He’s an American author and speaker known for his books on strategy power and seduction. He has written five international bestsellers. His work has been featured in the New York Times the New Yorker, CNN, USA Today and many more media publications. He’s Robert Greene and here are his top ten rules for success.
Robert Greene’s Top 10 Rules For Business and Success
Rule #1: Do What You Really Really Love
The difference between people who are successful and not although those who are successful seem to know from the age of seven or eight, maybe older. You know they’re very in tune with what they love. They, I compare it to a voice inside their head.
Not literally a voice but something saying you really are drawn to this subject. And they hear it throughout their lives. And for me, it was it was writing and books. Since I was a kid. And you know at anytime I deviated from that love and went into something else I just was so unhappy.
I knew that I wasn’t doing the right thing. And so it’s just like this voice that keeps drawing you back to what you really really love.
Rule #2: Think Like An Outsider
Some of the most important discoveries, inventions and innovations cut within a field, come from people who are trained in a much different field. And who have an outsider’s approach. Louis Pasteur was a classic example of this.
He was trained as a chemist in mineralogist so he brought amidst a much different way of thinking to the subject of medicine and germs. A method that was infinitely more creative. Albert Einstein was a complete outsider. His two most important discoveries came when he was working at the Swiss Patent Office.
Google itself exemplifies this idea. It is perhaps the most successful business on the planet founded by two men who are relatively complete outsiders to business and who therefore structured and directed their company in a very novel and creative fashion.
I could go on and on and on with this list including many great artists. There are two important reasons why outsiders generally have a creative advantage. First, they are less steeped in and burdened by the conventions of the field that they are attacking.
They ask a different set of questions. They approach problems from unconventional angles. And second, they are often trained in totally unrelated fields, and so can make interesting and creative connections between two very different forms of thinking.
Like science and business or chemistry and medicine or engineering and design. Now we can’t all consciously follow such a path. But even within the careers that we’re pursuing we can train ourselves to think like outsiders and help loosen up the mind in the process.
Rule #3: Be Curious
I once counted with a girlfriend that I had probably over 80 jobs. You know I like was a guide for Greek ruins. When I worked construction in Crete. I taught English here and in Spain. I did the first like encyclopedia for the Internet, I helped write an encyclopedia.
I was a busboy, a waiter. God I’m not leaving out something juicy. Oh, I was a skip tracer I worked for a detective agency helping find people who left town you know without telling where they were. You know.
Interviewer: With all those things if you think about it helps because it’s like doing research for a book. Or?
Well the thing about being a writer is that you have interesting people. In life. And so I’m always wanting to know what it’s like you know what it’s like to be Shira. You know.
Interviewer: Would you want to know?
Yeah I really would. Because then if I really knew what made Shira tick then Shira would become a character in my next book. So you got to be curious about people. And having a lot of different jobs helped out, yeah.
Rule #4: Shut Out The Distractions
There’s differences and then there’s there’s not differences. So you know the brain is the same. The brain evolved over the course of millions of years. So I try to make the point that you know what da Vinci was going through the process is that there’s a template there and it’s the same.
Because our brains haven’t really changed in an evolutionary sense in four or 500 years. On the other hand, the circumstances are different and people now live in a world where there’s many more distractions so it’s harder to do that kind of focus that I was mentioning.
So in some ways it’s a little bit harder. And the people that I’ve interviewed are really good at shutting out all of the distractions of the world. That’s sort of what separates them every single one of them. Paul Graham, you know Paul Graham? Paul doesn’t have a smartphone. You know. He doesn’t spend time on the Internet. He’s extremely focused.
The woman Yōsuke Matsuoka, she she does all of her writing with a pen and paper. She’s not sitting there day in and day out on the computer checking her Facebook or Twitter page or whatever. I could go through all of them that way. Steve Jobs is sort of the ultimate icon of mastery of our era.
And he said the only thing that’s differentiated me from everyone else was my level of focus. I could take a problem and I could focus on it and burrow into it and everybody else was so distracted. He knew how to close his door get away from his wife, his kids, everyone and just focus. So the all of these people have to overcome the intense distractions in our world.
They and they’re able to do it. On the other hand, what you can get with a click on the Internet, with a Google search compared to what da Vinci had to do or a scientist in the 19th or 20th century is absolutely astounding. So what you have at your fingertips the knowledge, the things that you can connect and learn about the potential for learning skills is out of this world.
So if you’re able to overcome the distracting elements that are. My girlfriend and I compare it to if you ever watch a basketball game and you see the opposing team shooting free throw. And everyone behind him and the stands are all going like this with those big you know, trying to distract him, there’s like hundreds of people.
That’s what the world is like now. You’ve got thousands of people waving those things, you’ve got so many distractions. If you’re able to overcome that and be a person that can focus you have this like wealth of information and knowledge and ability to acquire skills that nobody a hundred years ago, 20 years ago could dream about.
Rule #5: Use Active Imagination
Use active imagination is deceptively simple. Often what separates creative from conventional thinkers is that they simply search wider. They use their minds to generate possibilities that others don’t think of. Then they work to verify what they came up with.
We saw a classic example of this with Pasteur. Another great example is with Henry Ford. Early on in his career in the earliest years of what would later become the Ford Motor Company, Ford was anxious to into speed up the production of cars.
It was he saw the automobile as the ultimate consumer product. But in order for it to become that, he had to greatly increase production rate in his factory. So he spent a couple days looking at his employees on the factory floor and trying to imagine how he could get them to move faster from car to car.
Suddenly one day he imagined something completely different. He imagined the men standing still and the cars coming to them. He didn’t know what that really meant but he decided to try it out and lo and behold, it increased productivity by such an incredible exponential rate that it could now become the consumer product that he envisioned.
Things like antibodies or assembly lines, they seemed so obvious to us now but they are never obvious in the present. And they involve an incredible leap of what I call active imagination. The difference between regular and active imagination is that the latter is used consciously to reach very very practical results.
It’s not imagination for coming up with wild things it’s imagination used for very practical results. Think of the active imagination as a kind of creative muscle that you’re developing. First, within the loose constraints of what you’re working on you open your mind up to you give a complete free rein.
You entertain almost every possibility that you could imagine or visualize. You engage in what Charles Darwin calls fools experiment, fools experiments. This is the fun play part of serious play. You use notebooks, sketches, diagrams, models, prototypes to help externalize the products of your imagination.
Once you have gone through this you now enter the second serious part of the process. First you choose one or few of the more promising possibilities that were generated by your imagination. And now you actively work to test verify or confirm it.
This might entail launching a beta version on the public. Once you have feedback you now go back into the first part of the process in a shortened form using your imagination to perhaps take what you have into an even better and higher form circling constantly through this process in shorter and shorter cycles until you’ve got something that’s both incredibly imaginative and incredibly realistic and practical.
By developing this by going through this over and over and over again you will develop your imagination into an incredibly powerful creative muscle.
Rule #6: Become Self-Reliant
What really impressed me with someone like 50 is he grows up in a world without any parents. I mean it’s a hard thing to imagine in life but try for a moment. Put yourself in those shoes he never knew his father to this day he doesn’t know whose father is.
His mother was murdered when he was eight-years-old. She was a hustler. His grandparents take him in but they have nine other kids that they’re looking after from various different extended families. So he’s basically has no parental supervision from the age of eight and even before then he had very little.
And so he has to find and discover everything for himself. He can’t depend on other people to give him anything. They won’t give him money, they won’t give him clothing they won’t give him education . And so he on his own as if that metaphor being on a desert island is his life, he’s on a desert island.
He has to develop everything for himself. And he does, and that is what has made him a person of incredible power. Now he doesn’t feel dependent on anybody or anything he knows that if anything goes wrong in life he has the resources within himself to find the right answer.
And so I think this is an idea that applies to an individual. It applies to a company, to a leader, to a CEO. It applies to relationships, self-reliance is, to me, the most, if you’re going to develop anything in life, that that has to be it. That’s the most important skill.
Rule #7: Be Patient With Fools
There’s a phrase in the Bible that’s become kind of an expression called suffer fools gladly. And somehow in our modern world to cut totally inverted which is something that it kind of bothers me. The original expression meant that you’re constantly surrounded by fools.
Half the world are fools or whatever the percentage is. And and maybe you’re a bit of a fool and what you need to do is you need to suck. You need to be able to put up with fools and laugh at them and not take them seriously. That’s what it means in the Bible and that’s the wisdom in the Bible.
And then somehow it got turned around in modern times where where it seems to be a virtue that you don’t suffer fools gladly. That you don’t put up with them. That you get angry about them, that you confront them, and you try to change them and on and on and on and on and on.
And the idea that I try to say it’s part of my chapter on social intelligence which is I try and tell you that you’re not going to be a master in this world unless you know how to get along with people. We’re social animals. You can’t just be a nerd, a tech guy that has no contact with people you have to learn how to be with people and be socially intelligent. And it’s actually a beautiful form of intelligence.
And one of the aspects is to learn how to suffer fools gladly. And I tell you what I think a fool is. A fool is somebody that doesn’t have the right kind of sense of priorities in life. They magnify the little things that we should just not worry about into some huge dramatic thing.
And the huge dramatic things that completely ignore. They have no sense of proportion and we encounter them every day in our lives. And in fact, we encounter a little bit of them in ourselves. We all have a foolish side. So let’s all be patient with fools.
If you try and change them or fight them you’re only going to waste valuable time and energy in your short life. Learn to laugh at them, learn to know it’s a part of the human comedy. I find that that’s going to save you energy in the end. And I have stories in there of how not only do you suffer fools gladly, but you turn it around to an advantage.
So I have a story in there Daniel Everett, who’s a great kind of anthropologist and linguist, and he came out with a radical new theory on linguistics and suddenly he finds himself being attacked by everyone in the field. But they’re attacking him in this ad hominine manner as if he’s a charlatan.
And they’re not attacking his ideas and it’s driving him crazy and now he’s dealing with fools. And he decides that what he’s going to do is he’s going to turn it to his advantage. He’s going to make sure it out from now on that anything he presents in a book or a lecture is airtight.
They would usually pinpoint one little small thing in something he said that could be inconsistent and say therefore your whole theory is wrong. Okay from now on I’m not going to be anything inconsistent. So he took the foolish aspect of these attacks and he decided he would make it would make him stronger and would make his ideas stronger. That’s what suffer fools gladly is about and I have other examples there in the book.
Rule #8: Embrace The Chaos
You learn to embrace uncertainty and chaos. Life is inherently chaotic and it doesn’t fit into our tidy formulas. Not only does this not make you anxious but you find chaos and uncertainty deeply exciting and stimulating.
Slowly adopting this as an overall philosophy will naturally loosen the mind up and give it greater creative flow. You will naturally consider more options and possibilities.
Rule #9: Transform Yourself Through Work
The way to transform yourself is through your work. Now I know this runs counter to our prevailing cultural prejudices. Work is too ugly, too boring, too banal. Self-transformation, we think, comes through a spiritual journey.
Therapy, a guru who tells us what to do. Intense group experiences and social experiences and drugs. But most of these are ways of running away from ourselves and relieving our chronic boredom. They are not connected to process and so any changes that occur don’t last.
Instead through our work we can actually connect to who we are instead of running away. And by entering that slow organic process we can actually change ourselves from the inside out in a way that’s very real and very lasting. This process involves a journey of self-discovery that can be seen as quite spiritual, if you like.
And in the end of this process we contribute something unique and meaningful to our culture through our work which is hardly ugly, boring or banal.
Rule #10: Be Emotionally Engaged
I want you to get over this notion that I find so annoying, that so many people have that success and power in life is dependent on something like genetics. Like some people are born with a larger brain or they have wealthy parents who are able to send them to the right school. Or or it’s a lot a matter of luck.
What really makes people successful and powerful in life, and it’s not just me saying this. I read hundreds of books on the subject. What makes people successful is their degree of motivation. Okay I could repeat it a hundred times but it’s true every time I say it.
When you are motivated, when you feel yourself emotionally engaged in the subject, you learn faster. You learn what could take somebody 10 years to learn you can learn in two years. When you feel emotionally engaged with something you’re able to push past off all the obstacles.
The sense that it’s genetics or the size of our brain or our parents money, you can’t control any of that, obviously. And they could become kind of crutches for some people. But the amount of motivation you feel, the emotional connection you have to what you’re studying or doing, that is something within your control.
That is something you can choose to take. And it is you’re going to find people giving you all kinds of great advice about your careers about where you should go, you know, for your MBA et cetera. But if there’s one piece of advice that I think is more important than that is that is it is this idea of following these natural inclinations and creating your own career path and finding a way to engage the deepest motivating parts of your psyche.
Thank you so much. I made this because Owen Forbes asked me to. So if there’s a famous entrepreneur that you want me to profile next leave in the comments below I’ll see what I can do.
I’d also love to know which of Robert Greene’s top ten rules have the biggest impact on you. Leave it in the comments, I’ll join in the discussion. Thank you so much, continue to believe and we’ll see you soon.
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