The 48 Laws of Power is a multi-million-copy New York Times bestseller, written by Robert Greene, who authored several other popular books: The Laws of Human Nature, Mastery, The Art of Seduction, The 33 Strategies of War, and The 50th Law.)
By far, his most popular one is The 48 Laws of Power.
It is a book that is recommended by nearly anyone in the business & entrepreneurship fields. It’s a book that I’ve personally read a few times, with the first time I read this book was back in 2013.
I am going to share the Top 10 laws from The 48 Laws of Power that are essential for young professionals to follow.
A focus of The 48 Laws of Power is that power is a social game. To learn and master the game, it’s essential that you develop the ability to study and understand people.
The 48 laws have a Machiavellian theme to them, characterized by words like cunning, sneaky, scheming, and cutthroat. This doesn’t mean that you have to embody these traits, but the game of power requires a shift of perspective and a different way of looking at the world.
I’m here to share 10 laws that you should follow as someone at the start of their career. Let’s dive into the list.
Top 10 Laws For Young Professionals
1. LAW 11: LEARN TO KEEP PEOPLE DEPENDENT ON YOU
“To maintain your independence you must always be needed and wanted. The more you are relied on, the more freedom you have. Make people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity and you have nothing to fear. Never teach them enough so that they can do without you.”
This law is extremely important if you never want to have to worry about job security. You need to find a way to keep your boss, your team, and your company dependent on you. By doing so, they can’t afford to fire you or let you walk away to another employer.
You’ll be to go-to person for certain things and your face and name will be known. The company will give you raises and keep you around if you have specific value that only you can provide.
How do you keep people dependent on you?
Find ways to do things that only you can do. Maybe your advantage is that you work extremely fast and turn things in on time without fail. Or maybe your advantage is you know how to automate any task.
Find something that can’t easily be taught to someone else. If someone else can easily learn it, the company is able to replace you.
2. LAW 5: SO MUCH DEPENDS ON REPUTATION – GUARD IT WITH YOUR LIFE
“Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win; once it slips, however, you are vulnerable and will be attacked on all sides. Make your reputation unassailable. Always be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen.”
As a young professional, you are new to the workplace and building your reputation from scratch. You start off with a clean slate and have the opportunity to build your reputation as someone who is put together, diligent, reliable, etc.
BUT…one slip up could ruin your reputation.
One night out with a little too much drinking could lead to you making a fool of yourself. Or, showing up late and unprepared to an important meeting could change someone’s perception about you.
Think about what you want to be known for and do everything you can to embody that image and protect that image.
3. LAW 34: BE ROYAL IN YOUR OWN FASHION: ACT LIKE A KING TO BE TREATED LIKE ONE
“The way you carry yourself will often determine how you are treated: In the long run, appearing vulgar or common will make people disrespect you. For a king respects himself and inspires the same sentiment in others. By acting regally and confident of your powers, you make yourself seem destined to wear a crown.”
When you are the young buck in a company, it’s easy to feel inexperienced and less educated than everyone around you.
Imposter syndrome sets it and that results in you being a submissive, quiet person, that appears to lack confidence.
This rule says that you should act like a king if you want to be treated like one.
I’d translate this to your situation to say “Act like a seasoned professional if you want to be treated like one.”
If you carry yourself with confidence and conviction, the people you deal with are going to respect you and treat you as one of their own. Act and perform like you deserve a seat at the table and you WILL get one.
4. LAW 1: NEVER OUTSHINE THE MASTER
“Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please and impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite—inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.”
This law is extremely important when you’re the new person in a company. Your “masters” in this sense are your colleagues above you in your corporate hierarchy. This can include your boss, their bosses, and your mentors.
They likely know a lot more than you and can do a lot more than you, but there will be certain things that you are more skilled in. Maybe you are faster at using Excel and PowerPoint since you are more tech savvy.
It’s important to never show off to impress others. You may stir up resentment and jealousy.
Always make those above you feel more capable and more knowledgeable than you.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give it your all, but you should do what you can to not step on any toes or ruffle any feathers. Take the position of a pupil learning from the teacher.
5. LAW 19: KNOW WHO YOU’RE DEALING WITH—DO NOT OFFEND THE WRONG PERSON
“There are many different kinds of people in the world, and you can never assume that everyone will react to your strategies in the same way. Deceive or outmaneuver some people and they will spend the rest of their lives seeking revenge. They are wolves in lambs’ clothing. Choose your victims and opponents carefully, then—never offend or deceive the wrong person.”
As you navigate the beginning of your career you need to be aware of who everyone is.
The workplace is filled with people of all ages and appearances. You can’t judge a book by its cover. Doing so could result in a costly mistake.
You want to treat everyone with respect no matter if they are a secretary or the CEO. Respect should be the default.
Sometimes you’ll meet people and will be stunned after hearing about their background and accolades. You don’t want to offend these people or get on their bad side. Be observant and know who you are dealing with.
6. LAW 13: WHEN ASKING FOR HELP, APPEAL TO PEOPLE’S SELF-INTEREST, NEVER TO THEIR MERCY OR GRATITUDE
“If you need to turn to an ally for help, do not bother to remind him of your past assistance and good deeds. He will find a way to ignore you. Instead, uncover something in your request, or in your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emphasize it out of all proportion. He will respond enthusiastically when he sees something to be gained for himself.”
You’re going to be asking for a lot of help and a lot of favors. You might ask someone on your team for assitance with a task. Or you might ask an old acquaintance if they could put you in contact with someone for a job opportunity.
Whatever it may be, you need to appeal to people’s self interest.
When making a request, put yourself in their shoes and ask “What’s in it for me?” You need to be able to answer that with something worthwhile. Why should they help you?
You’d like to think that people would be willing to help you for the sake of helping you. Some people are like that. But the majority want something in exchange for their help.
7. LAW 10: INFECTION: AVOID THE UNHAPPY AND UNLUCKY
“You can die from someone else’s misery—emotional states are as infectious as diseases. You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only precipitating your own disaster. The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you. Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.”
The start of your career is filled with turbulence.
You are finding yourself, identifying what you like and don’t like, and trying to deal with other stresses that can come from things like finances and relationships.
The last thing you need to do is surround yourself with negatively infectious people.
These can be unhappy and unlucky people as the book states. Or these can be people that are lazy, unhealthy, and don’t have much going for them.
You need to surround yourself with the highest quality people. Your friends, mentors, and inner circle should consist of people who motivate you, make you change for the better, and provide fun times and laughter.
8. LAW 46: NEVER APPEAR TOO PERFECT
“Appearing better than others is always dangerous, but most dangerous of all is to appear to have no faults or weaknesses. Envy creates silent enemies. It is smart to occasionally display defects, and admit to harmless vices, in order to deflect envy and appear more human and approachable. Only gods and the dead can seem perfect with impunity.”
The excerpt from the book states “envy creates silent enemies” and this is something you should take away. No one likes the Mr. or Mrs. perfect.
In the workplace, everyone is trying to do their job and feel appreciated.
No one wants to feel lesser, and someone that appears too perfect can rub people the wrong way. Get your job done and do your work diligently, but be conscious of how you may be perceived.
Do what you can to “deflect envy,” as the excerpt said. Bond with people. Open up. Show you are human and approachable. If you’re the Mr. or Mrs. Perfect, you aren’t going to make many friends.
9. LAW 48: ASSUME FORMLESSNESS
“By taking a shape, by having a visible plan, you open yourself to attack. Instead of taking a form for your enemy to grasp, keep yourself adaptable and on the move. Accept the fact that nothing is certain and no law is fixed. The best way to protect yourself is to be as fluid and formless as water; never bet on stability or lasting order. Everything changes.”
An essential skill for young professionals to have is the ability to adapt at any moment.
That’s how you can apply this law that says “assume formlessness.” Learn how to learn and become proficient at things quickly. If your boss asks anything of you, you should be able to learn and pick things up fast.
Doing so will show your versatility and reliability. Someone with this skill can quickly rise through the ranks in the company because management knows they can get any job done that’s asked of them.
10. LAW 25: RE-CREATE YOURSELF
“Do not accept the roles that society foists on you. Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define it for you. Incorporate dramatic devices into your public gestures and actions—your power will be enhanced and your character will seem larger than life.”
What better way is their to re-create yourself than at the start of your career.
Maybe you got through college lollygagging and had a reputation as someone who didn’t have their stuff together. The start of your career gives you a chance to re-create yourself into what YOU want to be.
Start off strong, follow through, and prove to yourself you are the person you envision yourself being.
The 48 Law of Power is an iconic book filled with critical insight.
We only shared the top 10 laws today that are relevant to young professionals.
Keep these laws at the forefront of your mind, but I also encourage you to read the rest of the book as well.