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ROBERT Idealis...

ROBERT
Idealistically, so wanting it to be this creative environment, and instead, I saw all these kind of power games being played and nobody talking about it. And it pissed me off.

ROB
Something in Hollywood must have happened at some point in your life to the extent you’re comfortable sharing--

JAMES
We've read your book.

ROB
Yes.

JAMES
We’ve read your book. We know what that means.

ROBERT
For this one director, I would write a lot of his dialogue. I would start stream-of-consciousness. I would take over and I would write whole blocks of dialogue. Pages and pages were my writing. I never got credit. I never got paid. Nobody ever knew about this. And that's the Law #7 in the 48 Laws of Power.” -- Rob Richardson with Robert Greene and James Keys

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ROB
I am so excited. Welcome to Disruption Now. To all the fans out there listening, we're excited to bring you Robert Greene, one of my favorite authors of all time -- actually, my favorite author of all time. He is the author of “The 48 Laws of Power,” probably what he's best known for. But he's also the author of The 50th Law. He's the author of The 33 Strategies of War. He's the author of The Art of Seduction. He’s the author of Mastery. And now his new book, the “Laws of Human Nature.” It's a great book. It will transform your life. He's going to talk about how transformative it is and I’m so excited.

I want to read a line from his book. He starts off the book with these words: “If you come across any special trade of meanness or stupidity, be careful to not let it annoy you or frustrate you. But you ought to just make sure you put it in your knowledge of human character that this is who humans are.” So he teaches that. He teaches you the laws of human nature.

I think he teaches the most important thing we can learn -- that we have to be self-aware. And self-awareness means understanding that you might think others are irrational, you might think others are dumb, you might think others are unreasonable, but guess what, you're probably that way, too.

And the first step to rationality, the first step to actually making good decisions, is actually understanding all the bad decisions and all the bad character natures that you may have yourself. That's what really sticks out to me with all his books. And then you can begin to observe all of the bad characteristics in others once you learn that you actually have these characteristics yourself.

It's mind-blowing. It will transform how you think about things. It will transform how you think about power. It will make you understand how things actually occur so you don't have to be trapped or surprised by human nature when it catches you because it will. Somebody's going to frustrate you. Some leaders are going to lie to you. Someone's going to try to be jealous. Someone's going to do something that upsets you. And instead of actually reacting to these things in an emotional way, you can learn how to respond, how to get better. And that's what Robert Greene could teach you and it's an honor to have him on the show. -- Robert Greene.

ROBERT
Hi there. Hi. Nice to meet you.

ROB
Look, we’re honored to have you on the show. I got to tell you, I know everyone on this show, myself included, see you as a living mentor, kind of like you talked in Mastery.

48 Laws of Power was the first book I was introduced to and once I read that book, I said, “I have to read everything this person has every written in his life. So I went back and… Now I did that to inspire me. I've actually read more of your books than any other author.

Some people, when I recommend your book… And I know you've talked about this before. I recommend your books and they look at me strange. And Tunde had the same experience. They look at me like, “Are you some type of evil crazy person?” [Laughter] And I’m like, “No.” Look, I look at this as a self-help book in two ways. One, I want to be aware of all the crazy people that are out there and two, I want to be aware of my own craziness. Right?

ROBERT
Right.

ROB
And I think your book has done that better for me than anyone else. I don't know if that was your intent or purpose on why you wrote these books but I can tell you, that's what I get out of your books.

And particularly, I can think of a situation where your book really helped save, I would think, my almost career in a way. You talked about this in both the 48 Laws of Power and the Laws of Human Nature, to watch out for these kind of moral superiority people…

ROBERT
Correct.

ROB
…these folks that just focus on how great they are. That's their focus.

And it reminded me of someone. I won't say the person's name. I chaired a university and there was a really high up person there… So I probably gave it away anyway but so be it. [Laughter] And this person was so good at making himself look good. He never wanted to talk about his pay and he actually advertised that they didn't get a raise. Meanwhile, his whole staff was falling apart and he would make everyone else look bad. He was a master passive-aggressive and he got off being a moral superiority person using that as power.

And when I read that in your book, I said, “That's him. That’s what's going on.” And it actually saved me in dealing with him because he used to drive me crazy. No one could figure it out. So I want to tell you thank you and thank you for all what you've done.

ROBERT
You’re very welcome. I get a lot of people who say, “Why did you write that book? It's so evil. You're helping the Donald Trumps of this world become even better at what they do.” And I try and tell them stories like you just told me. They want to believe what they want to believe. They want to believe that I’m some evil Machiavellian character. But really, it's for people who suffer at the hands of these sharp passive-aggressive types so that you can be more aware of what's really going on because they're very tricky people.

TUNDE
Yeah.

ROB
I agree. -- Tunde?

TUNDE
I don’t know if I shared this with you, Robert, but I shared it with the guys. I've also had people… because I used to be a lot more naïve. I’d show myself a little bit more on the surface. When I would meet people and they would say they had read the book, like 48 Laws at that time, I would get excited. “Hey, that's awesome. I read that book, too. I love it” da-da-da. And then it will come back to me through the grapevine. “Hey, so-and so doesn't think they can trust you because you read that book.” I heard that several times.

And I thought to myself, “Well that speaks more about them than it does about me because they read the book, too. That tells me about them -- you know, like how they look at it, that someone would use this to purposely be more Machiavellian or more sinister which isn’t the way we look at it.

ROBERT
Right.

TUNDE
So it kind of helped me realized that, “Okay, if I meet someone that has an issue that I read that book, that’s also something to watch out for.”

ROBERT
Oh that’s very true. That’s very true.

TUNDE
Yeah, because it shows how they would themselves use that information. So it’s interesting.

ROBERT
I find it, too, reveals a lot about people at how they react to the book -- whether they get all defensive and insecure or they can be kind of an adult about it and say, “Yeah, some of the books are a little exaggerated. I wouldn't go out and crush my enemy totally.” I understand this a bit of irony of all. It kind of separates people who have sort of an adult viewpoint from people who I find kind of childish [inaudible - 07:41].

ROB
Robert, you made a point. This is a good transition to a question that I know Tunde wants to ask -- it's because people have a hard time knowing that they’re irrational, as you talked about in the book, that people like to believe that they're the most rational people ever. And most of those people are actually very irrational. And I know Tunde, you deal a lot with this in the market. You want to talk to him a little bit about that?

TUNDE
Yeah. The… What do you call it? Kind of eerie because I was thinking about the different chapters you have in the various books. You know, “Beware the Snares of Groupthink.”

I’m thinking in the latest book, it's the crowd think -- Chapter 6, “The Law of Shortsightedness” with John Locke and the South Sea company. So this is kind of the groupthink that gets you for it and we see it--

I’m in the capital markets on a wealth management firm so I kind of understand that from crowd think. It's funny. We sent an email out to our clients the day of Uber IPO. It’s kind of the most recent thing I can think of as one of these crowd moments and--
I got to be careful with compliance listening in. I'm not trying to talk about my business directly and solicit anything and I'm not making stock recommendations here.

But what we did was we sent an email to clients saying… because I got a few phone calls and all that and I just put it out there. “We're not recommending an investment in Uber right now on the day of the IPO,” and I kind of went through my reasonings. “It appears with the volume and how we're seeing a trade that the early entrants are taking their profits. We like investing in companies that have a track record of actually making money, that have a cash flow statement that's positive and they pay dividends.”

So I just wanted to put that out there to everybody because everyone's getting caught up in the hype of watching the news. And because they drive an Uber, they think, “Oh Uber is going to do great.” But my experience had told me that crowd thinks one way. Let's try and actually look at facts and be rational. And the facts told me this probably isn't the time to look at something like this.

So I think the markets are a great example of kind of the current world's environment of the crowd and groupthink and where those risks lie. And I think Bitcoin -- not to get into all that -- but that could be another example. More of an unregulated example, you know.

ROBERT
Definitely. Well these things keep recurring throughout history, these bubbles -- the South Sea Bubble, the railroad bubble in the 19th century, the 1920s, the tech boom burst in 2000. They occur in these continual cycles. And why? Why? Are people that stupid?

You think that people who were in investing and in finance would be extremely rational, would know the history of bubbles, and know that every time there is a bubble, people come up with that famous quote, “Well this time it's different” with derivatives and all the stuff that was going on into a--

“This is a different kind of finance. [Inaudible - 11:01]. We created a new tool. It's not like it ever was in the past, you know. Bitcoins? Oh yeah, yeah,” It's not. It's the same thing. It's human stupidity that's generating these bubbles, not anything else.

And you’d think the people who had so much on the line, meeting their livelihood and their money, well at least understand the continual cycle of these bubbles.

We're going through one right now -- supposedly, a new kind of debt bubble. A lot of corporations and countries are taking on way too much debt so we're probably just returning to the same cycle. The only thing that's happening now is these bubbles are occurring more and more frequently.

ROB
Speaking to that point… I want to get to Carlton next but I want to have a follow up with that. In your book, in The Laws of Human Nature, you talked about a bubble -- the South Sea stock within England which was kind of a debt bubble, too, in a way. What was interesting to me that was kind of scary was that Isaac Newton of all people -- first of, who created mathematics --couldn't see the logic, couldn't see that this wasn't logical, this wasn't rational. He saw it a little bit but he's still finding himself getting caught up. This is my question. If somebody like Isaac Newton could get caught up in this, how in the world are we protected? What are we supposed to do? How are we going to not get caught up in the madness?

ROBERT
A lot of people that pride themselves on being so rational like Isaac Newton, like a scientist, actually have a huge blind spot. They often are the first types that will fall for a con game or for some scheme like that because they don't believe that they're at all vulnerable to ever being deceived or tricked.

I just gave a talk yesterday at Google as Tunde knows and I opened up with the story of the South Sea Bubble and Isaac Newton. So it’s a lesson to these extremely smart kind of brilliant tech people at Google. This is what's happening to you. You have this huge blind spot. Because you think you're in science, you’re in technology, “It would never happen to me.”

Well the whole point is to have some humility and to have some understanding of history, that we are all vulnerable. We are all susceptible to these kind of cons or these kind of groupthinks that occur. Even me who wrote the book, I'm susceptible to it. I know that I’m human. I know I have this weakness.

That small degree of humility and self-awareness is often enough to protect you so that before you step in and completely invest in Bitcoin, you go, “Well is this really the rational part of me that's getting involved here? No. I know about the South Sea Bubble. This is probably another South Sea Bubble.” That kind of awareness connection can keep you from falling to these traps.

ROB
That’s great. -- Carlton, I know you want to have a question.

CARLTON
Yeah, just waiting for my turn. Before asking my question -- and thank you for having me -- I kind of want to disagree a little bit with what Tunde said before and get your take on that before asking the question because I tend to actually hoard the books and information and only share them with a very few people which I actually kind of feel like it is a strategy of the book in a way.

And firstly, I am afraid of someone when I walk in and see this book because I think it is a very powerful book and I think it can go into the hands of good; it can go into the hands of bad. So I don't know if that makes me one of those people to watch out for but I do only share this book with very few people or the information because it's a great tool.

ROBERT
And I think if you’re using my second book, “The Art of Seduction,” you definitely want to put a different cover on it or at least disguise that, for sure.

ROB
[Laughter]

CARLTON
Well my question really has to do with a couple of a points that you had especially dealing with jealousy. I tend to take a lot of your points very literal and apply them that way. I’ve created compelling spectacles. I caught a lot of attention in my business. And I never appear to be too perfect but while doing that, I seem to have but attracted a lot of negative attention that I never foresaw coming and has led to times a great stress in the business.

I’m in the medical industry so it's brought on a lot of jealousy, envy and a lot of other issues from following these practices. So question is kind of, “What are your thoughts on that on how to mitigate those risks, those toxic individuals who can bring that type of stress to your door when you are acting in this capacity?”

ROBERT
Just give me one anecdote of somebody and their envy and how they cause stress with you? I’m just sort of curious.

CARLTON
I got a perfect story real quick. We do a great deal of marketing, a lot of creative marketing, a lot of publicity and public displays of what we do. We're very creative and good at it. But while doing so, people who typically can't compete on that level, for instance, called health inspectors, federal regulators and people of that nature into our business with false claims, almost to the point now where… We're on a first-name basis with them and they just kind of like toss their hands up. They don't care anymore. But initially, it just caused a great problem. And when someone who doesn't have understanding that it's coming from jealousy or envy, takes a little seriously, it can be quite expensive and very stressful to the business.

ROBERT
There's a film director named Ingmar Bergman who once said that “Envy is a tax that you pay for success.” So whenever you're successful, they just think of it as a tax that you're paying on top of the other taxes that you're paying. The people you're going to suffer from envy, it just goes with any kind of successful venture.

I have a lot of strategies in those books for how you can deflect envy, how, as you say, you don't appear to be too perfect. You can be a little bit more humble. You don't crow about your success. You talk about all the factors that led to your success like, “It wasn't just me. I've been lucky. I had a good mentor, my parents.” So you sort of deflect. Don't make everything look like you're this perfect individual.

But even all of that, you can apply all those strategies, there's still going to be people who feel envy particularly in the business world, particularly with rivals. And there's nothing you can do about it. There's no strategy that I could possibly invent that will prevent people from feeling envy because it's so embedded in human nature. The only thing you can prevent in these instances is your reaction to it.

First of all, don't be surprised. Don't get emotional. Don't get thinking like, “This is personal.” No. It's just a natural human tendency for people to be envious of those who have had more success. They're always comparing themselves to others.

They're comparing themselves to me and I've done better so I’m not going to get embroiled. I'm not going to see that it's something I’m going to recognize envy for what it is. I’m going to have some distance from it. And I’m going to do what I can to not get in broiled in some kind of drama that a lot of envious people want to get us into. So if you can keep a little of emotional distance, that's the best thing I can recommend.

But you know, a lot of people who attract envy, they have a certain personality type where they are almost too self-promoting. They almost don't know how to disguise how great they are or how naturally gifted they are or how popular they are. So sometimes, it's the person's fault for not knowing how to kind of tone down their colors a little bit and learn how to… If you show that you're interested in other people and you have some self-deprecating humor, for instance, you can go a long way.

And I talked in this recent book about Robert Rubin who was the head of Goldman Sachs and then went on to be working in the Obama administration. And from what I could read, this guy was an absolute genius at deflecting envy. And who wouldn't be more of a magnet of envy than this man who at a very early age rose to the top of Goldman Sachs?

But he was so gifted, socially. He always gave credit for his brilliant ideas to other people. He always acknowledged that he was very lucky. When there was the meeting, he would be interested in the ideas of the lowest person at that meeting. He just knew that envy in an environment like Goldman Sachs was radioactive and he was just very aware and very careful to deflect it. So I hope I'm answering your question in some way but that’s how I approach it.

ROB
Can I play the other side of that because I think what also Carlton might be getting to is beyond preventing envy which is not possible. As you said, it's human nature. What about avoiding people and bringing them in too close? You talked about the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, and that she had somebody she brought around her that basically kind of ruined her life.

ROBERT
Right.

ROB
She saw signs but didn't pay attention to those signs. Can you talk a little bit about that so people can learn… I think that's the most important to guard against, right -- those type of toxic, envious people that you bring in close because those are the ones that do the most damage.

ROBERT
That's a very good point. I make the point in the book that toxic people and obviously, envious types of toxic or narcissist or passive-aggressive, they don't go around with a neon sign saying, “I’m dangerous. Watch out.” They're very tricky.

ROB
I wish they did.

ROBERT
Huh?

ROB
I wish they did. It would be easy.

ROBERT
We all wish they did. They learned since childhood to actually present a much different front to the world so they can have friends, so they can get ahead in life, because if they went around revealing how they’re envious or passive-aggressive, no one would come near them. So they're very, very tricky. So the point is to be able to recognize these types in advance and not getting snared by them.

Now there's a fine line between being aware and being paranoid. I’m never in favor of being paranoid. Most people are great. 95% of people are not toxic enviers. You don't have to go around worrying about every single thing that people are saying and doing. It will drive you crazy.

ROB
It would.

ROBERT
You just have to be aware of that 5% of people out there that can be dangerous so that your antenna go up, start flickering when you notice signs that could reveal toxic envy.

And a very classic sign -- probably the number one sign -- is someone who tries to befriend you so quickly without the usual warm-up that a friendship requires, that there's something going on that's strange, because it's not natural for people to open themselves up so quickly to a stranger, one who wants to befriend you.

So that's a sign that something strange is probably going on because when you meet somebody for the first time, it's natural for a human -- this is definitely a part of human nature -- to be a little bit wary of strangers.

ROB
Sure.

ROBERT
I don't know you. You could be somebody who could be… You could have incredible skeletons in your closet. I got to be a little wary. For someone to not have that distance is a sign of something strange going on, that they could be just a really friendly person… Fine. And your antenna went up and you're watching them. And maybe there's not a problem.

But oftentimes, they're trying to befriend you so they can… They don't realize it themselves but they want to sabotage you. They want to get closer to you so they can gather information so they can steal your spouse from you, so they can just talk dirt behind your back after they've gathered information, so they can hurt your company or do something from the inside and you're letting them into your life. That's the perfect disguise for a toxic envier.

TUNDE
Robert, you said something that I think is key for me, at least what I took away from the latest book, that they may not be aware of it themselves and that's why it was so influential or just eye-opening to read these childhood parts of the stories that you told.

I mean I was amazed with Rockefeller, how going back to his childhood is what led him to want to have… The lack of control as a young child, he found the ability to control things through ledgers in accounting which led him into numbers which led him being the richest guy in human history until, I guess, Bezos.

It’s interesting because I think the way we talked about it earlier about Carlton and I might approach how we see others that have looked at your work a certain way… But the reality is both of us need to realize that most of the things that we may take as negative coming at us from other people, usually, aren't even done consciously by those people.

And I think that's why when I was going through my stuff, originally reading 48 Laws years ago, was the need to distance myself emotionally from whatever was going on in that moment. And I think by having that knowledge, like you're saying, by being aware of these things, about what makes humans tick, you can take yourself out of the middle and say, “You know what? This isn't that personal. This person is just like this.” Whether it was me or someone else standing here in front of them, they probably act the same way.

ROBERT
Yeah, very true. The thing about envy and about a lot of these other qualities is that we don't want to admit to ourselves that we have this emotion. Envy is the number one thing like that. Nobody goes around saying, “I’m an envious type of person” because it's an ugly emotion. It says that I feel inferior to someone else. And we humans don't like to feel inferior to someone else and to admit that we feel inferior and to admit that it bothers us.

So we tell ourselves a story. The story that we tell ourselves is that person that we envy is actually a mean, evil person that doesn't deserve their success, therefore, I'm justified to do something ugly against them. That's the story an envier tells themselves.

You talked about Rockefeller. People who are extremely aggressive don't necessarily go around saying, “I’m an aggressive person. I love pushing people around,” although there are some like that.

ROB
Yeah, there are.

ROBERT
I’m not naming names of presidents or anything like that.

ROB
[Laughter]

ROBERT
What Rockefeller had was what I call the “Aggressor’s narrative.” He tells the story to himself, that he's doing this for the good of mankind, that he's creating this monopoly, that he's going to bring the cheapest price of oil to the American public, that it's all justified. “The businesses is chaotic. I'm going to bring order therefor anything I do is justified.”

The “Social justice warrior.” I talked in the book about the shadow side of the human personality and how we're all kind of disguising these sort of darker impulses. Well a great disguise for getting out of your shadow is the social justice warrior. You believe so strongly in this cause that it justifies being mean and nasty and manipulative to people on the internet, on social media or whatever “because it’s all for this great cause that I'm supporting,” right?

People don't tell themselves that they're being taught. They don't tell themselves they're being envious or aggressive or manipulative. They have another story.

And the thing that I've always said since the beginning of my books -- since the 48 Laws -- that the best liars, the best con artists, the best deceivers are the ones who actually sincerely believe what they're selling. If they believe it, it’s hard for us not to think that it's true. So there's an element of kind of convincing yourself of these stories that I’m just telling you.

ROB
That's actually a good transition. I want to talk about that. When you think about human nature right now, it's so hard to control. And you talked in your book about appearance bias a lot and what happens there. And particularly, when you think about the age of social media--

Social media, as you said, I think really hits our tribal instincts more than anything else, really. We have a perfect medium for it. Michael Eric Dyson said it this way: “Social media amplifies pre-existing conditions of human nature” -- the jealousy, the envy, the grandiosity. You can go through it.

So my question in this age of social media, “How in the world do we combat this,” -- not only from individual basis but from a more societal basis. How can we get to a place where we can use social media for a good purpose?

ROBERT
Well I don’t know. If I had that answer, I’d be a billionaire right now. I mean that would be… You know, I don't believe in kind of like panaceas or in promoting ideas that aren't realistic or practical. The darker inferior parts of human nature, the animal parts of human nature, eventually, rise to the top.

In social media, the trolls, the people who are experiencing all these negative emotions -- the envy, the resentment of other people's success, on and on and on -- they are naturally going to take over. It's like a garden. If you watered enough, the weeds will start sprouting up and there’s just more and more and more of them. The more you water, the more weeds.

So it's inevitable in an environment like that, the criminal types, the people who have their shadow side who are trolls or whatever, they're going to necessarily take it over because most people who are aggressive have more energy. They have more skin in the game for pushing their agendas.

Most of us who are mild-mannered, who don't really like being vicious or manipulative, when we get in a situation like that, we back off. We go away. They naturally are more aggressive and they naturally tend to take over an environment like that.

You know, what happened with social media was… we can all remember back in the day, 12-15 years ago when it was starting out, it was much different.

ROB
Yeah, it was.

ROBERT
Right?

ROB
That’s when I got to college. I remember.

ROBERT
It seemed exciting. Like here's a way to connect people together. And I remember there were all kinds of things built into Amazon and Facebook that were each actually great where I could like literally get to know people in Los Angeles in my area that had a very particular taste like my taste and I could make friends this way. It seemed exciting.

And then what happened was Facebook and Zuckerberg, they had figured out a way to make money. They had to monetize this incredibly powerful tool. And so in trying to monetize it, they had to get rid of all of these kind of great social connecting functions and have it turned into a money-making business. And when they turned it into this money-making business where it was all about kind of gathering your private information and selling it, they changed the whole nature of the beast.

So a lot of that comes from the fact that these things that could be great social tools, they’re becoming a tool for creating a monopoly, for creating… You know, shareholders had gotten public. Facebook, for years, didn’t make a profit so now they had to show a profit. And they felt tremendous pressure to sort of initiate all of these things and get rid of those kind of nice functions that it used to have. So it's almost the nature of a business like that, that it's going to morph into it.

So my question that I always wonder is, “How could somebody have designed a social media site like Facebook where it didn't have to make millions and billions of dollars and show a huge quarterly profit in order to keep running but they could have some of the nice connecting aspects social media used to have and where it wasn't this sort of garden full of trolls and full of all the negative people?” I don't know how you would design it because human nature keeps intervening. If you have an answer, please share because I don't really know.

ROB
I don't know. I don't have an answer but I do have an observation. I had a friend I grew up with and we just caught up literally a few days ago and we couldn't be more opposite in terms of our political views at this point. He's actually gone way off in terms of his perspective from where I used to know him.

And so he became this way and I kind of let him know because he's getting a lot of information from social media. I didn't attack his point of view but I kind of walked through how he had the belief. And he came to realize that the information he has is being regurgitated to him because Facebook, social media, his groups, they see his friends, and they say, “This is what you want to see so we're going to give you the information over and over and over and over again,” and it's confirming that.

I think we're going to have to try to create some other type of system that allows us to engage different points of view. I mean that's really part of why we have this podcast. We’ve had people on that had different points of view and we got to be willing to have a debate.

I don't know if I have the answer but that's my hope, that we can use this platform to actually get people to come outside of their perspectives and let's actually have debates and let's talk about each other -- let's talk to each other, not talk “about” each other, I should say -- and have the debates. And hopefully, there's a platform for that. I’m hopeful but I don't know. I mean I’m rather nervous to see what's happening right now, not only in our country but really, all across the world.

ROBERT
Yeah. We're seeing very heated environment where people are becoming more and more emotional, more tribal. But the thing is if you read history, and I've talked about it in the book, these things go in cycles. So if we do want to feel a degree of hope--

I think that, at some point, people are going to get a little tired of how much time they spend on social media and realize that it's programming them and they're going to revolt against this -- probably a younger generation coming up. I don't really know. I don't have children myself. That's one thing that does make me hopeful.

And eventually, people are going to realize that we can't live like this. We're going to destroy the planet. We’re going to destroy each other. They're sick of all the negative emotions. They're sick of how it appeals to the lowest part of our nature and they want and create something else. Because it has to come from the bottom up. It can’t be Robert Greene or the president of the United States preaching and telling people, “This is what we need to do. We need to be polite.” It has to come from the bottom up. People have to change their consciousness and want something different.

ROB
I agree. I have James, one of our other co-hosts. -- James Keys.

ROBERT
Wow, another person.

ROB
We got another person, yes.

ROBERT
Wow.

ROB
Yes. He has a quick question. He’s the last new person, I promise. -- James. [Laughter]

JAMES
Oh no, there's about six guys also waiting to jump in also.

ROBERT
[Inaudible - 35:49].

JAMES
No, no. I'm joking. I’m joking. Good evening, Mr. Greene. As I said, I’m James Keys. I'm an intellectual property attorney down in Miami,

ROBERT
Oh [nice to meet you - 35:58].

JAMES
Not too far from Tunde. In your book, “The Laws of Human Nature,” one area that really spoke to me was Chapter 8, about “Change you circumstances by changing your attitude.”

ROBERT
Right.

JAMES
Growing up, my parents always taught me, “Your attitude determines your altitude,” you know. Your attitude is something you can control and is going to dictate so much about your life -- your day-to-day and your long-term.

ROBERT
Correct.

JAMES
One of the things you talked about, about mitigating against highly dangerous forms of negativity, is keeping your mind occupied and not stewing on problems. One of things that occurred to me though in reading that is that this type of structural and rituals or routines kind of seem to be built into certain parts of organized religion and the military. Those are on the group level where there's things that if you look now and say, “Well why are they doing these menial things” or just these rituals and things like that but you can kind of see how it keeps people's minds occupied and allows them to move in a group.

But how about on the secular level or an individual level? Do you speak to each person and try to teach this lesson? As an author, that's maybe something you can do. But from a large-scale standpoint, it seems so vast to try to impart this type of mindset on people, that they really are creating their own hell a lot of times with their attitude. How do you see that as something that can be pushed out more broadly?

ROBERT
That's a very good question. The thing I talk about to individuals about that chapter is you're creating your own misery. You're making yourself miserable with your own thoughts and your own attitude towards life.

What if I could give you a pill that would suddenly make you not miserable, that would make you happy, that makes you excited, that would make you interested in life, that would get you out of your own little inner hell of thoughts, etc.? You would take that pill pretty quickly, right? You would even pay me $10-20-30,000 to have that.

Well I can give you this pill. It's your attitude. It's not going to cost you any money but it's going to take some effort. But you just have to be aware that the way you look at the world determines what happens to you. Your attitude creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So if you approach people and you feel kind of hostile and slightly negative and insecure about them, like you think that they don't like you, it becomes that vibe from you and that they get defensive in return. And as you pick up their defensiveness, you get even more paranoid and even more suspicious and it feeds yourself.

So you are creating the circumstances of your own life through your attitude. People pick up when they approach you whether you're friendlily, hostile, open or close. So you're emitting this attitude and it's creating a response.

And you're not aware of this. It happens a lot in marriages where people are constantly bickering. They always think it's the other person. “It's the wife. She's the one that's always creating trouble. I’m just this nice guy.” No. It's a dynamic. She's probably picking up little vibes from you that are irritating, that originated from you.

So how you approach people, how you look at them is how they will treat you in response. That one little fact can revolutionize your life because now you can walk into it--
I tell people, “If there's some boss who's tormenting you, who's awful” -- that's what we call a “Psychotic boss” --

ROB
I had that one. Yeah, go ahead. Sorry. [Laughter]

ROBERT
…you can’t seem to say or do anything right…” I mean probably this is maybe too extreme an example. But if you go in the next time you meet with him or her, you tell yourself in your brain over and over again, “I actually like this person. I understand them. They come from a very difficult… They’ve probably been beaten as a child. They had a hard childhood. Their facade of being mean and tough is just a façade. Maybe there's something else there. Maybe I actually like them.” Just try that as an experiment. I know it's difficult with some people but try it. You'll see, often times, that just by feeling that and thinking that, you alter how they respond to you and you unfreeze the situation.

[Inaudible - 40:41] because it won't always work. But you have tremendous power by what you project onto other people by your own attitude, by your own feelings.

When it comes to a group, if you're a leader, you definitely can alter the attitude of the group. I talked a chapter in there on authority and I talk in a lot of my books about what proper leadership is, and it all comes from the top.

So if you're a leader who respects your employees, who thinks of them as each one has something to contribute, that has potentially creative possibilities, things to contribute… And yes, I have to be a little wary of some of them. I can't be totally in love with all of my employees. But generally, I respect them.

Employees feel that. They feel it coming from you. They can feel disrespect. They can feel the fact that you feel so superior to them, that you're not even interested in their lives. They understand that you're sitting in your office and not working half as hard as you're asking other people to work. Your attitude is infecting them and creating a dysfunctional group environment.

And that all comes from the top. They sense your attitude. If your attitude is respectful and empathetic and you treat people relatively equally, you don't play favorites, that will change the esprit de corps and that will elevate the group attitude in the group mood. So that would be my answer to your question.

JAMES
That’s great. I’ll tell you, I work on patent so if you do come up with that pill that changes everybody’s mind, make sure you give me a call. I'll make us all rich.

ROBERT
[Inaudible - 42:30] pill is after reading my new book.

JAMES
Exactly. Exactly. But you know what? If you gave people some pill and Chapter 8, I bet you’ll work even better because they’ll say, “Oh yeah, the pill is really great.” Give them a water pill. “Oh it’s working. It’s working. It’s working” because that's how strong the mind is.

ROBERT
What if I create an app that would change your attitude, would that work as well?

JAMES
Hey, let's talk. [Laughter]

ROB
Speaking about this chapter of the book, I believe, Robert, is the chapter where you had the leader… I can't remember the guy’s name but it was when everybody was out the sea and almost everybody would have died except [indiscernible - 43:13] this guy's leadership. And I think that's such a… And I want people to get this book because that actually helped me understand the perspective of leadership.

My father always told me about… because he's a leader in the labor movement and said how important it is for you to understand the emotions that you're reflecting off to others. If you understand the emotions of others in order to know how to lead…” I haven’t really start to appreciate that until recently.

Talk a little bit about that chapter, just highlighting, because there's so much about that chapter that can speak towards what real leadership looks like and what a real leader does.

ROBERT
Which chapter are you referring to?

ROB
Not the chapter but the situation where--

ROBERT
Oh the Shackleton story?

ROB
Yes, the Shackleton story. That's it.

ROBERT
Well basically, it’s a great story in literature of leadership in universities, etc. It's like one of the most important stories. He's considered the icon of great leadership is Shackleton.

Basically, he was an English explorer who had explored the South Pole in Antarctica. He decided to lead an expedition of the first group of men who would cross the entire continent on foot. He set out with 27 men on a boat called the “Endurance” in 1914. Everything was planned really well.

Then at one point, the ship became trapped in an ice floe and it couldn't move. Because it was stationary, it started taking on water. And slowly, the ship was sinking and so he had all the sailors abandon the ship -- all 27. He took the little lifeboats that were on it under this ice floe. But basically, now the ship sunk. He had to forget the expedition.

And he was facing almost certain death because here they were, trapped on this sort of floating ice floe which was large but was getting smaller and smaller. And they were about to head into winter which there was no daylight. Conditions would be horrible. They had no radios to signal for help and were running out of supplies. Where were they going to get food?

But more importantly, as somebody who'd led expeditions, he knew that the greatest danger was the spirit of the men. As they started feeling negative, as they started bickering, as they started doubting, they would destroy themselves from within. It was an impossible situation to get out of.

But this man was an actual genius when it comes to human nature. He understood that he had to be very rational. He couldn't get emotional. He had to make a series of very important decisions. Number one, when to abandon the ice floe and get on the little lifeboats they had to go somewhere else. And who knows where else they would go?

He had to know how to keep the men entertained; how to keep their spirits up. He had to run all these series of decisions. And if he was emotional, feeling these emotions get to him, if he started panicking, it would be the end of them. So he understood that and he calmed himself down.

Every day, he learned to sort of step back and rethink his ideas. He dealt with each individual man on the expedition as an individual. He got inside. To the carpenter, he spoke about carpentry, understood his mindset. To the photographer who was on board, who was more of an artist, he knew how to talk to him in a different language.

He knew the weaknesses of each person and how to make sure that this didn't turn into something else. He knew which group of men to put in which tents so that the malcontents wouldn't spread. He was so sensitive to each individual’s spirit that he could control them much better in a larger sense.
He knew that they had a dark side, that these men had lots of. You know, they were sailors, adventurers, who were cooped on this little ice floe. They're going to go crazy. So he organized these soccer games on the ice with an improvised soccer ball where they could get competitive and hit each other and get mean and let it all out in the game. And he let them get drunk every couple of weeks and have a festival -- [beers, lunches - 47:33]. They wanted to sort of vent some of these emotions, on and on.

ROB
Which is counterintuitive. The leader would say, “Let's just make sure everybody stays focused” and actually not allow people to have that venting which probably would have led to the destruction.

ROBERT
Something awful would have happened. It would come out in some other way.

ROB
And I also like the one part of the chapter you focused on that talked about… What really stuck out to me was when you said there was one person that really affected the mood of the whole group and he had to isolate that person in a certain way to make sure he didn't infect the whole group, otherwise, everyone was brought down. That really spoke to me, to think about who's in your organization that you know has that attitude and how do you work with the problem before it metastasized? I thought that was brilliant.

ROBERT
Well the key there is you've got 27 men and you have to pay attention to each one of them. If you have an office and you have 27 employees, inevitably, there will be one malcontent among them who's going to spread… And it only takes one to really ruin the spirit in a group. And you, as a leader, have to be attentive to each person. You don't know necessarily who that is. People wear masks. They don't show it.

But the brains of Shackleton was he was paying attention to each one of these men. He would personally talk to them and converse with them and interact with them every day. He didn't neglect anyone. He was getting into their spirit.

But that attentiveness to each person allowed him to identify the malcontent and isolate him and make sure he didn’t spread trouble. He didn't physically isolate him. He made sure that he put him, for example, in a tent with other people who weren’t potentially other malcontents, who would kind of raise his spirit up, etc. But that attentiveness and sensitivity to people's individuality is what makes a great leader.

And then the proof is in the pudding. He ended up leading men under those lifeboats to an island 300 miles away. He knew they couldn't stand that little island because there was no food. He got six men on a tiny little lifeboat and crossed 800 miles of the most treacherous waters on the planet Earth, waves 30 feet high on this little 10-foot lifeboat. Absolutely [dreadful - 50:01]. He brought them to this Island and rescued all of the men.

But how he managed to keep their spirits together and how he managed to work with their spirit and make sure that they didn't sort of dissolve from within was one of the greatest stories in the leadership history of all time.

ROB
Absolutely. -- James? I know James, you have a follow-up question.

JAMES
Well actually, it just touches on the story you just told. But also throughout your books, and Human Nature is no exception to this, your use of historical examples to provide context and illustration is captivating. I could read those all day. And then I get to also read how you apply it and stuff which is great. But just the historical examples are just amazing. What inspires you to use such an approach and how are you able to find such just spot-on examples in the great expanse of history?

ROBERT
Well it’s a lot of work, a lot of effort and energy. After six years of doing it, it kind of completely exhausted me. I've been doing it since the 48 Laws of Power. And my intuition, when I wrote my first book was I want to make a book that's entertaining. I just don't want to throw information at people. I’ve read a lot of books that bore the hell out of me and I don't want to be one of those writers, that mine is a boring book.

If you tell a story, well, it's impossible to bore your audience. You tell it in a way where you kind of lure them in by not telling them where you're headed. There's going to be a surprise, a twist at the end. I’m going to tell you the lesson to be learned and it's not necessarily what you think -- the people you think are the people being conned in the game being the con artists. That's from the 48 Laws. So I must surprise you.

And by doing that, I lure the reader in slowly into my way of thinking, into my world. And so now, you're ready to consume a 600-page book with a lot of information. But it doesn't weigh you down because I'm trying continually to entertain you and tell you stories. And stories are what keep the mind engaged.

And I tell writers a lot of times, “That's what you're missing in your book. You're not paying attention to how the human attention span works.”

So many books, I read by chapter 4, I'm already tuning it out because they just keep repeating the same information. They don't know how to entertain. So what I do is A] I look for stories that have drama to them. You know, I have a background in film and theatre so I kind of have a sense of what's dramatic, of where a good story could be, of where there's a human element where everybody can relate to. It’s got to be something that everybody can relate to in some way. It could be a story of King Louis XIV but on some human level, we can all relate to it. So I find those stories.

And then if there's somebody famous like Napoleon Bonaparte or like Mary Shelley as we talked about earlier, the woman who wrote Frankenstein, I read very long biographies. But I’m looking for little nuggets in those stories, in those books, that other people aren't looking at but I think are extremely telling about that person's character. So I'm going to surprise you.

One of the characters in The Laws of Human Nature that I talked about is Richard Nixon. He’s the exemplary story of the shadow of the dark side human personality.

I was reading a very interesting biography of him and it said that as the little boy, three years old, Nixon cried and cried and cried and cried more than any other baby they had ever seen. The mother didn't know how to make him shut up and the father hated him because of that. Even the mother got irritated with him.

I think, “What's that saying about Richard Nixon? What does it say about the man who became our president, who had all of these vulnerabilities, these wounds from his childhood that he had to cover up with this kind of macho front and this kind of paranoia about everybody?” It showed that there was this little baby inside of him who never had been loved enough, who never had been held enough. I never read that in all my… Nobody really had emphasized that. So I look for nuggets that reveal people’s character that nobody's really talking about.

JAMES
Well mission accomplished, for sure.

ROBERT
Oh thank you.

ROB
You did a great job.

JAMES
It works exactly how you intended.

ROB
Oh absolutely. I want to ask kind of a follow-up to that. So you bring up historical examples better than anybody I've ever read, frankly. But what motivated you? In particular, what inspired you? If you could think about a personal story or two about what inspired you to write The Laws of Human Nature and The 48 Laws of Power. I've heard you say in other interviews that you write out of anger, sometimes. So that tells me something in Hollywood must have happened at some point in your life to the extent you’re comfortable sharing--

JAMES
We’ve read your book. We’ve read your book. We know what that means.

ROB
I know that every story comes from some personal motivation and personal experience -- I am sure. So what motivated you, in general, to write the book? And if you can think about any personal experiences that just… If there's one or two that just sparked it like, “My god, people need to know about this and I need to make sure people understand this lesson.”

ROBERT
Well I've gone into working in Hollywood after having many different jobs because I love youthful idealism. This was going to be a great place for me to express myself. I could be creative. I could be a screenwriter. I come from Los Angeles, etc. And slowly, I realized that it's not what my ideals were. It was an extremely Machiavellian environment, a very power-laden environment where people… didn't as much pretend but they acted as if all that mattered was creating a great movie but in truth, it was really about their ego and about having power. And nobody was writing about this.

I worked for a film director. He was not a bad person. He was a typical Hollywood director and I saw him do some maneuvers that were actually quite nasty, looking back. He started out as a writer and he wanted to direct his first film but the producer didn't think he was experienced enough to direct this film. So the man I was working for, he came up with this very clever strategy. He pretended to agree with the producer. He said, “All right, together, we'll find the right director.”

And he purposefully found someone who he knew could not pull it off. He looked on paper to be someone that shouldn’t be the director. He knew his character, he knew who he was and he knew that it wasn't a slam-dunk, that 75% sure this guy would fail because he didn't have the character to take the pressure on. And also, the guy I knew was going to be applying some pressure.

So he deliberately hired somebody he knew would fail and would fail probably early on. And it happened. It happened in pre-production before the film ever got off in the casting. And so this guy producer had to come in and fire him. And then this guy, the last minute, that I worked for had to come in and rescue to become the director, which has been his goal all along. He played it brilliantly. And I had to admire and clap how well he played it.

But in the process, he kind of destroyed this other man’s reputation who… I’m not positive about it because I haven't done the research but I don't think he ever totally recovered. I don't think he directed another film.

And then personally, for this one director, I would write a lot of his dialogue. He was a very intuitive man. He wrote everything on these yellow legal pads. And then suddenly, he’d get blocked and I would start stream-of-consciousness. I would take over and I would write whole blocks of dialogue. Pages and pages were my writing. I never got credit. I never got paid. Nobody ever knew about this.

And that's the Law #7 in the 48 Laws of Power -- “Always let other people do the work but always take the credit.” That had been laid on me. You know, it's a typical thing in Hollywood or in media where people, the researchers, the joke writers… You know, Bill Maher doesn't write his own jokes. He has a team of people writing his jokes. We never see that.

I went in so idealistically, so wanting it to be this creative environment, and instead, I saw all these kind of power games being played and nobody talking about it and it pissed me off. It pissed me off that there was this rampant hypocrisy, that people think of all of these liberal-minded Hollywood directors and producers, they're always in best causes. And I saw behind closed doors how mean-spirited, how they can be true assholes when the door is closed, how poorly they often treated their employees and I wanted to expose the kind of power environment that I witnessed. And it isn't just Hollywood. It's the music industry. It's politics.

ROB
It’s politics.

ROBERT
It's academia. It's the medical world. It's every world. But Hollywood was kind of like a microcosm for me.

ROB
That’s very, very, very interesting. You said this in the book: “People bring the character they have to the position they occupy or the religion they practice. A person can be a Christian or a progressive liberal and still be a tyrant at heart.” Ooh, that one was like… [Laughter] I can tell that was coming from a place of power and anger. And that was just such a powerful line. When I thought about that, I just said, “Whoa, that is a mind-blown type of line.”

ROBERT
But it’s true. I mean it’s true. It’s not Christianity that's the problem. Christianity is a wonderful religion. And there are wonderful people who are Christians but there are also bad Christians. There are also people who came into that religion and they used it for very dark purposes. We've seen it throughout history. And so it's not the religion itself but it's what people bring to it.

So you could be a social justice warrior, you could be in favor of the greatest cause for humanity but personally, you're not. You’re not like that all.

ROB
Yeah.
ROBERT
And that happens over and over again.

ROB
Ta-Nehisi Coates said this, if you've read any of his books, he has a line where he talks about people that did really bad things, they held themselves out to be good people. Often, in order to do evil, one has convinced themselves they're doing good. And you say that in your book, that everyone has their self-opinion, that “I’m good. I’m rational. I'm autonomous,” and we want to all believe that.

ROBERT
Right.

ROB
But the truth is people that have that certainty belief probably aren't any of those things. At least that's what I got from your book.

ROBERT
Well if you're a true saint, if you're Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa, you don't need to broadcast it. Part of being a saint is you don't have an ego. You don't feel the need to go on social media and proclaim to the world, “Look at all the great things I’m doing.”

The best forms of charity, of altruism, is when the other person doesn't even know that you're doing it. You're hiding yourself. They don't feel beholden to you. You're not lording over them your act of charity. So a true saint doesn't need to promote him or herself. And the fact that you have to promote this is a sign of something a little bit dubious.

ROB
Yes. Going a little bit of a different direction but I think it's relevant to what you just said, you talked… This was a while back. You did an interview in The Guardian, speaking about vulture capitalism. You talked about people who sell this dream that's not true. And people, honestly, look up to leaders like this. They assume that, “Okay, we get there by being mean, being vindictive.” But you said this: “The great thing about America is that you can come from the worst of circumstances, somebody like 50 Cent, Jay-Z. Their success are the people that we want to celebrate, not the vulture capitalists.” Speak more to what you meant by that and how your books may speak to that.

ROBERT
What’s the word? “Vulture capitalists?” Is that the word that I used?

ROB
You did.

ROBERT
I did? Okay.

ROB
[Laughter]

JAMES
And we loved it.

ROB
Yeah, we loved it.

JAMES
Oh man, that is an incredible word.

ROB
We loved it, yeah.

JAMES
We thought it was crazy.

ROB
I took out some of the other… It was the reference you were talking about… Yeah, I’ll give you the full context. I know you've given a lot of interviews so I’ll give you the full point. You were talking about Obama and Mitt Romney and the perspectives of what you had then and why you had those beliefs and how we should celebrate success in America. So that was what you were talking about. And it was in that conversation that you brought that up, just so you know the context.

ROBERT
Yeah. Well I don't know if I’m going to completely answer exactly what you want here. I'm attracted to people's stories, of people who kind of came from the worst circumstances and were able to raise themselves up because consider that--

You know, we talked about attitude. What happens to you in life is definitely going to affect your attitude. And if from very early on, nothing but negative stuff is being told to you about who you are, of the environment that you live in, you're going to internalize that. And people who overcome that, who've dealt with a lot of crap from very early on, who managed to salvage their soul and part of who they are and sort of their spirit, I think that's the greatest success story that I can imagine.

Now, you might not think of 50 Cent in those terms but I know him. I met him. I hung around with him. I met his grandmother. I know where he grew up. I didn't live there but I spent time in the streets where he grew up in Southside Queens. This was an extremely brutal environment. There is no logical reason why someone like that shouldn't be dead by now. In fact, everybody he knew growing up, most of them were either in prison or dead.

And a lot of what he did early on is a bit unsavory. He was selling crack cocaine. In fact, let's call it what it is. But it was his only way of survival. He came from terrible circumstances. His mother, she had him when she was like 16. She was murdered when he was 8 years old so he was basically orphaned to his grandparents who had to raise like 18 other kids in a small house.

He grew up in the crack epidemic. Everything was against him yet he salvaged something about himself. He salvaged a sense of discipline; the sense of belief in himself. He kept his soul together.

He credits his mother because he says that his mother was a very aggressive, ambitious woman. She had ambition. She wanted to be something in life. She wasn't a drug dealer herself but she wanted to get the hell out of it and she wanted to protect him from that. He internalized that and that saved his life. What a remarkable story, that he was able… even after he had been shot and nearly died, to pick himself up after hardship after hardship – the worst kind of circumstance. These are amazing stories.

And in Mastery, I have my favorite story of Zora Neale Hurston who became a great novelist. Actually, she's an amazing novelist. And this woman came from an environment that was not even remotely possible for her to achieve that. No Black woman had ever written a novel that ever made any kind of money that was actually commissioned and paid money to write.

She was a maid working in rich people's houses. She had no money, no education, no chances and yet with her attitude and her spirit and her discipline and her self-love and awareness, she became an incredibly successful novelist -- the first Black female writer to ever make money writing. These are the kind of stories that are very American. We have a lot of stories in the 19th century of people like that. These are what we should be celebrating.

The Donald Trump juniors of the world or even Donald Trump himself were born with a silver spoon in their mouth or the Bushes. I don't consider that interesting to me at all because they were given… It's like running a hundred-meter race and you get to start 50 meters into it. Of course, you're going to win.

ROB
Yeah. My mother always said, “You measure a person's success not by how far they came but the obstacles and the struggles they had to overcome in order to achieve that success,” so I completely agree. It’s something that my mother really, really talked to me a lot about.

I grew up middle class but I have a learning disability. My teachers told me I would never go to college. I almost failed second and sixth grade. I have two degrees now -- long story bearable. But I had a mother that always infected me with the right attitude. She said, “Look, no one gets to define you. You define yourself for yourself by yourself.” I am fortunate to have that but others don't have that. Like 50 Cent didn't probably had that chance and the fact that he got there is amazing.

I think people is easy to judge and say he did something wrong or he did things that were criminal but you know what, lots of people make mistakes. And when you come from difficult circumstances, if you have come from those circumstances then you judge there first. -- I want to talk a little bit about--

CARLTON
May I ask you a question about that real quick, Rob, before you transition? So I know the characteristics that you're saying are great about these individuals but I'd like to know what the number one consistent theme is in these individuals who do persevere to greatness.

ROBERT
Well they have a kind of vision of themselves. I talked a little bit in Mastery about a sense of calling, a sense of destiny, where you feel like you were destined for something greater and you were meant to accomplish something in life. That’s a common theme that I find in these backgrounds.

I know in Zora Neale Hurston story, she had this feeling from very early on that she was going to be a successful writer. She had that image in her head when she was a little girl before she had experienced any of the really incredible hardships that occurred to her. I know that 50 Cent, at a very early age, had always seen himself as becoming an extremely successful entrepreneur. So it's a degree of self-belief.

And so what happens when you have that self-belief is that when you have failure, which is inevitable, when you have hardship, when you have obstacles thrown at you and people don't believe you, you don't get crushed by it. Yeah, you have moments of doubt. Yes, you get maybe angry and frustrated but you bounce back up because you know deep inside, you were meant for something else.

There's no way I could ever compare myself to those circumstances because I, too, came from a very reasonably comfortable middle-class environment. I had good parents. But I had a lot of negativity when it came to me becoming a writer.

I remember when I was in my 20s, I was in New York. I was a journalist for a magazine and I had written this article that I thought was really good and the editor had lunch with me and I thought he was going to compliment me on the article that I wrote. And after he downed his second martini, he started ripping into me and started saying, “You know Robert, you really should start considering going to law school. You're never going to make it as a writer. You’re too much disciplined. You’re too wild. You're all over the place. You just don't have the head for making it in writing.” You know, that's the kind of thing that could really crush somebody. He was a successful editor.

I've always wanted to be a writer. I always wanted it so badly and I knew that I had something worthwhile to express. My response was, “Maybe he's not totally wrong. Maybe journalism is the right thing for me and maybe he got his finger on it.” I was a little bit angry, I can't deny it, but I’m not going to get bitter about this. All he's telling me is I need to keep writing. I set to find the right medium. Maybe it’s film, maybe its screenwriting, etc. Then I segued to do that.

But I always had a belief that I was going to be a successful writer. I had terrible doubts, terrible moments. But that belief, as a child, that you were destined for something, I think, is absolutely critical for overcoming all the crap that the world will inevitably throw at you.

ROB
I have a follow-up to that. I always think there’s some inherent tension to part to your books, right? I have a similar belief -- that I was going to grow up and do great things. And I had that reinforced and I had to overcome teachers that said I would never go to college and so I think that served me well. However, I do see that you can take that too far. In your book, you talk about grandiosity, right?

ROBERT
Yeah.

ROB
You get to the point where you have this belief and it detaches from reality. So here's the question: How do you figure out how to manage that appropriately so you don't do… which you talked about in parts of these books where you go overboard and ruin everything you've been working for because you've now lost reality, focusing on how great you believe that you are. Does my question make sense?

ROBERT
Very much so. Very much so. Well I made a point in… I’m thinking like four of my six books, that success is very dangerous, that success is often your worst enemy because it goes to your head and you believe you have the golden touch and you believe that you were destined for great things.

I know, personally, that each time I finish a book, I bring myself back down to earth and I tell myself, “All right, that book is successful but my next book is probably going to fail because I don't have the golden touch. I have to work really hard.” And I have to keep myself from not believing in my own myth. And I think it's what separates people who have a short career from a long career.

Nothing is more nark of a [indiscernible - 01:13:33] and mute in the hip-hop world when 50 was still starting out and I was getting involved with a lot of hip-hop artists. People like 50 who came from very poor backgrounds and suddenly they're on top of the world, got $10 million, they got all the women fawning all over them and they never do another album after that. They’re one-album wonders because the success was like a drug. It went to their head and they lack the discipline.

JAMES
And they're young. You know, dealing with that at 20 or 21 is totally different than dealing with that at 40.

ROBERT
Exactly. Well you're right. I had my success when I was 36-37. If I had it when I was 21, I don't know what would have happened to me. I probably would have ruined myself. Very true.

JAMES
I feel the same way.

ROB
I feel third. I agree.

ROBERT
When it came to someone like 50, he was extremely practical and very ambitious so he wasn't satisfied with just having one record. His favorite motto was, “Never get high on your own supply.” So don't smoke the drugs that you're dealing. He never touched drugs.

ROB
That was actually Biggie, too, but go ahead.

ROBERT
Huh?

ROB
He got that from Biggie, but go ahead.

ROBERT
Oh he did?

ROB
Yes.

ROBERT
Oh I’m sorry.
ROB
No, that’s okay. That’s okay.

ROBERT
I didn’t know that. Okay.

JAMES
Biggie rapped it, 50 lived by it.

ROB
That’s true.

ROBERT
Yeah, exactly. He knew the dangers of getting… He saw what drugs did and he saw that success was like a drug and he saw other rappers and saw what happened to them. And he had some good mentors. His name is escaping me -- from Run-DMC. But anyway, he had good mentors. And he knew that he didn't want to get caught up and [wanted - 01:15:30] to destroy the careers of so many of the rappers. So he had a good lesson in front of him.

So your self-awareness, your humility, your understanding of human nature will sustain you and you won't be a one-hit wonder. You understand the history and the dangers that success present.

And this isn’t just for hip-hop artists. I see it all the time with business people that I consult with -- CEOs who think that they have the golden touch because they started a company that turned into a billion-dollar business, that they know how to do everything. They call me to give them advice because they're running into problems. They won't listen to anything I say even though they’re paying me because they think they know everything. And that’s what success will do to you.

JAMES
The Michael “Iceman” story that you provided in the book was amazing because that’s stuff we saw from the outside. But to see it on the inside was amazing on this very point.

ROBERT
Yeah.

TUNDE
We admire the Jay-Zs and kind of that first generation -- those that made it. But I guess the human issue and the human nature part is the next two to three generations behind those matriarchs and patriarchs usually end up being the types of personalities that you tend to not glorify in your writing.

ROBERT
Yeah.

TUNDE
I don't know if there's a way for us to get out of that as humans but it seems like that's the constant turn that every few generation starts over.

ROBERT
Well there are examples in history of people who do come from wealthy circumstances who end up being incredibly successful. And I often wonder… you know, maybe at some point, I would like to study them to see the commonalities there.

Today, I was visiting one of my doctors and he was telling me this story, that he was treating this guy who is the son of the people who started Baskin Robbins -- you know, the ice cream chain. And he, the son, is wealthier than his father. He became a record producer who was extremely successful. I was thinking, “How could somebody who comes with a silver spoon in his mouth even exceed his father? That's so unusual. What was it about his childhood?” I don't know.

But I think there is a way to make it so that your children have a sense that life involves struggle, that they have to learn some skills, some resources from within that you can't provide them, that you let them fall. You let them fail. You let them have problems and you let them get out of it themselves. Sort of how Phil Jackson would coach when the team was starting to fall apart. He would let them go further with it so they would learn on their own how to coach themselves.

So if you’re always helicoptering your children and trying to make everything easy for them -- they have a new word for it. I think it’s called the “Snowplowing parent” – or trying to make everything easy and smooth for them, you're setting them up for disaster because life isn't like that. You're not going to bring them back to your circumstances. But if you can at least let them have some hardships on their own and suffer a little bit so that they have a sense that this is what life involves.

A good example of one of these people is Warren Buffett. I don't know what has happened to his children but he was very, very careful to not spoil them with the billions of dollars that he has and to make sure that they learned early on to get out on their own, to make their own money without kind of being mean-spirited about it. I don't have the exact details on it but I remember reading it in his biography.

And I was struck that maybe there is an alternative strategy for people who are successful, who can kind of let their children kind of experience hardships that don't crush them but to help develop their spirit in some way. I think there's a way to do it. I don't have all the answers. Maybe it's a subject for another book. But I definitely [inaudible - 01:19:48].
JAMES
Yeah, definitely the next book, for sure.

ROB
I want to get towards the end because I know we're getting close here on time. So let me just ask a few other questions. You talked about being hyper certain as a leader but I want to talk about group dynamics because that's something that's very important particularly with recent events. The documentary “When They See Us” just came out about the Central 5 teens that were wrongly accused of raping a white woman -- five Black teens.

ROBERT
Right.

ROB
People were hyper convinced that those teenagers did it, absent actual DNA evidence. People still to this day are claiming that they believe they could be guilty even with the evidence. My question is, thinking about this in the current context, what can we draw from this as an example to figure out how we don't let the hyper certainty of the group affect our thinking in our own rational sense?

ROBERT
Well people come with their own preconceptions, their own biases, and so when you read the news or you see an event, you're going to interpret it through that lens of your own ideas and value.

The solution that I have is to realize that it's probably affecting you. You obviously weren’t into that groupthink about the Central Park 5 and rightly so. And you're more rational than that. But there are probably other things where you do feel a little bit of that tendency where you are quick to judge something based on your own preconceptions.

So you have to have some humility in life. You have to understand that you are a human being. You're not a god. You're not a superhero -- that you are susceptible to all the flaws in the way the human brain is wired that I'm talking about in this book.

So it's not always the other people who are stupid. It's not always the other people who are irrational or narcissistic or aggressive. It's inside you as well and you need to look within and not be so certain about all of your own ideas and opinions.

And the point I’m trying make in the book is the more certain you are about your ideas, the more convinced you are about your own convictions, the more you are certainly being irrational and being governed by your emotions and the more dangerous it becomes.

And you can flip this around. When we look at politicians and leaders who inspire us or who influence us, we're often attracted to people who have that kind of hyper certainty because we believe that if someone is so certain about the truth, it must be real. Why would somebody be so sincere and so full of conviction if they are wrong?

Well people who are so certain and so full of conviction are actually very wrong often. That's exactly what they're covering up. They're covering up their weaknesses. They're covering up the fact that they don't really know this macho veneer of, “I know for a fact what's going on.”

So we need as humans to be very wary of those leaders, of those kind of -- what's the word -- those kind of… Oh man, sometimes language fades.

ROB
I know what you mean -- the type of leaders that try to convince you they're right about everything. But you know what? The hard part for me is that sometimes those are the most influential and best leaders -- sometimes -- but they also have a dark side. You think about Lyndon Johnson. He said, “What convinces is conviction.” People have to believe that you believe in what you're saying. And of course, he was able to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Civil Rights Act and he also did a lot of bad things because of that. I guess that goes back to the tension in the book.

I guess this is a two-part question. I want to get to a final question. If you're a leader that happens to be that way… I consider myself to be that type of leader and I know that can be flawed, sometimes. How do you manage yourself from not going overboard? And then how do you realistically… because people want to follow confident, charismatic leaders.

ROBERT
Right.

ROB
In practical terms, how does that really work? How can we guard against that knowing our human nature is the one that do that, myself included. Between a person that can speak well and a person that's boring, I’m probably going to go with the good speaker. I like to say I’m going to go with the substantive person but my instincts tell me I’m probably going to go with the best speaker. How do you guard against that? How do you guard against not falling for the most charismatic leader and not necessarily the most substantive one?

ROBERT
Well there's nothing wrong with a charismatic leader per se. There have been a lot of great charismatic leaders in the past who had done a lot of good. In The Art of Seduction, I wrote a chapter on charisma and I talked about Malcolm X. And this is a man who had tremendous charisma and he was incredible creature. I used him as sort of a way to analyze where charisma comes from and how it works.
And it can be a very powerful tool for the positive for inspiring people to join a very worthwhile cause. But charisma, does it come from some kind of personal darkness? Does it come from some kind of personal issue where you're trying to get the love, support and recognition that you're not getting in your own life?

Does it come from some dark desire for power or does it actually come from a desire to promote some cause and you realize that it's important to have that kind of charismatic appeal? I have nothing against appealing to people's emotions. I have a problem, believe it or not, with a lot of the democratic candidates now who I think are missing that. I don't think they are able to inspire people with those sort of a larger vision…

ROB
I agree.

ROBERT
…about where America should be headed.

ROB
That’s what scares me. Go ahead. Sorry.

ROBERT
Yeah, it scares me, too. So it's a very good question and it's a fine line. So how do you determine who is an Adolf Hitler and who is more of like a Malcolm X or Martin Luther King? It's very difficult. But I think there are ways and things that--

First of all, how much does it depend on creating hatred and binding the group through hatred of the enemy or is it actually geared towards getting practical results? Are you there just to vent your own frustration and anger or are you there to actually change the world?

And you can look at these leaders and see that. Are they're just spouting a lot of words or are they actually doing something practical in the world? Are they actually changing something? Is there actually some kind of real goal that they're aiming at or is it all just about rousing dark emotions? So I think there are ways in looking at people's rhetoric. And they get their track record to distinguish the charismatics from the “demagogues.” -- That was the word I was looking for.

ROB
“Demagogues,” okay.

JAMES
Yes.

ROBERT
Yes. Thank you.

ROB
I have final two questions. I want to just think about your legacy. First question: If you had a billboard that summarized your beliefs and what you stand for, what would that billboard say and why.

ROBERT
Wow. Well I've written books… I don't know what the actual… I’m a very long-winded person as you can tell.

ROB
That’s okay.

ROBERT
So my billboard would probably be 5,000 words. [Laughter] I’m a very practical person. I don't want to be someone who writes books that just kind of sell and entertain and they're kind of out there. I want books that change you. And I could be a big grandiose myself which is very possible. But I want this book to change how you look at the world. That's all I want. But of course, I do want to make money from the book. I can't deny that.

But my real goal is to literally get inside you and change how you look at the world because changing people's consciousness is what actually changes their actions and what happens. So my goal… and if I've ever had any success--

And when people write to me, telling me that I changed how they look at the world and how they look at people and themselves, that is, to me, a sign that I succeeded. And that's my greatest ambition. I don’t know how to fit that on a billboard.

ROB
No, you fit it in. You said you want to change people's perspective so they can change…

JAMES
Change consciousness.

ROB
…consciousness.

JAMES
Change the world.

ROB
Change the world. That was a really good billboard.

ROBERT
Okay.

ROB
Final question: You have a committee of three, living or dead, whoever you want. They get to advise you on all your work, all your life, who are those people and why?

ROBERT
Wow.

JAMES
This is probably the best person we could ask this question to.

ROB
I know. I know. I can't wait to hear the answer. [Laughter]

ROB
Well I probably go first to ancient history. I probably go to Socrates. I don't agree with everything that Socrates promotes but I admire his method so much. And his idea was that you need to teach people their ignorance. You need to show them that they don't understand anything. He said, “The origin of all wisdom is to know that you don't know anything and therefore you're excited to learn and you're like a child and you have wonder.”

And so I would like to have that man in my life, engaging me in a dialogue, taking my ideas apart to a dialectical method and showing me… And I’m actually not nearly as smart as I am and that I need to rethink a lot of it. He'd be top on the list.

I don't mean to trumpet this but I’ve been meditating for many years and I practice a form of Zen Buddhism and it's really grounded me and really helped me because I had… You know, I had a recent health setback and things. It's been very hard to kind of deal mentally with these things. So I'm thinking of some of my favorites Zen masters in history. I’m not talking about Phil Jackson. [Laughter] You know, Japanese Zen masters in history.

I've written about in Mastery, “Guiding [Hakuni - 01:30:55]” because I don't have any of these masters in my life. And supposedly, a Zen master… It's not so much what they say, it’s their energy that you can sense off of them, that they have attained enlightenment and that they have ways of communicating. That just change you.

I've been searching for someone like that alive now and I've gone to Zen classes. There's nobody like that, I don't think, in the world today like these old masters. So I would choose one of them so that I could get richer in my sort of patience with myself.

And then I would probably go to Abraham Lincoln only because he is such a weird person and I’m a weird person as well. And I don't think people realize how totally strange this man was. He was very much a poet. He wrote poetry as a young man. He was very sensitive and almost morbidly sensitive. He was constantly about death. He was this very kind of sensitive young man but he was also, at the same time, very aggressive. He liked to box. And when he boxed, he liked to beat the hell out of someone. So he had these two sides and he couldn't quite unite in him this kind of soft sensitive side; this aggressive side.

I relate to that very strongly because I feel like I have that… I’m nowhere near as great as him but I had that kind of two fighting sides to myself. And he integrated them through his work, through the personality that he created as president using that sensitive side to be extremely empathetic towards the situation in the United States, towards not exacerbating it, to not making the tensions worse, to minimizing the loss of life but also to be very strong and firm and to hold true to a course when everybody was doubting him.

It’s almost like a father figure, that kind of elemental fatherly wisdom of a man who's dealing with the worst situation. Everybody doubting him, everybody yelling at him and yet he’s able to stay secure in himself and kind of… The metaphor was guiding the ship of the United States to safe waters. It's an amazing story and I often wish… He would be someone I would love to have a conversation with. I think there’s a lot of wisdom there.

ROB
Well that's awesome. And I just want to tell you thank you for coming and I know everybody else wants to tell you. We're honored to have you on.

ROBERT
Thank you.

ROB
We feel fortunate to have the opportunity that you'd come to a start-up like ours. We feel very fortunate. And we want to make sure everybody buys your new book, “The Laws of Human Nature.” I actually think all your work is great. I think this is a combination of all of your best works. It brings everything to light so I think people should start there. But all your books are great. They did transform me and really helped me see more of the flaws that I didn't even know I had. I can just speak to so many parts to your book to say, “That’s me. That’s me.” I've definitely screwed that up.

JAMES
And the duality of our nature, too.
ROB
Exactly.

JAMES
And how your greatest strengths can be your greatest weakness and just the consciousness. The consciousness that you speak about is powerful. It’s powerful. Yeah, we thank you very much for coming on. It's been a pleasure, for sure.

ROB
Again, we're so thankful to have you on. Hope you come on again. We're going to make sure everybody knows about your books. We just want to thank you again. We really appreciate it. It’s been an honor.

ROBERT
Well thank you all, gentlemen. Great questions. I really enjoyed it.

ROB
I hope you enjoyed that show. If you want to get more exclusive content, if you want to be able to ask authors questions in advance, if you want to hear the things that I talk about, make sure you sign up for Woke Wednesdays. We're going to talk about the most woke things that are going on this week. You're going to get articles that we're going to summarize for you. You’re going to learn about quotations or quotes that I'm contemplating. You’re going to learn about all the little things and research that's going on in terms of wokeness because you if you want to stay free, you got to stay awoke.

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom and we want to make sure you have all the information. So to do that, you need to sign up for our email list. Go on disruptionnow.com. You can get to Woke Wednesdays. We will make sure you get that content. Again, disruptionnow.com. I look forward to seeing you next time.

[END OFTRANSCRIPT]

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ROB RICHARDSON

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“Robert Greene is the author of five New York Times best sellers: Greene is known for his books on strategy, power, and seduction.”

Robert Greene is the author of five New York Times best sellers: Greene is known for his books on strategy, power, and seduction. He has written five international bestsellers: The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, The 33 Strategies of War, the 50th Law and Mastery.

In this episode, we discuss Robert Greene’s latest book The Laws of Human Nature. Robert Greene’s Laws of Human Nature is a guide to decipher human behavior to avoid the pitfalls, toxic situations, destructive patterns and tribal tendencies we consistently fall prey too. (1:35:21)

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Rob Richardson

Entrepreneur & Keynote Speaker

Rob Richardson is the host of disruption Now Podcast and the owner of DN Media Agency, a full-service digital marketing and research company. He has appeared on MSNBC, America this Week, and is a weekly contributor to Roland Martin Unfiltered.

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