Quotes: The 50th Law (Robert Greene)

The following is a collection of my favorite quotes from Robert Greene’s “The 50th Law“.

The book draws a number of entrepreneurship lessons from Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s history of dealing drugs in his local community. Everything from the discussion of mastery, to exploiting opportunities in your environment and ultimately a call to self-actualization.

The book is broken down into the following chapters:

  1. Intense Realism – Seeing things as they are.
  2. Self Reliance – Controlling yourself and your surroundings.
  3. Opportunism – Making the best of every situation.
  4. Keep moving – Getting comfortable with change.
  5. Aggression – Overcoming fears of confronting people.
  6. Authority – Setting the tone from the top.
  7. Connection – Listening to demand and creating supply.
  8. Mastery – Learning to endure hours of practice and drudgery.
  9. Self Belief – Overcoming fear of failure. Knowing who you are.
  10. The Sublime – Confronting your mortality.

Here are some of my favorite highlights:

(Note: If you would like to download a high-quality PDF version of this quote collection, just click here.)

“Understand: as an individual you cannot stop the tide of fantasy and escapism sweeping a culture. But you can stand as an individual bulwark to this trend and create power for yourself. You were born with the greatest weapon in all of nature—the rational, conscious mind. It has the power to expand your vision far and wide, giving you the unique capacity to distinguish patterns in events, learn from the past, glimpse into the future, see through appearances. Circumstances are conspiring to dull that weapon and render it useless by turning you inward and making you afraid of reality.”

“His superiority, he realized, was that he knew that he knew nothing. This left his mind open to experiencing things as they are, the source of all knowledge.”


“True ownership can come only from within. It comes from a disdain for anything or anybody that impinges upon your mobility, from a confidence in your own decisions, and from the use of your time in constant pursuit of education and improvement. Only from this inner position of strength and self-reliance will you be able to truly work for yourself and never turn back. If situations arise in which you must take in partners or fit within another organization, you are mentally preparing yourself for the moment when you will move beyond these momentary entanglements. If you do not own yourself first, you will continually be at the mercy of people and circumstance, looking outward instead of relying on yourself and your wits.”

“Understand: we are living through an entrepreneurial revolution, comparable to the one that swept through Fifty’s neighborhood in the 1980s, but on a global scale. The old power centers are breaking up. Individuals everywhere want more control over their destiny and have much less respect for an authority that is not based on merit but on mere power. We have all naturally come to question why someone should rule over us, why our source of information should depend on the mainstream media, and on and on. We do not accept what we accepted in the past.”

“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. When the time comes, as it inevitably does, when you must make an important decision, you have nothing inside of yourself to depend on.”

“Remember: your bosses prefer to keep you in dependent positions. It is in their interest that you do not become self-reliant, and so they will tend to hoard information. You must secretly work against this and seize this information for yourself.”

“You must remember that when people give you things or do you favors it is always with strings attached. They want something from you in return—assistance, unquestioned loyalty, and so forth. You want to keep yourself free of as many of these obligations as possible, so get in the habit of taking what you need for yourself instead of expecting others to give it to you.”

“Your tendency will be to look at what other people have done in your field, how you could possibly repeat or emulate their success. You can gain some power with such a strategy, but it won’t go far and it won’t last.”

“Understand: you are one of a kind. Your character traits are a kind of chemical mix that will never be repeated in history. There are ideas unique to you, a specific rhythm and perspective that are your strengths, not your weaknesses. You must not be afraid of your uniqueness and you must care less and less what people think of you.”

“One opportunity you can always bank on is that a younger generation will react against the sacred cows of the older generation. If the older set valued spontaneity and pleasure, you can be sure that the younger set will crave order and orthodoxy. By attacking the values of the older generation before anyone else, you can gain powerful attention.”

“Remember: as Napoleon said, the moral is to the physical as three to one—meaning the motivation and energy levels you or your army bring to the encounter have three times as much weight as your physical resources. With energy and high morale, a human can overcome almost any obstacle and create opportunity out of nothing.”

“Opportunism comes with a belief system that is eminently positive and powerful—one known to the Stoic philosophers of ancient Rome as amor fati, or love of fate. In this philosophy every event is seen as fated to occur. When you complain and rail against circumstances, you fall out of balance with the natural state of things; you wish things were different. What you must do instead is accept the fact that all events occur for a reason, and that it is within your capacity to see this reason as positive. Marcus Aurelius compared this to a fire that consumes everything in its path—all circumstances become consumed in your mental heat and converted into opportunities. A man or woman who believes this cannot be hurt by anything or anyone.”

“You too face a world full of obstacles and limitations—a new environment where the competition is more global, complicated, and intense than ever before. Like the hustler, you must find your freedom through the fluidity of your thoughts and your constant inventiveness. This means having a greater willingness to experiment, trying several ventures without fear of failing here or there. It also means constantly looking to develop new styles, new directions you can take, freeing yourself up from any inertia that comes with age. In a world full of people who are too conventional in their thinking, who respect the past far too much, such flow will inevitably translate into power and more room to move.”

“Strategy is the essence of human action—the bridge between an idea and its realization in the world.”

“Too often these strategies become frozen into conventions, as people mindlessly imitate what worked before. By keeping your strategies attuned to the moment, you can be an agent of change, the one who breaks up these dead ways of acting, gaining tremendous power in the process. Most people in life are rigid and predictable; that makes them easy targets. Your fluid, unpredictable strategies will drive them insane. They cannot foresee your next move or figure you out. That is often enough to make them give way or fall apart.”

“To gain respect from your peers, you must repeatedly prove yourself. People are constantly prone to doubting your abilities and your power. You must show again and again that you have what it takes to thrive and to last. Big words and promises mean nothing; only actions carry weight. If you are authentic, as tough as you seem to be, then you will earn the respect that will make people back off and make your life that much easier. This should be your perspective as well. You start with nothing in this world. Any titles, money, or privilege you inherit are actually hindrances. They delude you into believing you are owed respect. If you continue to impose your will because of such privileges, people will come to disdain and despise you. Instead only your actions can prove your worth. They tell people who you are. You must imagine that you are continually being challenged to show that you deserve the position you occupy. In a culture full of fakery and hype, you will stand out as someone authentic and worthy of respect.”

“Since you are the leader, you are the one who can alter this and set a pace that is more alive and active. You remain the bold and enterprising knight. You force yourself to initiate new projects and domains to conquer; you take proactive measures against possible dangers on the horizon; you seize the initiative against your rivals. You keep your group marching and on the offensive. This will excite them and give them a feeling of movement. You are not taking unnecessary risks, but simply adding a dash of aggression to your normally staid group. They become used to seeing you out in front and grow addicted to the excitement you bring with each new campaign.”


“These entertainments have a faster pace than the time we spend at work. Work then is experienced as something boring—slow and repetitive. Anything challenging, requiring effort, is viewed the same way—it’s not fun; it’s not fast. If we go far enough in this direction, we find it increasingly difficult to muster the patience to endure the hard work that is required for mastering any kind of craft. It becomes harder to spend time alone. Life becomes divided between what is necessary (time at work) and what is pleasurable (distractions and entertainment).”

“All human activities involve a process of mastery. You must learn the various steps and procedures involved, proceeding to higher and higher levels of proficiency. This requires discipline and tenacity—the ability to withstand repetitive activity, slowness, and the anxiety that comes with such a challenge.”

“First, having the larger goal will lift your mind out of the moment and help you endure the hard work and drudgery. Second, as you become better at this task or craft, it becomes increasingly pleasurable.”

“The deeper he went into these studies, the more he would see connections and have sudden insights. He solved problem after problem, his enthusiasm and momentum quickening as he realized the powers he was unleashing in himself. While the others were paralyzed with fear and boredom, he passed the entire twenty months without a thought of the plague or any worries for the future. And in that time, he essentially created modern mathematics, mechanics, and optics. It is generally considered the most prolific, concentrated period of scientific thinking in the history of mankind. Of course, Isaac Newton possessed a rare mind, but at Cambridge nobody had suspected him of such mental powers. It took this period of forced isolation and repetitive labor to transform him into a genius.”

“Once we reach a certain level of mastery, we see there are higher levels and challenges. If we are disciplined and patient, we proceed. At each higher level, new pleasures and insights await us—ones not even suspected when we started out. We can take this as far as we want—in any human activity there is always a higher level to which we can aspire.”

“Understand: the real secret, the real formula for power in this world, lies in accepting the ugly reality that learning requires a process, and this in turn demands patience and the ability to endure drudge work. It is not sexy or seductive at first glance, but this truth is based on something real and substantial—an age-old wisdom that will never be overturned. The key is the level of your desire. If you are really after power and mastery, then you will absorb this idea deeply and engrave it in your mind: there are no shortcuts. You will distrust anything that is fast and easy. You will be able to endure the initial months of dull, repetitive labor, because you have an overall goal. This will prevent you from short-circuiting, knowing many things but mastering none of them. In the end, what you really will be doing is mastering yourself—your impatience, your fear of boredom and empty time, your need for constant fun and amusement.”

“Often when you begin a project of any kind, it is from the wrong end. You tend to think first of what you want to accomplish, imagining the glory and money it will bring you if it succeeds. You then proceed to make this concept come to life. But as you go forward you often lose patience, because the small steps to get there are not nearly as exciting as the ambitious visions in your head. You must try instead the opposite approach, which can lead to very different results. You have a project you wish to bring to life, but you begin by immersing yourself in the details of the subject or field. You look at the materials you have to work with, the tastes of your target audience, and the latest technical advances in the field. You take pleasure in going deeper and deeper into these fine points—your research is intense. From this knowledge, you shape the project itself, grounding it in reality rather than in airy concepts in your head. Operating this way helps you slow your mind down and develop patience for detailed work, an essential skill for mastering any craft.”

“This is the dilemma we all face: to accomplish anything worthwhile in life generally takes some time—often in blocks of years. But we are creatures who find it very hard to manage such long periods. We are immersed in the day-to-day; our emotions fluctuate with each encounter. We have immediate desires we are constantly working to satisfy. In that long period of time that we need to reach a goal, we are assailed by a thousand distractions and temptations that seem more interesting. We lose sight of our objectives and end up following some detour. This is the source of so many of the failures in our lives. To force yourself past any obstacle or temptation, you must be persistent. As children we all had this quality because we were single-minded; you must simply rediscover and redevelop this character trait. First, you must understand the role that your energy level plays in mastering a process and bringing something to completion. If you take on added goals or new tasks, your focus will be broken up and you will never attain what you wanted in the first place. You cannot persist on two or three paths, so avoid that temptation. Second, try breaking things up into smaller blocks of time. You have a large goal, but there are steps along the way, and steps within the steps. These steps represent months instead of years. Reaching these smaller goals gives you a sense of tangible reward and progress. This will make it easier for you to resist any diversions along the way and fearlessly push ahead. Remember: anything will give way to a sustained, persistent attack on your part.”

“When you work through such self-imposed boredom, you will find your mind clicks into gear—new and unexpected thoughts will come to you to fill the void. To feel inspired you must first experience a moment of emptiness. Use such moments to assess the day that went by, to measure where you are headed.”

“There is another, fearless way of approaching your life. It begins by untying yourself from the opinions of others. This is not as easy as it sounds. You are breaking a lifelong habit of continually referring to other people when measuring your value. You must experiment and feel the sensation of not concerning yourself with what others think or expect of you. You do not advance or retreat with their opinions in mind. You drown out their voices that often translate into doubts inside you. Instead of focusing on the limits you have internalized, you think of the potential you have for new and different behavior. Your personality can be altered and shaped by your conscious decision to do so. We barely understand the role that willpower plays in our actions. When you raise your opinion of yourself and what you are capable of it has a decided influence on what you do. For instance, you feel more comfortable taking some risk, knowing that you are always able to get back up on your feet if it fails. Taking this risk will then make your energy levels rise—you have to meet the challenge or go under, and you will find untapped reservoirs of creativity within you.”

Your task is to retain or rediscover those aspects of your character that defy categorization, and to give them even greater play. Remaining unique, you will create something unique and inspire the kind of respect you would never receive from tepid conformity.”

“Understand: people judge you by appearances, the image you project through your actions, words, and style. If you do not take control of this process, then people will see and define you the way they want to, often to your detriment. You might think that being consistent with this image will make others respect and trust you, but in fact it is the opposite—over time you seem predictable and weak. Consistency is an illusion anyway—each passing day brings changes within you. You must not be afraid to express these evolutions. The powerful learn early in life that they have the freedom to mold their image, fitting the needs and moods of the moment. In this way, they keep others off balance and maintain an air of mystery.”

To download a high-quality PDF version of this quote collection, just click here.

I hope you find these notes as useful as I have. If you like them, you would probably like the whole book.