The Laws of Human Nature – Robert Greene

In the talk, Robert discusses how to detach from one’s emotions to better understand intrinsic motivations in order to make better decision and master self-control.

“I can calculate the motions of heavenly bodies, but I cannot understand the madness of men” – Sir Isaac Newton

3 Key Discoveries

  1. In neuroscience, estimates that 95% of human behaviour is unconscious
  2. There are many kinds of forces that came from evolution million years ago that are wired in our brains and how we operate. It was adapted for the problems million years ago, but we don’t have those same problems today (human nature)
  3. Human brain is very similar to each other, regardless from the culture and background. Reason is that we all evolve from the same origins

The Law of Irrationality

  • Humans are deeply irrational and are govern by our emotions more than anything else.
  • Because emotions and reasoning is governed by different parts of the brain, we don’t really realize to what extent emotions are infecting our plans and ideas.
  • Your brain also oversimplifies things such that your brain associate anger with a thing, but it might not be necessary the truth
  • Solution is to be aware of this. First to not think that you’re rational, but to see the process

Empathy + Narcissism

  • Ability to get inside the perspective of other people
  • Visceral empathy: ability to understand the people to work closely together
  • Self-absorption is what counters empathy: come about of how we were raised
  • Narcissism is from the abandonment of our parents as we age, and create a self image that oneself can love and esteem, so that when our parents aren’t giving us the love we need, we withdraw in ourselves to feel better
  • Toxic Narcissists: those who act out and get attention from other people. Become dramatic and stem from something broken from their own relationships with their parents
  • Solution is that we have to admit we are narcissist + need to recognize you’re a functional narcist that can be transformed into empathy


  • Self opinion of ourselves is always elevated from reality
  • Think that we are independent and think independently
  • Think that we are moral, nice and polite and get along with other people
  • This self opinion is covering your own dark side, and everyone has this shadow
  • As we are born, we are out our purest form as children, where are mischievous. But as we grow, nature forces its will on us; parents wanting us to be angelic, and we cast away some of this to our shadow
  • We have immense pressure from external forces (friends, family) to our imagine, that we continue to suppress our shadow
  • This shadow comes out when we are feeling stress, or feeling that we’re not getting recognition from others

Group Force

  • Ideal of culture and that as we see one group behaving one way, we tend to learn and follow the same tendency
  • Example if we watch someone playing tennis, the neurons firing in the tennis player hitting ball is also firing in the people who are watching
  • The biggest group we belong to is the generation of people that were born in the same time frame (22 years)
  • Every generation think they’re vastly superior than the generation that comes before it, and after it
  • Generation phenomena creates a zeitgeist: spirit of the times. Means at 1 time, there are 4 generations going on at 1 time. 2 youngest generation don’t like the way the world is today and demand change, the 2 oldest generation wants to hold on to the past. 2 forces are continuously crashing creating a zeitgeist
  • Those who are winners are the ones that can let go of the past and crisis, and identify the true revolutionary changes that are to come