25 Nov November 25, 2019 – Laws of Human Nature Robert Greene and Power of Agency Dr. Paul Napper
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We see that people are brilliant at preying on our emotions, at keying those emotional responses that they can use to manipulate us. I want you, the individual, to become more aware of how they manipulate your emotions and how deeply this irrationality is affecting your life.
Robert Greene is an internationally renowned expert on power strategies, and the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The 48 Laws of Power, comes The Laws of Human Nature, the definitive new book on decoding the behavior of the people around you, now out in paperback. Greene is an indispensable guide for millions of readers, and his seminal book The 48 Laws of Power continues to inspire business leaders, political figures and hip-hop moguls alike, nearly two decades after its original publication. The Laws of Human Nature was six years in the making and is the culmination of Roberts’s life’s study of power, psychology, and history. The Laws of Human Nature is a manual for recognizing unconscious behavior in both ourselves and others so that we can avoid the mistakes often made out of emotion—whether in hiring and managing in the workplace, choosing a romantic partner, or selecting the person to lead our country. Once we become masters of human nature, we can rise above the toxicity and pettiness that invades our interaction with others and avoid letting our emotions lead us into the mistakes we see people make on a daily basis. Greene explains that with the majority of human interaction happening online, our ability to read human emotion and non-verbal cues has weakened considerably, and we only need to look at the anger and vitriol that permeates social media to see that it has affected our capacity to control our emotions. The Laws of Human Nature teaches us to face flaws in our human nature head on and take steps not only to recognize our own behavior but to see it in others and use it to our benefit.
Paul Napper leads a management psychology and executive coaching consultancy in Boston. His client list includes Fortune 500 companies, universities, and start-ups. He held an academic appointment and advanced fellowship position at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Paul Napper is a co-founder of Performance Psychology. He is the co-author of The Power of Agency, The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms by St. Martin’s Press/Macmillan Publishers. At Performance Psychology, Dr. Napper provides consultation and coaching to business leaders to help them sharpen and strengthen their leadership efforts. His professional background includes extensive experience in assessment and the application of psychological principles to improve the performance of individuals and organizations. His client list includes Fortune 500 companies within the finance, technology, manufacturing and health care sectors as well as educational institutions and start-ups. Dr. Napper launched his career as a Wall Street analyst, first with J.P. Morgan Investment Management in New York and, following that, with Crowell, Weedon and Company in Los Angeles. During his tenure as a securities analyst, he was responsible for following several major industries, including banking, insurance, and media. He subsequently launched the management psychology practice, Performance Psychology Consulting, with two partners in 1998, where he advises a broad array of organizations and industries.
Dr. Napper earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania in International Relations and pursued his master’s degree in the same field at the University of Chicago, subsequently receiving his doctorate in psychology from the William James College, one of the nations preeminent schools of Professional Psychology. He completed an advanced fellowship in psychological testing and assessment during a three-year academic appointment at Harvard Medical School. In their new book, The Power of Agency: The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms (St. Martin’s Press; March 2019) Napper and Rao distill 50 years of clinical fieldwork, cutting-edge research, and more than one hundred in-depth interviews into accessible techniques and tools that will create agency and build your confidence.
Highlights from Robert’s Interview
I try to remove judgments of good or bad out of my book. I’m trying to tell you, this is who we are. We can’t really help it. This is how we evolved. This is how our brains are wired, so we need to stop all the judgments and simply accept our nature, accept who we are on so many levels, instead of being in continual denial that it’s true. A lot of the laws that I talked about in the book involve certain negative qualities that we humans clearly possess, such as aggression, irrationality, grandiosity, etc. But the point of the book isn’t to make you feel bad or guilty about who we are, but to bring some knowledge and awareness of it, because when you’re aware of these qualities, when you’re aware of these unconscious forces that are motivating a lot of your behavior, you can begin to make them conscious, and you can begin to transform them into something productive and socially positive. And in doing so, you bring up the higher element in human nature, which is really the point of my book.
Very few people ever asked me about gender rigidity, so I appreciate it. Essentially, I’m trying to say that we are born, most of us, with a specific gender, a specific set of sex characteristics. And we also have the chemicals characterizing the opposite sex; men have estrogen, women have testosterone to different degrees and in different balances. But even more importantly, in our earliest years, as we grow up, for boys, the main presence in our life is our mothers. We spend 95% of our interactions with her in our first very important formative years, and we absorb her spirit very deeply. And women and girls have the same relationship, but generally a little bit less intense, with their fathers.
These aspects of the opposite gender are deeply embedded in us as children. And so you’ll find boys who are very emotional and very empathetic, with very sensitive qualities that we might generally categorize as feminine. And we’ll find girls who are very assertive, and who even have aggressive qualities that we might qualify as masculine. But as we get older, we feel the pressure to identify with one or the other to create some sort of consistent image to other people, so we repress these qualities. We try to appear like this paragon of masculinity, or this sort of virtuous femininity in which we’re not so assertive, and we’re friendly and pleasing, because women are socialized to always please. In doing so, you’re cutting yourself off from who you really are. You’re a blend of these qualities. Obviously a lot of men will have a higher degree of testosterone, and the masculine energy. There is an element that we’re repressing the feminine side deeply embedded in us as children.
I’m trying to make the point that becoming a fully rounded human requires understanding this aspect of yourself and becoming aware of these qualities that you’ve repressed, so that you can gain access to higher levels of things like creativity. I point out the different styles that men and women have when it comes to leadership, when it comes to thinking, when it comes to being social, and how neither side is superior to the other, because I try and take out any judgments of who’s superior. In fact, in many aspects, women are stronger than men despite the cliche that we have. But in gaining these qualities in a leadership position or a social position, women are generally more empathetic. They’re not so much about serving themselves as the leader; their ego’s tied up with their greater sensitivity to the group dynamic. This is something that any man in the position of leadership can learn and can incorporate into his personality, etc, etc. It’s not like you’re going to become transgender. I’m talking about qualities in your own personality that actually contain a great deal of power, but becoming a more fully rounded human being, and not so repressed when it comes to these other qualities that I think are natural to all of us.
The law of self-sabotage is a law about how you have an attitude towards life. It’s like a lens through which you see the world, and it has a particular color to it. That attitude can be negative, it can be closed off and fearful, worried and paranoid, or it can be more open and relaxed and willing to learn from experience. Depending on how that lens operates, it changes how you see the world, and it changes how people respond to you.
A classic example is, we meet somebody who we would say is closed and defensive and fearful, and it makes us respond in a similar way. We become defensive in their presence. This is through all sorts of nonverbal cues we pick up before they say anything, whereas the opposite happens where we meet somebody who’s friendly and open and cheerful. That brings out our own cheerful, friendly side. The attitude that we bring to people literally alters how they respond to us. We can sabotage ourselves with a negative attitude, because we create a similar response in people. Then they validate this negative feeling we have about the world, and it on and on and on, creating a self-sabotaging dynamic.
One thing that I think is very relevant to entrepreneurs in the startup world is your relationship to failure, because inevitably, as an entrepreneur, you’re going to have failure. In fact, failure is necessary, and an extremely important part of the process. This is a critical element in your attitude. I talked in Mastery about Henry Ford; he loves failure, he was excited by it, because it was the only way that he could learn from his mistakes and learn how to improve himself, and how to perfect the factory system that he ended up perfecting and creating in the Ford Motor Company. Whereas other people, entrepreneurs, they had the slightest bit of failure, and they’ve since been retreating into their shell. They don’t want to learn from their mistakes. They don’t want to question themselves. They want to blame other people, and now they’re skittish with their next attempt. If that’s your attitude, you’re sabotaging yourself. And you can change that one critical element tomorrow. You can tell yourself that failure or hardship or adversity is genuinely the best means I could possibly find for improving myself and becoming a superior entrepreneur. That’s one aspect of that law.
If you’ve been turned down a lot romantically, you need to read my second book, The Art of Seduction. Some of the greatest male seducers in history were not very pleasant to look at. So being physically unattractive doesn’t mean that you have to be rejected.
In my books, I’m trying to say that narcissism is part of our nature. It’s not that some people are narcissists, and somehow I’m excluded, I’m superior to other people. We are all narcissists. In fact, the person who tells you, “I am not a narcissist; I’m not like that,” is actually the biggest narcissist of them all, because they’re trying to assert themselves as superior and different. Their self-love just takes a different form. It takes the form of appearing to be some kind of saint or paragon of virtue. No, get over it. Listen to yourself in the mirror. You are self-absorbed. You have an image of yourself that you love. You’re obsessed. You love your own ideas, your own values. You think that your ideas are greater than other people’s. You like to associate with people who have similar ideas to you. And why is that? When you associate with people who have similar ideas or values to you, it’s like looking in a mirror. They validate who you are. You’re attracted to them, because they reflect yourself, and you are a narcissist.
Get over this continual judgment. Obviously, some people are bigger narcissists than others. I call those people deep narcissists, and they can be toxic. My books explain how dangerous they can be, and how to recognize and avoid them. Now with social media, this aspect of our self-obsession is becoming a lot worse. We find that there are these little niche groups where we glom on to all the people who have the same ideas as ourselves. These little narcissistic tribes are propagated on social media, and it’s very dangerous. I want to make you aware of this fact. Stop thinking that you’re superior, that you’re excluded from this quality, so that you can begin to take that self-love that you have, that self-obsession, self-absorption and turn it outward to start becoming more interested in other people, and to develop empathy instead of increasing your own narcissism. The book gives you many hints about how to how to make that transformation.
The beauty of me, or the negative aspect of me, is that I don’t come from a psychological or sociological background. I’m a free bird. I’m not in a cage, in a little academic buttonhole. I’m not in the psychology buttonhole. I am somebody who’s fascinated by history, by human nature, by literature, by biographies of great people, by neuroscience… I’m open to all these fields. I don’t have these little, easily categorized ideas about life. I’ve come to it with as open a mind as possible. Some people might say, “Who’s Robert to write about these things? He’s no expert.” You can say that. That’s valid. But I think my books and the success they’ve had resonate with a lot of readers.
Through my deep levels of research that I go through, I’m able to touch upon something real about human nature. I think a lot of people who come from these sort of buttonholed categories like neuroscience or anthropology are not able to write a book like this, because they’ve been spoon fed these specific ideas about how to look at the world, while I come from a completely open perspective. You can love that, you can hate it, but I embrace the fact that I am a free bird, and that I can think for myself outside of these usual categories that I find kind of deadening and soul sucking.
I’ve had a lot of success and I work as a consultant. I don’t feel like I’m nothing. But it means that I don’t get respect from things like the New York Times, and my books aren’t reviewed. I’m not seeing a Steven Pinker, who’s professor at Harvard, and a very brilliant man. I’m not criticizing him. But I don’t get that respect, because people think it’s self help writing that doesn’t fit into any new categories. They might consider me nothing, but the millions of readers that I have don’t feel that way. I hope I’m not coming across as narcissistic and grandiose when I say that.
Fundamental laws and favorite laws are two different things. I think the most fundamental law is the opening chapter, which is about irrationality. I’m trying to make the point that we humans think that we’re so rational and sophisticated, whereas in fact, we are all very deeply irrational. I think recent discoveries in neuroscience bear that out. I quote that in the book. The way we’re wired is that emotions are much more powerful, and have a much more powerful effect on us than any of the thoughts and things that might come from our neocortexes.
We’re prisoners of this ancient system, the limbic system, the emotional system in our brain, which releases these powerful hormones and chemicals, that so when you feel an emotion, it has a much more powerful effect on you than any idea that you might entertain. What I’m trying to say is that emotions are governing the majority of your behavior, and most of your decisions. You think you’re some brilliant strategist, and you’re analyzing the world in some clear, objective manner. But I’m saying no, you’re fooling yourself. Emotions are continually influencing and intersecting your thoughts, and they are secretly motivating what you think are rational decisions. I give many, many examples of this, and I think we see it very, very clearly in our politics and in social media today. The point I’m making is you are not born rational, no matter what you think. You were born irrational. Rationality is something you learn. It’s the quality that you must gain to learn how to become aware of how deeply you are governed by your emotions.
Next time you’re making some strategic plan for your company or for your startup, first, be aware that you probably did have some kind of emotion, some kind of wish or desire that is very much influencing your plan or strategy. Step back, and don’t just go rushing into it. Try to think about it differently, and entertain other possibilities. The ability to step back and question yourself, and not simply give into your emotion, and not simply assume that you’re being rational, is the first and most essential step towards becoming rational. For me, this is the most fundamental chapter in the book, because it’s, I think, the most powerful and the most destructive quality in us. We see it in social media, we see in marketing, and we see it in our politics. People are actually bringing in and preying on our emotion, on keying those emotional responses that they can use to manipulate us. I want you, individually, to become more aware of people manipulating your emotions, and how deeply this irrationality is affecting your day-to-day life. For me, that’s the most fundamental chapter.
We’re social animals. We were meant for working together, for cooperating, for working with people on a high level. And to the degree that you have emotional intelligence and you know yourself better, you will become more sensitive to the people around you and more empathetic, and that will make you a much better leader and will probably increase your income.
I have a very ancient website called Power, Seduction and War: https://powerseductionandwar.com. There you’ll find links to my books like The 50th Law, Mastery and my new book. You’ll also find links to all the stuff that we were criticizing earlier, my Facebook, my Twitter, my Instagram account, and also a link to email me any of your nasty thoughts.