The Laws of Human Nature Summary
For every law the author provides an example from history, interprets and explains it and gives advice on how to use the law.
- Pros: very interesting historical examples.
- Cons: the author didn’t provide any scientific evidence for the laws in the book so they are purely an opinion of the author.
1. The Law of Irrationality
- Law: Often people are dominated by emotions and behave irrationally without realizing it. This is the source of bad decisions and negative patterns in life.
- Example: Athenes prospered when it was led by Pericles in 400 BC, who is believed to have been a very rational man. After he left the political arena Athenes started to regress.
- Advice: You need to control your emotions and behave rationally.
2. The Law of Narcissism
- Law: Many people are narcissists i.e. focus on and admire themselves more than others. This hinders their success when interacting with others. Narcissists can be dangerous.
- Example: Joseph Stalin — premier of the Soviet Union — was a very charming and influential person. He was also a narcissist who killed many people during his reign. Leo Tolstoy — a Russian novelist — and his wife Sonya were both narcissists. Their relationship was complicated. Lack of empathy made the partners retreat deeper and deeper into their own defensive positions.
- Advice: You need to transform self-love into empathy. This will make you more successful in your group.
3. The Law of Role-playing
- Law: People tend to wear the mask that shows them in the best possible light. They hide their true personality.
- Example: Milton Erickson — an American psychiatrist and psychologist of 20th century — was paralysed when he was
young and became a master reader of people body language.
- Advice: You must master the body language by transforming yourself into a superior reader of men and women. At the same time you must learn how to present the best front and play your role to maximum effect.
Impression management — a conscious or subconscious process in which people attempt to influence the perceptions of other people about a person, object or event.
4. The Law of Compulsive Behavior
- Law: People never do something just once. They will inevitably repeat their bad behavior.
- Example: Howard Hughes Jr. — an American business magnate, investor, record-setting pilot, engineer, film director, and philanthropist — had a weak character since his childhood. He managed to disguise it in his early career which brought him success. However it manifested later in his life and resulted in many failures including Hughes Aircraft Company.
- Advice: Train yourself to look deep within people and see their character. Always gravitate toward those who display signs of strength, and avoid the many toxic types out there.
5. The Law of Covetousness
- Law: People continually desire to possess what they don’t have.
- Example: Coco Chanel — a French fashion designer and business woman — became so successful not only because she created great products but because she understood that people desire what they don’t have and created an air of mystery around her work.
- Advice: Become an elusive object of desire.
6. The Law of Shortsightedness
- Law: People tend to overreact to present circumstances and ignore what will happen in the future.
- Example: The South Sea Company — a British joint-stock company founded in 1711 — became known as the South Sea Bubble. It was obvious that the company can’t succeed long-term but it didn’t stop many people from investing in its shares.
- Advice: When making decisions think about the near and far future.
7. The Law of Defensiveness
- Law: People don’t like when someone is trying to change their opinion.
- Example: Lyndon Johnson — the 36th president of the United States — gained his influence and power by focusing on others, letting them do the talking, letting them be the stars of the show.
- Advice: Soften people’s resistance by confirming their self-opinion.
Five Strategies for Becoming a Master Persuader:
- Transform yourself into a deep listener.
- Infect people with the proper mood.
- Confirm their self-opinion.
- Allay their insecurities.
- Use people’s resistance and stubbornness.
8. The Law of Self-sabotage
- Law: Our attitude determines much of what happens in our life.
- Example: Anton Chekhov — a Russian playwright and short-story writer — had a tough childhood but in spite of that was able to change his life by changing his view of the world from negative to positive.
- Advice: Change your circumstances by changing your attitude.
9. The Law of Repression
- Law: People are rarely who they seem to be. Lurking beneath their polite, affable exterior is inevitably a dark, shadow side consisting of the insecurities and the aggressive, selfish impulses they repress and carefully conceal from public view.
- Example: Richard Nixon — the 37th president of the United States — always had a positive image in the public. Everything changed after the Watergate scandal which revealed his hidden personality.
- Advice: Be aware of your own dark side. Control and channel the creative energies that lurk in your unconscious. By integrating the dark side into your personality, you will be a more complete human and will radiate an authenticity that will draw people to you.
10. The Law of Envy
- Law: People are envious.
- Example: Mary Shelley — author of the novel Frankenstein — was betrayed by her close friend who envied her.
- Advice: Learn to deflect envy by drawing attention away from yourself. Develop your sense of self-worth from internal standards and not incessant comparisons.
11. The Law of Grandiosity
- Law: Even a small measure of success can elevate our natural grandiosity — an unrealistic sense of superiority, a sustained view of oneself as better than others. This can make us lose contact with reality and make irrational decisions.
- Example: Michael Eisner had to resign from the CEO position of The Walt Disney Company. In the author’s opinion the cause is Eisner’s grandiosity elevated by previous successes.
- Advice: Counteract the pull of grandiosity by maintaining a realistic assessment of yourself and your limits. Tie any feelings of greatness to your work, your achievements, and your contributions to society.
12. The Law of Gender Rigidity
- Law: All of us have masculine and feminine qualities. But in the need to present a consistent identity in society, we tend to repress these qualities, overidentifying with the masculine or feminine role expected of us. Thereby we lose valuable dimensions to our character.
- Example: Caterina Sforza became an Italian noblewoman and Countess of Forlì and Lady of Imola. Such titles were unusual for women in her time. In the author’s opinion her masculine qualities helped her to achieve this.
- Advice: You must become aware of these lost masculine or feminine traits and slowly reconnect to them, unleashing creative powers in the process.
13. The Law of Aimlessness
- Law: People become most successful when they have a sense of purpose in their life.
- Example: Martin Luther King Jr. is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience. His calling directed his actions and helped him go through many failures in his life.
- Advice: Develop a sense of purpose, discover your calling in life and use it to guide your decisions.
14. The Law of Conformity
- Law: We have a side to our character that we are generally unaware of — our social personality, the different person we become when we operate in groups of people. In the group setting, we unconsciously imitate what others are saying and doing. We think differently, more concerned with fitting in and believing what others believe. We feel different emotions, infected by the group mood. We are more prone to taking risks, to acting irrationally, because everyone else is.
- Example: Gao Yuan tells a story in his book Born Red showed that people in groups behave emotional and excited. They don’t engage in nuanced thinking and deep analysis.
- Advice: Develop self-awareness and a superior understanding of the changes that occur in us in groups. With such intelligence, we can become superior social actors, able to outwardly fit in and cooperate with others on a high level, while retaining our independence and rationality.
15. The Law of Fickleness
- Law: People are always ambivalent about those in power. They want to be led but also to feel free; they want to be protected and enjoy prosperity without making sacrifices; they both worship the king and want to kill him. When you are the leader of a group, people are continually prepared to turn on you the moment you seem weak or experience a setback.
- Example: Elizabeth I — Queen of England and Ireland in 16th century — had to constantly prove herself as the leader of the country. She never relied on her royal blood for this.
- Advice: Authority is the delicate art of creating the appearance of power, legitimacy, and fairness while getting people to identify with you as a leader who is in their service. If you want to lead, you must master this art from early on in your life.
16. The Law of Aggression
- Law: On the surface, the people around you appear so polite and civilized. But beneath the mask, they are all inevitably dealing with frustrations. They have a need to influence people and gain power over circumstances. Feeling blocked in their endeavors, they often try to assert themselves in manipulative ways that catch you by surprise. And then there are those whose need for power and impatience to obtain it are greater than others. They turn particularly aggressive, getting their way by intimidating people, being relentless and willing to do almost anything.
- Example: John D. Rockefeller — American oil industry business magnate — used aggressive strategies to gain power and control.
- Advice: You must recognize the signs — the past patterns of behavior, the obsessive need to control everything in their environment — that indicate the dangerous types. They depend on making you emotional — afraid, angry — and unable to think straight. Do not give them this power. When it comes to your own aggressive energy, learn to tame and channel it for productive purposes — standing up for yourself, attacking problems with relentless energy, realizing great ambitions.
17. The Law of Generational Myopia
- Law: You are born into a generation that defines who you are more than you can imagine. Your generation wants to separate itself from the previous one and set a new tone for the world. In the process, it forms certain tastes, values, and ways of thinking that you as an individual internalize. As you get older, these generational values and ideas tend to close you off from other points of view, constraining your mind.
- Example: King Louis XVI of France is shown as an example of someone out of tune with the times. He fell victim to the French revolution when France was declared to be a Republic and abolished the monarchy. He was executed in 1793.
- Advice: Knowing in depth the spirit of your generation and the times you live in, you will be better able to exploit the zeitgeist. You will be the one to anticipate and set the trends that your generation hungers for. You will free your mind from the mental constraints placed on you by your generation, and you will become more of the individual you imagine yourself to be, with all the power that freedom will bring you.
18. The Law of Death Denial
- Law: Most people spend their lives avoiding the thought of death.
- Example: Mary Flannery O’Connor — an American novelist and short story writer — was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus when she was 27. Her proximity to death was a call to stir herself to action, to feel a sense of urgency, to deepen her religious faith and spark her sense of wonder at all mysteries and uncertainties of life. She used the closeness of death to teach her what really matters and to help her steer clear of the petty squabbles and concerns that plagued others. She used it to anchor herself in the present, to make her appreciate every moment and every encounter.
- Advice: The inevitability of death should be continually on our minds. Understanding the shortness of life fills us with a sense of purpose and urgency to realize our goals. Training ourselves to confront and accept this reality makes it easier to manage the inevitable setbacks, separations, and crises in life. It gives us a sense of proportion, of what really matters in this brief existence of ours. Most people continually look for ways to separate themselves from others and feel superior. Instead, we must see the mortality in everyone, how it equalizes and connects us all. By becoming deeply aware of our mortality, we intensify our experience of every aspect of life.
Biases that distort our thought processes and decisions:
- Confirmation Bias: I look at the evidence and arrive at my decisions through more or less rational processes.
- Conviction Bias: I believe in this idea so strongly. It must be true.
- Appearance Bias: I understand the people I deal with; I see them just as they are.
- The Group Bias: My ideas are my own. I do not listen to the group. I am not a conformist.
- The Blame Bias: I learn from my experience and mistakes.
- Superiority Bias: I’m different. I’m more rational than others, more ethical as well.
Strategies Toward Bringing Out the Rational Self:
- Know yourself thoroughly
- Examine your emotions to their roots
- Increase your reaction time
- Accept people as facts
- Find the optimal balance of thinking and emotion
- Love the rational
- Baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964)
- Generation X (born 1960s to 1980s)
- Generation Y (a.k.a. Millennials) (born 1980s to 2000s)
- Generation Z (born 1990s to 2010s)