The Laws of Human Nature – Robert Greene

Humans – Live on the surface and allow emotions drive our responses to what people say and do.

Form overly simplified opinions about ourselves and others.

Settle for the easiest and most convenient stories to explain things.

Human Nature – stems from the wiring of our brains, the configuration of our nervous system, and the way we process emotions, all of which emerged and have evolved over the last five million years. Primitive, deeply embedded tendencies drive more of our behavior today than we’d like to believe. 

There are major benefits to taking the time to understand the underlying behaviors and tendencies in all humans:

  1. Make yourself a calmer, more strategic observer. Eliminate some of emotional drama, by realizing that most people’s reaction to you really has more to do with them than you. And this is consistent with almost everyone, so you should be less prone to judge. 
  2. You should be better at reading cues people emit to become a better judge of character. Don’t put too much stock into first impressions, and even people’s words. Actions and body language is more telling often times. Most people are consistently performing and are desperate to portray themselves in a certain way. Learn to see below the surface.
  3. Give you the opportunity to outhink toxic people 
  4. Give you more tools and levers to motivate and influence. People tend to be stubborn and resistant to influence. Need to be careful not to stir up their insecurities since this will only make them more stubborn and less open to persuasion. Best way to influence is to alter your own mood and attitude, since people are constantly taking cues and intensity matching. Lead with your mood, work ethic, and ability to empathize. 
  5. Will give you insights into your own tendencies, and what’s causing them. Give you the chance to alter your own negative patterns. Acknowledging that we are all broadly speaking “cut from the same cloth” will make you more humble. This will help you be more empathetic and draw in others.
  6. The study will show you that there is a higher ideal (best self) and you can reach it through sustained training and effort. Connect more deeply with others, think instead of react, follow our own path in life, discover what makes us unique, and to absorb our minds in our work. Hitting these markers should ultimately lead to more fulfillment, which is the ultimate goal. 

Man will only become better when you make him see what he is like – Anton Chekhov


  1. Make you veer towards ideas that soothe your ego
  2. Make you look for evidence that confirms what you already believe
  3. Make you see what you want to see – disconnect from reality. 

Rationality is the abilty to counter emotional effects, and see what is really happening instead of what we are feeling. Higher self, getting away from being an emotional reactionary. 

Emotions are a by-product of evolution and are critical for communication, but we do not have conscious access to the origins of the emotions and the moods they generate. 

Emotions are constantly seeking to soothe us and to help our egos. This leads to bias, and we all have many. These biases vary in their severity within individuals, and this is driven by a combination of genetics, early childhood, and life experiences.

Our biases and emotional / irrational behaviors can often be triggered too – stressful situations, groups, toxic people, exposure to trauma from the past. To combat this, you must take the time to study yourself, be empathetic, and when needed, take extra time to respond to avoid an emotional outburst.  

To trust one’s feelings – means to give more obedience to one’s grandfather and grandmother and their grandparents than to the gods which are in us: our reason and experience. Nietzche

People are generally narcissists, and constantly thinking about themselves and their interests. Some are worse than others. To reach our higher selves, we must work on empathy. 

From early childhood we create a “self” – an image of ourselves that comforts us and makes us feel validated from within. This allows us to move on from being dependant on others for attention and recognition, but can also lead us away from reality. 

Healthy narcissists – stronger, more resilient sense of self. Recover quickly from wounds or insults. 

Empathetic Attitude – assume that you are ignorant and that you have natural biases that will make you judge incorrectly. Don’t fall into the trap of judging, and assuming the masks people put forward are reflective of reality. Never feel superior to others, and try to avoid being gripped by your own insecurities. 

Mirror Neurons – People who are empathetic usually are adept at recognizing first, then mirroring what they see from others subconsciencly. 

Our ability to read the moods of others and react accordingly – critical skill. Example – negativity. Better to be gentle than to confront directly, making the person more defensive and stuck in. This is a skill that can be improved with practice, just like anything else. 

Start getting a read on a person’s particular psychology and what motivates them. 

Nonverbal cues – people cannot control these in the same way they are able to control their words to cultivate an image. As such, the ability to identify these marks in body language can give you a better read into someone’s unconscious desires, basically what’s really driving them. 

People are generally trying to put their “best” face forward. That means they are concealing antagonistic feelings, desires for power or superiority, their attempts at ingratiation, and their insecurities. 

The three most prevalent categories of non-verbal cues are – dislike / like, dominance / submission, and deception. 

Tension in the face is a signal for dislike. Widening of the eyes, realxing facial muscles, raising an eyebrow – positive like signals. Pitch of the voice rising is also a positive sign, in addition to an absence of hesitation. Standing closer and leaning in, positive. 

Best way to turn dislike to a like is by setting the baseline for cues – people will generally follow your lead if you display positive non-verbals. 

First Impressions – They really matter. Best to play it more neutral and keep the non-verbal cues limited when meeting with people or a group for the first time. Relaxed smile and looking people in the eye is probably the best course of action. 

Character – formed in your earliest years and honed by your daily habits. Gauge character by noting how people react to adversity, their ability to adapt and work with others, and their patience and ability to learn. 

Character is destiny – Heraclitus 

How is character developed? 1. Your Genetics 2. Your infant years and the attachment to your mother and caregivers. 3. Habits and experiences as we get older. 4. What we do when we realize our own character flaws and try to cover them up. 

You have to study your own character first, in order to identify the weak and negative aspects. Once identified, try to develop new habits and patterns to combat them and turn them into strengths. 

When assessing the character of others, we have to be careful not to confuse their reputation with character itself. Successful people have just as many character flaws as everyone else. 

Best way to learn about someone’s character is by studying their actions. And by remembering that people rarely do something just once, things repeat. Pay particular attention to what people do under times of stress or crisis – they cannot maintain their normal level of self-control in these types of situations. 

If you want to test a man’s character, give him power – Abraham Lincoln

Strong character – emanates from a feeling of personal security and self-worth. Allows people to take criticism and learn from experiences. Leads to persistence. Open to new ways of doing things. Can handle chaos and ambiguity. Resilience, dependability, and self-reliance – Warren Buffett’s CEO traits of choice. 

Grass is always greener syndrome – People tend to desire what they don’t  have. Use this tendency to your advantage by creating strategic absence to make people want desire your return. 

People often desire what is vague, elusive, and taboo. 

Create an aura of mystery around yourself. Train yourself to focus on others and their repressed desires and unmet fantasies. People want their imaginations to be stimulated, to be taken out of banal normal circumstances. 

Pleasure isn’t in fulfillment, but in pursuit – Pierre Ausustin Caron de Beaummarchais

To make yourself desirable:

  1. You must have a touch of coldness, as if you could do without out them. This signals to others that you consider yourself to be worthy of respect, and increases your value.
  2. Never make your opinions, tastes, and values too obvious. This will let others use their imagination, and make you into whatever they want. The more active our imagination becomes, the more pleasure we derive from it. 
  3. Make it appear as if others desire you or your work – to bring others to you. Best is to allow people to hear stories about your past.
  4. Make sure what you offer is perceived as new, unfamiliar, and exotic.

Remember that you, like everyone else, are also volunerable to the grass is always greener syndrome. Instead of constantly chasing after trends and modeling our tastes after what others find exciting, take the time to get to know your true self better. 

Careful about losing a long-term time horizon for goals. When we are fully in the moment, our senses take over and our reasoning power disappears. 

Train yourself to detach from the immediate rush of events and elevate our perspectives. 

Remember that winning an argument or proving your point really gets you nowhere in the long run. Win through actions, not words. And your actions should be linked to your long term goals. 

People don’t like to changed or persuaded since it challenges their own feeling of autonomy. Best not to challenge someone else’s beliefs or make them feel insecure about their intelligence if you actually want to change them. You have to lead them to water and make them feel like they have decided and want to make the change themselves.  

First move should always be to take an inferior position very subtly. Ask for advice – people are dying to impart wisdom and share experience. 

Next start exchanging favors. 

He who goes away pleased with his own wit is also greatly pleased with you. Most men seek less to be instructed, and even to be amused, han to be praised and applauded. – Jean de La Bruyere

Instill in people a feeling of inner security. Mirror their values, show that you like and respect them. Make them feel you and appreciate their wisdom and experience. Generate an atmosphere of mutual warmth. 

Be humble and stay flexible. And remember – our ideas are conditioned by the prejudices instilled in us by our parents, by our culture, and by the historical period in which we live.  

Fearful attitude – stops us from taking chances. Blame others for our mistakes and fail to learn. We can feel hostile or suspicious constantly. Makes us curtail our experience as a way to manage anxiety and disappointment. Limit different experiences to maintain control – fear based. 

Must work to keep a more positive attitude. Will help draw people towards us, create opportunities from nothing, and allow us to learn from adversity. Liberate yourself from anger and resentment and you will be much better off. 

No two people see the world the same way. What we perceive is our own personal version of reality. Most things are subjective. 

The shadow / dark side of our personality – consists of all the the qualities people try to deny about themselves and repress. The thickness of the shadow is dependant on the level of repression and the amount of traits attempted to be repressed. Jung

Behind any vehement hatred is often a secret and very unpalatable envy of the hated person or persons. 

General rule – if someone is displaying any sort of extreme in behavior, they probably are trying to overcompensate for their true belief which is the opposite of what they are projecting. 

Being envious, and having people envy you are both dangerous scenarios. Control your own envy by simply being aware of it and by defining your self-worth through internal standards versus comparisons. Deflect the envy of others by drawing attention away from yourself. 

Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little. Gore Vidal

Sudden changes in status is the number one trigger for envy. 

Stay humble. Remember that any success in our life is the result of our efforts of course, but also luck, timing, the contributions of others, our teachers, and the whim of the public asking for something new. 

With success you must raise your vigilance to have any hope of sustaining it. 

Masculine Style of Thinking – focuses on separating phenomena from one another so they can be categorized. Looks for contrasts between things so they can be labeled. Wants to break things down like a machine so the parts can be analyzed. 

Feminine Style of Thinking – Focuses on the whole, and how the parts connect with each other. Focuses on how one thing grows into another (as opposed to specialization). 

Masculine Style of Taking Action – move forward, explore the situation, and push through any obstacles that get in your way. 

Feminine Style of Taking Action – Withdraw from the immediate situation and contemplate more deeply the options. 

Wu-Wei – Chinese term for nonaction. Being able to resist the urge to overreact in an emotional way seen as the ultimate sign of wisdom in a person. A quick overreaction only serves to narrow your options. 

Masculine Style of Self-assessment and Learning – More limited in their ability to factor in luck and the help of others in their own success and failures. Try to do everything on their own – asking for assistance is a sign of weakness. 

Feminine Style of Self-assessment and Learning – Tend to blame themselves for failures, and credit things outside of themselves for success. Find it comparatively easier to ask for assistance. 

Masculine Leadership – Build hierarchies and punish those who fall out of line. Use the element of fear to keep the group cohesive. Identify clear goals, drive towards them. 

Feminine Leadership – more about keeping group spirit and relationships smoothed out. More empathetic. Process and the way in which goals are pursued is just as important as the actual results. 

Be careful when in groups – you will be drawn into “group think” whether you want to or not. Develop this self-awareness. Try to outwardly fit in and cooperate with others at a high level, while at the same time retaining your independence and rationality. 

When people operate in groups they do not engage in nuanced thinking and deep analysis. Their primary desire is to fit in with the other members of the group. 

When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other. Eric Hoffer. 

The first and primary effect on you in any group is the desire to fit in and cement your sense of belonging. First you adapt the same appearances. Next you will move onto the ideas, values, and beliefs. 

We are always performing in a group setting. We try to minimize our flaws and highlight what we believe to be our strengths. 

Emotions in groups are contagious, as is the tendency to be hypercertain of any decision or course of action taken by the group. Compare this to the doubt you feel when taking a decision on your own. 

Must build in checks to make sure you are not becoming hypnotized by a group. Outwardly, maintain the status quo and fit in, but inwardly, subject the ideas and beliefs of the group to constant scrutiny. 

Childhood – we idealize our parents to feel more secure about the power they held over us. 

Madness is something rare in individuals – but in groups, parties, peoples, and ages it is the rule. Nietzche

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

First responsibility of the leader – to effectively convey a far reaching vision, to see the global picture, to work for the greater good of the group and maintain its unity. The next characteristic we must exhibit is empathy. 

Avoid seeming petty, self-serving, or indecisive. 

Rockafeller – determined that most people are led by emotions, which change by the day. They want things to be easy in life, and take the path of least resistance. They don’t have a stomach for prolonged battles. Make them afraid or confused or frustrated, or offer them an easy way out, and they will gladly surrender to a stronger will. 

Primitive aggressors – have short fuses. If a feeling of inferiority or weakness is triggered, they explode. They lack self-control, and generally don’t get very far in life because they end up bullying or hurting too many people. 

Sophisticated Aggressors – trickier since they know how to play on emotions. And they know that most people do not like confrontation or long struggles, and are willing to wear others down. 

To deal with aggressors effectively, you must be able to control your own emotions. They want to control your thoughts and reactions – deny them this control. 

Generational Model – developed by Ibn Khaldun, Islamic scholar 14th Century.

1st Generation – revolutionaries who make a radical break from the past. They establish new values, but also create some chaos and struggle to do so. 

2nd Generation – craves some order. Want to stabilize the world, establish some conventions and dogma. 

3rd Generation – no direct interaction with the 1st generation so they have less passion about the revolution. They are pragmatic and want to make life as comfortable as possible. Material concerns dominate, and the spirit of the original revolution can often be drained out. 

4th Generation – feels like society has lost its vitality. They begin to question the values they inherited and become cynical. THis sets the stage for the cycle to restart with another revolutionary generation. This is where we are today in 2018. 

Daily thoughts – seem to circle around anxieties, fantasies, and resentments, like a continuous loop. Normally we go through life is a distracted, dreamlike state with our gaze turned inward. Much of our mental activity revolves around fantasies and resentments that have very little to do with reality. 

My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati (love of fate): that one wants nothing to be other than it is, not in the future, not in the past, not in all eternity. Not merely to endure that which happens of necessity… but to love it. Nietzche. 

Being able to accustom ourselves to handle some level of pain without reaching for something to dull it is a valuable life skill. 

Something positive can be taken from any negative situation. Everything that happens to us in life, whether its good or bad, is an opportunity for learning and growth.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *