The Knowledge Project – Alive Time vs. Dead Time with Robert Greene

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Intro
The 48 Laws of Power
  • It’s sold over a million copies since 1998, and keeps selling steadily – inching towards 2 million
  • Why has it sold so well?
    • Robert designed it to be timeless
    • “People are attracted to it, because it’s not like any of the other things out there” 
      • “It’s delivering the truth as straight as can be, and we don’t have enough of that in this culture”
    • “Every time I wrote a chapter in that book, I was reflecting on a situation in my own life”
Robert’s Newest Book – The Laws of Human Nature
  • Planned to be out this fall
    • In it, Robert plans to go into, and fully explore, the 18 timeless elements of human nature
  • “In order to be good in your field, you have to know how to deal with people – that’s well over half the equation in any kind of power situation”
  • Robert’s goal for readers:
    • You’ll understand yourself better
    • It’ll deepen your knowledge of difficult people in your life
  • There’s a few chapters on envy, passive aggression, and narcissism
Robert’s Reading Process
  • At first, when starting research for books, Robert keeps his mind open, and doesn’t exactly know what the final product will look like
    • “It’s important to keep things open ended, so you’re constantly discovering”
    • “If you go into a book, knowing what it will be, it will die on the vine”
  • What makes a great book?
    • The writer knows the subject really well and has thought about it deeply
    • They’re not afraid to speculate
    • The author goes in depth, and doesn’t just stay on the surface of facts/stories – anyone can accumulate facts and write them down 
    • “I can usually tell, almost from reading the back cover or the first five pages, whether a book will have that ‘juice'”
  • “There are more bad books produced now than ever before”
    • These are the books where you could read the introduction, and get the full idea
    • They could be 10% the length of what they actually are
  • Robert’s reading process for book research:
    • If it’s a bad book, he skims. If it’s good, he reads very carefully.
    • He’ll make notes in the margins to come back to sections some time later
      • A few weeks later, he goes back to those sections, and creates note cards based on themes 
        • The theme will be written on the top of the note card, with the main idea/note in the body
      • If a book has 9-10 cards on one theme – it may be a good candidate for a chapter in one of Robert’s books
    • “Writing things out by hand, has a logic to it. It enables me to think more deeply than when I’m sitting there, typing on a computer”
    • Robert tries not to read currently popular nonfiction books while he’s writing his own books, because he doesn’t want to be inspired by what’s already out there – he wants to write something new and original
Robert’s Writing Process
  • “I try to design books so you can put them into action”
    • Robert tries to makes his subjects as practical and actionable as possible
  • “When you approach people indirectly, it has tremendous psychological advantage power”
    • There’s no punch more powerful in boxing than the one that comes from the side and is unexpected
    • Approach things from an unexpected angle
How has Robert remained so productive over time?
  • Robert takes a long time to write a book – the latest will have taken him 4 years
    • “I’m not fast, but I’m thorough” 
  • Robert meditates every morning 
    • Before meditating, Robert does 20 minutes of basic stretching, usually focused on his back – he does each stretch for about a minute
    • He does a basic zen meditation – “You’re thinking of you’re thinking as a spectator observing yourself”
  • He exercises every single day, even if he’s sick
    • Every 3 days he swims about a mile and a half
    • He hikes frequently
    • On the other days, he does a yoga/pilates routine
    • He plans to start running again soon
  • He only writes for 3 hours a day
  • “It’s a boring life, but I maintain freshness through the routines”
  • When a book is finished, Robert will take some time off to unwind
How does Robert protect his time?
  • “You have to be a bit of a tyrant and know how to say no. It’s not easy.”
  • You have to cut out all of the distractions, or your process won’t work
  • “Your best ideas come to you when you’re not thinking about them”
    • If you’re always doing things, and occupying your mind, the brain won’t have the mental space to unconsciously process ideas
    • This is why Robert likes to veg out and watch mindless TV from time to time
The Three Zones of Reality
  1. “The greatest power any human can have is the power to ask questions”
    • Ask questions about yourself – Why do you like what you like? This isn’t something we usually think to ask.
    • When we do this – “We uncover a little bit of the reality about ourselves, and the power of that is immense”
    • “Know thy self”
  2. Reality is also understanding other people – like our spouse
    • “You can be married to someone for 30-40 years, and you might not even know them”
    • “The other people in your life are just projections of your own emotions”
      • STOP – think about them, try not to project, try to get inside someone’s skin, and understand things from their point of view
      • Then, you’ll be ever so slightly connected to their reality
      • “Empathy is an immense human potential that people rarely tap into”
  3. Reality is also about the culture we’re living in
    • “If you don’t understand the times we’re living in, it’s very hard to create the book or a business that taps into where people are right now”
How can we learn to ask better questions?
  • People love to talk about themselves 
  • People are dying to talk – it’s about finding what they desire to talk about
  • Robert likes to ask people about their childhoods, as it gives him insights into their psychology
  • Get people to talk about things that they don’t normally get to talk about – their desires, ambitions, experiences, their childhood
  • What someone values, determines their psychology and work – find out what they value
  • Check out Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardener
    • Book summary – there are five kinds of intelligence, and someone will tend to have one of them as their main kind of intelligence
  • If you have a friend…
    • When asking questions, assume you don’t know the answer
    • “The worst sin in the world today, is that people feel like they know everything”
  • Be vulnerable, be curious, be present
Bullshitters
  • How do we separate the people who actually know what they’re talking about, from the people who pretend to know what they’re talking about?
    • Pay attention to actions – anyone can talk
    • Ask: “What has this person actually done/achieved?”
    • People reveal things through their body language
    • Signs of a non-bullshitter
      • People who admit they’re not always right
Mistakes and Failure
  • What’s the biggest mistake Robert ever made, and how did he recover?
Say Less
  • “Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish”
    • “The more you say, the more common you appear, and less in control”
  • People who talk a lot, indicate nervousness and insecurity
  • Our culture is very transparent
    • We want to tell people everything about our lives
    • In reality, it’s not very interesting, except to yourself
    • “Stop being so transparent, cultivate some mystery about yourself”
  • “There is tremendous power in talking less”
Plan More for The Long Term
  • We’re always reacting to what people are doing us – we’re never able to rise above it to the level of strategy
    • “Your mind never rises high enough above the battle field to come up with a reasonable plan, that actually is more strategic, and involves things that aren’t just reactions to what your rival gives you”
  • “We have consciousness, but we’re not using it right. We react too much. We need to use that consciousness to go further into the future and imagine possibilities, options, and consequences.”
Law 48 from The 48 Laws of Power
  • Be flexible, adapt to every situation – everything depends on your circumstances
Alive Time vs. Dead Time
  • “The worst thing you can have in life, is a job you hate, where you have no energy, you’re not creative, and you’re not thinking of the future. To me, you might as well be dead.”
  • You really don’t own anything in life
    • The only thing you own – YOUR TIME
    • Your body isn’t even yours – you could be put in prison, and tortured
  • Alive time, is time that you own – no one is telling you how to spend it
  • “When you’re working for someone else, they own you, it’s dead time”
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