50th Law

Robert Greene

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Cool book co-written by Robert Greene and 50 Cent about 50’s life and success. While part of the book is a biography about 50 Cent, a good portion is also in-depth stories from people across history (Frederick Douglas, Amelia Earhart, Isaac Newton and John F Kennedy being a few examples) that Greene uses to help illustrate broader takeaways.

Notes

Fearlessness is what drove 50 Cent to the top. Despite not knowing his father and his mother dying when he was 8, 50 Cent to become successful at drug dealing, music and business by relying on absolutely nothing and nobody. This is something we should adopt.

Dealing with reality and death is incredibly valuable to achieving success and being satisfied with life

Two ways of dealing with fear:

  • Passive: seek to avoid situation that causes anxiety (postponing hard decisions, keeping safe and comfortable in our daily lives). “When we are in this mode it is because we feel we are fragile, and would be damaged by an encounter with the thing we dread.”
  • Active: risky / difficult situation we fear is thrust upon us (natural disaster, death of a loved one, reversal of fortune). “Often in these moments we find an inner strength that surprises us, what we feared is not so bad.”

The 50th law, however, states that there is one thing we can actually control: the mindset in which we respond to these events around us. And if we are able to overcome our anxieties and forge a fearless attitude towards life, something strange and remarkable can occur. The margin of control over circumstance increases. At its utmost point we can even create circumstances themselves, which is the source of the tremendous power fearless types have had throughout history.

The old business model had to go. But these very same executives who seemed so sharp were afraid to confront this reality. They held on tightly to the past and would bring everyone down with them. Not 50. He would avoid this fate by moving in a different direction. He would forge a diversified business empire, music merely being a tool to get there.

Quote from 50 Cent: “Reality is my drug. The more I have of it, the more power I get, and the higher I feel”

We don’t want our assumptions about life challenged…What you need to do in life is return to that mind you possessed as a child, opening up to experience instead of closing it off.

When you do not get to the root of a problem, you cannot solve it in any meaningful manner. People like to look at the surfaces, get all emotional and react. Doing things that make them feel better in the short term but do nothing for them in the long-term.

If you have a long-term goal for yourself, one that you have imagined in detail, you are better able to make the proper decisions in the present. You know which battles or positions to avoid because they don’t advance you toward your goal. With your gaze lifted toward the future, you can focus on the dangers looming on the horizon.

As part of this approach, you must become a better observer of people. This cannot be done on the internet. It must be honed in personal actions. You are trying to read people, see through them as best you can.

Quote from 50 Cent: “When you work for others, you are at their mercy. They own your work. They own you. Your creative spirit is squashed. What keeps you in such positions is a fear of having to sink or swim on your own. Instead, you should have a greater fear of what will happen to you if you remain dependent on others for power. Your goal in every maneuver in life must be ownership…when it’s yours, it’s yours to lose. You’re more motivated, more creative, more alive. The ultimate power in life is to be completely self-reliant, completely yourself.

[After getting out of jail, 50 took a job as a cocaine bagger] This was a turning point. He looked at the other baggers: they had all suffered downturns in fortune, violence, prison time, etc. They had become scared and tired of the grind. They wanted the comfort and security of a paycheck and this would become the pattern for the rest of their lives. Afraid of life’s challenges, they would come to depend on other people to help them. Perhaps they could go on like this for several years, but the day of reckoning would come when there were no more jobs and they had forgotten how to fend for themselves.

[In reference to music producers and executives] The game these music executives were playing was simple: they owned your music and a lot more. They wanted to package the artist in their way and this dictated all of the key decisions on the music videos and publicity. In return, they lavished you with money and perks. They created a feeling of dependence. Without their massive machine behind you, you are helpless in the face of a viciously competitive business. In essence, you’re exchanging money for freedom, and once you internally succumbed to their logic and their money, you’re finished. You are a high-paid bagger doing a job.

Quote from 50 Cent: “I was born alone and I will die alone. I’ve got to do what’s right for me and not live my life the way anybody else wants it.

You came into this life with the only real possessions that ever matter: your body, the time that you have to live, your energy, the thoughts and ideas unique to you and your autonomy. But over the years, you tend to give all of this away. You spend years working for others, they own you during that period.

Think of it this way: dependency is a habit so easy to acquire. We live in a culture that offers you all kinds of crutches: experts to turn to, drugs to cure any psychological unease, mild pleasures to help pass or kill time, jobs to keep you just above water. It is hard to resist. But once you give in, it is like a prison you enter that you cannot ever leave. You continually look outward for help and this severely limits your options and maneuverability…Before it is too late, you must move in the opposite direction.

Keep this in mind: what you really value in life is ownership, not money. If there ever is the choice, more money or more responsibility, you must always opt for the latter.

[About film director Ingmar Bergman] He would sketch out the script for a film, leaving the dialogue mostly open. He would then invite his actors to bring their own energy and experiences into the mix, shaping the dialogue to fit their emotional responses. This would make the screenplay come alive from within and sometimes it would require rewriting parts of the plot. In working with the actors on this level, Bergman would enter their spirit, mirroring their energy as a way to get them to relax and open up…the results were astonishing.

[50 Cent in response to a new drug dealer taking a hold and making new rules around his area] While in rehab, he had befriended a ring leader of Brooklyn stickup artists. They were notorious for their efficiency and intimidating presence. For the setup, Curtis would lay low for a few weeks working a corner like everyone else, and appearing to go along with the new system. He would then hire these stickup artists on the sly to rob all of the neighborhood hustlers, including Curtis himself, of their jewelry, money and drugs. They would make several sweeps of the area over the course of a few weeks. As part of the deal, they would keep the money and jewelry from the robberies; Curtis would get the drugs. Nobody would suspect his involvement. In the weeks to come, he watched with amusement as the sudden appearance of the stickup artists in his neighborhood caused panic among the hustlers, some of whom were his friends. He pretended to share their distress – these Brooklyn gangsters were not to be messed with. Almost overnight, the dealers’ whole way of life was disrupted. They were forced now to carry guns for protection, but this created a new set of problems: the police were everywhere, making random checks, and to be caught loitering with a gun would mean solid prison time. The hustlers could no longer simply stand on the street corner and wait for the drug feigns to come to them. They had to keep in constant motion to avoid the police. For some, getting called on their beepers was the only way to arrange a deal. Everything became more complicated and business slowed down. The old model, tight and static, had been exploded, and now Curtis moved into the breach with some new colored capsules he packaged and sold to the feigns…The feigns began to flock to him while the other hustlers became too upset to notice the trick that had been played. By the time they had figured it out, it was too late. Curtis had expanded his business and he was well on his way to buying his freedom.

Quote from 50 Cent: ”The way I learned it, the kid in the schoolyard who doesn’t want to fight always leaves with a black eye. If you indicate you’ll do anything to avoid trouble, that’s when you get trouble.”

In general, you must be less respectful of the rules that other people have established. They do not necessarily fit the times or your temperament and there is great power to be had being the one to initiate a new order.

In urban environments, such as South-side Queens, respect is an extremely important issue. In other places, your background, education or resume might lend you some authority or credibility, but not in the hood. There, everyone starts from 0. To gain respect from your peers, you must repeatedly prove yourself. People are constantly prone to doubting your abilities and power. You must show again and again that you have what it takes to thrive and last. Big words and promises mean nothing; only actions carry weight.

If you build a reputation for toughness and getting results people might resent you, but you will establish a foundation of respect. You are demonstrating genuine qualities of leadership that speak to everyone. Now with time and a well-founded authority, you have room to back off and reward people, even to be nice. When you do so it will be seen as a genuine gesture, not an attempt to get people to like you, and it will have double the effect.

Quote from 50 Cent: “The public is never wrong. When people don’t respond to what you do, they’re telling you something loud and clear. You’re just not listening.”

Understand, you cannot disguise your attitude towards the public. If you feel superior at all, part of some chosen elite, then this seeps out in the work. It is conveyed in the tone and mood. It feels patronizing. If you have little access to the public you are trying to reach, but you feel that the ideas in your head cannot fail to be interesting, then it almost inevitably comes across as something too personal: the product of someone who in alienated.

[The life of a drug dealer is a lot of waiting around, waiting for the drug feigns to show up to buy. 50 learned the value of patience in this context]

So many of the business people and executive he met had that same level of impatience. They could only think in terms of months or weeks. Their relationship to money was emotional, a way to impose their importance and feed their ego. They would come to him with schemes that seemed intriguing in the present but led nowhere down the road. They were not attuned to the immense changes going on in the world and planning to exploit them in the future. That would take too much effort and time…But endorsement deals would not help him build anything solid or real. It was illusion money. He would turn them down, opting to start his own businesses on his own terms, each business building off another like links on a chain.

Quote from 50 Cent: “Most people can’t handle boredom. That means they can’t stay on one thing until they get good at it and they wonder why they’re unhappy.”

As you become better at this task or craft, it becomes increasingly pleasurable. You see your improvement. You see connections and possibilities you hadn’t noticed before. Your mind becomes absorbed in mastering it further and in this absorption you forget all your problems, fears for the future or peoples’ nasty games. But unlike the diversion that comes from outside sources, this one comes from within. You are developing a lifelong skill: the kind of mental discipline that will serve as the foundation of your power…You are creating no dividing line between work and pleasure – your pleasure comes from mastering the process itself and in the mental immersion it requires.

Real power and success can only come from mastering a process, which in turn depends on a foundation of discipline that we are constantly keeping sharp. The fearless types in history inevitably display a higher tolerance than most of us for repetitive, boring tasks. This allows them to excel in their field and master their craft.

Quote from Frederick Nietzsche: “Now there are individuals who would rather perish than work without taking pleasure in their work. They are choosy and have no use for ample rewards if the work is not itself the reward of rewards. They do not fear boredom as much as work without pleasure. Indeed, they need a lot of boredom if their work is to succeed. For all inventive spirits, boredom is that disagreeable lull of the soul that precedes a happy voyage and cheerful winds.”

Quote from 50 Cent: “Your opinion of yourself becomes your reality. If you have all these doubts, then no one will believe in you and everything will go wrong. If you think the opposite, the opposite will happen. It’s that simple.”

The higher your self-belief, the more your power to transform reality. Having supreme confidence makes you fearless and persistent, allowing you to overcome obstacles that stop most people in their tracks. It makes others believe in you as well. And the most intense form of self-belief is to feel a sense of destiny impelling you forward. This destiny can come from other worldly sources or it can come from yourself…Believing you are destined for something does not make you passive or unfree, but the opposite. You are liberated by the normal doubts and confusions that plague us.

Quote from 50 Cent: “People talk about my getting shot like it represented something special. They act like they’re not facing the same thing. But someday everybody has to face a bullet with his or her name on it.”

This amount of time is something unique to us. It is ours alone, our only true possession. If we run away from this reality by avoiding the thought of death, we are really running away from ourselves. We are denying the one thing that cannot be denied; we are living a lie. The fearless approach requires that you accept the fact that you have only so much time to live and that life itself inevitably involves levels of pain and separation. By embracing this, your embrace life itself and accept everything about it. Depending on a belief in an afterlife or drowning yourself in the moment to avoid pain is to despise reality, which is to despise life itself.

Quote from 50 Cent: “When I nearly died, it made me think: ‘this can happen again at any second. I better hurry and do what I want.’ I started to live like I never lived before. When the fear of death is gone, then nothing can bother you, and nobody can stop you.”

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