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10 Lessons in Human Nature I Learned From Robert Greene

Author, professional provocateur, and modern philosophy advocate, Ryan Holiday, shares what he learned from Robert Greene.
by Ryan Holiday | Oct 26 2018

Robert Greene has shaped my worldview and changed my life. From being his apprentice to head marketer for his bestselling books, I have always relied on his sage advice for success. Here are 10 pieces of advice, and my favorite chapters of The Laws of Human Nature, that will change your life.

“A man when he has done a good act, does not call out for others to come and see, but he goes on to another act, as a vine goes on to produce again the grapes in season.”– Marcus Aurelius

1. Be better than your public persona

After reading Robert’s powerful books, many of his readers expect him to be an evil mastermind. Although he’s certainly a master at what he does, he always surprises the people he meets with his approachable, open-minded persona. You should always strive to be a better person than what people expect.

Corresponding chapter to read: See Through People’s Masks

2. Fight aimlessness with rigorous exercise

Robert has always exercised and used swimming as a productivity tool. Swimming and similar types of isolated exercise force you to engage your thoughts in the physicality of your movement, without interruptions. Always make time for exercise or a productive activity that will provide you with the space to quiet your mind and prepare for the intense focus needed to reach your end goals.

Corresponding chapter to read: Advance with a Sense of Purpose

3. Take control of your emotions

I have never seen Robert lose his temper. He remains calm, collected, and disciplined in every emotional response, rather than letting his feelings get the better of him. If you can learn to control your emotions, then you will soon join the ranks of the great stoic philosophers, like Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, and develop a strategic mind.

Corresponding chapter to read: Master Your Emotional Self

4. Focus on improving yourself rather than impressing others

Although Robert is a bestselling author, he does not rely on lavish displays of wealth to cultivate happiness. He is a great writer because he is focused on the end goal – becoming the best writer he can be. Upgrading to the latest flashy product every year couldn’t be further from his mind because his work comes first. Make sure that you are investing your time in your end goals rather than creating a lifestyle built to impress.

Corresponding chapter to read: Beware the Fragile Ego

5. Don’t spread yourself too thin

Once you become successful as a writer, the work opportunities that come your way inevitably expand and consume more of your time. Robert dedicates himself to writing great books, rather than saying yes to every new business venture on the horizon. I always remind myself of Robert’s model – concentrate on the actions that will lead to success and don’t muddy the waters by attempting to master each and every trade.

Corresponding chapter to read: Know Your Limits

6. Remain positive in the face of disappointment

Robert believes that ‘it’s all material.’ He is able to see every roadblock, delay, or rejection as a lesson learned and obstacle to overcome. If you observe the world around you and seek to change the negative into positives, you won’t become bogged down by the emotional chains of frustration and disappointment.

Corresponding chapter to read: Elevate Your Perspective

7. Create a sense of mystery and appeal

It’s easy to blurt out your thoughts the minute they enter your mind. It requires self-control to remain quiet and observant, rather than jumping to participate in our social media culture of oversharing. People will be drawn to you as an object of desire if you maintain your privacy and establish a sense of mystery. (I met Robert’s girlfriend only after I’d known him 10 years!) Whenever I’m writing correspondence – whether it be an email or a tweet – I keep in mind The Law of Covetousness.

Corresponding chapter to read: Become an Elusive Object of Desire

8. Create work that will outlive you

My recent book, Perennial Seller, focuses on how you can turn your product or business into a lasting success. I have learned the importance of striving for longevity from Robert, a writer with a backlist of business classics, and his determination to write every book with this intention. Give your creative venture endurance and stability by setting your intentions early on. You have to work to make a classic, they don’t materialize out of thin air.

Corresponding chapter to read: Meditate on Our Common Mortality

9. Observe human nature and follow the laws

Robert has always taught me to consider the world objectively. Rather than be overwhelmed by the unethical actions of others, I’ve learned to study their behavior. Embrace your propensity to make unethical choices, while focusing on instead making the right, ethical decisions.

Corresponding chapter to read: Confront Your Dark Side

10. Always set your journey from the outside to the inside

Robert believes in the importance of being on the inside of everything you hope to master. Whether you’ve just started your training or have secured a new job, you will start on the outside. If you work hard and learn quickly, you can make your way towards the inner circle of knowledge. Your end goal should always be to master the transition from outside to inside.

Corresponding chapter to read: Change Your Circumstances by Changing Your Attitude

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