It is an interesting book in that it tries to encapsulate all of the “laws” that seem to be floating around in your personal and/or business life and enumerate them. The book is not perfect. It is sometimes contradictory, but it makes you think, even if you don’t agree.
For instance, here is a brief summary of the first three laws:
Law 1 – Never Outshine the Master
Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please or impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite – inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.
Law 2 – Never put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn how to use Enemies
Be wary of friends-they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy. They also become spoiled and tyrannical. But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove. In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.
Law 3 – Conceal your Intentions
Keep people off-balance and in the dark by never revealing the purpose behind your actions. If they have no clue what you are up to, they cannot prepare a defense. Guide them far enough down the wrong path, envelope them in enough smoke, and by the time they realize your intentions, it will be too late.
I’m sure that each of us can tell a story, or two, or more, about each of those “laws” and how failing to understand the “law” caused you harm. And, vice versa, how understanding the law allowed you to gain something you didn’t have before.
The descriptions of the “law” show examples of a transgression of the law and observance of the law. And, where possible, the reversal of the law, when to ignore it. For instance, with the first one “Never Outshine the Master”, it is okay to do so if your master is a falling star, losing the prominence they once had. Written in a style like a textbook, the author tries to lend an aura of respectability around his “laws”. But there is no evidence of the truth, just anecdotal stories of how the law did or did not apply.
But that, in itself, is profoundly interesting. One man being able to influence, thousands, hundreds of thousands of people by viewing the world through his lens. By presenting a fact, and manipulating the words to present an argument for whatever premise he is supporting.
My Twitter followers would say the same about me but I only have five of them and two don’t count. Of the three left, only one is really applicable. (Hi Harry!) So am I able to manipulate the facts to support my argument? I would think that I do at times, but don’t we all? Don’t we all look at a survey and make our own interpretation of the results?
The world of Robert Greene, however, is somewhat dark and self-serving. It assumes that everyone has a hidden agenda and that climbing to the top over the bodies of the fallen is the intention of everyone. (He must have worked for Accenture back in the 90’s.) I’d like to believe that Canadian society is a little bit different, a little more altruistic and that we’re not all bloodthirsty fortune seekers who strive to “crush your enemy totally” (Law 15). I think we are and that makes the book American non-fiction but Canadian fiction.