Robert Greene: Down By The Laws

The author of "The 48 Laws Of Power" and "The 50th Law" talks about working with 50 Cent, reader reactions, President Obama's foreign relations, and what's next for the best-selling strategist.

When 50 Cent first announced that he was dropping The 50th Law with internationally acclaimed strategy expert Robert Greene, I did not know what to think. Robert Greene is about as close to Sun Tzu as you're going to get in today's modern age of strategy. His books The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction and The 33 Strategies of War are on the shelves of CEOs, rappers, gangsters and college students seeking the blueprint for success and longevity.

In the beginning, there were rumblings about The 50th Law being a dumbed down rehash of Greene's earlier work. Nothing more than "The 48 Laws for Dummies," so to speak. But that seems unfair to 50 Cent. Love him or hate him, he went from crack dealer, to mixtape kingpin to cultural icon, to Vitamin Water mogul in the blink of an eye. It would be foolish to ignore that. In truth, that is far from the case. The 50th Law is a fusion of two great strategic minds (50 Cent and Greene) that were born from totally different places: Greene is white, 50 Cent is black. Greene comes from an upper-middle class neighborhood, the other comes from Queens, New York poverty. Yet, they see the approach to victory in life quite the same. Through these men, you can learn to overcome fear of your enemies, fear of your own success and possibly even embrace the inevitability of your death. If the intention succeeds, you will learn to think and act like a king.

In this interview, HipHopDX talks to the man who teamed with 50 Cent to create a masterpiece of tactical and strategic philosophy. Here we talk about how Greene's early fans took to this book, President Obama's first year in office and gives us a glimpse of his next move on the chessboard of life.

HipHopDX: How did your traditional fan base respond to you teaming with 50 Cent for The 50th Law?
Robert Greene: Very positively. There were some people who were very skeptical. There was about 30% of my readers who were writing me before the book came out. "Why are you doing this?" and all that. A lot of those people have been writting me that they were very surprised. That it wasn't the book that they were expecting. They thought it was going to be a book about Hip Hop, or 50 [Cent]. So, I won over the crowd that skeptical about the idea. Its been positive and I can't complain.

DX: One of the things I feel like I learned from this book was the art of being ruthless. How important do you think knowing how to be ruthless is?
Robert Greene: It's not a good quality. I don't promote ruthlessness for its own sake. Everything depends on the situation. Ruthlessness implies doing anything that you do to get to your goals.

Ruthless implies an emotional approach to life where you can't control your ambitions and I'm not in favor of that. I say in all of my books that [the ruthless] kind of mindset has limits. You're going to make a lot of enemies. You might do well in the short term. But in a world where everything is interconnected, I want people to be intelligent and rational. Let that guide you.

DX: All of your books have been best-sellers. What is the most unlikely letter you got some someone who used your perspectives on power, seduction and war to their advantage?
Robert Greene: That's interesting, I get all kinds of reactions. One was a woman who worked on Wall Street, she got laid off during the period of the [financial] crash. She went and re-read the 48 Laws chapter on boldness, [which analyzes] Christopher Columbus. [It argues that] you must act like a king to be treated like a king. By using that law, she was able to talk her way into a really amazing job. Now she's saying that its a little difficult to perform and deliver now that she has arrived.

I got another letter from a guy in Toronto. He was at a job he really hated. He's now launching his own venture. He's only 23, so he has less to lose. But his story as an immigrant, coming to Canada and all that, telling me how he came to The 50th Law. That letter... was very inspiring.

Then there is a man in England who used The 48 Laws. If you are a nobody, you attack someone who is very famous. You can start your career that way. He did this by writing a series of letters to newspapers about somebody. He disliked this person immensely. The letters he sent got him some notoriety and a publishing deal. So, those are some of the stories that I find amazing.

But then, there was a guy who told me he used the 48 Laws to take over his cell block in prison. I'm not really sure how I feel about that. [Laughs]

DX: The first time I interviewed you, you had just addressed some students at West Point on the issue of terrorism. This was before President Obama had won the election. Now that Obama has been at the helm for a while, what are your thoughts on The President's perspectives on Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan?
Robert Greene: Well it's all really complicated and hard to summarize in a sound-byte. I know that's not what you are asking. But the complexities of the things that he inherited make it so that's easy as an armchair-quarterback to be saying things. But I'm very sympathetic to what he's going through. For instance, with Afghanistan, he's inherited a pretty impossible situation. It's not just the fact that he has to get out of there. Even if he does believe he can make a major blow against Al-Quaida, he's dealing with the American military, which has interests that are not on his side, [such as very complicated generals]. He's dealing with a complicated political situation in Pakistan and India. So, I think he's fundamentally making a mistake. I'm not going to get off my original position - one that I have held for eight, nine, or 10 years, which is that we're falling into the trap that the terrorists set.

It's not that we're going to repeat what the Soviets did in the 1980s. I don't think history repeats itself that closely. It's more that we have so many problems right now and so few resources. There is not a clear idea of what we are doing there. I understand the risks and the dangers and the political ramifications associated with getting out of Afghanistan. It's not easy, even if I were the President, it wouldn't be easy.

That all said, I think we should be making out way out of Afghanistan and figuring out a different solution for the political problems of Pakistan and not linking them together [with Afghanistan]. We should focus on the tremendous domestic issues that will destroy this country in the next 20 years if we're not careful.

I'm sympathetic to Obama and I think people are way too hasty. You have to give him time. He is growing into the job. He's a young man, but he is very smart. I don't want to write him off. But on this one issue I think he is doing the wrong thing.

DX: What do you think is the smart way? Recently there have been talks of the U.S. doing strikes in Yemen. I don't think new strikes on a new country will help.
Robert Greene: I don't know. You can discuss tactical stuff. But I don't have the intelligence in front of me that the President has. So it gets to a point where you can't discuss anything effectively. But the larger philosophical and strategic issue, it's been shown throughout history and by people who understand the strategy of terrorism that the military option, is like [the arcade game] Whack-A-Mole. You might whack the mole. But then three more pop up. In the end, it's a political problem. So its one that has to be met with restraint. It's very hard when the Republican Party gets so overheated. They always want to break out the weakness card for Democrats.

In general , the business with Yemen, or when it was [President] Clinton bombing Sudan, it seems as if its for domestic purposes. Or it's almost to shut up Republicans. Or, its to feed the American public's need for instant answers. It's a many-headed hydra. Just trying to bomb a few people in Yemen, it's just so pointless. We have to look after our own house right now, for so many reasons.

DX: You've written a arguably the greatest series of comprehensive strategy books in recent history. Whats next for Robert Greene?
Robert Greene: I've already sold my next book and I'm currently working on it. It's a little different. I'm looking at the landscape of the world and the United States. I'm concerned that the problem people have, besides issues of strategy and power, is that we're lacking creative ways of thinking about solving problems. A lot of it comes from distractions we have in our daily life. Some of it is negative effects of technology. But some peple are not able to focus on larger pictures. To think in terms of several years and to learn a skill and learn it well. So, this book is meant to the be the ultimate formula for power.

Very creative people have been able to see the same things everybody else sees. But from within, they see there is a new way of looking at it. I'm creating a book to show you how these kinds of people think. From within, if you are able to adapt to the process, this new way of approaching the world, it would radically alter your actions and your success. I hint at it in The 50th Law in chapters seven and eight. I kind of pointed the way to what I'm doing. The idea of being intimately connected with something to that I call the "Mastery of Process." That's the next step.

Adisa Banjoko is a pioneer Hip-Hop journalist and founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation. For more info visit


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  • John

    Art of seduction & 48 laws of power = Best book purchases so far

  • Daniel Larsen

    God damn "what what" you are as stupid as fuck. Do you really think the president can change the anything. NOO!! It might seem that way but find out for yourself and you´ll be surprise my friend. For fuck sake man.. Pull ya pants up. Obama is trying to work the system but it´s not easy. He´s got a big dilemma on his shoulders. Both personally og professional. And any president would in times like these. Stupid ass motherfucker!

  • Daniel Larsen

    God damn "what what" you are as stupid as fuck. Do you really think the president can change the anything. NOO!! It might seem that way but find out for yourself and you´ll be surprise my friend. For fuck sake man.. Pull ya pants up. Obama is trying to work the system but it´s not easy. He´s got a big dilemma on his shoulders. Both personally og professional. And any president would in times like these. Stupid ass motherfucker!

  • BX T-REX

    Dear WHAT WHAT, You ask about the situation in India? India has THE BOMB....So does Pakistan...They are constantly in conflict..THEY HATE ONE ANOTHER.....They do a lot of fighting especially over the Kashmir region....THAT is the situation. ROBERT is the expert. YOU, are the asshole. Goodnight.

    • what what

      "First you dont know anything is going on in India- now you know all kinds of stuff." Pity that's all you could come up with. Don't run away now! Anything else :)

    • BX T-REX

      Are you kidding me? First you dont know anything is going on in India- now you know all kinds of stuff. Have seat. Duane, you try to jump in late to help your boy out and you BOTH FAIL. I can't argue with dumb motherfuckerz. Y'all are some dumb motherfuckerz.

    • Duane

      Why don't the both of you shut up. What What, you are guilty of an excessive and irritating need to correct others. Although, this case might well deserve it. And T-Rex, you should stop throwing whatever your mind comes up with: "What What, Roberts point is that India and Pakistan are VERY unstable. That regardless, we cannot let their situation (highly volatile) as it is, cannot and should not be mixed in with decisions made in Afghanistan." Robert said there was a situation in India and Pakistan. Not that they were unstable. And certainly not VERY unstable. He said that the situation in PAKISTAN cannot be mixed with the situation in Afghanistan. Not India. The decisions in Afghanistan have to be mixed with the situation in Pakistan since the situation Pakistan caused the situation in Afghanistan. The Taliban are and were a creation of the Pakistani army. You need to stop misrepresenting something that is written legibly in print right above this. "US and Russia DO have the bomb, but both are much more politically stable. No threat of nukes getting taken from within the system and sold, or used by rogue nations (well, maybe Russia)...." There is not a report/thesis/article which says that India's nukes are not under safe control and are in danger of being leaked. On the contrary, the US recognizes [as does the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) and IAEA (International Atomic Energy Association)] that India has better control and safety mechanisms than China, Russia, Pakistan and Israel and is at par with UK, France and US. That's how the US-India Nuclear Deal came about. You should not feign ignorance as an excuse to behave like a blithering idiot. In case you didn't know, China too has nukes and has been proliferating worse than the octomom. You cannot be telling people that you don't know how the nukes in North Korea, Pakistan and Libya came about. "Anyway, Robert is speaking to the importance of not blurring the issues of Afghanistan with he Kashmir issue (which is a lot more serious that you appear to KNOW or acknowledge). You said you were not an international relations expert. You were right. " Again, I did not raise this issue but Robert never mentioned Kashmir. Not once. Do you feel the need to misrepresent to get your points across? "Stop postin, you look stupid. Always have and always will....Go read a boook." Again, not addressed to me, but apparently, you should read one as well. Preferably the dictionary in order to learn how to spell. P.S. You got owned.

    • what what

      It seems you've resigned yourself to repeating your stale arguments. C'mon, you can do better than that! It was really entertaining so far. Don't stop now. How is India unstable? No coup, no threat of an insurgency, one of the most robust democracies in the world, secures peaceful transitions of power and has never invaded another country. Also received an FDI of 40 billion dollars last year. Surely all those discerning financial investors would not invest in a politically unstable country now would they? But hey, you're the expert. You see, most arguments have to be backed by a series of facts in a logical sequence in addition to you defending your assertions. Perhaps if you can do that, then maybe we can have an intelligent conversation for starters. But hey, your rant isn't that bad either. Provides some inadvertent good entertainment. Which actually.....makes it more funny. 1. Calling Russia more politically stable would be calling Ethiopia financially well endowed. You can scour through reports of Amnesty International, UNDP, Transparency International and US Council on Foreign Relations. You will find that they just might beg to differ....But hey, you're the expert! 2. If the Kashmir problem was more serious than the Afghanistan problem, then shouldn't the terrorist attacks that are directed against global civilians be emanating from there? And if they are, then wtf is Robert Greene talking about? Are you calling him a novice like I am. Good. Then where's the argument Lindsay? But wait. What about Afghanistan? Isn't that where Obama and the entire UN also said the problem lies? Which is what Robert Greene says as well? You deny that? Hey, you're the expert. 3. The Kashmir problem has been there for 63 years. Didn't spillover into any country. Didn't lead to any attacks on western installments. Didn't foster Islamic fundamentalism in its current form. In fact Kashmiris recently voted in an internationally monitored election that had a voter turnout of 62% (which, btw is 10 percentage points higher than the turnout of the entire US during the recent elections!). Asking to solve a 63 year old problem to solve an 8 year old problem. FAIL! Sooooooo, nothing happened for 63 years in Karhmir and then overnight without any due explanation Kashmir incited the entire war in Afghanistan? Lol at you my mesozoic friend. While you're at it, let's free Tibet as well. After all China atleast has a direct border with Afghanistan via the Xinjiang province (the home of the disaffected Uighurs) being the only muslim lajority province! 4. The current players in the geo-strategic theater in the war in Aghanistan. All mujhahideens. All armed, trained, funded by the military regime of Zia Ul haq and supported by the US administrations of Reagan, Bush Sr and Clinton (1st term). Doubt that as well? I'll let you in on a secret. You're the only one! From the time the Soviets pulled out till the occurrence of 9/11, the Jihadis had 11 years during which they were idle, operating in a vacuum and being used by the Pak military too run amok (with full support and tacit understanding by Clinton) in Kabul. Remember the fall of Kabul and the barbarism that followed afterwards? No? Hey, you're the expert. It is during those 11 years that Kashmir began to bleed worse than you on your period. After Afghanistan was secured they turned their eyes on US! Now you see, THAT is the problem. But of course, I don't expect you to understand that. By now, one figures that your cerebral capacity is better utilised comprehending the artistic significance of Li'l Wayne's tracks. Especially the ones on Rebirth. Oh, and you still haven't rebutted or explained anything. If this is how you 'argue', then you should stop now. I wouldn't want to see you embarass yourself any further. Waiting for your reponse. Don't hurt yourself now :)

    • BX T-REX

      What What, Roberts point is that India and Pakistan are VERY unstable. That regardless, we cannot let their situation (highly volatile) as it is, cannot and should not be mixed in with decisions made in Afghanistan. US and Russia DO have the bomb, but both are much more politically stable. No threat of nukes getting taken from within the system and sold, or used by rogue nations (well, maybe Russia).... Anyway, Robert is speaking to the importance of not blurring the issues of Afghanistan with he Kashmir issue (which is a lot more serious that you appear to KNOW or acknowledge). You said you were not an international relations expert. You were right. Stop postin, you look stupid. Always have and always will....Go read a boook.

    • what what

      lol. The over employed use of the CAPS LOCK didn't make your rant the least bit coherent. You still haven't rebutted anything. Nothing. Come back with a valid rebuttal and you might not seem so much of another armchair faggot claiming expertise. Everything stated is just that. Statements. Without showing how it relates to the war in Afghanistan. But hey, while you're making generic statements, let me add on a little bit if I may. The US too has the bomb and has been the only one to use it so far. What does India and Pakistan having tensions have anything to dowith the US failure in Afghanistan? Experts correlate dumbfuck, correlate. "They do a lot of fighting over the Kashmir region." . lol Kashmir is in India. It is not an autonomous or independent region. Iran and Iraq have tensions as well. Why isn't that affecting the war then? Iran too borders Pakistan and has a greater influence on Afghanistan than India does. And while we're making generic statements. US and Russia have tensions. Both have nukes. Hate each other. Both have wanted Afghanistan. Correlate that my jurassic friend. Also, with the terrorist attacks that have taken place in Pakistan's neighboring countries over the past decade, none has attacked Pakistan. So where is the diversion? Not looking so nice with cum on your face now are ya? Yup. You are right. With the logical reasoning process followed by you and those of your ilk, it sure isn't hard to see why Robert is considered an expert. Glad to be an asshole if that makes YOU the expert! later hater!

  • BX T-REX

    What What is funny.

  • what what

    Dear Robert, STICK to writing self help books and not political commentery. Political situation in India? I am no expert in international relations, but pray do tell us, what is the situation there? As far as I am concerned a new stable goernment was ushered in a year ago, and the country has been trying to convince, along with Russia and Afghanistan itself that the genesis of the problem and solution lies with and in Pakistan. ., What has Obama done to salvage the situation? Obama has announced a weak troop surge, prepared a timeline for withdrawal before any action, and acceded to the unbelievable possibility of a good Taliban (were there any good nazis?) Or are we debating the difference in the degree of inhumanity one possesses. Obama's biggest problem is his unwillingness to confront the Pakistani military which has always had a very prominent hand in destabilising a civilian led government there. All the aid that is delivered to Pakistan is used to fund its covert conquests against its neighbors. Any attempt to tie aid to ground results against the Taliban is met with outright hostility from all quarters from the Army. Case in point - the Kerry-Lugar bill. Oh! And what about the lobbyists ban? Wasn't there supposed to be a "revolving door ban" on lobbyists entering the government within a period of 2 years after they last left? Ever heard of Robin Raphael? No? Well I suggest you get right up on it. She was the lobbyist for the Pakistani military led government for decades in Washington and the day she left their services, WITHIN 2 WEEKS she was employed by Obama as the Undersecretary in charge of dispensing the non-financial aid to Pakistan. Administer a bill which she had lobbied to bend in favour of a country she is now supposed to look over?!?!?! WTF? Robert. If Obama fails, it will be due to violating one off the 48 laws. Keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. He is treating his enemies as friends and vice versa. Now that's messed up.

  • dany

    i got that book.....its really good...

  • BX T-REX

    This article is off the chain. These guys teaming up is a great combination.

  • bob dobalina

    intelligent interview. i'ma buy 50's book


    FINALLY! A good HHDX article that doesn't have some loud mouth rapper talking about his swagger. 50 Laws of Power was a great book.

  • Charmelle