The 50th Law is written by Robert Greene in conjunction with 50 Cent. There's a little bit of 50 Cent life here, but mostly it's a Robert Greene's. The 50th Law and millions of other books are available for instant access. view Kindle eBook . The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene Paperback $ The 50th Law PDF Summary by Robert Greene & 50 Cent is an amazing book and it's about time we harness the power of universal laws.
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The less you fear, the more power you will have and the more fully you will live. It is our hope that The 50th Law will inspire you to discover this power for yourself. I first met 50 Cent in the winter of He had been a fan of my book The 48 Laws of Power, and he was interested in col- laborating on a book project. In the . robert greene 48 law of power 48 laws of power by robert greene. Preview Download 50th IMO – 50 Years of International Mathematical Olympiads.
Examine the greatest anxieties of those on the inside of any business or industry. However I would advise you to not go around blabbing off about what you learned. These alliances could shift and turn against him. Without fear. It makes us dependent on outside forces.
Greene says that to learn to live well and fearlessly you need to appreciate your mortality. People who had a brush up with death get a sense of urgency that leads them to work hard, accomplish more and enjoy life. And then structure your life going backward. And yet you give it all away. And I really loved this part: True ownership can only come from within yourself. It comes from rejecting anyone who limits your mobility, it comes from confidence in your own decisions and by using your time in constant pursuit of growth and education.
Own yourself first.
Or you'll be at the mercy of someone else. Click To Tweet. Everyone is pushing and pursuing their own agendas.
Greene says we are often naive, believing people are peaceful and desiring good for us. We are too good, and avoid conflict, and sell our real self away in the process. He says that we need inner strength to deal with conflict. And that has nothing to do with bad or good but with strength and fear. Standing up for yourself is about fear and strength, not bad or good.
Greene says that many leaders take the wrong route when they decide to be benevolent leaders. Much better, he says, being a ruthless leader. The example is John Ford, and I invite you to get the book for the details. Greene says that fearless people learn to master processes also through boredom.
Mastery takes time, grit and hard work. Greene talks a bit about the freedom of choosing our own reaction to any event we encounter. Similar to The 7 Habits of Effective People , the more we focus on what we can control, the more our control zone expands. He also goes a bit into weak ego and strong ego. In general, be less respectful of rules others have established for you Click To Tweet.
Reality VS Stories: A diss track which would only bring him more attention? Inductive Reasoning Social sciences are a bit of an art and not pure sciences. For example, Robert Greene has a theory that ghetto life makes people fearless, which in turn drives to success. In times of prosperity, we have the luxury of fretting over things. But in times of trouble, this fearful attitude becomes particularly pernicious.
Such moments are when we need to solve problems, deal with reality, and move forward, but fear is a call to retreat and retrench. This is precisely what Franklin Delano Roosevelt confronted when he took office in The Great Depression that had begun with the stock market crash of was now at its worst.
But what struck Roosevelt was not the actual economic factors but the mood of the public. It seemed to him that people were not only more fearful than necessary but that their fears were making it harder to surmount adversity. In his inaugural address to the country, he said that he would not ignore such obvious realities as the collapse of the economy and that he would not preach a naive optimism.
But he implored his listeners to remember that the country had faced worse things in its past, periods such as the Civil War. What had brought us out of such moments was our pioneer spirit, our determination and resolve. This is what it means to be an American. Fear creates its own self-fulfilling dynamic—as people give in to it, they lose energy and momentum. That edge is your attitude, which has the power to help shape your reality.
If you view everything through the lens of fear, then you tend to stay in retreat mode. You can just as easily see a crisis or problem as a challenge, an opportunity to prove your mettle, the chance to strengthen and toughen yourself, or a call to collective action. By seeing it as a challenge, you will have converted this negative into a positive purely by a mental process that will result in positive action as well.
And in fact, through his inspiring leadership, FDR was able to help the country shift its mind-set and confront the Depression with a more enterprising spirit. Today we seem to face new problems and crises that test our national mettle. But just as FDR made the comparison to even worse times in the past, we can say that what we are facing is not as bad as the perils of the s and the subsequent war years. In fact, the reality of twenty-first- century America is something more like the following: We live in the most prosperous country in the world.
In the past only white males could play the power game. Now millions upon millions of minorities and women have been given entrance to the arena, forever altering the dynamic—making us the most socially advanced country in that regard. Advances in technology have opened up all kinds of new opportunities; old business models are dissolving, leaving the field wide open for innovation.
It is a time of sweeping change and revolution. We face certain challenges as well. The world has become more competitive; the economy has undeniable vulnerabilities and is in need of reinvention. As in all situations, the determining factor will be our attitude, how we choose to look at this reality.
If we give in to the fear, we will give disproportionate attention to the negative and manufacture the very adverse circumstances that we dread. If we go the opposite direction, cultivating a fearless approach to life, attacking everything with boldness and energy, then we will create a much different dynamic. For thousands of years our relationship to this emotion has evolved—from a primitive fear of nature, to generalized anxiety about the future, to the fearful attitude that now dominates us.
As rational, productive adults we are called upon to finally overcome this downward trend and to evolve beyond our fears. In the passive mode, we seek to avoid the situation that causes us anxiety. It could mean opting for everything to be safe and comfortable in our daily lives, so no amount of messiness can enter. When we are in this mode it is because we feel that we are fragile and would be damaged by an encounter with the thing we dread.
The active variety is something most of us have experienced at some point in our lives: It could be a natural disaster, a death of someone close to us, or a reversal in fortune in which we lose something.
Often in these moments we find an inner strength that surprises us. What we feared is not so bad. We cannot avoid it and have to find a way to overcome our fear or suffer real consequences. Such moments are oddly therapeutic because finally we are confronting something real—not an imagined fear scenario fed to us by the media. We can let go of this fear. They can quickly lose their value and we return to the passive, avoidance mode.
When we live in relatively comfortable circumstances, the environment does not press on us with obvious dangers, violence, or limitations to our movement.
Our main goal then is to maintain the comfort and security we have, and so we become more sensitive to the slightest risk or threat to the status quo. We find it harder to tolerate feelings of fear because they are more vague and troubling—so we remain in the passive mode. Throughout history, however, there are people who have lived in much tighter circumstances, dangers pressing in on them on a daily basis. These types must confront their fears in the active mode again and again and again.
This could be growing up in extreme poverty; facing death on the battlefield or leading an army in war; living through tumultuous, revolutionary periods; being a leader in a time of crisis; suffering personal loss or tragedy; or having a brush with death.
Countless people grow up in or with such circumstances and their spirit is crushed by adversity. But a few rise above. It is their only positive choice—they must confront these daily fears and overcome them, or submit to the downward pull.
They are toughened and hardened to the point of steel. It is unnatural to not feel fear. It is a process that requires challenges and tests. What separates those who go under and those who rise above adversity is the strength of their will and their hunger for power. At some point, this defensive position of overcoming fears converts to an offensive one—a fearless attitude.
Such types learn the value not only of being unafraid but also of attacking life with a sense of boldness and urgency and an unconventional approach, creating new models instead of following old ones. They see the great power this brings them and it soon becomes their dominant mind-set.
We find these types in all cultures and all time periods—from Socrates and the Stoics to Cornelius Vanderbilt and Abraham Lincoln. Napoleon Bonaparte represents a classic fearless type. He began his career in the military just as the French Revolution exploded. At this critical moment in his life, he had to experience one of the most chaotic and terrifying periods in history. He emerged from all of this with a fearless spirit, embracing the chaos of the times and the vast changes going on in the art of war.
And in one of his innumerable campaigns, he expressed the words that could serve as the motto for all fearless types. In the spring of he was preparing to lead an army into Italy. His field marshals warned him that the Alps were not passable at that time of year and told him to wait, even though waiting would spoil the chances for success.
There are no Alps and no obstacles that can stand in the way of a person without fears. Another example of the type would have to be the great abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass, who was born into slavery in Maryland in As he later wrote, slavery was a system that depended on the creation of deep levels of fear.
Douglass continually forced himself in the opposite direction. Despite the threat of severe punishment, he secretly taught himself to read and write. When he was whipped for his rebellious attitude, he fought back and saw that he was whipped less often. Without money or connections, he escaped to the North at the age of twenty. He became a leading abolitionist, touring the North and telling audiences about the evils of slavery.
The abolitionists wanted him to stay on his lecture circuit and repeat the same stories over and over, but Douglass wanted to do much more and he once again rebelled. He founded his own antislavery newspaper, an unheard-of act for a former slave. The newspaper went on to have tremendous success. At each stage of his life Douglass was tested by the powerful odds against him. Instead of giving in to the fear—of whippings, being alone on the streets of unfamiliar cities, facing the wrath of the abolitionists—he raised his level of boldness and pushed himself further onto the offensive.
This confidence gave him the power to rise above the fierce resistances and animosities of those around him. That is the physics that all fearless types discover at some point—an appropriate ratcheting up of self-belief and energy when facing negative or even impossible circumstances. Franklin Delano Roosevelt grew up in a wealthy, privileged family. At the age of thirty-nine he contracted polio, which paralyzed him from the waist down.
This was a turning point in his life, as he faced a severe limitation to his movement and possibly an end to his political career. He refused, however, to give in to the fear and the downward pull on his spirit.
He went the opposite direction, struggling to make the most of his physical condition and developing an indomitable spirit that would transform him into our most fearless president.
For this type of person, any kind of encounter with adversity or limitation, at any age, can serve as the crucible for forging the attitude. We responded to this constrictive environment by overcoming our fears and developing what came to be known as a pioneer spirit—our sense of adventure and our renowned ability to solve problems.
With our growing prosperity this began to change. In the twentieth century, however, one environment remained as harsh as ever—the black ghettos of inner-city America.
And out of such a crucible a new fearless type came forward, exemplified by such figures as James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali.
But the racism of the times constricted their ability to give full rein to this spirit. In recent times, newer types have emerged from inner-city America with more freedom to advance to the highest points of power in America— in entertainment, politics, and business. Their education comes from the streets and their own rough experiences. In a way, they are throwbacks to the freewheeling types of the nineteenth century, who had little formal schooling but created a new way of doing business.
Their spirit fits the disorder of the twenty- first century. They are fascinating to watch and in some ways have much to teach us. The rapper known as 50 Cent aka Curtis Jackson would have to be considered one of the more dramatic contemporary examples of this phenomenon and this type. He grew up in a particularly violent and tense neighborhood—Southside Queens in the midst of the crack epidemic of the s.
And in each phase of his life he has had to face a series of dangers that both tested and toughened him, rituals of initiation into the fearless attitude he has slowly developed. One of the greatest fears that any child has is that of being abandoned, left alone in a terrifying world. It is the source of our most primal nightmares. He never knew his father, and his mother was murdered when he was eight years old. He quickly developed the habit of not depending on other people to protect or shelter him.
This meant that in every subsequent encounter in life in which he felt fear, he could turn only to himself. If he did not want to feel the emotion, he had to learn to overcome it—on his own. He began hustling on the streets at any early age, and there was no way he could avoid feeling fear. On a daily basis he had to confront violence and aggression.
And seeing fear in action so routinely, he understood what a destructive and debilitating emotion it could be. On the streets, showing fear would make people lose respect for you. You would end up being pushed around and more likely to suffer violence because of your desire to avoid it. You had no choice—if you were to have any kind of power as a hustler, you had to overcome this emotion.
No one could read it in your eyes. This meant that he would have to place himself again and again in the situations that stimulated anxiety.
The first time he faced someone with a gun, he was frightened. The second time, less so. The third time, it meant nothing. Testing and proving his courage in this way gave him a feeling of tremendous power. He quickly learned the value of boldness, how he could push others on their heels by feeling supreme confidence in himself.
They become addicted to the lifestyle, and even though they are likely to end up in prison or die an early death, they cannot leave the hustling racket. Fifty, however, had greater ambitions than to become merely a successful hustler, and so he forced himself to face and overcome this one powerful fear.
At the age of twenty and at the peak of his hustling success, he decided to cut his ties to the game and dive into the music racket without any connections or a safety net. Because he had no plan B, because it was either succeed at music or go under, he operated with a frantic, bold energy that got him noticed in the rap world.
He was still a very young man when he had faced down some of the worst fears that can afflict a human—abandonment, violence, radical change—and he had emerged stronger and more resilient. But at the age of twenty-four, on the eve of the release of his first record, he came face-to- face with what many of us would consider the ultimate fear—that of death itself.
In May of an assassin poured nine bullets into him in broad daylight as he sat in a car outside his house, one bullet going through his jaw and coming within a millimeter of killing him. In the aftermath of the shooting, Columbia Records dropped him from the label, canceling the release of his first album.
He was quickly blackballed from the industry, as record executives were afraid to have any kind of involvement with him and the violence he was associated with. Many of his friends turned against him, perhaps sensing his weakness. It was as if he were confronting the impassable Alps. At this moment, he did as Frederick Douglass did—he decided to ratchet up his anger, energy, and fearlessness. Coming so close to death, he understood how short life could be.
He would not waste a second. He would spurn the usual path to success—working within the record industry, nabbing that golden deal, and putting out the music they thought would sell. He would go his own way—launching a mix-tape campaign in which he would sell his music or give it away for free on the streets.
He could speak the language of the hood without having to soften it at all. Suddenly he felt a great sense of freedom—he could create his own business model, be as unconventional as he desired. He felt like he had nothing to lose, as if the last bits of fear that still remained within him had bled out in the car that day in The mix-tape campaign made him famous on the streets and caught the attention of Eminem, who quickly signed Fifty to his and Dr.
We are living through strange, revolutionary times. The old order is crumbling before our eyes on so many levels. And yet in such an unruly moment, our leaders in business and politics cling to the past and the old ways of doing things.
They are afraid of change and any kind of disorder. The new fearless types, as represented by Fifty, move in the opposite direction. They find that the chaos of the times suits their temperament. They have grown up being unafraid of experimentation, hustling, and trying new ways of operating. They embrace the advances in technology that make others secretly fearful. They let go of the past and create their own business model.
They do not give in to the conservative spirit that haunts corporate America in this radical period. And at the core of their success is a premise, a Law of Power that has been known and used by all the fearless spirits in the past and is the foundation of any kind of success in the world. People intersect our lives, doing things directly and indirectly to us, and we spend our days reacting to what they bring. Good things come our way, followed by bad things.
We struggle as best we can to gain some control, because being helpless in the face of events makes us unhappy. Sometimes we succeed, but the margin of control that we have over people and circumstance is depressingly narrow. The 50th Law, however, states that there is one thing we can actually control—the mind-set with which we respond to these events around us.
And if we are able to overcome our anxieties and forge a fearless attitude towards life, something strange and remarkable can occur—that margin of control over circumstance increases. At its utmost point, we can even create the circumstances themselves, which is the source of the tremendous power that fearless types have had throughout history.
And the people who practice the 50th Law in their lives all share certain qualities—supreme boldness, unconventionality, fluidity, and a sense of urgency—that give them this unique ability to shape circumstance. A bold act requires a high degree of confidence. People who are the targets of an audacious act, or who witness it, cannot help but believe that such confidence is real and justified.
They respond instinctively by backing up, by getting out of the way, or by following the confident person. A bold act can put people on their heels and eliminate obstacles. In this way, it creates its own favorable circumstances. We are social creatures, and so it is natural for us to want to conform to the people around us and the norms of the group. But underneath this is a deep fear—that of sticking out, of following our own path no matter what people think of us.
The fearless types are able to conquer this fear. They fascinate us by how far they go with their unconventionality. We secretly admire and respect them for this; we wish we could act more like they do. Normally it is hard to hold our attention; we shift our interest from one spectacle to the next. But those who fearlessly express their difference compel our attention on a deeper level for a longer duration, which translates into power and control. Many of us respond to the shifting circumstances of life by trying to micromanage everything in our immediate environment.
When something unexpected happens, we become rigid and we respond by employing some tactic that worked in the past. Those who follow the 50th Law are not afraid of change or chaos; they embrace it by being as fluid as possible. They move with the flow of events and then gently channel them in the direction of their choice, exploiting the moment.
Through their mind-set, they convert a negative unexpected events into a positive an opportunity. Having a brush with death, or being reminded in a dramatic way of the shortness of our lives, can have a positive, therapeutic effect. Our days are numbered and so it is best to make every moment count, to have a sense of urgency about life. It could end at any moment. The fearless types usually gain such awareness through some traumatic experience.
They are energized to make the most of every action, and the momentum this gives them in life helps them determine what happens next. It is all rather simple: Your fear can even bring you into a negative field where your powers are reversed.
Being conservative, for instance, can force you into a corner in which you are more likely to lose what you have in the long run because you also lose the capacity to adapt to change. Trying so hard to please people can actually end up pushing them away—it is hard to respect someone who has such an ingratiating attitude.
If you are afraid to learn from your mistakes, you will more than likely keep repeating them. When you transgress this law, no amount of education, connections, or technical knowledge can save you.
Your fearful attitude encloses you in an invisible prison, and there you will remain. Observing the 50th Law creates the opposite dynamic—it opens possibilities, brings freedom of action, and helps create a forward momentum in life. The key to possessing this supreme power is to assume the active mode in dealing with your fears. This means entering the very arenas you normally shy away from: You deliberately put yourself in difficult situations and you examine your reactions.
At some point you will discover the power of reversal—overcoming the negative of a particular fear leads to a positive quality—self-reliance, patience, supreme self-confidence, and on and on. Each of the following chapters will highlight this reversal of perspective. And once you start on this path, it is hard to turn back. You will continue all the way to a bold and fearless approach to everything.
All of us face challenges, rivals, and setbacks. We choose to ignore or avoid them out of fear. It is not the physical reality of your environment that matters but your mental state, how you come to deal with the adversity that is part of life on every level. Fifty had to confront his fears; you must choose to.
Finally, your attitude has the power of shaping reality in two opposite directions—one that constricts and corners you in with fear, the other that opens up possibilities and freedom of action.
It is the same for the mind- set and spirit that you bring to reading the chapters that follow. If you read them with your ego out in front, feeling that you are being judged here, or are under attack—in other words, if you read them in a defensive mode— then you will needlessly close yourself off from the power this could bring you.
We are all human; we are all implicated by our fears; no one is being judged. Similarly, if you read these words as narrow prescriptions for your life, trying to follow them to the letter, then you are constricting their value—their application to your reality. Instead you must absorb these words with an open and fearless spirit, letting the ideas get under your skin and affect how you see the world.
Do not be afraid to experiment with them. In this way, you will shape this book to your circumstances and gain a similar power over the world. He wanted more than anything the very things that it seemed he could never have—money, freedom, and power.
Looking out on the streets of Southside Queens where he grew up, Curtis saw a grim, depressing reality staring him in the face. He could turn to crime and make his money fast, but the ones who went for that either died young or spent much of their youth in prison. He could escape it all by taking drugs—once you start down that path there is no turning back. The only people he could see who led the life that he dreamed of were the hustlers, the drug dealers.
They had the cars, the clothes, the lifestyle, the degree of power that matched his ambitions. And so by the age of eleven he had made the choice to follow that path and become the greatest hustler of them all. The further he got into it, however, the more he realized that the reality was much grimier and harsher than he had imagined. The drug fiends, the customers, were erratic and hard to figure out. If you did too well, someone would try to take what you had. The police were everywhere.
One wrong move could land you in prison. How could he possibly succeed amid this chaos and avoid all of the inevitable dangers? It seemed impossible. One day he was discussing the troublesome aspects of the game with an older hustler named Truth, who told him something he would never forget.
He has to see through all the bullshit people throw at him—their games, their lousy ideas. He has to look at himself, see his own limitations and stupidity. The greatest danger we face, he told Curtis, is not the police or some nasty rival.
If things go well, he starts thinking it will go on forever and he takes his eyes off the streets. If things go bad, he starts wishing it were all different and he comes up with some foolish scheme to get quick, easy money. Either way, he falls fast. Lose your grip on reality on these streets and you might as well kill yourself.
In the months to come, Curtis thought more and more about what Truth had told him, and it began to sink in. Over the next few years he became one of the savviest hustlers in his neighborhood, operating a small crew that brought him good money. In this unfamiliar space and with time to reflect, suddenly the words of Truth came back to him. See it as it is, no matter how ugly. But no street hustler lasts that long. By the time hustlers reach their twenties, they slow down and something bad happens or they go scurrying into a low-paying job.
And what blinds them to this reality is the money and lifestyle in the moment; they think it will go on forever. He had to wake up and get out while he was still young and his ambitions could be realized. He would not be afraid. And so based on these reflections, he decided he would make a break into music. He would find a mentor, someone who could teach him the ropes.
He would learn everything he could about music and the business. He would have no plan B—it was either make it there or die. Operating with a kind of desperate energy, he made the transition into music, carving a place for himself by creating a sound that was hard driving and reflected the realities of the streets. After a relentless mix-tape campaign in New York he got the attention of Eminem, and a record deal followed.
Now he seemed to have realized his childhood ambitions. He had money and power. People were nice to him. Everywhere he went they flattered him, wanting to be a part of his success.
He could feel it happening—the good press, the sycophantic followers—it was all starting to go to his head and dull his vision. On the surface everything looked great, but what was the reality here?
Now more than ever he needed that clear, penetrating eye to see past all the hype and glamour. The more he looked at it, the more he realized that the reality of the music business was as harsh as the streets. The executives who ran the labels were ruthless.
They distracted you with their charming words, but in fact they could care less about your future as an artist; they wanted to suck you dry of every dollar they could get out of you. Once you were no longer so hot, you would find yourself slowly pushed to the side; your decline would be all the more painful for having once tasted success. In truth, you were a pawn in their game. A corner hustler had more power and control over his future than a rapper did.
And what about the business itself? Record sales were falling because people were pirating music or buying it in different forms. Anyone with two eyes could see that. The old business model had to go. But these very same executives who seemed so sharp were afraid to confront this reality.
They held on tightly to the past and would bring everyone down with them. Not Fifty. He would avoid this fate by moving in a different direction.
He would forge a diversified business empire, music merely being a tool to get there. His decisions would be based on his intense reading of the changing environment that he had detected in music but was infecting all levels of business. Let others depend on their MBAs, their money, and their connections.
The world has become as grimy and dangerous as the streets of Southside Queens—a global, competitive environment in which everyone is a ruthless hustler, out for him- or herself. When things get tough and you grow tired of the grind, your mind tends to drift into fantasies; you wish things were a certain way, and slowly, subtly, you turn inward to your thoughts and desires. If things are going well, you become complacent, imagining that what you have now will continue forever.
You stop paying attention. Before you know it, you end up overwhelmed by the changes going on and the younger people rising up around you, challenging your position. His world was so harsh and dangerous it forced him to open his eyes to reality and never lose that connection. Your world seems cozier and less violent, less immediately dangerous.
It makes you wander and your eyes mist over with dreams. Reality has its own power—you can turn your back on it, but it will find you in the end, and your inability to cope with it will be your ruin. Now is the time to stop drifting and wake up—to assess yourself, the people around you, and the direction in which you are headed in as cold and brutal a light as possible. Without fear. Think of reality in the following terms: You are never quite sure about their intentions.
All of this can prove confusing. Seeing people as they are, instead of what you think they should be, would mean having a greater sense of their motives. It would mean being able to pierce the facade they present to the world and see their true character. Your actions in life would be so much more effective with this knowledge. Your line of work is another layer of reality. Right now, things might seem calm on the surface, but there are changes rippling through that world; dangers are looming on the horizon.
Soon your assumptions about how things are done will be outdated. These changes and problems are not immediately apparent. Being able to see through to them before they become too large would bring you great power. The capacity to see the reality behind the appearance is not a function of education or cleverness.
It is in fact a function of character and fearlessness. Simply put, realists are not afraid to look at the harsh circumstances of life. Like any muscle that is trained, they develop the capacity to see with more intensity.
It is simply a choice you have to make. At any moment in life you can convert to realism, which is not a belief system at all, but a way of looking at the world. It means every circumstance, every individual is different, and your task is to measure that difference, then take appropriate action. Your eyes are fixed on the world, not on yourself or your ego. What you see determines what you think and how you act. The moment you believe in some cherished idea that you will hold on to no matter what your eyes and ears reveal to you, you are no longer a realist.
To see this power in action, look at a man like Abraham Lincoln, perhaps our greatest president. He had little formal education and grew up in a harsh frontier environment.
As a young man, he liked to take apart machines and put them back together. He was practical to the core. As president, he found himself having to confront the gravest crisis in our history.
He was surrounded by cabinet members and advisers who were out to promote themselves or some rigid ideology they believed in. They were emotional and heated; they saw Lincoln as weak. He seemed to take a long time to make a decision, and it would often be the opposite of what they had counseled. He trusted generals like Ulysses S. Grant, who was an alcoholic and a social misfit. He worked with those whom his advisers considered political enemies on the other side of the aisle.
He was determined to measure everything exactly as it was. His choices were made out of pure pragmatism. He was a keen observer of human nature and stuck with Grant because he saw him as the only general capable of effective action.
He judged people by results, not friendliness or political values. His careful weighing of people and events was not a weakness but the height of strength, a fearless quality.
And working this way, he carefully guided the country past countless dangers. It is not a history we are accustomed to reading about, since we prefer to be swept up in great ideas and dramatic gestures. But the genius of Lincoln was his ability to focus intensely on reality and see things for what they were. He was a living testament to the power of realism. It might seem that seeing so much of reality could make one depressed, but the opposite is the case.
Having clarity about where you are headed, what people are up to, and what is happening in the world around you will translate into confidence and power, a sensation of lightness. You will feel more connected to your environment, like a spider on its web. Whenever things go wrong in life you will be able to right yourself faster than others, because you will quickly see what is really going on and how you can exploit even the worst moment.
And once you taste this power, you will find more satisfaction from an intense absorption in reality than from indulging in any kind of fantasy.
This came from the harshness of the environment, the many dangers of frontier life. We had to become keen observers of everything going on around us to survive.
In the nineteenth century, such a way of looking at the world led to innumerable inventions, the accumulation of wealth, and the emergence of our country as a great power. But with this growing power, the environment no longer pressed upon us so violently, and our character began to change. Reality came to be seen as something to avoid. Secretly and slowly we developed a taste for escape—from our problems, from work, from the harshness of life. Our culture began to manufacture endless fantasies for us to consume.
And fed on such illusions, we became easier to deceive, since we no longer had a mental barometer for distinguishing fact from fiction. This is a dynamic that has repeated itself throughout history.
Ancient Rome began as a small city-state. Its citizens were tough and stoic. They were famous for their pragmatism. But as they moved from being a republic to an empire and their power expanded, everything reversed itself. They lost all sense of proportion—petty political battles consumed their attention more than much larger dangers on the outskirts of the empire.
The empire fell well before the invasion of the barbarians. But you can stand as an individual bulwark to this trend and create power for yourself.
You were born with the greatest weapon in all of nature—the rational, conscious mind. It has the power to expand your vision far and wide, giving you the unique capacity to distinguish patterns in events, learn from the past, glimpse into the future, see through appearances.
Circumstances are conspiring to dull that weapon and render it useless by turning you inward and making you afraid of reality. Consider it war. You must fight this tendency as best you can and move in the opposite direction. You must turn outward and become a keen observer of all that is around you.
You are doing battle against all the fantasies that are thrown at you. You are tightening your connection to the environment. You want clarity, not escape and confusion. Moving in this direction will instantly bring you power among so many dreamers. Regard the following as exercises for your mind—to make it less rigid, more penetrating and expansive, a sharper gauge of reality.
Practice all of them as often as you can. This baffled the philosopher—he did not think himself worthy of such a decree.
It made him uncomfortable. He decided to simply go around Athens and find a person who was wiser than he—that should be easy and it would disprove the oracle. He engaged in many discussions with politicians, poets, craftsmen, and fellow philosophers. He began to realize that the oracle was right. All the people he talked to had such a certainty about things, venturing solid opinions about matters of which they had no experience; they were full of so much air.
If you questioned them at all, they could not really defend their opinions, which seemed based on something they had decided years earlier. His superiority, he realized, was that he knew that he knew nothing. This left his mind open to experiencing things as they are, the source of all knowledge. This position of basic ignorance was what you had as a child. You had a need and hunger for knowledge, to overcome this ignorance, so you observed the world as closely as possible, absorbing large amounts of information.
Everything was a source of wonder. With time our minds tend to close off. At some point, we feel like we know what we need to know; our opinions are certain and firm. We do this out of fear. If we go too far in this direction, we can become extremely defensive and cover up our fears by acting with supreme confidence and certainty.
What you need to do in life is return to that mind you possessed as a child, opening up to experience instead of closing it off. Let go of your preconceptions and even your most cherished beliefs. Listen to the people around you with more attentiveness. See everything as a source for education— even the most banal encounters. Imagine that the world is still full of mystery. When you operate this way, you will notice that something strange often happens.
Opportunities will begin to fall into your lap because you are suddenly more receptive to them. Sometimes luck or serendipity is more a function of the openness of your mind. But there is more involved than just that. There is also the morale of the enemy soldiers, the political leaders who set them in motion, the minds of the opposing generals who make the key decisions, and the money and resources that stand behind it all.
A mediocre general will confine his knowledge to the physical terrain. A better general will try to expand his knowledge by reading reports about the other factors that influence an army. And the superior general will try to intensify this knowledge by observing as much as he can with his own eyes or consulting firsthand sources.
Napoleon Bonaparte is the greatest general who ever lived, and what elevated him above all others was the mass of information he absorbed about all of the details of battle, with as few filters as possible. This gave him a superior grasp on reality. Your goal is to follow the path of Napoleon. You want to take in as much as possible with your own eyes. You communicate with people up and down the chain of command within your organization. You do not draw any barriers to your social interactions.
You want to expand your access to different ideas. Force yourself to go to events and places that are beyond your usual circle. If you cannot observe something firsthand, try to get reports that are more direct and less filtered, or vary the sources so that you can see things from several sides.
Get a fingertip feel for everything going on in your environment—the complete terrain. After prison, his mission in life was to figure out the source of the problem for blacks in America. Finally he arrived at what he believed to be the root cause— dependency. If they could end this dependency, they would have the power to reverse everything. When you do not get to the root of a problem, you cannot solve it in any meaningful manner. People like to look at the surfaces, get all emotional and react, doing things that make them feel better in the short term but do nothing for them in the long term.
This must be the power and the direction of your mind whenever you encounter some problem—to bore deeper and deeper until you get at something basic and at the root. Never be satisfied with what presents itself to your eyes.
See what underlies it all, absorb it, and then dig deeper. Always question why this particular event has happened, what the motives of the various actors are, who really is in control, who benefits by this action. Often, it will revolve around money and power—that is what people are usually fighting over, despite the surface gloss they give to it. You may never get to the actual root, but the process of digging will bring you closer. And operating in this way will help develop your mind into a powerful analytical instrument.
But most people, out of fear, limit their view of the future to a narrow range—thoughts of tomorrow, a few weeks ahead, perhaps a vague plan for the months to come. We are generally dealing with so many immediate battles, it is hard for us to lift our gaze above the moment. It is a law of power, however, that the further and deeper we contemplate the future, the greater our capacity to shape it according to our desires. With your gaze lifted to the future, you can focus on the dangers looming on the horizon and take proactive measures to avert them.
All of this gives you an increased power to reach your objectives. As part of this process, look at the smaller problems that are plaguing you or your enterprise in the present, and draw arrows to the future, imagining what they could possibly lead to if they grow larger.
Think of your own biggest mistakes or those of others. How could they have been foreseen? Generally there are signs that seem so obvious afterwards. Now imagine those very same signs that you are probably ignoring in the present. It should be the same in the game of life. Everyone is playing to win, and some people will use moral justifications to advance their side.
In this area, you are fiercely realistic. You understand that everyone is after power, and that to get it we all occasionally manipulate and even deceive. That is human nature and there is no shame in it. As part of this approach, you must become a better observer of people. This cannot be done on the Internet. It must be honed in personal interactions. You are trying to read people, see through them as best you can. You come to understand, for instance, that a person who is too obviously friendly after too short a time is often up to no good.
If they flatter you, it is generally out of envy. Behavior that stands out and seems excessive is a sign. Pay more attention to the details, to the little things they reveal in their day-to-day lives.
Their decisions reveal a lot, and you can often discern a pattern if you look at them closely. In general, looking at people through the lens of your emotions will cloud what you see and make you misunderstand everything. Think of this as a ritual you will engage in every few weeks—a rigorous reassessment of who you are and where you are headed. Look at your most recent actions as if they were the maneuvers of another person. Imagine how you could have done it all better—avoided unnecessary battles or confronted people who stood in your way, instead of running away from them.
The goal here is not to beat up on yourself but to have the capacity to adapt and change your behavior by moving closer to the reality. The endgame of such an exercise is to cultivate the proper sense of detachment from yourself and from life. It is not that you want to feel this detachment at every moment. There are times that require you to act with heart and boldness, without doubts or self-distance. On many occasions, however, you need to be able to assess what is happening, without your ego or emotions coloring your perceptions.
Moving to a calm, detached inner position to observe events will become a habit and something you can rely on amid any crisis. At those moments in life when others lose their balance, you will find yours with relative ease.
As a person who cannot be easily ruffled by events, you will attract attention and power. Realists, according to conventional wisdom, can be practical to a fault; they often lack a feel for the finer, higher things in life. Taken too far, such types can be cynical, manipulative, Machiavellian.
They stand in contrast to dreamers, people of high imagination who inspire us with their ideals or divert us with their fantastical creations.
This is a concept that comes from looking at the world through the lens of fear. It is time we reverse this perspective and see dreamers and realists in their true light.
Realists, on the other hand, are the real inventors and innovators. They are men and women of imagination, but their imagination is in close contact with the environment, with reality—they are empirical scientists, writers with a sharp understanding of human nature, or leaders who guide us thoughtfully through crises. They are strong enough to see the world as it is, including their own personal inadequacies. Let us take this further.
The real poetry and beauty in life comes from an intense relationship with reality in all its aspects. Realism is in fact the ideal we must aspire to, the highest point of human rationality. The money he had earned the previous few years as a corner hustler was all gone, and his once loyal customers had all found other dealers to buy from. A friend, now running a fairly large crack-cocaine operation, offered Curtis a job bagging up drugs.
He would be paid a daily wage, and not a bad one. Curtis desperately needed the money, so he accepted the offer. Perhaps further down the road his friend would cut him in on some of the action and he could reestablish his own business.
But from the first day on the job, he realized that this was all a mistake. He was working with a group of other baggers, all former dealers.
They were now hired help; they had to show up at a certain time and bow down to the authority of their employers. Curtis had lost not only his money but also his freedom. This new position went against all of the survival lessons he had learned up till then in his short life. Curtis had never known his father, and his mother had been murdered when he was eight years old.
His grandparents had essentially raised him; they were loving and kind, but they had a lot of children to look after and not much time to give individual attention. If he wanted any kind of guidance or advice, there was nobody in his life to turn to. What all of this meant was that he was essentially alone in this world.
He could not rely on anyone to give him anything. He would have to fend for himself. Then crack cocaine exploded on the streets in the mids and everything changed in neighborhoods like his. In the past, large gangs controlled the drug business, and to be involved you had to fit into their structure and spend years moving up the ladder. But crack was so easy to manufacture and the demand was so high, that anyone—no matter how young—could get in on the game without any startup capital.
You could work on your own and make good money. For those like Curtis who grew up with little parental supervision and a disdain for authority, being a corner dealer was the perfect fit—no political games, no bosses above you. And so he quickly joined the growing pool of hustlers dealing crack on the streets of Southside Queens.
As he got further into the game, he learned a fundamental lesson. There were endless problems and dangers confronting the street hustler— undercover cops, fiends, and rival dealers scheming to rob you.
If you were weak, you looked for others to help you or for some crutch to lean on, such as drugs or alcohol. This was the path of doom.
The only way to survive was to admit you were on your own, learn to make your own decisions, and trust your judgment. Do not ask for what you need but take it. Depend only on your wits. It was as if a hustler, born amid squalor and cramped quarters, possessed an empire. This was not something physical—the corner that he worked or the neighborhood he wanted to take over. It was his time, his energy, his creative schemes, his freedom to move where he wanted to.
If he kept command of that empire, he would make money and thrive. This was a turning point. He looked at the other baggers. They all had suffered downturns in fortune—violence, prison time, etc. They had become scared and tired of the grind. They wanted the comfort and security of a paycheck. Perhaps they could go on like this for several years, but the day of reckoning would come when there were no more jobs and they had forgotten how to fend for themselves.
It was ludicrous for Curtis to imagine that the man now employing him to bag would some day help him set up shop. They think of themselves and they use you. He had to get out now, before that empire slipped from his hands and he became yet another former hustler dependent on favors.
He quickly went into full hustling mode and figured his way out of the trap. At the end of the first day, he made a deal with the baggers. He would dole out the daily cash he had been paid for the job to all of them. In return, he would teach them how to put less crack in each capsule but make it look full he had been doing this on the street for years.
They were then to give Curtis the extra crack that was left over from each capsule. Within a week, he had accumulated enough drugs to return to hustling on the streets, on his terms.