The 48 Laws of Power in Business and Marketing
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Robert Greene is the author of several books on pyscology and strategy including “The 48 Laws of Power”, “Mastery”, “The 50th Law”, “The Art of Seduction” and “The 33 Strategies of War”.
In this interview I ask Robert how we can apply some of these strategies in business, marketing and our personal life too.
You can listen by clicking the play button on the video or you can read the full transcript below.
If you have read Robert’s books please leave your thoughts in the comment section at the bottom of this page
Joey Bushnell: Hello welcome to The Online Marketing Show, I’m your host Joey Bushnell, today I’m very excited because I have a very special guest on the line, his name is Robert Greene. He is the author of several books, he writes about the intersection between psychology and strategy and his books are absolutely fantastic. They include “The 48 Laws of Power”, his new book “Mastery”, “The 50th Law”, “The Art of Seduction” and “The 33 Strategies of War”. You can find our more about Robert over at powerseductionandwar.com. Robert thank you so much for being on the call with me today.
Robert Greene: Thank you for having me Joey, my pleasure.
Joey Bushnell: Robert, how did you come to write books on these topics?
Robert Greene: I started working on “The 48 Laws of Power” back in 1996. Prior to that I had many different jobs mostly as a writer and in journalism. I worked in Hollywood. I had noticed that nothing really prepares you for the work world. You leave university, where I myself studied the classics, Greek and Latin was my major, and you enter the work world where people are tricky, political, manipulative and all kinds of things are happening. You have no guide to the world, university doesn’t prepare you, your parents don’t prepare you.
I had noticed by reading a lot of history that there were these recurring patterns and themes that I had noticed in history that were very similar to the power moves that I was witnessing by film directors, head editors etc. I was also struck by the fact that a lot of the things that involve power on the highest levels sometimes involve the darker side of human psychology. People can be very passive aggressive or they can be aggressive and they can conceal their intentions. There’s this world that exists that nobody writes about or describes it’s like a dirty little secret or taboo.
People will reveal their inner most secrets about sex or anything but when it comes power, no no it’s all about co-operating and being generous and being an ethical leader. To me that’s a lot of bull sh*t I never witnessed that in real life.
So fueled by a bit of anger, a little bit of frustration and the opportunity to write a book which came to me a little bit out of luck, I wrote “The 48 Laws of Power” which combined everything I just mentioned to you. From there everything just took off.
Joey Bushnell: Fantastic, so can you let us know what each of your books is about?
Robert Greene: With “The 48 Laws of Power” I wanted to capture what I mentioned were those timeless patterns that have existed since we were civilized. Where whenever people form a group of any size like a tribe, a city, state or a business organization you have egos and you have politics. So these laws start coming into play based on a lot of psychology and I wanted to capture all of those 48 laws and reveal them to you and I do it in an adult fashion.
Some of the laws are quite clearly not very moral, some of them are neutral, some of them are quite good but I leave it up to you as the reader to decide what to do. It’s either something you are aware of and now you can protect yourself against some of the sharks out there and a lot of it involves how to be persuasive and how to have influence over people. Because I have a theory that power in the modern world is something that I call indirect, that we reward people who are not overtly aggressive.
Seduction plays a large role in my concept of what I call soft power so it was natural that I had to do my second book called “The Art of Seduction”. I try to do something in this book, whether it succeeds or fails I don’t know, but I don’t think it has ever been done before which is to connect sexual seduction to social seduction to political seduction to marketing and show you everything that underlies all of that and the psychology involved and go deeply into it.
Then because my books are heavily about strategy, how to be strategic in the world, control your emotions and see it as if you are playing a game of chess in a way. There was a logical extension to do a book, my version of "The Art of War” which is “The 33 Strategies of War” in which I take the 33 most classical strategies based on years of research from all cultures and show you how these strategies can be applied in business, marketing, politics or where ever you want.
The 4th book “The 50th Law” came about because the rapper 50 Cent was a huge fan of “The 48 Laws of Power” and “The Art of Seduction”, my books have been very successful in that world for various reasons. We connected, became friends and we saw that we had similar interests and so a book evolved out of our relationship which is “The 50th Law”. I call 50 the Napoleon Bonaparte of hip-hop, in my book prior to that “The 33 Strategies of War”. Napoleon Bonaparte was the main character. But all my books have been about people who are dead and here was a real, live person who operated by a lot of the laws of power and was very strategic and very interesting.
So I used 50 as a living laboratory, I observed him closely and I determined that what makes him so powerful and successful is the level of fearlessness that he had. It’s not fearlessness of a thuggish type, it’s a very deep philosophical fearlessness, almost a kind of stoicism. So the book that we did together is a meditation on the power you can have if you adopt this fearless philosophy.
My last book “Mastery” which came out a few months ago is the ultimate distillation of everything I have written. I’ve noticed that all of the great power figures that I have studied, many of them dead but a lot of them now in the last years have been alive because I work as a consultant, they have what I call a high level intuition. They’ve been working so long in their field music, science, business or whatever it is that they have this finger tip feel for what is happening in the world for trends etc and it’s extremely powerful. It’s what we might call genius but I prefer not to use that loaded word, I call it “mastery”, high level intuition.
I wanted to debunk all of the silly myths in our culture about how people are born that way or it’s a genetic thing, no it comes through a process. It’s the same process that Einstein does and that Steve Jobs did. It doesn’t matter, the field it’s connected to is the human brain and it’s not a matter of genetics, it’s something we are all born with. I’m going to show you in a step by step process, in 6 chapters, how people achieve this incredibly powerful intelligence that actually anybody can aim for and achieve on whatever level.
That book was a little different in that I use a lot of history of the greatest masters in all fields and I interviewed 9 contemporary masters so I gave it a contemporary spin everywhere from the great architect Santiago Calatrava to the tech entrepreneur Paul Graham to Temple Grandin and more. So that’s my latest book and my overview of the 5 of my books.
Joey Bushnell: Do you know what you are going to do in the future Robert? Is it to early to tell at this point? Or is that something you’ve already got planned out?
Robert Greene: For any of the people out there who are familiar with “Mastery” chapter 4 is on what I call social intelligence and the point of that chapter is it’s not enough to simply know your field really well, to be a nerd and have accumulated a lot of knowledge. We are a social animal, power only exists in a social sense, we have to work in groups. So I wrote a chapter that shows you how actual intelligence on any level whether it be business or something else is inexplicably intertwined with social intelligence. Your ability to work with people directly affects your ability to get work done in the world.
So I wrote a chapter that shows you the two elements of social intelligence. How to read people in the moment, how to be much more attuned to the individual psychologies of everybody that you deal with and then how to be aware of the basic timeless laws of human behavior so that you are not so naive. The icon for that chapter was Benjamin Franklin, I think the most socially intelligent person who may have ever lived.
I’m now spinning a book based on that chapter and I’m going to hopefully give you the ultimate book on what I consider the basic elements of human nature. Take that idea of how to read people in the moment and go deeper into it so I’m currently spinning like a spider, a book just on that one chapter.
Joey Bushnell: Awesome I can’t wait for that to be released Robert, so thank you for that, it’s a really good insight to gain today.
There’s so much we could talk about, your work covers so many different areas. I thought I would just focus on one of the books. The first book I read of yours was “The 48 Laws of Power” so that will be the focus of the interview today.
Why do you think it is important for us to know the 48 laws of power?
Robert Greene: I lightly touched on it earlier in the sense that these are the laws that a lot of people operate by. Now I’m not saying everybody does but it tends to work out like a mathematical ratio that if you have a group of ten people you are almost inevitably going to find at least one or two people who are using a lot of the more overt laws of power, the more manipulative ones. You can’t disengage yourself from that game if you are completely unaware of what people out there might be doing, you’re just going to be tripped up, you’re going to find yourself continually at a disadvantage.
If you are armed with knowledge, if you are aware that certain dynamics are at play then you have options. You can play defense, you can ignore that person and take the consequences perhaps with a game plan in mind and it goes on, you’ve increased your options. So I think you need to be aware of these laws.It doesn’t make you paranoid, it doesn’t mean you are now going to become a bad person or an asshole, it just means you are going to be more aware.
To give you an example law number 1 is “Never outshine the master“. I made it law number 1 because it’s so common, it happened to me a couple of times. Basically the law is, if you’re in a subordinate position of some sort and pretty much all of us are at some point in our lives, your general tendency is to try and impress the people above you or person above you so well that they will like you, keep you or maybe promote you. In the process of doing that you are not aware that that person above has insecurities and if you try so hard they may see that you are after their job or that you are better than they are or they might envy the fact you are younger. On and on, they may have insecurities and if you are not aware of them you could end up being fired, demoted or not promoted and not even aware of what is happening.
So there is nothing to be lost by knowing about that dynamic, having that kind of awareness could save you years of misery of being fired from a job and not knowing why. It doesn’t mean that you have to continually flatter and not assert yourself, may I make it clear that is not what this is about. But being aware that the people above you have egos and insecurities, I don’t see a single person on the planet who couldn’t benefit from being aware of that.
Joey Bushnell: If someone were to point to these laws and say that they are unethical or they are claiming that they are a “non player”, that they don’t use these things… first of all is that true, are there non players? And number two, would you be more suspicious of that person?
Robert Greene: Well number 1, there are “non players” there are people who are maybe saints, who live in the desert, who live by themselves in a cabin and don’t interact with people.There may be a couple of people like that in the world. Essentially I’m saying pretty much nobody.
It depends on the person, somebody could assert that and not really be aware of what they are saying, they are a little bit naive. I was certainly naive when I entered the work force so there is no criticism there. But then there are people who really make a point of saying “I don’t do anything like these laws of power” and they are the most manipulative people you will ever meet. They are in a state of denial to the point where they won’t even admit it to themselves or it’s their cover.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with “The O’Reilly Factor”, it’s a show here on Fox News with a very right wing, overtly obnoxious interviewer and he had me on his show for “The 48 Laws of Power”. He was saying he liked the book but he found it completely immoral, very ugly and he didn’t think people should read it. In the process of saying that, the way he did his questions was so manipulative, he was basically highlighting only the most negative parts of the book and cherry piking them. I thought “you’re condemning the book, at the same time that you’re being highly manipulative in how you’re presenting it and how you’re ill-guiding the questions”.
There are a lot of people out there like that. So if someone is making a real case that they have nothing to do with any of these laws your antenna might go up a little bit and say “this person might be the exact opposite”.
Joey Bushnell: I’ve selected 6 laws out of the 48 which I’d like to talk about a little bit further. I guess in some ways these can be used in life in general but also perhaps in marketing and business as well, that’s what I’m quite interested in myself and my audience is as well.
The first one I wanted to talk about is law 6, which is “Court attention at all costs”, why do we want to do this?
Robert Greene: You must bear in mind that each law is circumstantial. It does depend on the circumstances you are in and I make that clear as I write it so there’s no law that is written in this book that pertains to every single circumstance in life. There are going to be people out there in a certain position who shouldn’t court attention at all costs. At the end of each chapter I have a reversal that explains why you may not want to use that.
But the point of this, is that in the opening stage of most careers any attention is what you want, any attention is good attention, even if it’s bad attention.
I remember my lesson in this, even though I wrote that law, sometimes it takes experiences to make it even clearer to me. When “The Art of Seduction” came out I was interviewed by a journalist for a woman’s magazine, she pretended to be friendly and like the book then she wrote a very negative article about “The Art of Seduction” essentially saying it was a book for sociopaths. I got very upset about it. Then as the article came out my sales sky rocketed. “The Art of Seduction” from that one article really took off and I was like “Wow, I just realized the power of my own law. Why was I getting upset?” a negative article for a book like “The Art of Seduction” is even better than a positive article. It was precisely what I was writing about.
So in many situations getting talked about, getting people to be aware of you, to have presence and to know about who you are is the game that you are playing. You want attention, you want to grab some of that airspace that exists out there in a world that’s very difficult to get it because it’s so competitive and to get it for more than a few seconds. Any attention is good and that can be what we would normally consider as bad attention so I wanted to make you aware of that dynamic.
Joey Bushnell: Sure, so even if it’s bad it’s certainly better than no ones talking about you at all.
Robert Greene: I’m trying to say that in some circumstances even the bad attention can be better. It’s something I’m writing about in my new book about human nature, we’re attracted almost in a primal way to something negative. When an event occurs a fear element comes into play and we are excited by the possible negative consequences of something, for example we’re draw to an automobile accident. When people are talking negatively about you or your company it has several effects it may mean people become sympathetic, they like the underdog or they take your side. They could be intrigued by the darker side that you might be involved in. There are all kinds of possible positive consequences from having that kind of attention to you.
Joey Bushnell: OK, law 13 is “When asking for help, appeal to a persons self interest never to their mercy or self gratitude”, why would you recommend this?
Robert Greene: I think it’s pretty self evident. I think almost everybody would understand that concept and it’s simply the fact that we all to some degree have a high level of self interest. We’re selfish to some degree, that’s not a criticism and it doesn’t mean that we are all narcissists. But in any situation our minds naturally evolve to what’s in it for me? How does this affect me? Can this benefit me? Can this harm me? Then we might move on from that and have a more altruistic point of view about things but that’s almost always our initial response.
A lot of people in business mistake that they think people are naturally altruistic or that they are thinking on your terms or that your interests are converging. I’m trying to make you aware of the fact that you’re not thinking about the other person in most cases. You’re not putting yourself in their shoes, thinking about your client, thinking about their needs, their interests, what they want or what they are going to get out of it. 99% of the time you are projecting onto them your own emotions, what you want them to think and to believe. It’s very dangerous, I’m trying to tell you that you need to stop that, you need to think of what their self interest is in any situation. That can be on an individual level if you’re asking your boss for a promotion. It could be on a marketing level, what it is exactly that your audience wants, what their needs are and what they are looking for.
In “The 50th Law” I have a chapter on the closer you get to your audience, the more actual feedback you have to the fact that you are almost one with them, the more powerful you will be in marketing, in all aspects of business and how 50 was absolutely brilliant at that. Once you have that intimate close personal relationship to your customers and clients and you can think inside their skin, you have incredible power and you will naturally know what their self interest is.
In any situation in business you must stop yourself and say “Am I projecting on to them what I want?” then go back and say “What is their self interest?”. To me it’s pretty self evident but a lot of people violate it.
Joey Bushnell: Absolutely, like you mentioned in marketing it’s the first step. If you are selling a product you ask what does the target market want? Why would they buy this?
Robert Greene: But there’s new answers to that because as I said every one is sort of aware of that but they don’t practice it. You’d be surprised how insidious our selfishness is in the sense that how we can convince ourselves that this is what the other person is thinking and how often what we think they want is converging with what we want.
It really is almost like an intellectual exercise you must go through and even go to the opposite extreme saying “That person who I’m trying to influence is actively going to resist what I want. They don’t have my same interests” and go through a process where you are really trying to see the world from their point of view, and why they don’t want your product is to me a way to apply this law.
Joey Bushnell: Brilliant. Law 16 is “Use absence to increase respect and honor”. How can this be applied in a business situation?
Robert Greene: It’s a delicate dynamic and at first glance it seems to contradict “Court attention at all costs”. So it’s a thing that is specific and I don’t really know if it’s exactly going to fit to the marketing angle that we’re approaching. I thought of that law more in terms of in your personal relationships. It comes to something elemental about human psychology and so perhaps in that way it has a link up to marketing.
Which is, when people are too present, too familiar or too in our face, something happens to us psychologically. We begin to tune them out, we begin to get sick of them, we begin to know them so well and become so familiar with who they are that we loose a bit of respect for them. You pass a certain threshold with the fact that you’re too present in their lives, too much in their face and once that threshold is passed you’re never going to repair it they have lost a certain respect for you.
I tie this very much into seduction, a man or woman seducing the opposite sex. The opposite of a bit of absence has the opposite effect. When someone is not there all the time it gives us space to think about them. Your job in influence and persuasion is to get the other person to think about you or your product without you forcing yourself upon them or without you making them think about you. If they go away the next day and they are thinking about something that you did because you’ve given them that space to do it you’ve got them hooked. The fact that their emotions and will power is engaged in thinking about you, you’ve now lowered their resistance, defensiveness, you have influence over them and absence does that.
If you’re seducing a woman and you have this wonderful date and then the next day you don’t call her she’s now wondering about what’s going on. She starts to think about you and she starts mythologizing about you and wondering if you’re this or that. She’s also starting to have some doubts and maybe worries. Then you call her the next day and suddenly you’re creating this dynamic where she’s getting hooked. I want to call your attention to the fact that a lot of people in the world are too present. They think that they just need to impose themselves on other people, that that’s the art of influence. To actually seal the deal and end the sale and get that influence, you need to take a step back and let them go through a process where they are thinking about you. And they are doing what you actually end up wanting them to do but their own process and their own will power is engaged. So that’s pretty much what that law is about.
Joey Bushnell: While you were talking there I was thinking about musicians. If a band has not toured in many years as soon as they release tickets for a new tour suddenly everyone goes crazy because they haven’t been around for a long time, would you say that law is true in that example?
Robert Greene: Yes, definitely it’s a subtle thing. If you disappear for too long nobody remembers you then the only people who will come to your concert are in their 60’s. So it’s not like you disappear completely, it’s a dynamic you are using absence in presence.
Napoleon Bonaparte had a quote which essentially said “If I appear at the theatre every night people loose respect for me they think that I’m just another political figure. But if I appear at the theatre once every 3 months suddenly they start thinking about me as if I’m king or royalty” So he was extremely aware of this dynamic there’s a lot of politicians like Charles DeGaulle and more that are.
If you’re too much out there you’ll kill the mythologizing effect that taking a step back can have. So if you’re the Rolling Stones and you tour only once every 2 years you’re going to feed that mythologizing power that people have.
Joey Bushnell: Yeah that’s exactly who I was thinking of The Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac have just gone on tour as well and with both of those bands I was like “Will I get a chance to do this again?”. So all those things were going through my mind so that’s great to understand that law.
Law 25 is “Recreate yourself” why is it a good idea to recreate yourself?
Robert Greene: A lot of the 48 laws of power have to do with appearances on the game of appearances. Unfortunately or fortunately I don’t know, it’s just a fact of human nature we tend to judge people on what we can see. We don’t really go and take the time to imagine what’s beneath the facade. So a lot of our judgements are based on the facade or mask that people present, it’s a kind of theatre going on.
If you’re not careful people will judge you based on these appearances and they will pigeon hole you that this is the person that you are. Your shy, your aggressive, your this type or that type and you lose the control of the dynamic, they become the ones that determine who you are. A powerful person never loses control of the dynamic they are in someway in control. Not completely, that’s impossible, but they have more control than other people. So the ability to control your image, to how people think about you is extremely powerful.
It can apply to you as an individual or your brand, and many other things. The fact that you’re letting time go by and that one image sets into people’s minds is very dangerous. You want to have the ability and power to recreate who you are, to say “I’m not exactly what you thought. I’m capable of a new style. I’m adapting to the times, I’m going to surprise you and you don’t have me figured out 100%. There are elements of my character that are going to surprise you” that’s very powerful.
I can give examples like artists such as Pablo Picasso who changed his style every 6 or 8 years. Looking back at it now it almost seems like he was insane but at the time, and still today, it is his very powerful recreation of his artistic powers that also revived him creatively. It made people think that they could never quite figure this man out, he was almost like a god like figure. He’s one step ahead of the game, that’s how you want to approach it.
It’s good to have a brand that is consistent that people know about and trust. But it’s also good to mix it up and adapt it, to polish it a bit and give it a new aspect. To not violate the reputation you’ve established but give it a new edge and veneer to show other aspects that people hadn’t suspected. I want you to be aware of the fact that things can get stale and it’s a very dangerous thing to lose control of that dynamic and you need to be in fact controlling it to some degree.
Joey Bushnell: So again taking it back to music, I see a lot of these things going on within music such as Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, when they started off they were seen as sweet and innocent young girls singing about lovely things. Then one day they both changed to a bit more wild kind of characters, Christina Aguilera brought out a song called “Dirrty” and suddenly she was in leather clad bikinis. They recreated themselves and had a second wave of success.
Robert Greene: Yeah, in music terms I would say even more powerful would be someone like David Bowie. Look at how many incarnations he’s gone through and the absolute reverence, he’s probably the most thought about rock star for many generations.
50 himself was a really good example of it because he, for better or worse, had a very thuggish image as a rapper based on his experiences in life. He knows he can’t keep that up. His whole thing was he hates the fake gangster, the person who pretends to be tougher than he is. Now after his initial success he’s a multi, multi-millionaire who lives in a large house, he doesn’t live on the streets anymore so he can’t get by with that image, he has to recreate it and change it. It’s not as successful as it was it doesn’t have that edge or authenticity that his earlier image had but he’s keeping it authentic. If he tried to keep playing the tough gangster that he did 8 years ago I think that he’d become laughable and face something a lot more dangerous in the long run.
Joey Bushnell: Law 34 is “Be royal in your own fashion, act like a king to be treated like one” How would you say that this applies in life and perhaps business as well?
Robert Greene: Well, I keep coming back to certain basic elements of human psychology, maybe it’s on my mind because it’s the new book, but it’s another fairly common sense idea which is how you think about yourself, your own attitude and your own relationship to who you are is projected onto the world. People sense it, smell it and read it off of your body language. They know that you’re an essentially timid person or they know that you’re a lion or an aggressive type. It’s not in your words, they feel the attitude that you have, it’s projected out in to the world in ways that you’re probably not completely aware of. Once again I’m trying to make you aware of this dynamic so that you could potentially control it and increase your options.
I narrate the story of a very iconic story, in case the listeners don’t know I use a lot of history to illustrate every idea and the icon for that chapter is Christopher Columbus. He is basically someone who comes from the most middle class background. I think he was the son of a baker totally uninteresting and nondescript. But from an early age he imagined that he was born as an aristocrat. Today we would call him bipolar and probably lock him up, but they didn’t go about things like that. But he really had himself convinced that he had aristocratic roots. I’m not sure whether it was a game he was playing or whether he really believed it. But when it came time for him to get the funding for his voyage to America it was an insanely ballsey maneuver. Here was a guy who very little experience, he had some captaining experience but why would he be the one to lead this very expensive and very adventurous voyage to try and find a passage to the east? He convinced an incredible number of people that he was royalty and he was born to accomplish this and it became a self fulfilling prophecy.
So the idea is, how you feel about yourself is going to be projected so why not feel that you were destined for something interesting and destined for something great?
In fact you are. I make the case in “Mastery” everybody is born unique, that your DNA and configuration of your brain will never occur again in the history of the universe. That uniqueness that you have is manifested in things that you are drawn to, certain activities such as sports or business. The more deeply you go into bringing that uniqueness to play, the more creative you are with it, the more power you will have. It’s the secret to every successful person. So you are destined for something but you’re not feeling it or believing it.
If you become aware of how your attitude is toward yourself, how you think about who you are and what you were meant to do is really going to affect how people perceive you. I think that translates to a product you have, to how much confidence you have in it, to your own level of self belief.
Yesterday I was doing this mass consulting where people could come in for half an hour and tell me about their business idea and I could give them criticism. I did it for about 20 people over a course of about 6 hours and I could tell those people who really had a high level of belief who really felt like this was something great. I knew they were going to succeed. Their idea might fail but they would get back on their feet and they’ll make it happen on the second round. I’m trying to make you aware of your level of self belief is intimately connected with what is going to end up happening to you in life.
Joey Bushnell: If we get this wrong and we seem weak do you think others will pounce on that and people may take advantage?
Robert Greene: Very much so, but from my experience yesterday where these were a lot of people who were all trying to get funding for their ideas and they ranged from fashion start ups to tech start ups and the game at that level is getting funding and going in to meetings. To me I was trying to say that an approach where you lay a vision of what you are going to create is the most important thing you are doing. It’s not about being charming or having a good smile or what you wear. It’s about the nuts and bolts of your idea. But if you believe in it you’re going to create a much stronger vision of what this is going to be like and your tone of voice will communicate so many things.
The thing that people do when they don’t believe in themselves that I’ve discovered in my years of experience is that they are vague. If your actual not believing that what you are going to do is successful you come into a meeting wishy washy, half explaining what’s going to happen, a lot of wishes are in there and you’re vague for a reason because you don’t really believe in it, you haven’t put enough thought into it.
The fact that you believe in it is read in the fact that you have thought it through deeply because you believe in it so much you are willing to put in that detailed work. You’re wiling to connect A to B to C to D. I can read that in people right away, I can distinguish in those meetings between the people who believe and those who don’t by the amount of detail they can give me about their ideas.
I don’t know if I can explain it any better but I’ve been going through this for years and I have a book by Paul Graham who is the creator of Y Combinator and he has a school in Silicon Valley that trains people for tech start ups and he takes a cut of their business if they are successful. His business now is worth over $5billion. Things like “Air bnb” have come out of his incubator school. He’s interviewed 10,000 people who want to get into the school he’s got the same set of criteria, he can tell right away those people who don’t truly believe in it by their vagueness.
The key to success in any kind of start up is your level of persistence. It’s not so much your intellect. The Zuckerburg’s, Pages and Brins, that succeed have such a level of belief in what they are doing that they will put up with the kind of crap that most people won’t put up with, they are incredibly persistent and resilient. You can read that on people. I can read that right away when they come in for a meeting.
Joey Bushnell: My final question was law 37 is to “Create compelling spectacles“. Any ideas of how we can apply this in a business situation?
Robert Greene: It really depends on the kind of business you are in. It kind of connects to the law “Court attention at all costs”. The kind of compelling spectacle that I’m really pin pointing in that particular law is the kind that has a large effect. Compelling spectacles are not to reach a niche market, it could be for reaching a niche marketing but on a grand scale. This is for grand marketing.
What you are trying to do is the following; the idea in the modern world is that people have all kinds of diverging interests, everybody is thinking about themselves. On a political level everyone has their own little narrow interests for their community or the group that they belong to or their political beliefs. This happens in marketing as well, everyone is balkanized into these very specialized niches.
It’s very hard to reach and unite people almost in a religious sense and get them in on emotional level so they all feel like they are part of a group. This is also connected to another chapter in the book about having a cult like affect on others. The game on creating a compelling spectacle is to by pass all of the niche stuff happening and balkanization and reach people in a deep core emotional level appealing to them through symbols that have a timeless basis.
People want to feel united, they want to have that religious sense they want to feel like at a rave 10,000 people at the rave are feeling the same emotions, a very primal need that’s not being fulfilled in the world today. Your job on this grand marketing compelling spectacle fashion is to create something that is going to unite them in that primal way. A lot of that has to do with what are the causes in the world that can do that?
If people are now so much believing in the environment, and it’s a good thing I’m not being cynical here, creating something where they feel like they are all involved in an event or buying something that’s really going to have an effect on that cause they believe in, that will have that unifying compelling spectacle effect. That’s really what I’m tying to get at on that level.
I was recently at Google a couple of weeks ago to give a talk. It was the first time I was at the campus of Google out in California. I’m kind of an admirer of them and their marketing and how they created this image there’s some negative things and particular in Europe people don’t have as high opinion as they do in the USA. But the whole idea of don’t be evil is kind of connected to this spectacle element of this larger idea about this company that’s not just a business its almost like a religion. A religion based on the free flowing of information without any barriers at all. They are very good at creating the kind of spectacles that feed into that image whether it’s cynical or not.
Joey Bushnell: One thing that came to my mind was, when you lived over here Robert did you ever see things like Red Nose Day or Children In Need? It’s like a big day where people donate, like Band Aid in the 80‘s. It was for a cause to raise money for people living in poverty in Africa but there was a spectacle to go with it, there was this great event that was happening and they raised a lot of money but they used a compelling spectacle to attract a lot of that awareness, would that be an example?
Robert Greene: Yes it would and it calls to mind and example that I used in “The art of seduction”, to me the best political example particularly for the United States was John F Kennedy. This was just after he was elected at a time when America was splintering like it’s become now to an extreme into all these different interests. He created what was called “The new frontier”. It was very powerful where he was talking about the space race as the new frontier and we’re all Americans together it’s like the pioneers of the 19th century. Every American can unite around the actual image of the first man landing on the moon planting and American flag.
He didn’t live to see that but he set it all in motion. It had a really powerful effect on the public, it said “Yes this is what it means to be an American, this is the spirit we used to have that we’ve lost”. Everybody really got excited about the space program to an extent where nobody feels that anymore in the states and the question comes up in politics “What does it mean to be an American in the year 2013?”. That’s the kind of power that a compelling spectacle can have. It makes everybody who wants to buy your product or vote for you feel like they are part of something larger like a cause.
Joey Bushnell: We experienced that here in the UK this last year with the Olympics and the Jubilee. Our nation which is famous for being a bit grumpy and cynical, we were walking on water for a couple of months and then it did eventually wear off but we had it for a little while. We had some spectacles that we all united in and everyone felt happier for a little while. Not as good as going to the moon though!
Robert Greene: Yes it is, it sounds like the same idea I see what you mean.
Joey Bushnell: So Robert where can we get your books?
Robert Greene: Amazon is a great place to go. All 5 books including “Mastery” the new book are available. My publisher in England is profile, in the states its penguin viking and practically every book store I know carries the books. If none of that sinks into you, you can check out my website powerseductionandwar.com and on there will be links to all 5 books and a lot of information about my new book “Mastery”.
Joey Bushnell: Great, I highly recommend that you go and get the books if you don’t have them already, you won’t regret it. Robert thank you so much for taking the time to be with me today and for being really generous with the advice that you have given us and shared with us today.
Robert Greene: Thank you for having me Joey, my pleasure.
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