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  • I enjoyed Greene’s recent book,

    I enjoyed Greene’s recent book, THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE (hereinafter, “LOHN”). I was happy to read his new writing because before the release of this recent work I had only been dwelling on the same contents of his previous books. I became a big fan of Robert Greene after I read his “50th Law” when I was at college – which I would say became a turning point in my life. I even bought an Amor Fati medallion designed under his name. My overall impression of the LOHN is that while it is an impressive book that provides an insightful look into the dark sides of human nature along with rich historical anecdotes, the book did not quite live up to my personal anticipation. It is a good book in that it provides comprehensive details regarding human nature, but the lessons in the book are not particularly new when compared with his previous writings or other papers of psychology. The LOHN does not have that allure of the calmly stated explicit enunciations of power lessons in the 48 Laws of Power. Nor does it convey the spirit of an underdog that willfully denies social categorization and asserts himself in a creative way as in the 50th Law. Particularly in its last chapters, the LOHN appears to frequently reiterate some of the same points that might have been obvious to his original reader base. This book will be a wonderful guide to beginners into Robert Greene; however, it does not provide anything totally new to his existing fan base. I do not mean to say that this book is not worth buying for those that are familiar with Robert Greene. The book does provide many interesting stories and examples. For example, I could not read the chapter on the Russian writer Anton Chekhov without tears in my eyes. The bonus writing on Robert Oppenheimer was an interesting read, too. But my honest view is that the LOHN is not on a par with his previous masterpieces such as the 48 LOP or the 50th Law, where readers are often astonished to discover the razor-sharp descriptions of the malicious atmosphere of power struggles in the workplace or the empowering messages that deeply resonated with outsiders that are often shunned away from based on social conventions. Aside from my general impression of the book, I would like to also write down some of the questions I had while reading it. 1. On page 189, Greene advises that we should avoid getting “lost in trivia”; that is, we should discard petty details and have an overall mental picture of the “forest.” However, one of the messages of the 50th Law is that one should learn from Napoleon who was a genius in absorbing details and making the most out of them. The point I would like to make is that it is difficult to decide based on the new book and the previous books how one can separate important details from the other trivial ones. Readers may reasonably conclude that the case of Napoleon simply serves as a reminder of an exceptional talent for organization and command on a battlefield. Not everybody can be a Napoleon. If you say that one should be able to absorb all the relevant details of a battlefield as Napoleon does but should also be cautious not to fall into the trap of checking every single one of them, this is not a particularly useful message because one cannot tell which to choose between this and that. Come to think of it. How can you not say that King Philip II of Spain – who is mentioned as a failure on page 189 – wanted to be a “Napoleon” on his part? If King Philip II had successfully defeated Queen Elizabeth of England, his story would have been put very much differently by Greene. It is easy to draw a particular lesson from a successful life story in hindsight but very difficult to predict beforehand whether a person with a particular talent will achieve success. If Greene provided through the book a detailed analysis of the genius of Napoleon and how an ordinary person can take steps to achieve it, I personally would have been more satisfied (MASTERY has no mention on this issue, either). If Napoleon’s genius can simply be explained away on the ground of his genetics, that Greene’s self-help manual on this issue would not be able to provide any substantial help. 2. On pages 252 and 253, Greene notes that Alexander and Julius Caesar were very self-confident and even considered themselves to be descendants of gods. Greene states that while the readers do not have to “indulge in such grandiose thoughts,” they can encourage themselves to have faith in their self-importance and this will protect them when they are under attack from opponents. I am not certain whether a personal belief that one is destined for something great will help him remember truthfully the lesson “Ego is the Enemy” – as phrased by Greene’s pupil, Ryan Holiday. In addition, when his belief is at some point about to be breached by reality, what is he going to make of it? This type of self-importance cannot help him become less of a toxic narcissist.

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  • Great

    Loved every word. Will read again. It is confronting.

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    2 person found this review helpful

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  • Book presentation is weird and confusing

    Such a good read! (I think the version that I paid only for ~HKD $20 is kind of weird, as I can only see 18 rules in the book... when it claims to have 48 rules in total...)

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