I was surprised, sitting in the reception area of a spa, to find The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers among the usual fanfare of fashion and entertainment magazines. With lessons such ‘Never Outshine the Master’ and ‘Never put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn how to use Enemies,’ this particular self-help book reads more like Sun Tzu’s The Art of War than the chick-lit paperback it was lying next to.
This is clearly a testimony to how omnipresent and popular Greene and Elffers’ masterpiece has become. First released in 1998, it is equally relevant today and is the sort of book you can read over and over again. So much so, that a sequel was inevitable.
While the 49th law remains a secret for now, Greene has teamed up with millionaire rapper 50 Cent (a.k.a. Curtis James Jackson III) to write The 50th Law of Power: Fear Nothing. In many ways this powerful book trumps all the 48 laws detailed in its predecessor because once you manage to obliterate fear, you can face pretty much anything.
Greene spent one year following 50 Cent around and the great respect the two men have for each other — 50 Cent was a big fan of the original book and approached Greene for the collaboration — is evident. This is a raw, intimate book that details the changes in 50 Cent’s life af ter the release of his music album Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
This is both a powerful and an empowering book because overcoming fear can truly enable one to ascend beyond their limits. Greene paints 50 Cent as a modern day hip-hop Napoleon and writes about his life and the lessons learnt from it in a very intimate, readable way. While 48 Laws of Power was more formal and comprehensive, The 50th Law is a simpler read, and all the sweeter for that.
One of the biggest factors that contributed to 50 Cent’s success is the fact that his upbringing was one in which he was expected to die young. Many of his peers and neighbours are dead and he never thought that he would live this long (he’s currently 34). Having conquered the fear of death early on, he practices what he preaches by living a life without fear of lesser terrors such as failure or financial upheaval.
Combining his lack of fear with his talent for hustle was a winning formula for survival and even greater power. Therefore key ideas in the book include intense realism, selfreliance, opportunism, calculated momentum, aggression, authority, connection, mastery, self-belief, and the sublime.
Of course the essential cores have been ‘pimped up’ to 50 Cent standards, whereby oppurtunism becomes the ability to ‘Turn Shit into Sugar’ and aggression becomes knowing ‘When to Be Bad.’ Greene reiterates that no one is born fearless. It is a product of life experiences, sheer force of will and the thirst for power.
One of the greatest strengths of the book is its substantiations through examples from history. The examples Greene uses in the original Laws book are validated by historical evidence and quotes from true masters. This book is very much one man’s tale.
However, unlike a typical biography, it is presented in the manner of a lesson which makes it both interesting and informative for the reader. Instead of a straight-forward account of 50 Cent’s life experiences, everything is dissected, analysed, filtered and represented as a guide to self empowerment.
Greene also cites examples of fearless figures from history such as Malcom X and Amelia Earhart, along with returning favourites including Napoleon and Scipio. The book’s focus, however, remains 50 Cent. While this makes for a refreshing combination of biography and selfhelp guide, it also makes for a somewhat repetitive narrative. The book would have benefitted from tighter editing.
(Books & Author, pg 6, Dawn newspaper, 18th July 2010)