Summary of The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

  • Post category:Summaries
  • Post last modified:February 3, 2024


  • Power is the potential to influence a situation or an outcome.
  • Mastering your emotions is the hardest thing to do when you reach for power.
  • How you treat people and how they perceive you is the most important thing.

Short summary: 2 min

Long summary: 32 min

Book reading time: 15h38

Score: 9/10

Book published in: 1998

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What The 48 Laws of Power Talks About

The 48 Laws of Power was written by Robert Greene. The book is a list of principles illustrated by real-life stories that one should respect if one hopes to rise in society and become powerful. It taught me that mastering your emotions is the most important skill you will learn in your quest for power.

The book was the first book by Robert Greene. It came out in 1998 and sold 1.2 million copies.

It has been mentioned by a variety of artists and business executives as one of the most influential books in their careers.

It’s also one of the most requested books in American prisons, and has, as a result, been banned.

I read the book for the first time at 19 years old. Due to the little social experience that I had, I did not understand a single word.

Then I read it again at 23, and did not understand much more. It’s only now, at 27 years old, that the 48 Laws of Power shines in its brilliance.

The book is a bit long, and some examples employed are farfetched. Others, such as law 6 and law 38, or laws 24 and 30, against law 46, contradict each other. While Greene calls his principles laws, they really should be called…principles.

The 48 Principles of Power however, does not sound as good as The 48 Laws of Power.

Nonetheless, the book remains a brilliant observation of the human condition in society.

A must-read for anyone who deals with people on a daily basis.


Get the book here.

Robert Greene B&W.jpg
Robert Greene. Source: Wikipedia.

Short Summary of The 48 Laws of Power

Power is the capacity to influence future events. You exercise power when you influence other people. Power should not be mistaken for control.

According to Greene, powerful people:

  • are paid attention to
  • constantly reinvent themselves
  • are unpredictable
  • are masters of social relationships
  • know a lot of people
  • rarely tell what they think
  • adapt themselves to their audience and to the situation

Find the 48 Laws here.

Summary of The 48 Laws of Power written by Robert Greene


Everyone wants more power in life because having no power over people or events is unbearable.

Those who claim they don’t want power, or that it’s immoral, are often themselves playing power games. The most innocent players are often the most pernicious.

The truth about power is that its game is inescapable. You must learn to use it, protect yourself from it, and have as much as you can. The more power you have, the better friend, father, and husband you will be.

The most important skill by far in the power game is the ability to master your emotions, anger being the most destructive one of all.

You must learn to distance yourself from your emotions. You need to objectively look at the future, and objectively look at the past.

Forget about the past events where people have hurt you. Holding grudges cloud your vision. The past should be a database you learn from, nothing else.

To gain power, you must learn to take many faces, you must learn to deceive. You have to be patient.

Half of your power comes from what you do not do. Be careful of what you get dragged into. To quote Nietzsche, the value of something is not what it brings you, but the price you paid for it.

Never waste valuable time, or mental peace of mind, on the affairs of others—that is too high a price to pay.

1. Never Outshine the Master

You may trigger fear and insecurity in them.

People have insecurities and will compare themselves to you. If you appear too brilliant, the master will shut you down.

Even if the master loves you, never assume that you can just do whatever you want.

Always indirectly flatter the master, make him seem smarter than you, and make him feel needed by you.

Make them appear more brilliant than they are, and don’t be too brilliant yourself.

Reversal: if the master is a falling star, don’t bother respecting the law.

2. Never Put Too Much Trust In Friends, Learn How To Use Enemies

It’s normal to go to friends to ask for help or comfort, but the problem is that friends are rarely honest with each other. They keep things hidden so as not to anger you.

When you really get to know them, you are often surprised to find out about certain traits you ignored.

As a result, don’t hire friends. Keep friends for friendships, and hire competent people instead. Or your enemies.

When you hire an enemy, you give him a chance to prove himself. Henry Kissinger knew that, and when an attempt to kidnap him failed, he met with the kidnappers – and became friends with them.

Friends will betray you more quickly because they will feel envy quicker. Enemies can be controlled.

You have more to fear from friends than from enemies.

Reversal: if you have dirty work to do, send a friend. His affection for you will prevent betrayal.

3. Conceal Your Intentions

Most people are open books, hence easily predictable.

When people don’t know your intentions, they cannot prepare.

Part 1: use decoyed object of desire and red herring to confuse people.

Most people constantly reveal their intentions because it’s easy and natural to do so, and because they think that being honest will help them in their relations with people.

But by being so open, it’s much harder to respect or fear you.

It’s also better to tell people what they want to hear.

By telling people you aim at a goal you are not aiming at, you will throw them off course. Constantly talk about the goal, and people will believe you. Never reveal all of your plans.

Part 2: Use smoke screens to disguise your actions. These small screens must be familiar, banal. Anything great will raise suspicion.

Reversal: when your reputation as a deceiver is known, be honest, and appear as the “repentant” rogue instead.

Napoleon Bonapart. Source: Wikipedia.

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