, homing in on those aspects of our previous career that did not click and trying for a more gentle change, choosing a line of work related to the previous one but requiring an adaptation of our skills.

With relationships, we can spend our life searching for the perfect man or woman and end up largely alone. There is nobody perfect. Instead, it is better to come to terms with the flaws of the other person and accept them or even find some charm in their weaknesses.

How to be grateful for what you have & connect to reality:

  1. With the people in your circle, you can always connect on a deeper level.
  2. You can connect more deeply to your environment. The place where you live has a deep history that you can immerse yourself in.
  3. As for yourself, you have mysterious corners you can never fully understand. In trying to know yourself better, you can take charge of your own nature instead of being a slave to it.
  4. Your work has endless possibilities for improvement and innovation, endless challenges for the imagination.

"It is advisable to let every one of your acquaintances – whether man or woman – feel now and then that you could very well dispense with their company." – Arthur Schopenhauer

Chapter 7

Soften People’s Resistance by Confirming Their Self-opinion

Five strategies for becoming a master persuader:

1) Transform yourself into a deep listener.

  • Every person is extremely interesting. Even boors and fools – you can educate yourself as to the origins and nature of their flaws.
  • Almost everyone likes to talk about their childhood, their family, the ins and outs of their work, or some cause that is dear to them.
  • The more they talk, the more they will reveal their insecurities and unmet desires.
  • Your goal is to make them come away from the encounter feeling better about themselves.

2) Infect people with the proper mood.

  • People will mirror your demeanor, so be relaxed and anticipate a good experience.
  • You do not judge other people; you accept them as they are.
  • Infect people with a warm feeling of rapport through laughter and shared pleasures.
  • LBJ used alcohol to get his guests to loosen up but watered down his own drinks so that he could retain control of himself.
  • LBJ was quite physical, wrapping his arm around a man’s shoulder or frequently touching him on the arm. Such gentle taps establish a feeling of visceral rapport, as long as you do not maintain eye contact, which will give it too much of a sexual connotation.

3) Confirm their self-opinion.

  • The best way to get someone to do something is to frame it in a way that makes them want to do it. Also, appeal directly to their competitive instincts.
  • If you are bribing with a gift, use a smaller gift rather than a large gift or several small gifts over time. Large gifts are too obviously manipulation.

Intelligence

  • When you disagree with another person and impose your contrary opinion, you are implying that you know better, that you have thought things through more rationally. People will naturally become more attached to their opinions. You can prevent this by being more neutral, as if this opposing idea is simply something you are entertaining and it could be wrong.
  • Or, even better, you see their point of view and agree with it (winning arguments is rarely worth the effort). With their intelligence flattered, you now have some room to gently alter their opinion or have lowered their defenses for a request for help.
  • If you wish to win a man’s heart, allow him to confute you.” You do this by beginning to disagree with a target about a subject, even with some vehemence, and then slowly come to seeing their point of view, thereby confirming not only their intelligence but also their own powers of influence. They feel ever so slightly superior to you, which is precisely what you want. They will not be doubly vulnerable to a countermove of your own. You can create a similar effect by asking people for advice. The implication is that you respect their wisdom and experience.

Goodness

  • People like to think of themselves as good people, to take advantage of this, frame what you are asking them to do as part of a larger case that they can participate in. They are not merely buying clothes but helping the environment or keeping jobs local. But keep it subtle. If you are trying to get recruits for a job, let others spread the message about the cause. Make it appear prosocial and popular. Make people want to join the group, instead of having to plead with them. Pay great attention to the words and labels you use. It is better, for instance, to call someone a team member than an employee.

4) Allay their insecurities.

  • Everyone has insecurities – about their looks, their creative powers, their masculinity, their power stays, their uniqueness, their popularity, etc.
  • Your goal is to uncover these insecurities through various conversations you draw them into. Once you uncover them, be extra careful not to trigger them.
  • The best strategy is to praise and flatter these qualities that people are most insecure about. We all crave this, even if we somehow see through the person who is praising us.
  • It does not work to flatter things they know they are awful at. It does work if they are uncertain about their skills in something. If they imagine that they are perhaps not really so bad, then any flattery could work wonders
  • Look for the qualities people are uncertain about and offer reassurance.
  • It is always better to praise people for their effort, not their talent.
  • With people who are your equals, you have more room to flatter. With those who are your superior, it is best to simply agree with their opinions and validate their wisdom. Flattering your boss is too transparent.
  • Never follow up your praise with a request for help, or whatever it is you are after. Your flattery is a setup and requires the passage of some time. Do not appear too ingratiating in the first encounter or two. Better to show even a little coldness, which will give you room to warm up.
  • If possible, get their parties to pass along your compliments, as if they had simply overheard them.
  • A clever way to cover your tracks is to mix in some small criticisms of the person or their work, nothing that will trigger insecurities but enough to give your praise a more realistic hue: “I loved your screen play, although I feel act two might need a little work.” Do not say, “Your latest book is so much better than the last one.”
  • Be very careful when people ask you for their opinion about their work or something related to their character or their looks. They do not want the truth; they want support and confirmation given as realistically as possible.
  • When people are rigid in their opposition to something, it stems from a deep fear of change and the uncertainty it could bring.
  • Tell them to keep doing what they’re doing and it might change their mind (reverse psychology).

5) Use people’s resistance and stubbornness.

  • Some people are particularly resistant to any form of influence. They are most often people with deeper levels of insecurity and low self-opinion.
  • Use reverse psychology to use their stubbornness against them.

Chapter 8

Change Your Circumstances by Changing Your Attitude

This section goes over the different types of people (avoidant, depressive, anxious, resentful, etc.)

The Constricted (Negative) Attitude

Never try to lift depressive people up by preaching to them about the wonderfulness of life.

  • It is best to go along with their gloomy opinion of the world while subtly drawing them into positive experiences that can elevate their moods and energy with any direct appeal.

Respect is something that must be earned through your achievements, not something given to you simply for being human.

The resentful: Although they might smile and seem pleasant, they are actually scrutinizing you for any possible insult. You can recognize them by their history of past battles and sudden breaks with people, as well as how easily they judge others. You might try to gain their trust and slowly lower their suspicions but that will give them more fuel to resent you with. Better to avoid this type if possible.

The Expansive (Positive) Attitude:

Feeling that you are destined for something great or important will give you a degree of resilience when people oppose or resist you.

Overcoming great obstacles, climbing a mountain, taking a trip to a very different culture, or the deep bonding that comes from any form of love. You want to deliberately go in search of such moments, stimulate them if you can.

Greene thinks that humility as a concept was made to try to keep people down and stop them from being great.

In general, this way of looking at yourself runs counter to the cool, ironic attitude that many people like to assume in the postmodern world—never too ambitious, never too positive about things or life, always affecting a nonchalant and very false humility. Such types see the positive, expansive attitude as Pollyannaish and simpleminded. But really their cool attitude is a clever mask for their great fears—of embarrassing themselves, of failing, of showing too much emotion.

See people as facts of nature. They come in all varieties, like flowers or rocks. They are fools and saints and sociopaths and egomaniacs and noble warriors; there are the sensitive and the insensitive.

  • We cannot reengineer human nature, and even if we somehow succeeded, the result could be a lot worse than what we have.

Instead of blaming others or circumstances, see the role that your own attitude and actions played in any failure.

  • In one word: Responsibility.

Associate as much as you can with people who have an expansive attitude. The constricted attitude is toxic and can rub off on you.

Chapter 9

Confront Your Dark Side

Deciphering the Shadow: Contradictory Behavior

There are common emphatic traits that people wear as a shell, like they are acting, in order to make people either like them or think of them in a certain way.

The Tough Guy

  • He projects a rough masculinity that is intended to intimidate.
  • He tends to boast about past exploits – the women he has conquered, the brawls, the times he’s out-negotiated opponents.
  • Such men have learned to conceal an underlying softness, an emotional vulnerability from deep within that terrifies them.
  • Although they like to dominate women, they will often end up with a wife who clearly dominates them, a secret wish of theirs.
  • If they are a rival, they are easy to bait into an overreaction that reveals something less tough.

The Saint

  • These people are paragons of goodness and purity.
  • They support the best and most progressive causes.
  • This saintly exterior developed early on as a way to disguise their strong hunger for power and attention or their strong sensual appetites.
  • The irony is that often by projecting this saintly aura to the nth degree they will gain great power, leading a cult or political party. And once they have power, the Shadow will have space to operate.
  • They will become intolerant, railing at the impure, punishing them if necessary.
  • Maximilien Robespierre (nicknamed the Incorruptible), who rose to power in the French Revolution, was just such a type. Under his reign, the guillotine was never busier.
  • They are also secretly drawn to sex, to money, to the limelight, and to what is expressly taboo for their particular saintliness.
  • They will appear the saint in public, but their family or spouse will see the demonic side in private. (Tolstoy was like this.)
  • There are genuine saints out there, but they do not feel the need to publicize their deeds or grab power.
  • To distinguish between the real and fake saints, ignore their words and the aura they project, focus on their deeds and the details of their life – how much they seem to enjoy power and attention, the astonishing degree of wealth they have accumulated, the number of mistresses, the level of self-absorption.
  • As a variation of this, you will find people who propound a philosophy of free love and anything goes; but in fact, they are after power. They prefer sex with those who are dependent on them. And of course, anything goes, as long as it’s on their terms.

The Passive-Aggressive Charmer

  • The truth is that these types realize early on in life that they have aggressive, envious tendencies that are hard to control. They want power. They intuit that such inclinations will make life hard for them. Over many years they cultivate the opposite facade – their niceness has an almost aggressive edge.
  • Through this strategy, they are able to gain social power. But they secretly resent having to play the role and be “nice.”
  • They will eventually lash out because they cannot conceal their true nature forever. When they do they will blame you for it.

The Fanatic

  • They radiate strength and conviction, and because of this, they gain followers.
  • But they secretly know they cannot deliver on the promises of their big dream or belief. And so under stress, they become the opposite – indecisive and secretly doubtful.

The Rigid Rationalist

  • All of us have irrational tendencies. It is the elating legacy of our primitive origins. We will never get rid of them. We are prone to superstitions, to seeing connections between events that have no connection. We are fascinated by coincidences. We project our feelings onto other people and the world around us.
  • Rigid rationalists think that primitive thinking is softness, mysticism, contrary to science and technology. They think everything must be clear and analytical in the extreme. They become devout atheists, not realizing that the concept of God cannot be proven or disproven. It is a belief either way.
  • Their faith in science and technology has a religious air to it.
  • When it comes to an argument, they will impose their ideas with extra intellectual heft and even a touch of anger, which reveals the stirring of the primitive within and the hidden emotional need to bully.

The Snob

  • These types have a tremendous need to be different from others, to assert some form of superiority over the mass of mankind.
  • They have the most refined aesthetic tastes when it comes to art, or film criticism, or fine wines, or gourmet food, or vintage punk rock records. They have amassed impressive knowledge of these things.
  • They put a lot of emphasis on appearances – they are more “alternative” than others. Their tattoos are more unique.
  • In many cases, they seem to come from very interesting backgrounds, perhaps with some exciting ancestry. Everything surrounding them is extraordinary. Of course, it later comes out that they were exaggerating or downright lying about their background.
  • Most people are average and have boring lives with boring backgrounds. Snobs are especially sensitive about this, greatly insecure about their origins and possible mediocrity.
  • The snob’s way of dealing with this is to distract and deceive with appearances (as opposed to real originality in their work), surrounding themselves with the extraordinary and with special knowledge.

The Extreme Entrepreneur

  • Very hard working and if they have talent, they will be successful early in life. But they have problems and qualities that will lead to failure:
  1. The inability to listen to others – they cannot take advice.
  2. They need no one.
  3. They mistrust others who do not have their same high standards.
  4. With success, they are forced to take on more and more responsibility.
  5. Often, their outward show of self-reliance disguises a hidden desire to have others take care of them, to regress to the dependence of childhood.
  6. They can never admit this to themselves or show any signs of such weakness, but unconsciously they are drawn to creating enough chaos that they break down and are forced into some form of dependency.
  • The signs that they are beginning to break down are recurring health issues and micro needs to be pampered by people in their daily lives.

The Integrated Human

How to integrate the Shadow and not rely on the emphatic traits.

  • They appear to be especially comfortable with themselves.
  • They signal to us that they have greater authenticity.
  • Conscious of our own Shadow, we can control, channel, and integrate it.
  • For instance, say you really loathe narcissistic types or pushy people. What is happening is that you are probably brushing up against your own narcissistic tendencies and secret desire to be more assertive, in the form of a vehement denial or hatred. We are particularly sensitive to traits and weaknesses in others that we are repressing in ourselves.
  • Look at your dreams as the most direct and clear view of your Shadow.
  • The Shadow is talking to you in various ways. Don’t look for symbols or hidden meanings. Pay attention instead to the emotional tone and overall feelings that they inspire, holding on to them throughout the day. This could be unexpected bold behavior on your part, or intense anxiety spurred by certain situations, or sensations of being physically trapped or of soaring above it all, or exploring a place that is forbidden and beyond boundaries.
  • The anxieties could relate to insecurities you are not confronting.
  • Get in the habit of writing your dreams down and paying deep attention to their feeling and tone.
  • Understand: In a similar vein, you want to explore from within your own darkest impulses, even those that might seem criminal, and find a way to express them in your work or externalizes them in some fashion, in a journal for instance. We all have aggressive and antisocial desires, even toward those we love. We also have traumas from our earliest years that are associated with emotions we prefer to forget. The greatest art in all media somehow expresses these depths, which causes a powerful reaction in us all because they are so repressed. Such is the power of the films of Ingmar Bergman or the novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky, and you can have the same power by externalizing your dark side.
  • Those who are successful in their field are usually more assertive and overly ambitious. They care much less what others think of them. This is the active Shadow side and without it (by keeping it hidden and repressed like everyone else) they would not be successful.
  • Understand: You pay a greater price for being so nice and deferential than for consciously showing you Shadow.
  • First, to follow the latter path you must begin by respecting your own opinions more and those of others less, particularly when it comes to your areas of expertise. Trust your native genius and the ideas you have come up with.
  • Second, get in the habit in your daily life of asserting yourself more and compromising less.
  • Third, start caring less about what others think of you.
  • Fourth, realize that at times you must offend and even hurt people who block your path, who’ve ugly values, who unjustly criticize you. Use such moments to bring out your Shadow and show it proudly.
  • Fifth, feel free to play the impudent (not showing due respect for another), willful child who mocks the stupidity and hypocrisy of others.
  • Finally, openly disregard the very conventions that others follow so scrupulously.

"Unfortunately, there is no doubt about the fact that man is, as a whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." – Carl Jung

Chapter 10

Beware the Fragile Ego

We humans are naturally compelled to compare ourselves to one another.

  • The envy and subtle digs at one another as a result of competition and comparison are most likely to occur between friends and peers within the same profession.
  • Learn to defect envy by drawing attention away from yourself.
  • Develop your sense of self-worth from internal standards and not incessant comparisons.

Signs of Envy

Envy is most associated with the eyes and can be seen best in the first early impressions. Envy shows on the entire face.

The best way to test envy in someone is to tell them some good news about your life. You will notice a very quick expression of disappointment.

  • Or tell them a misfortune and they will have a slight smile or their eyes will light up for a second.

In criticizing you, they are experts at picking out any possible flaw in your character or words you might have regretted and giving them great emphasis.

Infants or children experiencing such envy will not feel grateful and loved for the attention they do get but instead feel continually deprived and unsatisfied. A pattern is set for their entire lives - they are children and later adults for whom nothing is ever quite good enough. All potentially positive experiences are spoiled by the sensation that they should have more and better. Something is missing, and they can only imagine that other people are cheating them out of what they should have. They develop an eagle eye for what others have that they don’t. This becomes their dominant passion.

Because envy is a painful sensation, these types will enact lifelong strategies to mitigate or repress these feelings that gnaw at them. They will denigrate (criticize unfairly) anything or anyone good in the world.

They are literally looking for people to envy so they can re-experience the primal emotion.

Types of Enviers

  • All enviers lack a clear sense of purpose in their life and naturally envy those who act with a sense of purpose

1) The Leveler

  • They have a keen nose for injustice and unfairness in this world.
  • But where they differ from genuine empathy for underdogs is that levelers cannot recognize or appreciate excellence in almost anyone, except those who are dead. They have fragile egos. Those who have achieved things in life make them feel insecure. They rail at high achievers for gaming the system, for being far too ambitious, or simply for being lucky and not really deserving praise. They have come to associate excellence with unfairness, as a way to soothe their insecurities.
  • You will notice that though they can put others down, they do not take easily to any jokes at their expense.
  • They love to tell stories of the many injustices inflicted on them; they are always blameless.
  • Their main goal is to bring everyone down to the same mediocre level they occupy.
  • This sometimes means leveling not only achievers and the powerful but also those who are having too good a time, who seem to be enjoying themselves too much, or who have too great a sense of purpose, which levelers lack.
  • They will criticize you in ugly or hurtful ways. They may follow this up with active sabotage of your work, which they justify to themselves as a form of retributive justice.

2) The Self-Entitled Slacker

  • Today, many people rightfully feel entitled to have success and the good things in life, but they usually understand that this will require sacrifice and hard work. Some people, however, feel they deserve attention and many rewards in life as if these are naturally due to them. These self-entitled slackers are generally quite narcissistic.
  • When they find themselves with high achievers who work very hard and have earned true respect for their work, this will make them aware of the doubts about themselves they have been trying to repress. They will move quickly from envy to hostility.

3) The Status Fiend

  • This person will slander hard workers with higher status and get people to go abasing them because they think that only status matters and status isn’t based on merit.
  • You can recognize status fiends by how they reduce everything to material considerations. When they comment on the clothes you wear or your car, they seem to focus on money.
  • These people will often try to assert their status in a different way – by being the consummate monk, the idealistic hippie, while secretly yearning for the luxuries they cannot get through hard work.
  • If you are around such types, try to downplay or conceal what you have that might trigger envy, and talk up their possessions, skills, and status in whatever way you can.

4) The Attacher

  • These people attach themselves to someone of status or power in some way. They could become their friend or an assistant.
  • They attach themselves because it gives them a satisfaction to wound the person who has more. They want to harm them in some way. They also may want to take some of the status or power from the person they attach to.

5) The Insecure Master

  • For some people, reaching a high position validates their self-opinion and boosts their self-esteem. But there are some who become more anxious. Holding a high position tends to increase their insecurities, which they are careful to conceal. They look at others who might have more talent, even those below them, with an envious eye.
  • A boss may fire or demote a young, promising, socially gifted, hard working employee because they are envious of them.
  • Pay close attention to those above you for signs of insecurity and envy. They will inevitably have a track record of firing people for strange reasons.
  • Always play it safe by deferring to bosses, making them look better, and earning their trust. Let them take the credit for your hard work.

Envy Triggers

Although certain people are more prone to envy, there are certain circumstances where you will tend to trigger envy in almost anyone.

The most common trigger is a sudden change in status, which alters your relationship to friends and peers.

  • Don’t take this too personally because if the roles were reversed, you’d feel the same way. But also be aware that this envy can turn active and dangerous.
  • When discussing your success with others who might envy you, always emphasize or play up the element of luck.
  • People who are getting older, with their careers on the decline, have delicate egos and are quite prone to experiencing envy.
  • Love and envy are not mutually exclusive – even in a romantic relationship.
  • You can short-circuit envy by placing attention on other people instead of yourself and engaging with them on a meaningful level.

Beyond Envy

Everyone is envious sometimes. You can monitor this by feeling the envy as soon as it happens, like when someone does better than you in your field. Monitoring yourself in such instances will help you in the slow process of moving beyond envy.

Nobody’s perfect. The person you envy has flaws even though they may have just had a big accomplishment. Everyone has problems – even people with supposedly perfect lives or wealth.

Look at those who have less and be grateful rather than looking at people doing better and being ungrateful.

Actively try to feel the joy of others and their accomplishments.

Use other people’s accomplishments as motivation.

Admiration is the polar opposite of envy.

Chapter 11

Know Your Limits

The Grandiose Leader

  • They give the illusion they were destined for greatness.
  • They often come from privileged backgrounds (or are rich now) but act like they are one of the poor or average people.
  • They may fly first class and wear the most expensive suits, but they counteract this by seeming to have the same culinary tastes as the public [Hillary Clinton said she always carries hot sauce in her purse and Bill Gates said his favorite meal is a hamburger and soda], enjoy the same movies as others, and avoid at all costs the whiff of cultural elitism.
  • These leaders become vastly enlarged by this identification with the masses. They are not merely one man or woman but embody an entire nation or interest group. To follow them is to be loyal to the group itself. To criticize them is to want to crucify the leader and betray the cause.

I Will Deliever You

  • These types often rise to power in times of trouble and crisis.
  • Their promises to help the people have to be large yet vague. Large so that it can inspire dreams but vague so that if it does not happen, the leader cannot be blamed because there are no specifics to get a hold of.
  • The message must be simple to digest, reducible to a slogan, and promise something large that stirs emotions.
  • As part of this strategy these types require convenient scapegoats, often the elites or outsiders, to tighten the group identification and to stir the emotions even further.
  • The movement around the leader begins to crystallize around hatred of these scapegoats, who begin to stand for every bit of pain and injustice each person in the crowd has ever experienced.
  • The leader's promise to bring down the scapegoats increases their power exponentially.
  • They are creating a cult more than leading a political movement or a business.
  • Certain colors, symbols, and perhaps music are used to bind the group identity and appeal to the basest human instincts.

I Have the Golden Touch

  • Those with heightened grandiosity will try to create the legend that they have never really failed. If there were failures or setbacks in their career, it was always the fault of others who betrayed them.
  • Related to this is the belief that they can easily transfer their skills - a businessman can become the leader of a nation.
  • In dealing with such types, look carefully at their record and notice how many glaring failures they have had.

Practical Grandiosity

You must admit to yourself that you do want to feel important and be the center of attention. This is natural. Yes, you want to feel superior.

You must get into the habit of focusing deeply and completely on a single project or problem.

  • Set a relatively simple goal that can be done in months, not years.
  • If your project fails, that’s fine. Analyze what you did wrong objectively.
  • If your project does well, step back and analyze the role that luck or the help of others may have played.

Your goal is to continually look for challenges just above your skill level.

  • If your projects are below or at your skill level, you will become easily bored and less focused.
  • If they are too ambitious, you will feel crushed by your failure.

Chapter 12

Reconnecting to the Masculine or Feminine Within You

Childhood relationships with parents can define your romantic interests in adulthood.

Chapter 13

Advance with a Sense of Purpose

Strategies for Developing a High Sense of Purpose

Discover your calling in life

  • Look for signs of primal inclinations in your earliest years.
  • Look for moments where you were unusually fascinated by a particular subject, or certain objects, or specific activities and forms of play. They can be in early life or later in life.
  • Your calling could combine several fields that fascinate you.
  • In his book Frames of Mind, the psychologist Howard Gardner lists certain forms of intelligence for which people usually have one particular gift or affinity. This could be mathematics and logic, physical activity, words, images, or music. We could also add to this social intelligence, a superior sensitivity to people.
  • Do not try to bypass the work of discovering your calling or imagine that it will simply come to you naturally. It requires continual introspection and effort.

Use resistance and negative spurs

  • The key to success in any field is first developing skills in various areas, which you can later combine in unique and creative ways.
  • Put yourself in places where you will face more criticism and have a high chance of failure.
  • Frustration is a sign that you are making progress as your mind becomes aware of higher levels of skill that you have yet to attain.
  • If you have a goal set for a year out, make it 3 months and you will accomplish it far faster.
  • Create reasonably tight deadlines to intensify your sense of purpose.

Absorb purposeful energy

  • We are extremely susceptible to the moods and energy of other people.
  • You want to avoid too much contact with those who have a low or false sense of purpose.
  • Always try to find and associate with those who have a high sense of purpose.
  • You want to find people who are pragmatic (practical) and not merely those who are charismatic or visionaries.
  • Do not settle for virtual associations or mentors. They will not have the same effect.

Create a ladder of descending goals

  • Create a big goal and a ladder of smaller goals to reach the big goal. This takes away the anxiety of the big goal but also gives you the ambition and the vision of the big goal.
  • You need to adjust the smaller goals as necessary.

Lose yourself in the work

  • As the years pile up you can face burnout.
  • To get out of the tediousness of work, you need to lose yourself in the work you are doing.
  • When you can get immersed in the work, you are transported beyond the ego and you experience profound calmness and joy. The response will make you want to repeat them. You don’t have these moments until years into your project.
  • To try to get these “peak experiences” you need to have as much time as possible. As much time in the day and as many days of the week as possible. Eliminate distractions.
  • The emphasis must be on your work. Never on yourself or the desire for recognition.

The Lure of False Purposes

The cynical view is really the adolescent pose of appearing to not care, which disguises a great fear of trying and failing, of standing out and being ridiculed. It stems from sheer laziness and offers its believers consolation for their lack of accomplishments.

Chapter 14

Resist the Downward Pull of the Group

The Court and Its Courtiers

There are 8 different types of people in group settings:

1) The Intriguer

  • These are hard to recognize.
  • They work hard and are loyal to the boss and the group. But they secretly hate the boss and are just trying to increase their power.
  • They are masters at making leaders,and others dependent on their efficiency as means of binding them and securing their own position.
  • Realize that when they look at you, they are thinking of how they can use you as a tool or stepping stone.
  • It is best to keep your distance and not become one of their pawns, not their enemy.

2) The Stirrer

  • This type is generally riddled with insecurities but adept at disguising them from those in the group.
  • They feel deep resentment and envy for those who have what they don’t.
  • Their game is to infect the group with doubts and anxieties, stirring up trouble, which puts them at the center of action and may allow them to get close to the leader.
  • They will often start this by spreading a rumor about another group member that they envy.
  • Be wary of people who “innocently” share a rumor with you.
  • Notice the secret delight they have when something bad happens.
  • Do not directly or indirectly insult or show disrespect to this type – they are hypersensitive.

3) The Gatekeeper

  • The goal of the game for this type is gaining exclusive access to leaders, monopolizing the flow of information to them.
  • They are motivated not by a secret disdain for others but by their intense adoration for the person on top.
  • There might be a slight sexual edge to their attraction to the person at the top.
  • Their endgame is to get close to the leader and have inside information on them so that they cannot be replaced. Having this power over the leader is the endgame.
  • This type can also become the “police” of the group, making sure that the group follows the ideas and beliefs of the leader.
  • In general, it is best to recognize their power and stay on their good side.
  • If you’re the leader beware of this type. They will tend to isolate you from the group, and isolation is dangerous.

4) The Shadow Enabler

  • The enabler is trying to get the shadow of the leader to come out.
  • This person starts out small and starts a conversation on a taboo subject in a non-threatening, jocular way.
  • They then take it further and go on to different suggestions of possible actions the leader could take to vent their frustrations.
  • As a leader, don’t do anything they are trying to draw you into.
  • Your clean reputation is the most important thing you possess.

5) The Court Jester

  • They may make fun of people.
  • They are allowed to go against the dress code, display looser behavior, and espouse unconventional opinions.
  • They can be a bit flamboyant.
  • In meetings, unlike anyone else, they are allowed to come up with wild opinions contrary to the group.
  • They secretly have a fear of responsibility and a dread of failing.
  • They are usually there so that the boss can say that they are open to opposing opinions even though they really aren’t.
  • Never take their existence as a sign that you can freely imitate their behavior. There is rarely more than one Jester per group for a reason.
  • It is better to reserve your nonconformity for your private life, or until you have amassed more power.

6) The Mirrorer

  • They are adept at charming leaders and fellow group members.
  • Their power is based on the idea that everyone at heart is a narcissist. They are masters at reflecting back to people their own moods and ideas, making them feel validated without sensing the manipulation, as opposed to using overt flattery. Don’t use overt flattery.
  • When appropriate, bring up a brilliant thing they said in the past. This shows you were really listening and that they have good ideas.
  • Greene says this is the method you want to use in group settings.
  • Even if people see through the mirroring, they will still like it and will still be charmed by you.

7) The Favorite

  • The highest rung of the group.
  • The favorite generally gets his power by cultivating a more personal, friend-like relationship with the leader. As opposed to the other group members who need to be skillful or efficient at their work.
  • Early on they act relaxed and chummy with the leader without being disrespectful. Many leaders are secretly dying to not have to be so formal and in control.
  • The leader will give favors and share secrets with the favorite.
  • This makes the other group members envious.
  • This makes the favorite a dangerous position to be in.

8) The Punching Bag

  • The lowest rung of the group.
  • Everyone will make fun of this person but don’t make fun of them.
  • See everyone in the group as your potential ally. Try to befriend the punching bag.

"Madness is something rare in individuals — but in groups, parties, people, and ages it is the rule." – Friedrich Nietzsche

Chapter 15

Make Them Want to Follow You

Authority is the delicate art of creating the appliance of power, legitimacy, and fairness while getting people to identify with you as a leader who is in their service.

Strategies for Establishing Authority

The essence of authority is that people willingly follow your lead.

Have an authentic authority style because it gives the impression that you are fighting for something beyond you. You cannot help but create a new order.

Hone your listening skills (be sensitive to people’s moods), dedicate yourself to earning people’s respect, and consider being a leader a tremendous responsibility, the welfare of the group hanging on every decision.

Train yourself to disconnect from the emotions of the group. Instead, imagine the bigger picture.

Lead from the front: the Tone

As the leader, you must be seen working as hard or harder than everyone else.

Set limits that are fair.

  • If people don’t hold up to standards you set, punish them.

Stir conflicting emotions: the Aura

Be mysterious, unpredictable.

Learn to balance presence and absence. If you are too present and familiar, always available and visible, you seem too banal (boring).

  • Being too absent is bad too because they cannot identify with you.
  • Better to be more absent than present.

If you commit a mistake, do not over explain or over apologize.

Never appear to take, always to give: the Taboo

Don’t take assumed rights or privileges from the group members. If you have to, make sure to frame it as a temporary loss and make it clear how you will quickly restore them.

It is better to give and be generous.

Do not overpromise.

How to maintain the higher self and not split to the lower self

You have a responsibility to contribute to the culture and times you live in.

To serve this higher purpose, you must cultivate what is unique about you.

  • Stop listening to the opinions of others.

You must focus and prioritize because the world is full of distractions.

  • Certain activities are a waste of time.
  • Avoid low natured people, they will drag you down.

Strive for excellence. Make something that will resonate with the public and last.

You could die any day and life is short, you need to get working right now.

When you are at your higher self, you no longer need a leader or a parent.

An excellent man makes great demands of himself.

Chapter 16

See the Hostility Behind the Friendly Facade

The Source of Human Aggression

Chronically aggressive people have a chronic deep sense of helplessness and frustration. They cover this with a need for an inordinate amount of power and control.

When they feel you are using control to any degree, their tendency is to exaggerate the threat, to overreact and grab for much more than is necessary.

Human aggression stems from an underlying insecurity, as opposed to an impulse to hurt or take from others.

They often perceive threats that are not really there or exaggerate them.

Chronic aggressors will not change because they are addicted to the adrenaline and they are trapped in the behavior pattern.

Aggressors see the people around them as objects to use.

Aggression in yourself:

  • You need to channel your aggressive energy into your work otherwise it will be expressed in either (1) aggressive or passive-aggressive behavior towards others or (2) inward self-loathing.
  • When it comes to those who are powerful and successful, it is impossible to reach such heights without higher levels of aggression and some manipulation.

Aggression in others:

  • Aggressors will present themselves as crusaders, as some sort of genius who cannot help the way they behave. They are creating art, they say, or helping the little man. People who get in their way are infidels and evil.
  • They claim to be victims, not the aggressors.
  • If battle with them is inevitable, never engage in direct confrontation. Challenge them in an overt way.
  • They will spread rumors and disinformation to muddy the waters and make you seem as dubious as they are.
  • Rid yourself of the denial of the very real aggressive tendencies in human nature itself and what such aggression might mean for our future as a species.
  • The myth of the noble savage – that long ago we were all peaceful – is false.
  • The implication that private property and capitalism caused the peaceful human to become aggressive and selfish is false.
  • People who believe in the noble savage think that by developing a more egalitarian political and social system, we could revert to our natural goodness and peace-loving nature.
  • There have been wars and violence since the beginning of time. In human anthropology and as far back as dinosaurs.
  • The second myth is that humans have been violent in the past but we were moving past this by becoming more tolerant, enlightened, and guided by better angels but the signs of human aggression are just as prevalent in our era as in the past.
  • More people than ever enjoy watching others be humiliated on reality shows or in the news, and indulging in games and movies that delight in graphic depictions of murder and bloodshed.

Passive Aggression – Its Strategies and How to Counter Them

Chronic passive-aggressive types operate in personal or work relationships because their strategies can take effect over a longer period of time.

Actively aggressive types can generally be quite passive aggressive at times.

The Sympathy Strategy (The Victim Mentality)

  • They are the supposed victim of irrational hostility, of unfair circumstances, of society in general.
  • They seem to relish the drama in their stories.
  • No one else suffers as they do.
  • You will naturally feel sympathetic, and once they elicit this, they will ask for favors, extra care, and attention.
  • They are hypersensitive to any signs of doubt on your face, and they don’t want to hear advice or how they might be slightly to blame. They may explode and classify you as one of the victimizers
  • Often they do suffer through unusual adversity and personal pain, but they are masters at attracting the pain.
  • They choose partners who will disappoint them; they have a bad attitude at work and attract criticism; they are negligent with details, and so things around them fall apart.
  • It is not malicious fate that is to blame but something from within them that wants and feeds off the drama.
  • True victims tell their story reluctantly.
  • Passive aggressors, on the other hand, are dying to share what has happened to them and bask in your attention.
  • As part of this, passive aggressors may display various symptoms and ailments – anxiety attacks, depression, headaches – that make their suffering seem quite real. Since childhood, we have all been capable of willing such symptoms to get attention and sympathy. We can make ourselves sick with worry; we can think our way into depression.

The Blame-Shifter Strategy

  • Gaslighting.
  • This strategy is a way of covering up all kinds of unpleasant behavior, of deflecting any kind of criticism, and of making people skittish about ever calling them out on what they are doing.
  • Your goal is not to make them angry, so don’t get caught in the trap of exchanging recriminations. They are better at this drama game than you are, and they thrive by their power to rankle (cause continuing annoyance or resentment) you.
  • It is very difficult to get such types to reflect on their behavior and change it; they are too hypersensitive for this.

The Passive-Tyrant Strategy

  • They rarely praise you and sometimes rail you for letting them down, and this sticks in your mind more than the praise.
  • You can never feel comfortable or take your position for granted. You have to try harder to avoid these nasty temperamental rants.
  • They’re such perfectionists, with such high standards, and you’re not measuring up. You rack your brain to anticipate their needs and live in terror of displeasing them.
  • Their logic: If people know what it is you want and how to get it for you, they have some power over you. If they follow your instructions and do your bidding, you cannot criticize them. If they are consistent, you can even grow dependent on their work, and they can squeeze concessions out of you by threatening to leave. But if they have no idea what actually works, if they can’t exactly discern what kind of behavior draws praise and what draws punishment, they have no power, no independence, and can be made to do anything.
  • Their pleas for assistance from you and their urgent need for you to do more seem to express their vulnerability. They use such feigned weaknesses to justify the ugly nature of their tyranny.
  • Instead of lingering on anything positive they’ve said or done, think only of their manipulations and harshness.
  • Your ability to detach from them emotionally will neutralize the obsessive presence they try to instill.
  • The only thing you can do is get away from this person. No position/relationship is worth such abuse, for the damage to your self-esteem could take years to recover from.

Controlled Aggression

  • Lowering your ambitions doesn’t make you more adult. It limits your possibilities and diminishes your energy. In any event, in trying to appear unambitious, you are just as self-absorbed as anyone else; being so humble and saintly is your ambition, and you want to make a display of it.
  • Some people are vague with their ambition, they want success, money, and attention. Because of such vagueness, it is hard for them to ever feel they have satisfied their desires. Set clear goals with clear end points.
  • Don’t have scapegoats. These people believe that certain forces in the world are to blame for their lack of success or power, instead of their own impatience and lack of effort.
  • For your anger to be useful, it needs to be directed at a specific individual or force.
  • If you are a true victim, let the unfairness or injustice lie in the back of your mind and keep you energized.

Chapter 17

Seize the Historical Moment

Knowing in-depth the spirit of your generation and the times you live in, you will be better able to exploit the zeitgeist.

The Generational Phenomenon

Every older generation looks at the younger generations and thinks they are immature, unsophisticated, soft, undisciplined, pampered, unenlightened, and certainly not ready to assume power.

  • This has been going on for at least 3 thousand years. There is an inscription on a Babylonian clay tablet that dates from around 1000 BC that reads, “Today’s youth is rotten, evil, godless and lazy. It will never be what youth used to be, and it will never be able to preserve our culture.”
  • There are similar complaints in all cultures throughout all time periods.

Generational Patterns

14th century Islamic Scholar Ibn Khaldun

History moves in four acts, corresponding to four generations:

  1. The revolutionaries - they create new values and break from the past.
  2. The generation that craves order - they establish conventions and dogma.
  3. The 3rd generation has little direct connection to the founders of the revolution and feel less passionate about it - they want to solve problems and make life as comfortable as possible. Material concerns predominate and people are quite individualistic.
  4. This generation feels that society has lost its vitality, but they are not sure what should replace it - they begin to question the values they have inherited and some become white cynical. Nobody knows what to believe in anymore. Then comes the revolutionary generation and the cycle repeats.

Make sure you fully understand how the zeitgeist of your generation has shaped your beliefs.

  • We tend to mask the ideals of our generation as virtues even though they can stem from fear.
  • For instance, if we grow up in a generation that was more fearful and cautious, we might shy away from major responsibilities, such as owning a house or a car. We will interpret this as a desire for freedom or a desire to help the environment, unwilling to confront the fears that a really underneath it all.
  • Make sure you understand how key events (9/11 and 2008 Financial Crisis) impacted your generation.
  • Parents who are overprotective will shape a generation that fears going outside their comfort zones.
  • Parenting styles come in waves.
  • You can learn a lot by looking at your parents' generation or your kids’ generation. Thinking that your generation is superior is an illusion.
  • The zeitgeist of each generation is more global than ever before because of technology and social media. This info can be used in many ways.

Strategies for Exploiting the Spirit of the Times

If you feel a deep frustration with the way things are in the world or with the older generation, or if you sense there is something that is missing in the culture, you can be almost certain that other people of your generation are feeling the same way. And if you act on this feeling, your work will resonate with others in your generation and help shape the zeitgeist.

  • Push against the past, do not fall back on the ideologies of the past.
  • Express what is taboo; shatter the conventions that the older generation adheres to. This will excite and attract the attention of people of your generation, many of whom will want to follow your lead.
  • By associating yourself with leaders of the past, you can get people to think back to those times and bring weight to your movement.
  • Recreate important elements from childhood – incorporate nostalgic pieces.
  • Whatever the reason, it is never wise to preach or moralize or condemn the spirit of the times. You will only marginalize yourself. Instead, incorporate a niche part of the zeitgeist. Greene suggests you make a book, film, or product that at face value or on its cover goes with the zeitgeist but sprinkled throughout the content has different parts that break out from the norm and allow people to hear something new or nostalgic.

The Human Beyond Time and Death

Interact with people from all different generations.

  • Think of everyone as a peer regardless of age unless they are insanely wise, then you can have them as a mentor.

Chapter 18

Meditate on Our Common Mortality

The inevitability of death should be continually on our minds. Understanding the shortness of life gives us a sense of purpose and urgency to realize our goals.

A Philosophy of Life Through Death

We need to see death as a dying of cells as we age, not as something morbid or terrifying.

Meditate on death.

Imagine how you will die.

Meditate on your death every morning. This allows you to see the urgency in acting today.

  • Think of mortality as a kind of continual deadline.
  • Imagine the people around you dying. This will make you feel more connected to them.
  • Nothing is personal. Indecent people are indecent. It has nothing to do with you.

Inspired by Nietzche: There is much in life we cannot control, with death as the ultimate example of this. We will experience illness and physical pain. We will go through separations with people. We will face failures from our own mistakes and the nasty malevolence of our fellow humans. And our task is to accept these moments and even embrace them, not for the pain but for the opportunities to learn and strengthen ourselves.

Being able to accustom ourselves to some degree of physical pain, without immediately reaching for something to dull it, is an important life skill.

He who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave. Knowing how to die frees us from all subjection and constraint.