The 50th Law

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Over the course of the past eighteen months I have started dozens of blog entries, only to find that the passage of a few days or a week made my ideas seem irrelevant. Events in the world were moving too fast for me to keep up with them. The main culprit here was the book I had been working on during this period, The 50th Law (due out on September 8, 2009), and my tendency to want to concentrate on only one thing at a time. In the months to come I plan to recycle several ideas that are worth salvaging from those aborted blogs, but for now I would like to simply describe the evolution of the new book and how it has altered my perception of many of the dramatic events we have witnessed in the past few years. (I will be posting this in four parts.)

In early 2007, people in Fifty Cent’s camp contacted me to set up a meeting between us. He was a big fan of The 48 Laws and was interested in collaborating on some kind of book project. I agreed to the meeting (who wouldn’t), but I was initially skeptical about such a collaboration.

I am not someone who is normally drawn to the world of celebrities. By necessity, anyone who has reached the top has had to resort to all kinds of manipulative maneuvers, but most people in the limelight try to disguise all of that as best they can. They want to project to the public their angelic, spiritual side, highlighting the progressive causes they support, their inner goodness. Obviously a rapper would have a different angle, wanting to project an image of toughness and infallibility. But all of this is mythmaking–a power maneuver in its own right. My primary interest is ripping away the façade people like to present and showing you the inner workings of power, rats and all. And it is often easier to practice this analysis on dead people.

In our first meeting, however, I quickly saw that Fifty was different. He was in the midst of a power struggle with a rival rapper and he talked quite openly about the strategies he was employing, including mistakes he had made along the way. He analyzed his own actions with detachment, as if he were talking about another person. Over the last few years he had witnessed a lot of nasty maneuvering within the music business, and he seemed to want to discuss this with somebody from the outside. He was not interested in myths but reality. Contrary to his public persona, he had a Zen-like calmness that impressed me.

After the meeting and doing some research on him I came to the following conclusion: Fifty is a master practitioner of the The 48 Laws; he exemplifies a type that has always fascinated me–what Machiavelli calls the New Prince. Most princes or traditional leaders in this world occupy their position of power because of their background, connections and a bit of luck. They have a good education and perhaps some skill, but their power is limited because it depends on external factors–things that have been given to them from the outside, including knowledge. If fortune shifts, they are not able to adapt very easily. They remain tied to the past, ideas from books, and all kinds of conventions they have absorbed over the years. These shifts in fortune finally reveal them to be incompetent or mediocre.

New Princes generally emerge in times of great turmoil and chaos. They start at the bottom–with no privileges, connections, or money. What they have in abundance is ambition and hunger for power. If they make mistakes, they quickly analyze what they did wrong and learn the lesson. Considering the odds against them, they must stay focused, alert and patient. If they begin to rise up the ladder, it is almost purely by their own actions. They do not depend on others. They can handle downturns in fortune because they are used to adversity and turning negatives into positives. Since their education comes from experience and observation, they can think in the moment and adapt to their environment. They re-write the rules that others then slavishly follow. A classic example of a New Prince would be Napoleon Bonaparte.

Considering the openness that I sensed in my initial meeting with Fifty, I believed that this book project could represent for me a unique opportunity to study a New Prince in action. In a modern twist, Fifty could serve as my Cesare Borgia, and I as his Machiavelli.

I had another thought at the time: America can be country of great social mobility, but in many ways we remain people who are locked in mental ghettos. Academics tend to live in their cloistered world and talk among themselves. Celebrities associate with their own kind, to an absurd extent. As most of us get older, we like to be around people who share our values, even though this might close us off from interesting encounters that would challenge our most cherished beliefs and preconceptions. Look at any progressive neighborhood, such as where I live within Los Angeles, and you will see a rather depressing homogeneity in people’s style, tastes and values. To me, these ghettos are dull and deadening. I live for encounters with people from other cultures who think in different ways and make me reflect on my own limited perspective.

Although Fifty and I might have a similar way of looking at the power game, we come from diametrically opposed backgrounds. This book could be an experiment in which we would bring our two worlds together, on the plane of ideas, and see where this would lead.

With these considerations in mind I agreed to do the project. Together we came up with a method. I would follow him around and witness him in action on many fronts. I would go to Southside Queens and interview people who knew him from his drug-dealing days. As much as possible I would try to pierce the world of the urban hustler and learn its secrets. Most important, Fifty and I would have lengthy discussions about the power game and what it means to advance in this harsh, competitive world. From all this research and our talks, the exact subject and structure of this book would come to us.

Several weeks into the process, after witnessing many strange events (some of which eventually found their way into the book), I had a revelation of sorts about hustling, the New Prince and Fifty himself. We humans are generally frightened and timid creatures; we carry within us so many deeply embedded fears–of change, criticism, being alone, death itself. People who feel less fear in life have a distinct advantage. They are more adaptable and their careers are longer. Fearlessness is in fact the quality that distinguishes a New Prince, and one that Fifty has in abundance.

In his days as a hustler, he had to deal with endless confrontations, violence and betrayal. He learned that to feel fear on the streets could be fatal; he had to project a bold front. He saw the value in taking risks, experimenting and even failing–a hustler is always trying new things. And he has brought this fearless mindset into the world of corporate America, which is generally governed by cautious and conservative Princes, intellectually tied to the past. What they perceive as chaos, he sees as the normal state of things. Change, turmoil and adversity do not faze him in the least; in fact, they bring out the best in him. This is his strategic advantage.

At the base of all fears is that of death itself–a dread that influences our daily actions in so many ways. Fifty had that fear bleed out of him the day he survived the assassination attempt on him in 2000. This, I believe, accounts for his uncanny calmness.

Without really understanding it fully, I could sense that this quality was the source of his remarkable rise from the bottom to the top. There is another aspect to it: although we may seem to be rational, civilized creatures, we remain animals and as such we tend to read signals from people in a preverbal manner. In an encounter with someone new, we register their levels of fear and timidity–from their tone of voice, mannerisms, the look in their eye. If we sense that their fear level is higher than our own, we unconsciously look down on them, treat them with a touch of disdain and respect them less. If their fear level is lower than ours, we are either intimidated and get out of their way, or we are seduced by their self-assurance and follow them.

Confidence can be contagious, just as the awkwardness and timidity of others can infect us as well. Fifty’s fearlessness has this seductive power over those around him. In the few short weeks I had spent trailing him, I could feel its inspiring effect on myself.

The task before me was to get at the heart of this quality, break it down, make it understandable so that anyone could move closer to the ideal of fearlessness and experience the power it could bring. This, I decided, had to be the subject of the book and in discussing it with Fifty he agreed.

Together we mapped out ten common types of fears and the reverse power that you can obtain by overcoming them. We found stories from his own life that would illustrate these ideas, many of them culled from his days as a hustler and even highlighting mistakes along the way that taught him valuable lessons. Later, from my own research, I would bring in examples from other historical figures who exemplified this trait. Many of them would be African Americans–Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, Miles Davis, Malcolm X, Hurricane Carter, et al–whose fearless quality was forged by their harsh struggles against racism. Others would come from all periods and cultures–the Stoics, Joan of Arc, JFK, Leonardo da Vinci, Mao tse-tung, and so on.

With all of this research in hand, I began to write the book in 2008. But as I thought about the material and analyzed our discussions, I came to the conclusion that there was something much larger going on here. This was not merely about some inspiring personal quality that can bring power. Without a fearless attitude, you have no balance, no hold on reality. You overreact to events and your strategies misfire. You could understand all of the laws of power but if you remain infected by fears, you will apply them in the wrong way and any success you have will be fleeting. The truth is that a fearless approach is the necessary starting point of almost any successful or creative action in this world. The 50th is in fact the ultimate law of power, the key to the castle.

Coming next:

Part Two–a glimpse into the Law itself, its mechanisms, and how freedom from fear translates into freedom in general.

Part Three–The Republicans, Barack Obama and the 50th Law.

Part Four–The Economic Meltdown, the Fear Culture and the 50th Law.

In the meantime, you can pre-order The 50th Law, read more about it from Harper Studio, or check Thisis50.com for updates.

Leave a Reply

35 Comments

  1. Fascinating post Mr. Greene….

    I find your views on the conventional ways in which people perceive power, very refreshing and candid.

    I agree with the perception of fearlessness, and my perception of a truly fearless person (and I many who pretend to be fearless pretend — for obvious reasons related to their fear — to perceive this as an alleged ‘weakness’) is not only one who is fearless of all that you describe; but who is also fearless in being totally emotionally and psychologically vulnerable.

    I guess for me, one of the highest character values, that I work on in myself is honour; which being abstract, we all have different interpretations. Anyway, one of the ways in which I choose to practice ‘honour’ is to absolutely refuse to act in secrecy ‘behind any adversary’. I am fully aware that their sense of ‘power’ comes from how they manipulate their image, and withhold their negative traits, so as to increase their devotee followers. Their relationship with their followers is in essence based on – not honest, but deception — the manipulation of thier image.

    I ain’t got one devotee follower. I recently had an application; and a political party who nominated me to a local by-election; and then withdrew their nomination. Their reason being, their fear that the media would not be impartial towards me, and that the media’s prejudice to me, would backfire on them. You see, I absolutely refuse to lie to anyone to get their vote; I refuse to say anything in vague ambiguous language that can be said in plain language a prole can understand; to get their vote. Furthermore anyone who decides they want to vote for me, I would like them to sign a form, in addiciton to their ballot, that they have fully informed themselves of what I stand for, what I represent; my refusal to make them promises that cannot be kept, etc. etc.. they got to know exactly; and if they do not; I don’t want their vote. Anyway… so the political party withdrew my candidacy, which I supported, cause I support TOTAL TRANSPARENCY IN POLITICS. Anyway, i find the response from politicians to these ideas, very interesting, in the social science experiment we call life.

    So, thats enough for now… Look forward to hearing your next thoughtposts….

    Lara Johnstone

    PS: Francis Marion Braidfute represents the combination of the values I appreciate, from Francis Marion and Marion Braidfute.

  2. Matthew

    Finally! It seems like I’ve been waiting forever to get an update on your blog. I hope you continue to post with some regularity, even if they are just short anecdotes or rhetorical questions/discussion points, which could guide our thinking on perceiving the world of power…and would be good practice in absorbing the information and making it our own.

    Exciting news about your new book! I hope it is as compelling as the other 3.

    And no offense, I am as much an admirer of 50 Cent’s rise to success and his ability to market himself in many genres as the next guy. But I hope that you look at him through the same lens as you look through anyone else, and that he is not put on a pedestal due to his paradoxical personality, charisma and success. There are many other living examples of those who can manipulate power to rise to the top…I’ve been especially looking forward to hearing what your thoughts are on someone who has done this amazingly well and who has, among many people, an untouchable almost deity-like status: our President.

    That being said, I really enjoy your books and thoughts on this blog. I am looking forward to more of your work in the future!

  3. Hayden

    Good to have you back. I felt like “The 50th Law” was a little out of character for you and seemed a little stunt-like, but you’ve pulled me back in Mr. Greene.

  4. I thought that cover was a joke at first but after reading your article it sounds like it’d be a pretty good book. I’m looking forward to it.

  5. Violet

    Mr. Greene,

    I’ve been reading your books with great interest and although I’m far from any power position (for now :) ) they’ve been very helpful. The 33 strategies of war has tons of useful hints when it comes to studying for exams and the 48 laws is my go-to-guide for decoding my social life especially when it comes to the actions of my female friends.

    Looking forward to reading the new book.

    Keep up the good work and thanks!

    V

  6. So glad you started this back up again and that you now have a regular comments section again to boot. Looking forward to the new book and the aborted blog posts seeing the light of day as well.

    Will the Ja Rule controversy be analyzed in the book?

  7. Jose A. Rodriguez

    I was really fascinated by your insight into 50. I admire him tremendously because his climb to the top seems to fast yet well-thought out. I can’t wait to read your next book. One of these days I’ll preorder it.

  8. Cris

    Glad you’re back. I missed you.

    You wrote The 48 Laws. And now you’re about to release The 50th Law.

    So, what is the 49th Law?

    Just curious.

  9. Simbera

    Good to see you back! I had begun to think you’d left the site (apparently something similar happened with another writer here – ‘creative differences’ or some such)

    I’m a big fan of your other books, but have had some trouble applying some of their lessons – hopefully the 50th Law will put them into context. The whole ‘fear’ thing does seem like it is where I have been going wrong.

    Looking forward to the new book, and your take on the economic crisis and the fearmongering it (and Swine Flu) has produced.

  10. I cant remember the last time that I have been this excited about a book release! Your first three books inspired me to start World Domination (arthurpledger.com) and begin taking control of the world around me (in an innocent, non-Machiavellian way). Definitely on the waiting list for this one!

  11. universal

    I am really lookig forward to this book. Im going to pre order a copy right now!!

  12. Shaka Zulu

    Great to hear from you again. We’ve got some sort of a book club down here in South Africa on your books where we discuss monthly our daily experiences vis-a-vis the theories you offer on your books. I heard from one of your entries that you went to Russia to promote your books there. I just want to know when are you coming to South Africa? I am sure a lot of folks down here would love to interact with you face to face on your works and your ideas. Like it is the case in most African countries, we have this dominant liberation party opposition parties seem unable to draw votes away from. They say that this is because the African National Congress ( the ruling party) has a lot of resources but I think that it is also the incompetency of our opposition parties that make the ruling party stay on 2/3 majority in every election since 1994.

  13. Kas

    to Mr. Greene

    i am an avid reader of your books, so far i have read 48 rules of power, 33 strategies of war, and the art of seduction. i never heard about your works until i read the 48 rules of power and i must say i was dazzled and swept away by the book itself. i would recommended that you should try and reach as much people as you can. because these books are life changing.

  14. linda

    I find myself always wanting to stay where I am, and that my home, family and friends would never change. This post definitely brings new insight. I look forward to more posts!

  15. I look forward to keeping up with you and 50′s venture! I’m Amazed and really think it will be great. I’m launching a site to keep up with you guys and would appreciate any help getting press / info

  16. TAY

    I did not get a chance to pick up the new project yet (50th law) but I know the book is a “dynamic”, just as all other projects are. I have been a “student” of your teachings for a long time, and I am glad you are still publishing books. Your work and thoughts are very appreciated and needed.

    Keep up the good work and may god continue to bless your intellects, health and career.

    Love

    PS: how is your cat doing?lol

  17. Zef Çota

    Mr. Robert Greene. It’ll be a pleasure to read your new book – I quite enjoyed the 48 Laws of Power.

    I’m a 27 year old filmmaker from New York City. There’s a lot of people that criticize and deride your work because they say it’s deceitful and immoral. But I’ve never heard anyone ever criticize it for it’s actual writing. I learned a lot from your book, I first read it when I was 22 and I was in a drastically different situation then, that I am now.

    The thing that I learned the most is that you define who you are in this world, and not to let others define that for you.

    Keep up the good work.

    Regards,

    Zef Çota

  18. DK

    I just bought the 50th law yesterday and is halfway through it. Funnily enough, I found the concept of your book quite similar to another I’ve read recently from Kimora Lee Simmons, “Fabulosity: what it is and how to get it?”. I know the book sounds like another self-help book but it’s not. The concept of her book too is fearlessness although it was not in an academic voice like yours. She relates this mostly through her own experience (what I imagined would be for 50 cent as well, learning more from first-hand experience then analyzing tons of history books) and her own practice of embracing one’s uniqueness (the voice of the book is obviously woman too, but that’s its charm). I have to confess, I had more fun reading her book than yours eventhough yours packed much more reasons and details.

  19. Alex Mariano

    Your book taught me how to conquered my fear. Thanks a lot.

  20. BB Wolfe (London, UK)

    From what I’ve read of it so far, T.F.L. seems like a truly excellent book — Max Stirner hangin’ in the ‘hood? Dostoyevsky rubbing shoulders with Malcom X? This will surely boggle many and The 50th Law may consequently become your most misunderstood/underrated work, but this book could — as its packaging implies — become something of a bible for many thinking people. And it may well be your most powerful work, a slimmed-down and distilled creed of power, rather than appearing as another intimidatingly-bulky encyclopedia of strategy. As Stirner said of his own masterwork, “What use you make of it now is up to you . . .”

  21. Cris

    Just bought The 50th Law today. Having read a few pages, I love it!

    Politically, you claim to be a liberal. But throughout your book, you extol the need to be completely self-reliant. (That, total dependence on others only creates fear and loss of freedom.) Thus, it has a strong conservative message.

    I’m starting to think you are a closet conservative. Keep up the good work.

  22. jolade

    Those who criticise your books are the greatest manipulators and really evil.Your books made me streetsmart in addition to my book smartness.I have developed a control over my life and emotions and can smell a snake from miles away.I have not always been persistent in using your laws but i am informed and armed.I also want to say i have found it easier in life by hidding the facts that i have read your books form others even when they openly discuss it.when people think i am dumb and they usually bring out the drama,i just smile harmlessly doing what i have to.Thank you Mr Greene .I love…..all your books…ALL.

  23. I just found this post.

    This looks really interesting.

    The posts are intriguing.

    I for ones would not have put 50 and Mr Greene together.

    Since I already have the earlier book I will definitely go and get this one.

  24. Nick Prochette

    Mr. Greene,

    You are, without a doubt, my hero. I am absolutely fascinated by your work and research. Your books (specifically The 48 Laws of Power and The Art of Seduction) are, by far, my favorite books. I own the both of them in both paper and audio. I am truly a fan!

  25. AHMET pOLAT

    I am from Turkey.I am reading your book “48″.I really learnt lots from this book.I m 33 years old and I wish I could read that book earlier.

    I hope you will come to Turkey to sign your books.

    Best Regards!

    Ahmet

  26. great one

    The question still hasn’t been answered…what is the 49th law?

  27. This book was amazing…I read it almost 3times per week now! Everytime i read it i see something new

  28. John Doe

    It seems like proverbs in the Holy Bible from a devil’s perspective.

  29. GIORDANO Fabien

    Hello Robert,

    What a great book …I am working in Asia as a Business man for more than a decade now, and I am an avid fan of SUN ZI “The Art of War”…50 cents is what I call “a true warrior” and his tactics are similar to those found in the GORIN NO SHO ( Myamoto Musashi).He polished his skills on the way and move from tactical survival to strategic thinking…

    I am so pleased that someone with your background found the link between people such as 50 cent and historical figures such as Napoleon for example…

    I have a managing position now and,however, I grew up in a so called “difficult area” so I could really FEEL what 50 cents experienced…and I still experience it now in a different kind of “hood”(China…)

    With the growing competition between “autocracy ” and “democracy” models, it is important to remind to everybody that we are living in a world dominated by “Unrestricted warfare”…

    Know how to fight, in order to avoid fighting …is the Key !

    I dream one day I will have the chance to meet you face to face to discuss with you !!!

    Sincerely,

    Fabien Giordano

  30. Baari Shabazz

    I have read the 48 laws of power on the internet site, also the information about the 50th Law with background information about 50 Cent. I am wondering if you might be interested in talking to me about spending years in juvenile then adult institutions for about 30 years. I learned how to alter the dynamics of my environment for my own needs so that time served me rather than the opposite. I began this journey as a functionally illiterate person. Through self-education, I became a college level teacher, an author, a self-taught paralegal (jailhouse lawyer),and founded a Writers Club. After gaining my own education, I began to educate many others to get their GED diplomas. Because of my prison advocacy to change prison conditions and help other prisoners, I was singled out as a troublemaker and there were three attempts on my life by correctional officials. Many times I was transferred due to my influence with the inmate population. Due to my writing letters to prison officials, I was kidnapped, charged with mutiny, then banned out of one prison because I was a threat to the warden. For ten years I reached out to 75 Pen Pals and 15 African embassies in the United Nations when I decided to change my values to non-criminal ones. I also wrote my own rehabilitation program, submitted it to the top people at prison headquaters. In the Pre-Release system I was constantly transferred to prevent my influence. After shifting my whole approach to a volunteer status, I gained work release and my release in 1991. Since that time I have been a community actiivist, a member of the writing circles, a griot and elder, and adviser to juvenile and adult offenders. I believe there is an application of your 48 Laws and 50th Law for those who practice Islam which emphasizes humility. In my last years in prison, inmates began to question why I was in prison because I was no longer like them. I no longer followed the prison code and the criminal values. So I had to be careful so no one would think I was a snitcher. Over the years, through transparency of my behaviors and actions, other prisoner could see I was trying to do things that benefited them instead of the authorities. Now that I am in the free world, I can see that a lot of the things I learned in prison have to be applied now in dealing with people. Today my greatest assets that are recognized by everyone are my humility and patience.

  31. gregory hite

    Outstanding work Mr. Greene. You have captured yet again a mindset for those with an open mind and a need to better themselves and discover themselves aswell while at the same time understanding those around us. As with many, the question has been raised. where is the 49th law? I beleive I have your answer. I own a manuscript dated pre-1900 and that there is only one of, know in exsistance (an exstensive search for others over the years has met with no findings). this manuscript has been a method of success for me, I have only shared its contents with my children. I sincerely believe that in it, is your missing law, and more.

    I would welcome hearing from you.

Next ArticleThe 50th Law Part Two: FEAR and POWER