The Laws Of Human Nature by Robert Greene: Summary

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The Laws Of Human Nature helps you understand why people do what they do and how you can use both your own psychological flaws and those of others to your advantage at work, in relationships, and in life.

“Rationality is the ability to counteract emotional effects, to think instead of react. It does not come naturally; it is a power we must cultivate, in doing so we realize our greatest potential”

Robert Greene

“If you had given me the choice of not writing the book and never having this physical problem, I would have chosen writing the book.” The book is The Laws Of Human Nature. And the physical problem? A stroke. Robert Greene would choose one of life’s scariest health problems over not sharing his latest work. That’s how important it is to him. Wow!

You might think such a big health sacrifice is over the top, but it’s not like Greene set out to have a stroke. In fact, he lives a very healthy, active lifestyle. And yet, he’s not fazed by the fact that it happened.

Greene’s dedication to writing shows in other ways too. All of his books have been multi-year projects, which is why he published “only” six times over the past 20 years. The 48 Laws of Power took three years, so did Mastery, and The Laws Of Human Nature even took six! He reminds me of Jim Collins, who spent six to nine years on Built To LastGood To Great, and Great By Choice each.

For now, here are 3 lessons from Greene’s latest work about the nature of human behavior:

It’s usually not other people that stop us from succeeding, but ourselves. To combat this, we must stay positive.

Each of us has both a feminine and a masculine side and we must accept both to be our best self.

A cycle of four trends shapes human generations and there’s a high chance yours is influenced by one as well.

Let’s learn from one of the world’s most dedicated writers how to get along with others and yourself.

Lesson 1: Self-sabotage is the most common way we ruin our lives. To prevent it, have a positive attitude.

Historically acclaimed playwright Anton Chekhov had every reason not to become the legend he is today. His father beat him and forced Anton to skip school to work for him. Ultimately, his bad business dealings even forced the family to flee from their hometown. Worse still, they left Anton behind at the ripe age of…sixteen.

The core of human behavior Greene gets to in the book is patterns and with such a childhood, you’d naturally expect bad patterns, like alcoholism, aggression, or others, to follow in Chekhov’s life. But they didn’t. Chekhov had developed a strong sense of empathy, which allowed him to see his father as the troubled man that he was. He pitied him and was able to let go of his anger.

Forgiving his father and letting go of these negative emotions was the ultimate personal freedom for Anton Chekhov, which allowed him to create the life hewanted to live – a life as a writer.

In The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks talks about self-inflicted upper limits, ceilings, that prevent us from getting to the next level. Having a positive baseline attitude towards life, no matter how bad your circumstances, is the number one way to keep yourself from subconsciously establishing them.

Lesson 2: We all have both feminine and masculine traits and we should embrace them both.

In what Greene calls The Law of Gender Repression, he tells the story of Caterina Sforza, a powerful Italian noblewoman from the 15th century. Thanks to the wealth of her family, she was able to explore all her passions. These included fashion and arts, but also physical combat. Refusing to succumb to gender stereotypes made her one of the most fascinating public figures of her time.

There’s no denying our biology. Men and women are different. Us males are usually better at focusing, zeroing in on something, and going after it. We want to separate the world into categories that make sense and neatly file everything in our brains.

Women, on the other hand, tend to be more pattern-focused. They like to collect, not just things, but information too, and weave it into a coherent web that connects.

And yet, only when we embrace both our male and female tendencies as people can we reap the benefits of these different mental characteristics. Both have value on their own and we’ll always lean more towards one than the other, but their combination is the most powerful way to process and make sense of the world.

Lesson 3: Generational values shape our lives without us realizing how big their impact is.

Arab 14th-century scholar Ibn Khaldun was one of the world’s first sociologists. He was one of the earliest people to speak of things like “a generation,” “tribalism,” and “group dynamics.” Even back then, he developed a rather coherent theory of generational cycles.

Khaldun saw four types of generations, which repeat over and over. They are all defined by certain trades and attitudes:

The revolutionaries, who upend an established system causing great change 

The orderlies, who bring organization and structure to the new system.

The pragmatists, who enjoy the comforts of this new order.

The skeptics, who question their parents’ lives of leisure.

The order of these isn’t fixed and sometimes, the traits mix, but if you think back to the traditional, Silent Generation of WWII, the Baby Boomers’ 9-to-5, white picket fence lives, and the get-rich-quick momentum of Generation X, these patterns are clearly visible. Future generations might even be global, as the world is more and more connected.

What generation are you a part of? How does it shape your life? They’re questions worth reflecting. They might not just change how you behave, but define the outcomes of your life.

The Laws of Human Nature Review

Robert Greene does not deliver half-baked work. The Laws Of Human Nature is no exception. It’s a long book, packed with 18 laws to help you dissect human behavior and use patterns to your advantage. You don’t have to read it in one go, think of it like a compendium. As a reference book to go back to time and again, I highly recommend it.

Who would I recommend The Laws Of Human Nature summary to?

The 18 year old fashion sales trainee, who must persuade for a living, the 34 year old independent artist, who struggles with gender stereotypes, and anyone who thinks authors don’t make sacrifices.

Buy this book

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