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Robert Greene’s Speech at Yale

Posted on December 3, 2010 by Robert Greene Below is the transcript of a speech Robert did at Yale in October along with the Q&A that followed. For those of you who would prefer to listen to an mp3 of the speech, you can do that here. Host: Welcome everybody. So, it’s a pleasure to have all of you here, and a particular pleasure to welcome our honored guest, Robert Greene. He is, well, you are all here, so I think you probably know a lot about his books, his writings. I’ll state just a few words. He has trained in classical literature. And then had a very shifting career for some early period of his post-college life. And then settled in to write a series of extremely fascinating books that draw on the classical training and readings that he did. The books that the lives and writings of a number of the major figures. He’s written about power, about seduction, about war. With that background, of course, it is not surprising that he also made a wonderful connection with the hip-hop crowd. He became a guru of them for a while. He set up a collaboration with them. We were talking beforehand, it is clear that he enjoyed that collaboration. And it is not bad to be a guru, from what he said. But, it also achieved some of his other aims about who he was hoping to help empower. I thought what we would do is, after we give him a big applause for welcome, I will ask him to say a bit about himself and what he is working on, and then we will open it up for questions. But, why don’t we start with giving him a nice, warm welcome. Robert: Is it better if I stand or if I sit? Or what is the protocol? Host: Whatever is comfortable. Robert: Okay. Host: It is informal. You’re welcome to sit. Robert: Well, I come from Los Angeles. I was actually born in Los Angeles. And I don‘t mean to disparage California, or Los Angeles, particularly, or any of the people from there. But I will say that the IQ levels in a place like that are generally a little bit lower than what I find here. So, I‘m actually a little bit intim idated by all of these very smart people here. So, I‘m a little bit nervous. I hope you understand. Basically, I started writing back in 1996. I‘ve been writing my whole life. But I met somebody, we were in Italy together at the same time, working on a project, and it was a really awful Machiavellian environment, in Italy, if you can imagine that. And all of these terrible political games were being played. And we were just miserable and depressed. This was actually 1995. He was a book packager and he asked me if I had any ideas for books. And all of this pain that I had been through in the work world with all of these political, conniving figures, it just came up out of me. It was a beautiful day in Venice, Italy, and I sort of improvised this idea for a book, and he loved it. He basically paid me to live while I wrote ―The 48 Laws of Power‖. And that‘s where it started. For 15 to 16 years, I‘ve had this weird position in life that I don‘t know how many other people have had where I have been able to devote all of my attention to studying what I consider to be the most powerful, charismatic, successful, Machiavellian characters in history and contemporary figures, like, 50. I may not be good at many things. I can‘t build things with my hands or anything like that. But I have this one expertise — why some people excel, why some people are superior in the political game or in their creativity or whatever it is.

The other thing that primates have that is so bizarre and interesting is that they are the only animal we know that practice deception and games of manipulation among each other. What‘s the secret to it?‖ I don‘t believe in that kind of glib four sentence or one book answer about how to be powerful. a way of looking at things. My idea is that to the degree that you accept these realities in life. you are not going to have success in life. our ancestors. And I am often asked. I believe they all share this kind of attitude. for instance. basically. about the threat that they. It is a term called Machiavellian intelligence. What makes primates different from any other animal is that they live in very complex social environments. I want the idea of really. Now I don‘t know if you are familiar with this concept. that have hierarchies. And not only being realistic and understanding it. it is the idea that only humans or primates have a concept where I can think about. they looked at primates. and I‘m talking about chimps. but accepting in a very deep way that this is what the world is like and actually loving it and embracing it and working with reality. Basically.. have a much deeper. because I really want to get to your questions. There is sort of a philosophy that all of these figures that I‘ve studied share. people studying the brain. the Machiavellian animal. I was talking with Casper. They have rituals of grooming. I am going to talk. incredible games of manipulation that are going on among these little. a way of thinking that all of these people that I have been studying they all share this way of looking at the world. And it is something that came about in the sixties and seventies. One of the discoveries that they have in looking at these primates is that they possess a power that is known as the theory of mind. where they do a lot of studies. But there is an attitude towards life. hopefully not too long. So.In figuring out what I wanted to talk to you about today. And to the degree that you deny them and you avoid them and you hate them and you are miserable about them and you try and run away. The third is what I call aesthetic realism. It is what I call radical realism. deeply understanding what life is about. They remember these friendships and these alliances over the space of 10. Machiavellian realism or the Machiavellian reality. literally imagine. like wolves. how people operate in this world. ―I want to become powerful. They have shown colonies of monkeys. they are trying to understand why is it that the human brain is so much larger than anything else we have in nature? How did this happen? Why did our brains develop in this way so rapidly and become so much more complex than any other animal on the planet? And they basically went back to primates. you are going to be successful and powerful. The second is existential reality. and they came up with a really fascinating theory called Machiavellian intelligence. The first is. perhaps. they label primates as the Machiavellian creature. All of these figures from 50 Cent and Napoleon Bonaparte to Cleopatra to John F. is what I call our Machiavellian reality. orangutans. the first one. But. realism has this idea of just understanding the world and it sort of has a cynical. represent. Kennedy. that whole group. baboon s. where various scientists. what is going on in your mind right now. To explain why our brains developed in this way. the alpha male. etc. what I call. etc. primates are the other animal that have this exceptionally large brain. But primates. sometimes an edge to it. what it really means to be a human being. A brain that seems to be in excess of their needs. forming all kinds of friendships and alliances. . And the reason I call it radical is. There is no other animal on the planet that we can say that about. There is a concept that lately fascinates me that I have been using for my next book. or people say. I want to talk about three aspects of this attitude. where they groom each other for hours upon hours during the day. There are other animals. as I said. a much more complex social organization. So. small communities. Unless you believe in creationism. 20 years. The gist of it is the following. perhaps. Most animals can only judge another creature based on its outward behavior about what they are doing. But a human and a primate has the capacity to actually. who I want to thank for helping to organize this. that live in packs. So. in Puerto Rico. and I encourage you to barrage me with all kinds of difficult questions.

and a h istorian would be very offended with how I am doing this. But. Some six million years ago. what we have to learn in how to get along with other people. What is it exactly that is going on in your brain right now? What are you thinking? What are you thinking right now? Now they have discovered that primates actually possess this theory of mind. All of the deep levels of manipulation. why we are so clever. . I can play all kinds of games. at least as far as I know. And our earliest ancestors have this inheritance in them. It is 40 million years of evolution starting from primates back then to who we are now. to evolve beyond it. who have to deal with thousands of thousands of people living in communities. in the course of 20 years or 80 years. Because the moment I know what you are thinking or I can imagine what your intentions are. and I‘m skipping over millions of years of history. you can‘t divorce that from our other forms of intelligence. for instance. But you are talking about people. whatever you want to call it. I can strategize. basically. And we have the first. the Machiavellian animal. But it also allows for very deep levels of deception.and I am pointing to you. This allows for all kinds of complicated social behavior. I can try to distract you. involved all kinds of complicated organization. what I call our social reality. And from all of this stems all of this incredible Machiavellian behavior. this allows me to learn by imitation. This allows humans and primates to understand and to put themselves in the mind of another person. to cooperate. So. because I am thinking about you right there. It allows for us to be empathetic creatures. And in creating. there is nobody out there who really talks about this. that whole element that goes into what is known as Machiavellian intelligence. Now. were feeling that. why we are so smart is that we are inherently social creatures. of Machiavellian intelligence is that the reason primate brains developed so rapidly is in dealing with this very complicated social environment. But primates are dealing with their social environment. That you can‘t divorce the games that we have to play. So they have shown that monkeys. the reason why we have evolved so rapidly. possess these mirror neurons. my cell phone. We formed larger and larger groupings. to bring this all back to it. So if you map out very rapidly. If I watch him pick up the phone. Primates started evolving. There is no way to. There is nobody here at Yale teaching a class on how to be Machiavellian in the world or how to handle that kind of environment. manipulation. modern primates as we know them. being able to hunt something like that. the idea is that we humans. us. I am not going to get too technical with you here. through this concept. There is no way to deny that. 40 million years ago. they can look on a map of my brain and see that certain neurons are firing when I actually pick up this phone. So. this is my definition of that first basic reality. So. mirror neurons is this fascinating phenomenon where if I pick up this telephone. deception. deceive you. in government. but you would see an incredible increase in this social complexity over millions of years leading up to a modern era where a person who is raised as a human being in our environment is not simply dealing with a group of 20 people and having to figure out how to navigate in that world. I can experience what you are doing with picking up that phone as if I. We are. An animal normally is only dealing with its physical environment. I am not a neuroscientist myself. the same neurons are firing. etc. It is called mirror neurons. we humans diverged from that. cooperation. almost. con games. It is related to something called mirror neurons. what are known as homo erectus. It is who we are. This is very much who we are. And it is in dealing with the social problems and dealing with fellow chimpanzees and what they are thinking that the brain had to develop very rapidly in a very small period of time. in politics. There are not many books written about it. in our workplace. by our nature. in business. So the theory. basically. or the Machiavellian reality. We were the first animal that actually hunted big game. This Machiavellian intelligence. That chimpanzees possess this ability of theory of mind. myself.

What happened here? What did I do wrong? I mean. I mean. So that was strategy number two. So I would go into her office and I would tell her where my ideas were coming. that theory of mind.‖ ―I‘m listening.‖ ―I‘m sorry. Okay. And so when I started working. Law number one: Never outshine the master. So. That something was wrong.‖ Anyway. and over the course of several weeks. And I went home. and I was very much shocked by all of the egos and the insecurities and the game playing and the political stuff. my superior. I was immersed in studying philosophy and literature and languages. People will talk about their sex lives. Maybe didn‘t like me. essentially in magazines. I figured. I can remember when I was about 26 or 27 years old one particular job that was kind of the turning point in my life. made it very clear that she wasn‘t happy with me. I started resenting her. But. basically. I just wanted to interject into this idea my own personal story. Then one day we are having a meeting in which we are discussing our ideas. When I got out of college and I suddenly was confronted with this real world. I came to this conclusion. So going on what I was mentioning. we‘ll go through all of that. You have an attitude problem. that didn‘t seem to work. That‘s just it. Ruth here. You have a problem here. I do my work. maybe it is because I‘m not involving her in what I‘m doing. I need to make and involve her more so she feels like she is a part of the research that I am doing. You‘ll get Dr. But nobody talks about all of these power games that are constantly going on in the world. I mean. So. ―‗Robert. I had made this woman. . I am not going to tell you which job this was. of course. what is it that I‘m doing that is displeasing her? I am clearly producing. and I was doing better than anybody else there.When you enter the real world. ―No. in doing that. well. naturally. in my ideas. I was trying to engage with her. this woman. this power that we have. I figured. She says. But I was basically judged on how many good stories I found. maybe I‘m not being friendly enough with her. because I just hated it. That‘s just life. I started doing that. but just talk. whatever. So in this job. over the course of the next few weeks she just started kind of torturing me about this idea that I had an attitude. I developed an attitude. I had gone into this environment thinking that what mattered was doing a great job and showing how talented I was. Still didn‘t have any effect. Well. all right. she just didn‘t like me? I think I‘m a likable person. I thought. And I‘m thinking. Maybe I need to go in and not talk about work. Isn‘t that the most important thing? Isn‘t that why we are all here? Suddenly I found that my superior. Maybe I need to be nice to her. the job was that I had to find stories that would then be put into either film or a magazine. She still seemed really cold and kind of mean. and she suddenly interrupts. I don‘t think I do. It really kind of disturbed me and it upset me. I am a very competitive person. you are suddenly blindsided by this whole realm that exists. And. I don‘t want you Googling it and figuring out who I‘m talking about. I had graduated. I had violated a law of power 12 years before I ever wrote the book. I sort of put myself in her shoes. And a couple of weeks later.‖ ―What?‖ ―You‘re not listening to people here. I need to run them by her. But. I thought. be nice and talk like a human being. I thought really deeply about it. I was doing something wrong and I couldn‘t figure out what it was. who‘s name I won‘t mention. You are trying to get work done. It is like our dirty little secret. She just hates me. going further. You are trying to produce. Not everybody can love you. I was finding more stories that ended up getting produced. I probably quit a week before they were going to fire me anyway. You are going to judge me about how wide my eyes are open and how I‘m listening to people? She goes. I had no idea of how things operated in the real world. I quit. well. with a classical background.‖ But. figuring that was the problem. And I figured out. insecure that maybe I was after her job or that maybe I was better than she was. as he mentioned. what the hell? I‘ll just do my job. I produce. I worked at Esquire magazine and a few others. because I felt that‘s the point. She was still clearly unhappy with me. And I would make her look bad because the great ideas were coming from me and not from her.

but unconsciously are playing all kinds of games. They don‘t want any kind of job in which they have to do that. Material for a book. defined by how we handle these environments. ―It‘s all material. I‘m a writer. It doesn‘t really exist. Material for a novel. They have no problem handling this part. In fact. They are never going to assume a position of great responsibility because it involves all of this. And when you violate law number one. There are three types of people in this world in dealing with this social reality. to not only observe the power games going on in the many different kinds of jobs that I‘ve had. they love it. I‘m never going to get emotional. They can never get past it. and connivers and are very aggressive. That we live in environments where there are all kinds of complicated networks. what I call. I often describe the many different kinds. the trickiest kind of person to deal with. you are going to suffer for it. In having this distance and looking at the world like this. I am going to watch these people as if they were mice in a laboratory. is that this is the reality that we must all deal with. which is empathy and cooperation and seducing people and getting them to work with you. In my books. And it goes as follows. I‘m never going to let that happen again. and con artists. What I decided in ―The 48 Laws. They can get pretty far. We are.‖ and it‘s a very much a part of me. I worked for a music producer. So in reflecting over this. It is what I am proposing that you adopt. They can be happy that way. with some distance. You will find that they are slowly marginalized. I developed ―The 48 Laws of Power. They are too much involved with themselves and their own ego and they love manipulating until they go too far and they have a fall in life. the deniers. This suddenly allowed me. Everything possible. That is the worst thing you can do. I don‘t care. There is a wall. There are. in a way. A motto that I still use to this day. That we are social creatures. I am just going to become a master observer of the game of power.‖ Everything that happens is material. and that is what had happened. I would classify this woman who had tortured me as a kind of a classic passive-aggressor. They almost want to pretend that we are descended from angels and not from primates. It doesn‘t happen. People who consciously don‘t want to admit that there is any kind of manipulation involved. this reality. From that. and that motto is.I had violated law number one. They don‘t understand that there is the other side to that whole idea of theory of mind and the mirror neurons. The third type is what I am calling the radical realist. I worked for film. Among these deniers. suddenly I had power. I wasn‘t emotionally involved. you will find two types.‖ Because that it what happened. I worked in a detective agency. which usually you will find one or two in an office or in an environment. for a screenplay. now. I‘ve had jobs from working in journalism. The second type of person besides the deniers are those who love this Machiavellian part of our nature and revel in it and are master manipulators. and I could deal with things. You will find people who are genuinely disturbed by the politicking aspect of human nature. I had some distance. ―I‘m never going to let this happen again. The other branch of the deniers are the people that are the passive-aggressors. I want to be the master observer of this world. the passive-aggressors. That what I am talking about here is cynical. And I said. but eventually they are tripped up in life because they are too Machiavellian. I developed a motto. it was kind of a turning point in my life. And I can tell you. I don‘t care about these jobs that I get.‖ when I was finally given the opportunity to write the book. the people who deny this reality exists. . This type of person. because you are touching on a person‘s ego and their insecurities. I basically reacted emotionally to her torturing me and developed an attitude.

There was something about him that was really interesting. They don‘t interest me. I‘m not somebody who is generally star struck. We would spend a long time talking about his life. the political games that are going on. But they inevitably come to me for advice because they have a blind spot. political figures. If. You can‘t imagine two people from two more different backgrounds in the world than he and I. I began to see a pattern. They bore me. who they brought off the streets and helped and gave money to and developed is suddenly turning against them and betraying them in a very overt manner. I was contacted by 50. suddenly with that attitude. I decided after meeting him and spending some time with him that this guy is really different.This is our nature. There is no point in denying it. So. You understand the laws of power. very powerful people. you are going to suddenly find yourself 5hat there is a whole other realm of life that you are not observing. If it is often other people are practicing them against you. They have figured out how to make a lot of money. Why is he like this? Maybe we could learn something from him and I would express that in the book. All I am trying to say is that in accepting it and in studying it and opening your eyes to this reality. suddenly the whole power game. We kind of hit it off in a very weird way. but I was excited by that. It is that you understand they exist. Within that accepting of it. Stop fighting it. I am not really interested in celebrities. They don‘t u nderstand the human nature. Now I live in Los Angeles. And in talking about his life. But 50 wanted to meet me. . In accepting this reality and in dealing with it and studying human nature and this aspect of what I call Machiavellian intelligence. I am going to accept that this is the human being as it has evolved over all of this time. power. It‘s fine. you have all kinds of power and freedom. But there was something about us that really clicked. I do all kinds of consulting work with business leaders. And not only am I not going to deny it. This is the part of the game that trips up most people. He was a big fan of ―The 48 Laws of Power. that you are not paying attention to. They have figured out how to maybe win elections or how to create a kind of music. They are brilliant at the technical side of their business. So I wanted to figure out what made him different. I had no idea. and market it. It is because they have spent their whole lives studying the technical side of their field. and they can‘t necessarily hurt you. Jay-Z had been quoting the book and Nas had quoted one of the songs and lyrics. He had a kind of calmness. This is how we evolved over millions of years. fine. So it wasn‘t a celebrity thing. with that mentality. A few years ago. It is just the world as it is. etc. In fact. the whole dynamic will alter in your favor. So we met. It is who we are. The second reality I want to talk about is in context of my work with 50 Cent. He had charisma. it is not that you love it and want to go out in the world and play all of these nasty games. Ever since I wrote my books.. Just accept it. and they haven‘t spent any time observing other people. You understand what people are up t o. There is nothing wrong with the fact that in this world people are playing political games. Curtis Jackson. They haven‘t spent any time understanding human nature and why some people have egos and how that kind of ego will operate in an environment like an office. once you leave the confines of Yale. Most of them are absolutely brilliant. which you will find a lot in your life. It is just reality. occasionally. He had power. I love it. If you pay attention to it. That‘s okay within reason. We decided based on this to do a book together. out of the blue. There is nothing wrong with the fact that there are seducers and con artists and it is going on all the time. He is really different.‖ I had known that there was something going on in the hip-hop world. They don‘t understand why somebody who they groomed as a successor. something was happening. that‘s okay. you have to do the m. artists. and they‘ve been published.

Nothing would happen. or they are in prison for most of their lives. He was going to launch his music career. It was actually quite boring. He was not going to go back into hustling. and then it all faded and you were miserable and then you went back to drugs or dealing or whatever. The schools were really bad. very few of them live past the age of 25. somebody came up to him while he was sitting in the backseat of a car and shot nine times a few feet away from him. Day after day at 6:00 in the morning. I am going to mix it myself. He had record labels interested in him. it was a trap. So you usually have a couple of years of power and success. ―‗We can‘t get that on the radio. Then he realized that this was yet another kind of trap. Eminem got one of his mixed tapes and thought this was the greatest thing he had ever heard. He decided to leave it. The only people he could see in the hood that had power were the hustlers. He did that because he realized that school was a complete dead end for somebody from his background. He decided he was going to go back into hustling. It was coming out of that experience that he had his own turning point in life. but I am n ot going to depend on any record labels. you had to stand on the street corner. but that‘s what he did. He went back into hustling. So he was sitting there hustling on the streets. and it wasn‘t glamorous at all. and he met Jam Master Jay and he apprenticed with him. I am going to package it. No music. You just had to think about whatever. maybe 19. he started hustling on the streets in south side Queens. When I was looking at this. hustling on the streets or being a rapper . because there was nobody there wh o was going to censor him and say. One of the bullets went right through his mouth. That only suckers went into school. And I‘m going to put it out on these mixed tapes. There is a limit to it. Because he didn‘t have a record label. So he was going to become a great hustler. being a rapper. But at the age of about nine years old. And on top of that. He refused to go for the usual traps in life. which was a rapper. He was not going to get depressed. the pattern that I saw was that this was somebody that refused to be dependent on other people. This is when he was about 18. in this case. the reality of the streets. He was going to launch a mixed tape campaign on the streets of New York like no one had ever seen before. He miraculously survived that. but he was going to do it all on his own. Nine years old is kind of early to start hustling. I‘m going to say exactly what I want. which is also a bit precocious. They led to really bad jobs.I don‘t know how familiar you are with this. So. That is when he got shot. I am going to do my own artwork. You had no books. The trap was that the record label owned you and they would develop artists very quickly and then get rid of them as soon as they were not so hot anymore. nothing to read. I am going to get out. To think that you are going to succeed in hustling is an illusion. all by himself.‖ He did that with such energy and such drive and such love for it that after two years of this campaign. he was going to be able to be as nasty and violent and tell all kinds of stories. an old beef. Just waiting for people to buy your drugs. We don‘t want you to say this or that. It was so boring. Nothing to listen to. And about at the age of 15. So now he started learning how to rap. Hustlers don‘t get out of their life. And he got fed up with it. Soon he discovered that hustling wasn‘t what he thought it was. To have power in that world was extremely difficult. It was almost worse than being a hustler. I don‘t remember exactly. I am going to have a group of people around me. He started getting reasonably successful. and I am going to do everything myself. I‘m sure you all know the story. Most of them die. From a beef that was going on. He signed 50 to his record label at Interscope. And then the rest is history.‖ ―Fuck all that. I am going to create a hard sound that is going to kind of reflect the violence that I have known my whole life. he decided he was going to get out of hustling and he was going to become the only other thing he could think you could become. He determined after that that he was not going to give up. dealing drugs.

―You know Robert. without the usual crutches that most of us have. on the other hand. It is an actually remarkable thought that your DNA will never be repeated. But we are not aware of it. and that you are truly born as an individual. He had to decide who he was. No parental support. how do you know that your grandfather was happy as a truck driver? Usually.with a good label. by conforming to a group. what defines him. Nothing. but that you are spending your life running away from it. But how do you know deep down inside that that was really what he wanted? You are assuming something. I am going to go towards it. It is so American. murdered when he was eight years old. Maybe he settled for being a truck driver and maybe he accepted it. and what most really powerful people have in life is a sense that they are unique. this. ―What‘s wrong with that? Why can‘t people just accept that that‘s what their role in life is? Why do you have to be always striving for something else?‖ My answer to her. He had no peers. I gave this talk. this Italian woman came up to me and she said. by refusing to be the typical rapper on a label. it is really up to you to define who you are and what you want in life. that you become more of an individual. people when they are in their twenties or a little bit younger have a dream about life. It is completely different. what I call his existential reality. who he wanted to be. by going out there and saying. Ever in the future. you are essentially alone in life. No protection. You were born alone and you are going to die alone. That is actually the con game that goes on. that you bring more of your individuality into play. the more power you are going to have. ever. and it was a group of people that I don‘t think were very receptive to this talk. first of all. what he should do. He lived with his grandparents. It is so American. Afterwards. You are talking about the 1950s. And I decided. I determined that in fact. which we would almost assume is a very negative thing. For us. To this day he doesn‘t know who his father was. I determined it is because of his very unusual background. why would somebody like this be so realistic. that we can define ourselves through other people.‖ he stood out from everybody else. This whole thing about the cowboys and Ronald Reagan and being an individual. in the history of the universe. I was thinking. that is not how we are in Europe. these things aren‘t important. It is just so American. And I was explaining this idea of uniqueness. was basically. They want something. That is not how we are.‖ And then she proceeded to tell me about her grandfather. 50 never knew his father. by doing what other people tell us to do. that friends. He saw through all the bullshit that the world put at you. there will never be anybody else like you. that he was basically alone in the world and had to do things for himself and define who he wanted to be. let‘s just pretend that he was happy being a truck driver. His mother was killed. but basically he was alone. when a lot of his peers were not like that? A lot of his peers got totally seduced by the idea of becoming a great hustler. But even. so pragmatic and so sharp in his thinking. But on the other hand. on the other hand he had nobody telling him who he should be. By refusing to be a hustler like everybody else. that is actually the reality of each and every one of us. this reality of his. He had to do everything himself. You are living in . Now I talked about this once a few months ago. We have the illusion that parents. You and your experiences in your life. And she said. ―I don‘t care about all that. What 50 had. But that is actually the illusion. He had no adult supervision. you are talking about an individual. and he saw this is where the power lies in life. which I will abbreviate. an ambition. And although you have these networks of support and they are real and you do have parents. that all of our support network is going to help us out in the end. that there is something very different about them. Ever in the past. wh o was a truck driver in Italy and how he loved his life as a truck driver and he was happy as that. I am going to create the music that reflects my reality. The truth is. He was basically thrown out onto the streets of Queens with nobody. by being like other people. Essentially saying that each and every human being that is ever born. there is never going to be another you. and he gained power. I was invited to Stanford University to give a little talk. He was supremely realistic. And to the extent that you bring out your uniqueness in life.

there is even some anonymous questions. We may get to them. I can talk about it later. in which people had a union and there was communism and left wing activity. where someone like my father would work for one company his whole life and felt protected by them. and they feel happiest when there is somebody taking care of them. because I want to give you enough time to ask questions. In the book that I‘m writing now. Whether that is good or bad. When your reality in the day is for three minutes you are happy and then for three minutes you are anxious. You know how to control men and do you know how to control women. That is gone. . I‘m much happier than I was before I had a success as a writer. I‘m happy. The reality that we are all facing is that we are left on our own and we have to develop these self-reliant skills and we have to not be afraid of expressing our individuality. . You no longer can depend on anybody and any job or your boss protecting you. Some people like a position of dependence. You know? But overall. in music. I‘m . God bless you. . it is a weird thing of language to have a word like happiness. if you‘d like. Robert: I don‘t know about the latter. Being a truck driver meant something else that it doesn‘t mean anymore. Audience Member: So I have to ask. in architecture. But. if you‘ve read it. . We are all dealing with a world that is so much more insecure. Then you get a phone call.a Rossellini neo-realistic movie from the 1950s. Would you say that you are happy? Robert: Me? Me personally? Well. They are not necessarily happy. since Casper sent out a page before. I‘m interviewing eight of the most eminent people in the world today in different fields — In neuroscience. Chapter one in ―The 50th Law‖. So if I had to say am I happier than I was? Yes. That truck driver in Italy in the year 2010 is dealing with a globalized environment. So I want to open this now to your questions. But I wanted to give you an idea of this overall philosophy that brings all of my books together. where we have to learn these self-reliant skills. and I am going to be going deeper into it in my next book. I‘m very lucky and very blessed with my lifestyle in being able to write these books. Audience Member: But what makes the good life? Robert: The good life? Audience Member: Is it power? Robert: Yes. But . You sort of wound up talking about happiness. And they are not happy. So I am not even going to get to my third reality. Happiness never lasts for three days. I don‘t know. because with power comes a degree of freedom. Let’s see some and w e also have. everybody is an individual. ultimately. goes very deeply into the subject of realism. where putting out our individuality is the only way we are going to get power in this world. the withering away of the welfare state. I have realized that I have come a little bit longer than I wanted to do on this subject. and is facing all kinds of conflicts and problems. All of them are inherently bucking the trend and taking their field in a completely novel direction by bringing out more of that uniqueness that I was talking about. But I have kind of hit my own wall here. That you are dealing with an environment that is long gone. Now. Audience Member: All right. All of them are inherently non-conformists. The world as we are evolving right now is becoming completely different from the world of 50 or 60 years ago. Why don’t we take . Host: I think there will be plenty of questions.

I could talk about myself. That sense of helplessness. That unless this is someone who I am going to live with my whole life. And that dependency. that‘s my fault. to me. They have no control over their destiny. You learn how to compromise. and you can‘t put a number on it. ―Absolute power corrupts absolutely. than the few people who are corrupted by having power. the power game. I didn‘t understand. if I don‘t know how to deal with people. and then creating a book that goes out in the real world. then nobody can take it away from you and you have power and you have freedom and a degree of happiness. But it won‘t get out there. The pleasure that comes for me is in writing a book and in writing the book well. absolute powerlessness corrupts even more than that. I could love my book. And I won‘t be happy. He said. But I think people who are depressed are often depressed because they have no control over their lives. even if you are going to live with them. They feel helpless. They feel like at work they might lose their job any momen t now. Because if you don‘t understand the social part. and I don‘t understand human nature. It is your field. Host: Well I wonder whether part of your question is. there is no end. You learn how to be in a relationship and how to love. I still don‘t know if I‘ve answered your question. let‘s say. it‘s interesting. and it has to come from within. more debilitating on the human spirit. whatever. but that’s mine. and my editor hates me. You can accumulate millions. Audience Member: But what would be the intrinsic goodness be? What is your intrinsic end of the power? Robert: Well. Well. I don‘t know if I answered your question. what do you use the power for? Is power the end that you are searching for? Or are there things you actually care about trying to use.‖ Malcolm X had a comeback to that line that I like a lot more. I want to be able to have it depend on something that comes from within. I‘m not quoting it correctly. And then once you have that skill or whatever you want to call it. that eventually I am going to be left alone. The end in life is doing your work that you love and feeling satisfaction. then the book that I write. I didn‘t. But my experience is that a lot of people in this world are talented. It is whatever you produce. And the only thing that is of value is something that you develop yourself through your life experiences. is the worst feeling in the world. But that is only half of it. through maybe some hard times where you learn how to seduce. The man or woman that they want to have a relationship with isn‘t listening to them. So I don‘t know what your question would be. Because we die and what can I say? That is the absurd human condition that we have. Half the game of life is doing something that you love and engaging with it deeply. Obviously there is a quote you‘ve all heard of. I can‘t really 100 percent depend on it. It won‘t have success. I think that it is hard to gauge. and my agent doesn‘t know how to work with me. Robert: Well. It‘s a terrible feeling. Even to love somebody. to make sense to bother to have power for? Robert: Well. in spending a lot of time getting it right and understanding the real world as it is.not happy with that because I know that that person will eventually withdraw their support. Audience Member: Those people that opt out of your system. It won‘t get published. They feel that their children aren‘t listening to them. that‘s a different question. and I can‘t market my book. Host: I’m not sure if that’s your question. the seduction game. can they not keep happiness because they don’t have that liberty. that love or happiness that came from someone else. Robert: No. It is your study. and they don‘t succeed because they don‘t understand that there is this other side of . But the sense of being powerless is much worse. is almost a skill that you have to develop. all the money in the world and all the beautiful wom en and then it‘s gone at some point.

but. Usually. That would be a beautiful world if it could be like that. how much does that enter into your goal of success at the university? I don‘t think it is as much. learning that that is not the case 100 percent can be quite traumatic. professors can be. To answer your question. that became the focus of your book. In fact. I don‘t know. Robert: Right. When he was shot. He can‘t talk anymore. the other side and beneath all this Machiavellian strategy. Host: That is interesting because you succeeded in a way.life — the power game. . and I could be wrong here. the Machiavellian game. a great musician. it tends to breed the opposite idea. He can‘t sing anymore. because they are going to kill him. He experienced extreme powerlessness. and I wish it were that way. Nearly died. perhaps. But it is not how it operates. the element of ego and gamesmanship and politicking. Yale is a society. It breeds the idea that just doing a good job and getting the good grades and succeeding is what will translate into power in the world. is to graduate wit h a very high GPA. let‘s say your goal. All I am saying is. Now why is it different? Like you say. Robert: And not to compare myself to 50. . For me. But more or less. To get those high grades. I mean. I wish talent and getting answer s right and doing a great essay. as one experiences in the real world. . Host: . They might be a great painter. Robert: Yeah. He can‘t go back to the streets hustling. Host: That started getting you to think about how do you accomplish it? Robert: That‘s right. the end is the satisfaction that you get with your work. because you were powerless. a great business idea. You could charm your professor perhaps. you are being graded on what you‘ve accomplished. But we will be stepping out into society. But that can only come with a larger understanding of the social component. with these goals. At least in the vignette that you gave that was your own experience. they are not immune to favoritism. And actually. in fact. the university. . Host: That has now put you where you feel like you have accomplished it. which is why I think so many people suffer in life. more or less. And you are blinded Robert: At a university. You couldn’t accomplish what you wanted to. to being emotional. Host: And what you cared about getting. out of this. because I can‘t. which is right. here is a place where there is no need for that. as high as possible and land a really great job. . somehow that experience with this extreme powerlessness . So there is a degree of seduction and charm going on. That‘s how life should be. do you need to have Machiavellian skills? Usually not. Audience Member: You said earlier that it’s only when we step out of Yale that we will see this other dark. For you. He was sitting in bed. They fail at it. Robert: Right. But we are never going to hear of them because they don‘t understand this. nearly as much. I wish that was the whole component. So maybe there is something to what you are saying. The record label dropped him. And out of that he analyzed what it was that he needed to do and then he re-emerged. But it was the same thing with him. he was very depressed.

So there is a lot of politicking. your own self-reliant skills. those people involve in society and they are doing well because of the character of the education that they got over here. political skills were not developed at Yale. They discerned that the art world. . You are afraid to express something unique about yourself. then that‘s fine. essentially.Audience Member: Is it not interesting that a Yale graduate could go out and be involved in positions of power. That is as far as you are ever going to go. But power lies in a slightly different direction. Audience Member: You talk about the importance of expressing individuality. That‘s ridiculous. You end up becoming a kind of person that only knows how to fit in. particularly in business. You can do that from within a large corporation. the knowledge that you gain will be very valuable. the analytical skills. competitive. And if that is what you want. it‘s has a lot of weight to it. they don‘t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. And if you do that long enough. But all I am saying is if you end up becoming the kind of person that only knows how to fit into a corporate culture. I don‘t know. You are not going to last very long if you do that. And I didn‘t get to go into my idea in as much depth as I would like to. It is extremely valuable. and a very interesting idea. You are having to think about. That is kind of a unique thing for a university. there is no more political. you dye your hair green and you start doing something really wild because that is just who you are. that apprenticeship phase. and basically it is an arts school. It was a school that was formed in the sixties. who are successful. And actually develop the kind of political skills that you are going to need when you later go into the art world. you have to be constantly waiting for that moment when you are going to do something different. we all have to serve an apprenticeship in life. hat only knows how to fit into that particular culture. Your interpersonal. People who now. mean-spirited world than the art world. For instance. that is going to be the end of it. you are afraid to step away from that. Because what makes a great work of art or film is very subjective. You are not going to have the luxury of suddenly not fitting in and being so weird and different. Which one would you say is more important? Is it being unique or being able to mix? Robert: Well. What if following your own ideals means that you have to separate yourself from the crowd. It is more subtle than that. You have to be able to take your time and fit into the culture that‘s created and find your place in it. I don‘t mean that the moment you graduate Yale. But it is just part of it. But then you are on your own. Very interesting place. I want to be an entrepreneur. you are going to go work for some high powered law firm or Wall Street or wherever you go. And they created this university to literally train their students to be good at that. You have to. the education is extremely valuable. that is the end game in life. And maybe your connections at Yale and the degree. There is a university called CalArts in California. as you might call it. when you are in your apprenticeship. The skills that you learn. It can lead to a good job. crabby. There are new models being created every day. But the problem is that that ends up becoming the end in life. I want to create my own business. It is just because you are trying to rebel and be different. in those first years working at that high powered firm. They created this thing where you had to learn how to deal with your professors and deal with the politicking and talk about your work in a way that would charm and seduce. and now you are there and you are 30 years old and that is the only thing you have ever learned to do. You have to cultivate your own individuality. Robert: Well. while you are learning about the world and you are preparing for that moment when you are going to step out on your own. I have friends who have gone there. and I don‘t mean to devalue it at all. Robert: How do you mean? Audience Member: After graduation. And it is often not really who you are. So once you graduate Yale. as I said. are creating really unique kinds of business.

they are made. and then maybe we’ll have time for two more after that. Audience Member: And does that fit into your paradigm of maintaining power? Robert: Very much so. They become a Mahatma Gandhi. What they need. ―I measured my . this is about Gladstone and Disraeli. more possible realm for everyone. Kennedy. Charm is a whole. The charmer is somebody who knows how to make the other person feel great about themself.Host: So let me ask one of the written in questions. I know ―The Art of Seduction‖ is written with words. They do n‘t want love from one person. You may not end up becoming Cleopatra. What their weakness is. in your eyes. All charismatics are burning with a mission. I say some people are born with charisma because they come from bad backgrounds. And I also heard from a lot of entrepreneurs that they say that in order to be wildly successful. People talk about the importance of charm and charisma. who I have been reading a lot about. ―Sitting next to Gladstone. but you can go halfway or a quarter of the way. Everybody feels it around him. two British politicians of the 19th century who were rivals. And she said. They often come from backgrounds that are a little bad. They are different types. Your inner conviction is what people feel. a John F. Sitting next to Disraeli. to sublimate this need for affection and love. You are not necessarily from that background. did you want to ask another anonymous question? Audience Member: Audience Member: You mentioned entrepreneurs. who was an orphan. Charismatics are people who have a tremendous need to get love from the world. All of the most creative people are experimenters who have many failures. Like Marilyn Monroe. on a global level. Your whole body has to be alive with it or you are not going to have charisma. You can learn to a degree. They didn‘t have happy childhoods. they turn to a large group. he said. and one of them is the charismatic. Usually charmers are not charismatic. I‘ve watched him. You have to have that inner con viction. They have to feel it in an animal way. One of them is the charmer. They become charismatic on a political. You have to be outer directed. In the book. 50 has charisma. I‘ll be looking at a lot about that in my next book. validation. Robert: Yeah. their eyes light up with this idea that they want to convey to people. Seducers are not born. It means not thinking about yourself but imagining what the other person wants to hear. And the sense of being alive with this inner fire is what people feel this charisma. I thought I was the most brilliant woman in the world. Usually charismatics are not necessarily charmers. you have to be prepared to wildly fail. And it is very important and very powerful and anybody can learn it. Charm is knowing how to please other people. It is a really important social skill. But it is a language that is non-verbal. How can these traits be defined? And do you have to be born with them? And I assume implied in the latter question is what do I have to do to get it? How do I learn to be charming and charismatic? Or can I? Robert: The answer to your question is you have to read ―The Art of Seduction‖ because I explain and describe nine types of seducers in the world. with an idea that makes their whole face light up. I‘m sorry. Einstein. You can‘t communicate it outwardly. You can‘t tell people you are charismatic. They are different people. There is a famous quote about a woman who said. but you can learn the idea. And I talk about it in the book. but there is a limit unless you are born that way. They want it from an audience. So. I thought he was the most brilliant man in the world. Seduction is a non-verbal language. They are almost not the same.‖ That‘s the charmer. They see it in your hands. which is why.

I met this man in Italy. Robert: Oh. ―No. How do I turn them into a means for me to accomplish something? . But. I see this is the opportunity. That is a very instrumental view of other people. It is just what do you do with it? Are you the kind of person that recognizes the opportunity? When Barack Obama was first deciding to run for presidency. You have to be the kind of person that tries things out and learn from your experiences. but it was like 95 percent of them. Just the ebbs and flows and trends. Fouchet. a book has a limit. You need to wait four more years.success by how full my wastebasket was. it happened to be a lucky moment. Everybody. You come on the world stage at the right time. aside from personal charisma and characteristics at all. And there is clearly a way in which a bunch of the laws are written. ―You are not ready to run. my birthday. But he was the one that recognized this was the moment and I am going to seize it. But the difference is everybody has luck. this is what got that guy interested in my idea. When this man gave me an opportunity to write ―The 48 Laws of Power. I know when I first started looking at some of what you wrote. So it is very important. about the natural way that opportunities and political opinions sway with the times? Robert: Well.‖ And so you have to go out there and not be afraid of trying things. to me. what separates people who take an opportunity like that and others who let it slip by. So you have to not be afraid of failure. It is your own experience in doing things where you learn. something happens to you. And that is. which I talk about in ―The 50th Law. Starting a business. And the ones who are successful go on to a second and a third one and a fourth one. And there is that French minister who survived from the French Revolution all the way through Napoleon and after. You know? If you are an opportunist. If you are afraid of that. Host: So let me make a comment and then get your reactions and then I think we’ll finish up. Oh. 50 Cent wouldn’t have been able to sell that mixed tape if the environment wasn’t ready for it. it‘s a good question because a lot of people will say. They are called serial entrepreneurs. they will l ook at a Clinton or a Barack Obama and they‘ll say. If I hadn‘t met him in 1995. ―What makes them so brilliant or how do they succeed in an election?‖ A lot of it. I wasn‘t being creative. You can‘t learn how to run a business.‖ you recognize that opportunity has come. I had the luck to meet this man.‖ And he said. a good degree is luck. This was probably the only moment where he could have won an election given his background. it would be easy to take much of what you say as instructions for how to use other people. and the reason is we learn by doing. aggressiveness. So there is always a degree of luck in anybody‘s success. you can‘t learn how to have success by reading a book. I don‘t know the number. Fouchet? Audience Member: Yeah. Christmas. and hearing you today. you know. But. I‘m afraid I‘m dissuading all of you from buying my books.‖ So what separates people in life are. How many ideas I threw away meant that I was on the right track. and you work like a fiend in order to make it happen. it is going to be very difficult to gain the real world knowledge that you need in order to have success. 365 days a year until 1:00 in the morning. How to get them to do your bidding. ultimately. this is what connected with my audience. that way. a good thing will happen to you and you let it pass. They have shown entrepreneurs that. ―Oh. What do you think about. when everybody was telling him.‖ You are going to be measured by your failures. I still might be slaving away in some cubicle in Hollywood and you would never have heard of me. Audience Member: You talk a lot about personal characteristics like charisma.‖ I worked night and day. If my wastebasket was empty. etc. I was not going to let go of my one opportunity in life. their first ventures fail.

.‖ I talk about how you do not outshine people and get them. though.” But to think. And that requires a totally different kind of personality. What separates them from being a means or an instrument and also being attuned to their individuality and what their separateness is? Why does it have to be mutually exclusive? Host: I don’t know that they are. Where you have to not be so self-absorbed. Host: The boss who was squashing you. on the other hand. which is emotional intelligence. How do I understand how other people think and what moves them? And what their emotional state is. Host: I wanted to thank you very much. you are bringing them into the group and you have a mission you are trying to accomplish. ―The 48 Laws of Power. And that having some honed emotional intelligence might put me in a position to be able to accomplish things that I want but also be attuned to what they want. some of the psychologists here and our provost here have studied. And not necessarily treat them as minions. It becomes tricky. but it may not be the most visible. well. Was there another way than just to say. That is the secret to being successful as a politician or a businessperson or in any kind of relationship. But not many people recognize that. I shouldn’t outshine her. Robert: Right. But I do think that the focus on what’s that other person’s interest and what would really matter to that person and how might we both be able to accomplish what we both care about? To get our goals in alignment. Robert: Oh. okay. It is a good point because people mistake my books for being purely about how to use people.Also. the difficulty that you talked about. So I was wondering how you think about those tensions? Robert: Yeah. Well. and you are aware of their own needs and the fact that they are an individual. And it is all kind of selfish. Robert: Yeah. but treat them as their own independent entities. “Well. Host: Yeah. because if you are thinking about them deeply and their own needs. And I go as deeply into that as I can. And how my actions will interact with theirs. where is the distinction for them becoming a means to it? What are you trying to accomplish? If you are trying to. But.‖ I make the point that you are not going to get far unless you are the kind of person that knows how to think inside the other person‘s mind. Host: You do have that component. Host: I don’t know that they are. How do I bring her over?’ Robert: Yes. that is what I was aware of. We go back to where you ran to. Where you can think inside of other people and what their interests are and what is going to appeal to them. But. mixed into. never outshine my boss. for instance. Robert: Right. particularly in ―The Art of Seduction. there had a sense that some of what you are really interested in is something that say. forge a political organization where people are all on the same page with a sense of mission and you need to be sensitive to the kinds of people that will join your group. as you have talked and as we talked earlier. because they only see the element of using other people for what you want. But then it gets very Machiavellian. Robert: In the book. Host: But then it aligns with we both want to create these stories.

make the best of them. Chapter 5 Know When to Be Bad – Aggression You will always find yourself among the aggressive and the passive-aggressive who seek to harm you in some way. Instead you should have a greater fear of what will happen to you if you remain dependent on others for power. you lose even greater control in the long run. They bring endless battles into your life. forcing you to be more inventive with the little that you have. an opportunity. Thank you. By seeing through people‘s manipulations. instead you must fearlessly accept these circumstances. What keeps you in such positions is a fear of having to sink or swim on your own. even embrace them. Your lack of resources can be an advantage. Your task is to resist the temptation to wish it were all different. Chapter 3 Turn Shit into Sugar – Opportunism Every negative situation contains the possibility for something positive. Your days are numbered. Your goal in every maneuver in life must be ownership. It is the ultimate alchemy to transform all such negatives into advantages and power. more creative. you will find endless opportunities that elude most people. Your creative spirit is squashed. If you try to micromanage it all. keep moving and changing your appearances to fit the environment. The firmer your grasp on reality. Do not let fears make you wait for a better moment or become conservative.Robert: Oh. Losing a battle can allow you to frame yourself as the sympathetic underdog. People can be treacherous. it is yours to lose – you are more motivated. Don‘t give others the chance to pin you down. The answer is to let go and move with the chaos that presents itself to you – from within it. thank you very much. When it is yours. You must get over any general fears you have of confronting people or you will find it extremely difficult to . more alive. Do not let anything disrupt your flow. Chapter 2 Make Everything Your Own – Self-Reliance When you work for others. they own you. If there are circumstances you cannot control. The 50th Law (chapter headings) Chapter 1 See Things for What They Are – Intense Realism Reality can be rather harsh. slip around them. It takes constant effort to carve a place for yourself in this ruthlessly competitive world and hold on to it. completely yourself. the more power you will have to alter it for your purposes. you are at their mercy. working the corner for yourself. you will gain a sharp appreciation for what makes some people advance and o thers fall behind. If you encounter walls or boundaries. The ultimate power in life is to be completely self-reliant. you can turn them around. Chapter 4 Keep Moving – Calculated Momentum In the present there is constant change and so much we cannot control. By focusing your attention on what is going on around you. They own your work. It is how you look at it that matters.

You need to keep your focus on their changing needs. Your sense of self-worth comes from you alone – never the opinion of others. This inspires and binds the group together. Chapter 7 Know Your Environment from the Inside Out – Connection Most people think first of what they want to express or make. Chapter 8 Respect the Process – Mastery The fools in life want things fast and easy – money. thinking first of the public. Chapter 10 Confront Your Mortality – the Sublime . and making tough decisions. you will take risks that will increase your chances of success. knowing this dynamic. Whatever they manage to get slips through their hands as fast as it comes in. you must practice what you preach. attention. You must maintain as close a relationship to your environment as possible. Chapter 9 Push Beyond Your Limits – Self-Belief Your sense of who you are will determine your actions and what you end up getting in life. If you see your reach as limited. and believe that you are destined for something great. beginning with their demand. Everyone operates with a flexible morality when it comes to their self-interest – you are simply making this more conscious and effective. taking risks with confidence. holding yourself to the highest standards.assert yourself in the face of those who are more cunning and ruthless. then you will receive the little that you expect. the person on top consciously or unconsciously sets the tone. success. Boredom is their great enemy and fear. getting an inside ―feel‖ for what is happening around you. Do not be afraid of people‘s criticisms – without such feedback your work will be too personal and delusional. Chapter 6 Lead from the Front – Authority In any group. Complaining and haranguing people to work harder has a counterproductive effect. You are building the foundation for something that can continue to expand. People follow those who know where they are going. so cultivate an air of certainty and boldness. you must train yourself for the opposite – ask for more. then this invariably filters its way through the entire group and makes effective action impossible. manipulation and outright force at the appropriate moments. aim high. Your goal is to reach the ultimate skill level – an intuitive feel for what must come next. You must adopt the opposite style: imbue your troops with the proper spirit through your actions. Before it is too late you must master the art of knowing when and how to be bad – using deception. knowing that in the end all of that time will translate into a higher pleasure – mastery of a craft and of yourself. If leaders are fearful. you create the appropriate supply. You must work the opposite angle. on the other hand. that it is best to keep your ambitions low. or overly concerned for their ego and reputation. want to outlast your rivals. You. hesitant to take any risks. you will have to serve an apprenticeship. In these democratic times. To make this happen. the trends that are washing through them. that you are mostly helpless in the face of so many difficulties. Never lose touch with your base. With a rising confidence in your abilities. not words. then find the audience for their idea. You must learn early on to endure the hours of practice and drudgery. They see you working harder than anyone.

Knowing our days to be numbered. then there is nothing left to fear. accept and even embrace it.In the face of our inevitable mortality we can do one of two things. converting our consciousness of death into something positive and active. Or we can confront this reality. In adopting such a fearless philosophy. we can attempt to avoid the thought at all costs. we gain a sense of proportion. become able to separate what is petty from what is truly important. . clinging to the illusion that we have all the time in the world. If we can overcome the fear of death. we have a sense of urgency and mission. We can appreciate life all the more for its impermanence.