Book notes on The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Greene
Your fears are a prison that constrains your ability to act. Having a fearless mentality will help you gain more power and live your life more fully. In the absence of anything that actually threatens our survival, modern man contrives generalized fears and anxieties such as the future, aging, offending people, etc.
“There are no Alps and no obstacles that can stand in the way of a person without fears.”
People who practice the 50th Law share certain qualities that help them shape their circumstances—supreme boldness, unconventionality, fluidity, and a sense of urgency.
Accept and embrace your circumstances by focusing intensely on what is going on around you.
Being comfortable makes it more difficult to see the world around you as it is. Assess yourself and where you are headed in as cold and as brutal a way as possible. Changes are constantly rippling through every domain and every industry. Our ability to see reality as it is can help you mitigate the dangers of a changing world. Judge people by results and not on appearances.
Intense absorption in reality
Being deeply in touch with reality will make you more confident and enable you to capitalize on changes more quickly than your peers.
Fight the tendency to pursue comfort and malaise. Instead of escape, seek clarity which will give you an advantage over your competitors.
1. Rediscover curiosity and openness. Don’t hold strong opinions without solid proof. Let go of preconceived notions and force yourself to hold opposite beliefs. See everything as a chance to learn.
Imagine that the world is still full of mysteries. Approach each day with a fresh set of eyes, absorbing as much as you can to deepen your perspective.
2. Know the complete terrain (breadth)
Absorb as much first hand knowledge as you can rather than accepting a first glance at the terrain. Don’t draw any barriers in your lines of communication. Go beyond your immediate circle.
3. Dig to the roots (depth)
Dig deeper into your craft with an insatiable curiosity. Find the root of what drives people’s actions (usually money or power). Even if you never get there, it will strengthen your mind.
4. See further ahead (proportion)
Don’t limit your view of the future. Connect your long term goals to drive near term actions and projects. Brainstorm how today’s problems could evolve over time to hurt you.
Everyone is after power. Observe people’s actions through encounters to analyze their motives. Don’t get caught up in grand gestures. Look for patterns.
Reassess yourself and where you are headed every few weeks. Use this to cultivate a sense of detachment from the world around you, which will help you maintain poise during times of crisis.
7. Reversal of perspective
Be a realist, not a dreamer. Dreamers act on emotion and don’t see the world for what it is, and often bring about disaster with their delusions.
Ownership & self-reliance
When you work for someone else, they own you, and you are at their mercy when things go wrong. To take full advantage of your time, freedom, and creativity, you must go out on your own. Don’t let the comfort and security of a paycheck make you give up your time and autonomy. Like 50 Cent, we need to adopt the mindset of a corner hustler to get what we want out of life. True ownership can only come from confidence in your abilities and effective use of your time (constant improvement).
Our culture is full of crutches that make life more convenient and tolerable—e.g. hobbies, jobs, drugs/alcohol. Move in the opposite direction. Cultivate new skills, and train yourself to be self-reliant.
As children we have an independent spirit, but yet are completely dependent on others for our will be. There’s a part of us as adults that wants to reclaim this child-like dependence, but we must fight this instinct. Your life must be a progression towards mental and physical ownership.
1. Reclaim dead time: treat time working for others as an apprenticeship to build skills for a venture of your own. Ask yourself how you would do it better yourself if you were the owner.
2. Build little empires: While working for someone else, ask to take on projects of your own to start building entrepreneurial skills. It will force you to be more creative and work harder to make the project a success. When given the choice between more money and more autonomy, always choose autonomy.
3. Climb higher up the food chain. Your goal in your career should be to depend on as few people as possible.
4. Make your enterprise a reflection of your individuality. Your identity, personality, and perspective are uniquely yours. Things that come easy will leave you just as easily. Everything that matters takes time and hard work to obtain. The process of gaining power over yourself will be the most rewarding part of all.
Opportunism (turn shit into sugar)
Make the best of your circumstances, however negative they may be. Events in your life are not inherently good or bad, so don’t treat them as luck or fortune. See challenges in your life as opportunities to become more powerful. This will help you go on the attack to take full advantage of the circumstances, rather than passively playing defense while those around you get stronger.
To be a great leader, you have to adopt the opposite mindset for most people. When things are going well, you must be vigilant and ready for when they turn bad. When things are going badly, you need to be fearless and look for your opportunity to reverse the negative circumstances.
The human mind is capable of incredible feats. In this age of technology, it is common to overlook the strength of the human mind in favor of quick fixes and technology.
Most people take a passive approach of waiting for opportunity to come to them. True opportunists, however, seize whatever moment is available to them in order to get the most out of even the most trivial details.
How to be opportunistic
1. Make the most of what you have. Go to work with whatever you have. It will force you to be creative and make the best of your circumstances rather than hoping for things to change on their own.
2. Turn all obstacles into openings: negative energy can be turned around and used your advantage. Obstacles force your mind to think in new innovative ways, and they should always be used to your advantage.
3. Look for turning points: opportunities exist in chaotic situations. If you can learn the inner workings of them, you can create opportunities for yourself. Look for sudden successes and failures in the business world that people find hard to explain. These are often indications of shifts going on under the surface. Look for shifts in tastes. One surefire bet is that the younger generation will rebel against the values of the older generation. If you can be a first mover in this, you can gain tremendous power.
4. Move before you think you’re ready: when you’re underprepared, you will rise to the occasion because you have to. Your energy will increase, and you will learn faster.
Napoleon said, “the moral is to the physical is as 3 to 1”—i.e. motivation and high morale more than compensate for lack of physical resources.
Reversal of perspective: stop seeing obstacles in your path as a reflection of your fortune. The ancients called this mentality “amor fati”*** (love of fate) and viewed each stroke of fate as pre-determined. This philosophy focuses you to embrace reality and make the most of what is put in front of you.
Don’t let anything disrupt your flow. If circumstances change, keep moving and adapting with them. Interact with many different types of people to keep your ideas new and your grip on circumstances fresh. Opt for small fluid positions over traditional grand scale power moves.
From an early age, we are conditioned to attempt to control all circumstances around us to get what we want. When we get older, we find that the more we try to micromanage this situation around us, the less control we eventually have as we push people in reality away. The best strategy to deal with an ever-changing present is to remain fluid like water. This means being tirelessly innovative and open-minded. Look for new styles and directions to take. In this way, we move with the changes around us, and are free to channel circumstances in our favor.
Don’t fear failure
The competition is more global and intense these days than ever be for. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try several ventures at the same time (e.g. Chairman Mau)
Acting decisively and with energy can lead to positive momentum and increased boldness.
Master the four types of flow
Mental flow: specialized knowledge and career paths have led to narrow thinking and rigid boundaries in that constrain our thinking. What really matters are the connections between things. Develop a thirst for knowledge by being open to discovery and experimentation. Teach yourself to become a modern day Renaissance Man. (e.g. Leonardo da Vinci—questionable social standing denied him traditional education, which led to his apprenticeship under Verrocchio)
Emotional flow: we are emotional creatures. This is okay, but make a point to never dwell on any single emotion for very long by forgetting or replacing it with another (this is a learned skill). Seek to have a balanced emotional life with fewer ebbs and flows. People will view you as a leader if you can maintain poise through chaos.
Social flow: let people be themselves (autonomy), and they will work harder for you. Provide the framework, but allow others to shape it using their creativity.
(e.g. Ingvar Bergman—let actors and actresses bring their own ideas and spirit to his productions)
Cultural flow: periodically reinvent yourself by being attentive to the prevailing culture.
(e.g. Miles Davis—constantly reinvented his sound and style to remain relevant)
Reversal of perspective
Learn to evolve and bend to circumstance rather than clinging to rigid concepts. Use moments of trial and chaos to sharpen your fearlessness.
Know when to be bad (aggression)
When people get in your way, you have to use aggression to beat them. Don’t worry about everyone liking you. Life involves conflict and confrontation. To get what we want we have to assert ourselves and get over the need to please everyone. Practice asserting yourself more than usual, and the anxiety of confrontation will diminish.
Be aggressive behind the scenes when necessary. Keep your cool and bait your enemies into reckless action. Avoid going on defense. Don’t let emotions make you hate or judge your adversaries, just keep a friendly distance. (e.g. Richard Wright—who learned to push back at an early age)
Lead from the front (authority)
Leaders set the tone from the top. Lead with actions, not words. Be confident, don’t complain, and work hard. More than anything, practice what you preach.
Being a leader requires making tough choices and making people do things against their will. Build a reputation for toughness and getting results. This will make people respect you and love you for it. This toughness will make you a nice gestures even sweeter to those that work for you.
Assume the attitude and mindset of a prophet to be an effective leader. (e.g. Moses and the 12 tribes of Israel during their exile in Egypt)
The four main roles must learn to play as a leader
1. The visionary: being a great leader requires you ability to see into the future and plan in detail. You must be able to see different potential outcomes and know what to do in each case. It also means being emotionally attached to your ideas, so when hundreds of distractions come your way, you remain committed to your ultimate goal. Play the role of the visionary with some dramatic flair—be a performer and a promoter. Create in a dazzling picture of the future. (e.g. Thomas Edison)
2. The unifier: unite people around a grand clause to get them to follow you and Kerry are bored goals. Act as the living embodiment of this virtue or ideal. Choose lieutenants that believe in the cause as well.
(e.g. Louis the 14th)
3. The bold knight: fight against the inertia of groups by being bold. Lead people. Set a pace that is alive and active, picking up new projects and seizing initiative against rivals. Avoid standing still. Take action that brings your group results.
Know your environment from the inside out (connection)
Most entrepreneurs come up with an idea then find the market to release it to. Work in the opposite way. Gain an intimate understanding of the trends and culture around you, and then come up with the product or service that meets the demand. Never lose touch with your base, and connect with your customer more than your competition. Don’t be afraid to have your ideas and assumptions challenged by the public.
How to connect with your audience
1. Crush all distance: become one with the people you’re trying to connect to it by immersing yourself in their lifestyle and believe system. This will give your work more authenticity and allow you to connect with them on a much deeper level.
2. Open informal channels of criticism and feedback: seek direct interaction and dialogue with your constituencies. This will bring their problems to life, and allow you to come up with solutions that increase your power. Open up as many channels as possible. (e.g. Eleanor Roosevelt)
3. Reconnect with your base: As we gain success, it is normal to spend time with more and more successful people. Make a special effort to spend time with those at the bottom, as they are more in touch with reality than those at the top. Return to your origins for inspiration and power. (e.g. Malcom X)
4. Create the social mirror: use opinions and criticisms as a mirror. Others see your work as it really is. Use feedback to improve what you do.
Respect the process (mastery)
Outlast your rivals. Learn to endure hours of boredom, practice, and hard work. Don’t fall prey to schemes that promise to be a shortcut to recognition and riches. Don’t become dependent upon quick, mindless entertainment to pass the time. Instead, invest fully in your chosen craft, which will help you by building your skills by making it more interesting to you long term.
There are no shortcuts in life. The rise of technology around us has fostered and obsession with breath over depth of knowledge, and incentivizes obtaining quick bits of information over mastery. Learn to distrust anything that is quick or easy. Having an overarching goal will help you whether the boredom and drudgery of diligent work. The result of this practice will be mastery over yourself.
Five strategies to respecting the process
1. Progress through trial and error (e.g. boxer Jack Johnson)
2. Master something small (e.g. Demosthenes approach to mastering public speaking)
3. Internalize the rules of the game (e.g. Thurgood Marshall becoming a lawyer)
4. Attune yourself to the details: instead of starting your projects with high-level concepts and working your way down to the details, try the opposite approach, starting with intense focus on the smallest details and working your way out. This will help you develop patience for mastering your craft and help you avoid fatigue. (e.g. Michelangelo mastering textures of fabrics in his paintings)
5. Rediscover your natural persistence. Focus on one goal and bring it to completion and avoid the temptation of diverting your attention into other areas. Break bigger goals down into smaller goals and track your progress.
Don’t fear boredom
Change the way you think about boredom. Instead of searching for constant diversions, look at boredom has a sign that you should slow down and spend some time alone.
Instead of just passively reading, use that time to actively engage the author in an active mental debate.
Push beyond your limits (self belief)
Believe in your heart that you were destined for something great. Your sense of self-worth comes from you alone. Cultivate an air of certainty and boldness, and people will follow you.
It is human nature to try to put people in a box and define them. It is frightening for people when they don’t understand you. Over the course of our lives, our actions and behaviors are shaped by those closest to us and what they want to see us become. You are both unique in this world. You are full of untapped potential beyond what those around you would think.
Think of your potential, not the limits placed on you by yourself or others. You can shape your personality by the decision to do so. When you act boldly and take risks, you will gain energy and creativity. People will be drawn to your confidence. Confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Think of ambition as beautiful, not something to be ashamed of. It is the driving force behind all human progress. Don’t feel guilty to be ambitious. (e.g. Fredrick Douglas)
Maintain a sense of purpose, and don’t let others define your self-image or self-worth. Freedom comes from exercising free will, not from a passive concept or law.
Five strategies to exercise your freedom
1. Defy all categories: don’t let yourself fall into the labels put on you by others. Every so often, do something unpredictable or irrational to defy their expectations. Constantly push your own limits to keep growing. (e.g. Amelia Earhart)
2. Reinvent yourself once in a while (e.g. JFK)
3. Subvert your own patterns: shake up the rituals and routines of your every day life to encourage creativity and personal growth.
4. Create a sense of destiny (e.g. John of Arc): Your ability to change circumstances in your life is directly proportional to yourself believe. And the best way to increase yourself believe is to create a sense of destiny.
5. Bet on yourself***: The best ideas, companies, and innovations often come during times of turbulence and uncertainty. Always bet on yourself. Your confidence and spirit will rise to the occasion out of necessity.
Confront your mortality (the sublime)
Accepting and contemplating your own end will give you a greater sense of urgency and purpose in life. Get more comfortable with the idea of death and it’s inevitability***. Forge a new relationship with death, not as the absence of life, but as it’s natural conclusion, and the ultimate reality. Instead of fearing an early death, focus on living a great life with the time you have. Focus on attaining goals instead of chasing pleasure.
The philosophy of ancient Stoicism teaches you how to live by teaching you how to die (e.g. Seneca). Face your death as bravely as possible. This will teach you not to cling to possessions, and to enjoy life fully.
Close brushes with death paradoxically make you feel more alive afterward. You can derive a similar feeling from experiencing the sublime—natural beauty, exotic travel, the idea of space/infinity, connection with an animal, or great art.
The four sensations of the sublime
1. The sense of rebirth: experience adrenaline and closeness to death and dangers (e.g. Hemingway), or just force yourself to leave familiar ground
2. The sense of evanescence and urgency: enjoy things that are beautiful and temporary as a metaphor for life (flowers, animals, wine)
“It is a miracle to be alive even one more day” -Kenko
3. The sense of awe: take time to ponder and marvel at nature or everyday things (e.g. Shackleton‘s voyage to the Arctic)
4. The connection of all life (oceanic thinking): think of every living thing as connected, and remember that living things must die so that others may live.