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“The 48 Laws of Power: A Comprehensive Guide with Examples”

What are the 48 Laws of Power? Complete list and examples


The 48 Laws of Power is a book by Robert Greene that outlines the principles and strategies for gaining and maintaining power. Greene’s book draws on examples from history, philosophy, and literature to illustrate how people throughout history have used these principles to achieve power and influence. Businesspeople, politicians, and anyone looking to advance in their personal or professional lives should read the book extensively because it has become a bestseller.

Here is a complete list of the 48 Laws of Power and some examples of how they have been used throughout history.

Law 1: Never Outshine the Master

This law advises against making your superiors feel inferior, as it can cause resentment and jealousy. For example, in ancient China, a court official named Wang Zhong became too popular and successful, leading to his downfall when his master became jealous and accused him of disloyalty.

Law 2: Never Put Too Much Trust in Friends; Learn How to Use Enemies

This law suggests that friends can betray you and enemies can become allies if they serve your interests. Julius Caesar famously used this tactic by making alliances with his enemies to gain power.

Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions

This law advises that it is better to keep your plans to yourself, as people will use them against you if they know what you are up to. For example, in the movie The Godfather, Michael Corleone conceals his intention to kill his enemies until the last moment to avoid tipping them off.

Law 4: Always Say Less Than Necessary

This law advises that speaking too much can give away information and weaken your position. For example, in negotiations, the person who speaks first often loses their bargaining power.

Law 5: So Much Depends on Reputation—Guard It with Your Life

This law emphasizes the importance of reputation in gaining and maintaining power. For example, Steve Jobs was known for his mercurial temper and high standards, which helped to build his reputation as a tough but brilliant leader.

Law 6: Court Attention at All Costs

This law advises that it is better to be noticed, even if it is for negative reasons, than to be ignored. For example, Donald Trump built his brand by courting controversy and gaining attention through his actions and statements.

Law 7: Get Others to Do the Work for You, But Always Take the Credit

This law suggests that you will be more productive if you delegate tasks to others and take credit for their work. Thomas Edison, for instance, is credited with inventing the lightbulb, but he had a team of assistants who performed the majority of the work.

Law 8: Make Other People Come to You; Use Bait If Necessary.

This law advises that it is better to have others come to you than to chase after them. For example, in The Art of War, Sun Tzu advises that it is better to let your enemy come to you, as it gives you the advantage of position.

Law 9: “Win Through Your Actions, Never Through Argument”

This law suggests that actions speak louder than words and that it is preferable to let your actions speak for themselves. The nonviolent protests and civil disobedience of Mahatma Gandhi, for instance, led to India’s independence from British rule.

Law 10: Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky

This law advises that negative people can bring you down and that it is better to associate with positive and successful people. For example, in the book Think and Grow Rich, author Napoleon Hill advises that success is contagious and that associating with successful people can help you achieve your goals.

Law 11: Learn to Keep People Dependent on You

This law emphasizes the importance of creating a sense of dependence among the people around you. By making them rely on you for certain things, you become indispensable to them, and they will be more likely to do your bidding. Examples of this law include bosses who make their employees feel like they can’t survive without their job or charismatic leaders who make their followers feel like they need their guidance.

Law 12: Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm Your Victim

This law advises you to use honesty and generosity to gain the trust of your target, but only in a selective manner. By appearing honest and generous, you can disarm them and make them more vulnerable to your manipulations. Examples of this law include politicians who promise things they know they can’t deliver or con artists who gain the trust of their victims before scamming them.

Law 13: When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest

This law emphasizes the importance of appealing to people’s self-interest when asking for their help. By showing them how they will benefit from helping you, they will be more likely to do so. Examples of this law include salespeople who use persuasive tactics to convince customers to buy their products or politicians who promise to pass legislation that will benefit their constituents.

Law 14: Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy

This law advises you to pose as a friend to your enemies in order to gain information about them. By gaining their trust, they may reveal information to you that they wouldn’t otherwise. Examples of this law include spies who infiltrate enemy organizations or double agents who work for two opposing sides.

Law 15: “Crush Your Enemy Totally”

This law advises you to not just defeat your enemies but to crush them completely so that they cannot rise up against you again. Examples of this law include military leaders who completely destroy their enemy’s infrastructure or businesses that drive their competitors out of business.

Law 16: Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor

 This law advises you to use your absence to your advantage by creating a sense of mystique around yourself. By being absent for periods of time, you can increase your perceived value and make people more likely to respect and honor you. Examples of this law include celebrities who keep a low profile to create a sense of intrigue or bosses who are only present for important meetings to create a sense of importance.

Law 17: Keep Others in Suspended Terror: Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability

This law advises you to cultivate an air of unpredictability to keep others on edge and unsure of how you will react to different situations. By keeping others in a state of suspended terror, you can gain an advantage over them. Examples of this law include leaders who are known for their erratic behavior or bosses who are known for their unpredictable mood swings.

Law 18: Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself—Isolation is Dangerous

This law advises against isolating oneself from the outside world in an effort to safeguard oneself. By doing so, you become vulnerable to attacks from all sides. Instead, you should be open to the world and aware of what is happening around you. Examples of this law include countries that try to isolate themselves from the world and end up becoming targets, or companies that ignore market trends and end up being left behind.

Law 19: Know Who You’re Dealing with—Do Not Offend the Wrong Person

The essence of this law is to ensure that you never offend the wrong person. It’s essential to understand who you’re interacting with in life, particularly when it comes to people with high social status, financial power, or influence. Failing to show respect to such people can result in dire consequences. You may lose a job, a business opportunity, or even face legal action.

Examples of this law in action include celebrities who use their status to sue tabloids that publish fake news about them. Another example is seen in corporate environments, where employees are careful not to offend their bosses, lest they risk losing their jobs. It’s important to note that this law is not about being a pushover. It’s about being smart and strategic in your dealings with people.

Law 20: Do Not Commit to Anyone

This law advises that one should not commit fully to anyone but rather maintain independence and autonomy. The reason behind this law is to avoid being tied down to someone who may become a liability or a hindrance in the future.

Examples of this law include successful entrepreneurs who maintain their independence by owning their businesses instead of partnering with others. By doing this, they maintain control and avoid falling victim to someone else’s errors. It’s important to note that this law does not advocate being untrustworthy or unreliable. Instead, it emphasizes the need to be cautious when entering into commitments with others.

Law 21: Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker—Seem Dumber Than Your Mark

This law advises that you should always play the sucker when dealing with people who have an inflated sense of self-worth or who think they are smarter than you. By appearing less intelligent or less experienced, you can disarm them and gain an advantage in the interaction.

Examples of this law include salespeople who pretend to be less knowledgeable about their products to make potential buyers feel like they have the upper hand. Another example is seen in poker games, where players sometimes pretend to be inexperienced to lure their opponents into making a mistake. It’s important to note that this law does not advocate being dishonest or unethical. Instead, it emphasizes the need to be strategic in your interactions with others.

Law 22: Use the Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakness into Power

This law advises that you can turn a weak position into a position of power by surrendering to it. By acknowledging your weaknesses or vulnerabilities, you can gain sympathy and empathy from others and disarm them.

Examples of this law include politicians who admit their mistakes and weaknesses to gain public trust and support. Another example is seen in negotiations, where a party may acknowledge their weaker position to gain concessions from the other party. It’s important to note that this law does not advocate being defeatist or giving up easily. Instead, it emphasizes the need to be adaptable and use your weaknesses to your advantage.

Law 23: Concentrate Your Forces

This law instructs you to concentrate all of your resources and efforts on a single aim or purpose. By concentrating your efforts, you can achieve greater results than by spreading yourself too thin.

Examples of this law include companies that focus on a single product or service and become market leaders in that niche. Another example is seen in athletes who focus on a single sport and become world champions. It’s important to note that this law does not advocate being inflexible or unable to adapt to change. Instead, it emphasizes the need to prioritize and focus on what is most important.

Law 24: “Play the Perfect Courtier

The perfect courtier is someone who is able to please everyone around them and gain favor with the powerful. This law stresses the importance of being able to adapt to different situations and people in order to succeed in a court or social setting.

Law 25: Re-Create Yourself

This law emphasizes the importance of constantly improving oneself and evolving to stay relevant and successful. It encourages individuals to not be afraid of change and to constantly re-create themselves to become the best version of themselves.

Law 26: Keep Your Hands Clean

This law emphasizes the importance of staying out of trouble and avoiding blame for any negative situations. It encourages individuals not to get involved in situations where they may be blamed or associated with any wrongdoing.

Law 27: Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cult-like Following

This law emphasizes the power of creating a sense of community and shared beliefs to gain a following of loyal supporters. It encourages individuals to tap into people’s desire to belong and create a sense of exclusivity to establish a cult-like bond.

Law 28: Enter Action with Boldness

This law encourages individuals to take action with confidence and boldness. It emphasizes the importance of taking risks and not being afraid of failure in order to achieve success.

Law 29: Plan All the Way to the End

This law stresses the importance of planning for the long term and having a clear vision of the future. It encourages individuals to think ahead and plan their actions strategically to achieve their goals.

Law 30: Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless

This law emphasizes the importance of appearing effortless in one’s accomplishments. It encourages individuals to not reveal the hard work and effort that go into their successes in order to maintain an air of mystery and awe.

Law 31: Control the Options: Get Others to Play with the Cards You Deal

This law stresses the importance of controlling the options available to others in order to gain an advantage. It encourages individuals to manipulate situations to their advantage and control the options available to others.

Law 32: Play to People’s Fantasies

This law emphasizes the power of tapping into people’s desires and fantasies to gain their favor and support. It encourages individuals to understand and appeal to the fantasies of those around them in order to gain influence.

Law 33: Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew

This law stresses the importance of understanding what motivates and drives individuals. It encourages individuals to find the “thumbscrew” or leverage point that can be used to manipulate and control others.

Law 34: “Be Royal in Your Own Fashion: Act Like a King to Be Treated Like One”

This law emphasizes the importance of projecting an image of power and royalty to gain respect and influence. It encourages individuals to behave like kings or queens and demand respect and admiration from those around them.

Law 35: Master the Art of Timing

This law stresses the importance of timing and patience in achieving success. It encourages individuals to be patient and wait for the right time to act in order to achieve the greatest impact.

Law 36: Disdain Things You Cannot Have: Ignoring Them Is the Best Revenge

This law encourages individuals to focus on what they can control and not waste energy on things they cannot have or change. It emphasizes the power of ignoring and dismissing things that are out of one’s control as a form of revenge.

Law 37: Create Compelling Spectacles

This law emphasizes the power of creating dramatic and captivating spectacles to gain attention and influence. It encourages individuals to create memorable and visually stunning events to leave a lasting impression on those around them.

Law 38: Think as You Like, But Behave Like Others

This law encourages one to blend in with their surroundings and conform to social norms to avoid standing out or drawing unwanted attention.

Law 39: Stir Up Waters to Catch Fish

This law advises creating chaos or controversy to distract and confuse your adversaries, giving you an advantage in negotiation or conflict.

Law 40: Despise the Free Lunch

This law emphasizes the importance of working for what you want rather than relying on handouts or expecting things to come easily to you.

Law 41: Avoid Stepping into a Great Man’s Shoes

This law cautions against attempting to fill the shoes of a great leader or figurehead, as it is nearly impossible to match their level of success and can often result in failure and disappointment.

Law 42: Strike the Shepherd, and the Sheep Will Scatter

This law emphasizes the importance of targeting the leader or authority figure in a group or organization to weaken their influence and control over their followers.

Law 43: Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others

This law advises using emotional appeals and persuasive tactics to sway others to your side and gain their loyalty and support.

Law 44: Disarm and Infuriate with the Mirror Effect

This law advises mimicking the behavior and tactics of your adversaries to throw them off balance and make them react impulsively, giving you an advantage in negotiation or conflict.

Law 45: Preach the Need for Change, But Never Reform Too Much at once.

This law advises advocating for change and progress, but doing so gradually and cautiously to avoid overwhelming or alienating those who are resistant to change.

Law 46: “Never Appear Too Perfect”

This law advises against appearing flawless or infallible, as it can intimidate or alienate others and make them feel insecure or inferior.

Law 47: Do Not Go Past the Mark You Aimed for; In Victory, Learn When to Stop

This law advises knowing when to stop and avoiding overreaching or becoming greedy after achieving a victory or goal.

Law 48: Assume Formlessness

This law advises being adaptable and flexible and avoiding predictability or rigidity in your actions and behaviors.


Each of these laws can be applied in various situations and contexts, and their effectiveness may vary depending on the specific circumstances. However, they all offer valuable insights and strategies for navigating power dynamics and achieving success in various areas of life.

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