Since I discovered there was a ton of admiration for the 48 Laws of Power summaries, I'm creating summaries to Robert Greene's newest book The Laws of Human Nature:
Video Summary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8pw0aFWgas
We imagine ourselves in control of our fate. Consciously planning the course of your life as best we can. But we are largely unaware of how much our emotions dominate us.
Rationality is the way to counteract these emotions. It does not come naturally and needs to be cultivated. But in doing so, we realize our greatest potential.
Every athenian politician believed he was rational. Fellow athenians are all driven by base emotions; hunger for power, attention and money.
Paraclise fixed this by worshipping nous: The ancient greek word for mind or intelligence. A force that permeates the universe and creates meaning and order.
Athena stood for rationality. The greatest gift of the Gods to mortals.
To cultivate his inner Athena, Pericles had to find a way to master his emotions. Emotions turn us inward. He analyzed his feelings, realizing that his anger or fear was not really justified. Had to physically get away from the situation, locking himself in his house for days on end.
Like everyone, you think you are rational. But you are not. Cultivate your inner athena.
Look at those emotions that are continually affecting your decisions and emotions. Learn to question yourself. Why this anger or resentment? Where does this incessant need for attention come from? Under scrutiny, your emotions will lose their hold on you. You will begin to think for yourself instead of reacting to your emotions. Your mind will open up and you’ll be able to see more solutions and options.
Keys to Human Nature
When something goes wrong in our life we try to find some explanation. But we don’t --
Certainly there are a bunch of situations that we cannot control and that have an affect on us. But generally what causes us to go astray and make bad decisions is our deep rooted irrationality.
It is hard to learn from experience, when we are not looking inward at the true causes.
First step to becoming rational: Understand our fundamental irrationality. Nobody is exempt from the irrationalities of the mind. Even the wisest among us. Irrationality is a natural function of our minds and how we process emotions. We evolved with irrationality because it kept us alive in the wild. Our brains are made of 3 parts. The oldest is the reptilian part of our brain, which controls all automatic responses that regulate the body. The instinctive part. Above that is the mammalian or limbic brain, governing feeling and emotion. Above that has evolved our neocortex, which controls cognition and language.
When we process an emotion, anger, or envy. It originates in our reptilian brain, then needs to be processed by our neocortex. Since the neocortex didn’t produce the emotion though, it is prone to mislabeling.
We do not have conscious access to the origins of our emotions and the moods they generate. Once we feel them, all we can do is try to interpret the emotion. Translate it into language, but more often than not, we get this wrong.
Progress and technology have not rewired us. They merely rewired the forms of our emotions and the type of irrationality that come with them. Example: politicians can use social media to play on our emotions in subtler and more effective ways. We are prone to new forms of emotion.
Here is a description of rational and irrational: we constantly feel emotions and they continually affect our thinking. Making us veer toward thoughts that please us and soothe our egos. Rational people are aware of this, and through introspection and thinking, to some extent, to subtract emotions from their thinking and counteract their effect. Irrational people have no such awareness and rush into action without carefully considering the ramifications of their actions and consequences.
Rational people demonstrate over time that they are able to finish a project, realize their goals, work effectively with a team, and to create something that lasts.
Irrational people reveal negative patterns: mistakes that keep repeating, unnecessary conflicts that follow them wherever they go, dreams and projects that are never realized. Anger and desires for change that are never translated into concrete action. They are emotional, reactive, and unaware of this.
Everyone is capable of irrational decisions, some of which are cause by circumstances beyond our control. Even emotional types can hit upon great ideas or success through bold action, so it’s important to judge over time whether a person is rational or irrational. Are they able to sustain success and hit upon multiple good strategies?
Rationality is not some means of transcending emotion. But we need a state of balance. A clear understanding of why we feel the way we do. Conscious of our impulses so we can think without being secretly compelled by our emotions. We want the energy that comes from our emotions to serve our thinking self. That is our ideal.
Acquiring rationality is not complicated. It simply requires knowing and working through a 3 step process:
Step 1: Recognize the Biases
Emotions are constantly affecting our decisions beyond the surface of consciousness. The most common emotions are the desire for pleasure, and the avoidance of pain. We imagine we are looking for answers and the truth, but really. This pleasure principle is the root of all of our biases. It’s best to look at the biases that we have and see how they affect us or operate inside of others.
Confirmation Bias - I look at the evidence, and arrive at my decisions through more or less rational processes. Because of the pleasure principle, we look at information that confirms our biases. The more important the person, the more powerful the confirmation bias. Never accept “evidence”, you should
Conviction Bias - I believe in this idea so strongly, it must be true. If a leader shares an idea with such confidence and conviction, we assume they must have examined the idea carefully in order to believe in it with such conviction. Those who express nuances seem less trustworthy
Appearance Bias - I understand the people I deal with, I see them just as they are. We see people as they appear to us, not how they are. People have trained themselves to put the version of themselves forward that will provide the best appearance.
Group Bias - My ideas are my own, I did not listen to the group, I am not a conformist. We experience tremendous relief when we find people who share the same ideas as us.
Blame Bias - I learn from my experiences and mistakes. Our natural response to mistakes is to look for outside forces to blame, as it’s too painful to look inwardly at the cause of our mistakes.
Superiority Bias - I’m different. More rational than others, more ethical than others. Everything we’ve got comes from natural talent and hard work, but other people we can look at as using Machiavellian tactics to arrive at their results. Rationality and ethical qualities must be achieved through awareness and effort, they do not come naturally. They come through a maturation process.
Step 2: Beware the Inflaming Factors
Low grade emotions continually affect our thinking and originate from our own impulses (the desire for pleasing and comforting thoughts). High grade emotions, come at certain moments, reaches an explosive pitch, and is generally sparked by something external. It captures our attention and the more we think about it the more explosive it gets. We become reactive.
High grade emotion usually culminates in some rash action with disastrous consequences. It’s best to be aware of these factors so we do not fall victim to our actions, and so we can recognize these emotions in others. To either get out of their way or help bring them back to reality.
Do not imagine the more extreme types of irrationality have been overcome with progress in technology and society. The irrational just simply changes their look. The cycle will continue. As long as their are humans, the irrational will find its way of spreading. Rationality is something to be acquired by individuals. Not by mass movements or technological progress. Feeling superior and beyond it is a sure sign that the irrational is at work.
Step 3: Strategies Towards Bringing Out the Rational Self
Two factors should give us all hope: 1. the existence of rational individuals through all times in human history (Marcus Aurelius, Warren Buffett, Leonardo Divinci). All of these rational types share certain qualities:
All of us have experienced moments of greater rationality. When we have deadlines to meet, we don’t have the luxury of other emotions. We have to get it done. We focus on the work. Our mind is calm, our ego doesn’t intrude.
Here are some strategies to bring out that inner paraclese or athena:
Anyone else read this masterpiece?