The 50th Law by Robert Greene

  • Author: Robert Greene
  • Get the book: Amazon
  • Rating: 9/10

High-level summary

Curtis Jackson — 50 Cent — grew up in a rough spot. His mom was killed, he had to sell at age 12 to survive, and he got shot 9 times when he finally got his music career of the ground.

Despite all that, he still succeeded. In The 50th Law, Robert Greene teams up with Curtis to write about what it took to go from street hustler, to rapper, to business man.

The 50th Law is a good book full of lessons that Curtis learned along the way. From dealing with fear, to being a leader, to being aggressive when you need to. Great book to come back to if you’re stuck.

Highlights

  • Fear creates its own self-fulfilling dynamic — as people give in to it, they lose energy and momentum. Their lack of confidence translates into inaction that lowers confidence levels even further, on and on.
  • 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.
  • The greatest danger you face is your mind growing soft and your eye getting dull. 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.
  • The capacity to see the reality behind the appearance is not a function of education or cleverness. People can be full of book knowledge and crammed with information but have no real sense of what’s going on around them. It is in fact a function of character and fearlessness. Simply put, realists are not afraid to look at the harsh circumstances of life.
  • 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.
  • True ownership can come only from within. It comes from a disdain for anything or anybody that impinges upon your mobility, from a confidence in your own decisions, and from the use of your time in constant pursuit of education and improvement.
  • You cannot get this requisite inner strength from books or a guru or pills of any kind. It can come only from you. It is a kind of exercise you must practice on a daily basis —weaning yourself from dependencies, listening less to others voices and more to your own, cultivating new skills.
  • Your life must be a progression towards ownership — first mentally of your independence, and then physically of your work, owning what you produce.
  • Time is the critical factor in our lives, our most precious resource. The problem when we work for others is that so much of this becomes dead time that we want to pass as quickly as possible, time that is not our own. Almost all of us must begin our careers working for others, but it is always within our power to transform this time from something dead to something alive. If we make the same determination as Vanderbilt — to be an owner and not a minion — then that time is used to learn as much as we can about what is going on around us-the political games, the nuts and bolts of this particular venture, the larger game going on in the business world, how we could do things better. We have to pay attention and absorb as much information as possible.” 
  • While still working for others, your goal at some point must be to carve out little areas that you can operate on your own, cultivating entrepreneurial skills.
  • Keep in mind the following: what you really value in life is ownership, not money. If ever there is a choice — more money or more responsibility — you must always opt for the latter.
  • True opportunists do not require urgent, stressful circumstances to become alert and inventive. They operate this way on a daily basis. They channel their aggressive energy into hunting down possibilities for expansion in the most banal and insignificant events. Everything is an instrument in their hands, and with this enlarged notion of opportunity, they create more of it in their lives and gain great power.
  • Opportunities exist in any field of tension — heated competition, anxiety, chaotic situations. Something important is going on and if you are able to determine the underlying cause, you can create for yourself a powerful opportunity.
  • Most people wait too long to go into action, generally out of fear. They want more money or better circumstances. You must go the opposite direction and move before you think you are ready. It is as if you are making it a little more difficult for yourself, deliberately creating obstacles in your path. But it is a law of power that your energy will always rise to the appropriate level. When you feel that you must work harder to get to your goal because you are not quite prepared, you are more alert and inventive. This venture has to succeed and so it will.
  • Remember: as Napoleon said, the moral is to the physical as three to one-meaning the motivation and energy levels you or your army bring to the encounter have three times as much weight as your physical resources.
  • Every circumstance in life is different, but this elicits that old fear of chaos and the unknown. We cannot physically make events more predictable, but we can internally create a feeling of greater control by holding on to certain ideas and beliefs that give us a sense of consistency and order. This hunger for control, common to all of us, is the root of so many problems in life.
  • Our desire to micromanage the world around us comes with a paradoxical effect-the harder we try to control things in our immediate environment, the more likely we are to lose control in the long run.
  • Understand: it is not only what you do that must have flow, but also how you do things. It is your strategies, your methods of attacking problems, that must constantly be adapted to circumstances. Strategy is the essence of human action-the bridge between an idea and its realization in the world. Too often these strategies become frozen into conventions, as people mindlessly imitate what worked before.
  • Momentum in life comes from increased fluidity, a willingness to try more, to move in a less constricted fashion.
  • You must learn the art of counterbalance. When you are fearful, force yourself to act in a bolder fashion than usual. When you feel inordinate hate, find some object of love or admiration that you can focus on with intensity.
  • He thought back to the great hustlers he had known in the neighborhood. One of their most successful strategies was the “setup,” a variation on the old con game of bait and switch. You distract people with something dramatic and emotional, and while they are not paying attention to you, you grab what you want. He had seen it executed dozens of times, and as he thought about it, he realized he had the material for the perfect distraction.
  • What [Richard] Wright had discovered was simple: when you submit in spirit to aggressors or to an unjust and impossible situation, you do not buy yourself any real peace. You encourage people to go further, to take more from you, to use you for their own purposes. They sense your lack of self- respect and they feel justified in mistreating you. When you are humble, you reap the wages of humility. You must develop the opposite-a fighting stance that comes from deep within and cannot be shaken. You force some respect.
  • [Thomas Edison’s] method was simple: he scoured the globe, looking at all of the latest advances in science and technology. With his understanding of business and the latest social trends, he thought long and hard about how some of these advances could be translated into products with great commercial appeal, that could transform how people lived-electricity lighting up cities, improved telephones altering the course of commerce, motion pictures entertaining the masses. He would then hire the best minds in these fields to bring to life his ideas. Every product that came through his lab was inevitably stamped with Edison’s particular vision and sense of marketing.
  • The word “authority” comes from the Latin root autore, meaning author-a person who creates something new. This could be a work of art, a new way of operating in the world, or new values. The health of any society depends on those who infuse it with such innovations. These works or actions by individuals give them credibility and authority to do more.
  • In this day and age, to reach people you must have access to their inner lives-their frustrations, aspirations, resentments. To do so, you must crush as much distance as possible between you and your audience. You enter their spirit and absorb it from within. Their way of looking at things becomes yours, and when you re-create it in some form of work, it has life. What shocks and excites you will then have the same effect on them.
  • Once you [ learn how to deal with boredom and repetition ], two things will happen: First, having the larger goal will lift your mind out of the moment and help you endure the hard work and drudgery. Second, as you become better at this task or craft, it becomes increasingly pleasurable. You see your improvement; you see connections and possibilities you hadn’t noticed before. Your mind becomes absorbed in mastering it further, and in this absorption you forget all your problems-fears for the future or people’s nasty games.
  • Understand: the real secret, the real formula for power in this world, lies in accepting the ugly reality that learning requires a process, and this in turn demands patience and the ability to endure drudge work. It is not sexy or seductive at first glance, but this truth is based on something real and substantial-an age-old wisdom that will never be overturned.
  • When you take the time to master a simple process and overcome a basic insecurity, you develop certain skills that can be applied to anything. You see instantly the reward that comes from patience, practice, and discipline. You have the sense that you can tackle almost any problem in the same way. You create for yourself a pattern of confidence that will continue to rise.
  • As a young student-artist in late fifteenth-century Italy, Michelangelo had to confront a personal limitation. He had grand concepts of things he wanted to paint and sculpt, but not the requisite skill. He looked at the masterpieces of other artists and wanted his own work to have a similar aura and effect, but he was frustrated at the flatness and conventionality of what he created. He tried an experiment: he began to copy his favorite masterworks down to the smallest brush stroke, and he discovered that the effect he had so admired was embedded in certain details-the way these artists were able to make figures or landscapes come to life by their intense attention to the fine points. And so began a remarkable apprenticeship to his craft that would last the rest of his life and completely alter his way of thinking.
  • If you believe ambition is ugly and needs to be disguised or repressed, you will have to tiptoe around others, making a show of false humility, in two minds every time you contemplate some necessary power move. If you see it as beautiful, as the driving force behind all great human accomplishments, then you will feel no guilt in raising your level of ambition as high as you want and pushing aside those who block your path.
  • Understand: people will constantly attack you in life. One of their main weapons will be to instill in you doubts about yourself-your worth, your abilities, your potential. They will often disguise this as their objective opinion, but invariably it has a political purpose-they want to keep you down. You are continually prone to believe these opinions, particularly if your self-image is fragile. In every moment of life you can defy and deny people this power. You do so by maintaining a sense of purpose, a high destiny you are fulfilling. From such a position, people’s attacks do not harm you; they only make you angry and more determined. the higher you raise your self image, if your judgements and manipulations you will tolerate.
  • What prevents you from taking such action is not mommy, daddy, or society, but your own fears. You are essentially free to move beyond any limits others have set for you, to re-create yourself as thoroughly as you wish.
  • As Seneca understood, to free yourself from fear you must work backward. You start with the thought of your mortality. You accept and embrace this reality. You think ahead to the inevitable moment of your death and determine to face it as bravely as possible. The more you contemplate your mortality, the less you fear it-it becomes a fact you no longer have to repress. By following this path, you know how to die well, and so you can now begin to teach yourself to live well.
  • There are two kinds of time we can experience-the banal and the sublime variety. Banal time is extremely limited in scope. It consists of the present moment and stretches out to a few weeks ahead of us, occasionally farther. Locked in banal time, we tend to distort events-we see things as being far more important than they are, unaware that in a few weeks or a year, what stirs us all up will not matter. The sublime variety is an intimation of the reality of the utter vastness of time and the constant changes that are going on. It requires that we lift our heads out of the moment and engage in the kinds of meditations that obsessed Kenko.
  • If we are afraid of death, then we are afraid of life. We must turn this perspective around and face reality from within, finding a way to accept and embrace death as part of being alive. Only from such a position can we begin to overcome the fear of our mortality, and then all of the smaller fears that plague our lives.