The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene: Summary & Notes

Front cover of The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene.

In short

The Laws of Human Nature is Robert Greene’s synthesis of how humans behave and what drives them. Not only does it help to understand why people do what they do, it also helps to understand your own drivers and flaws better – and to steer or change them.

There are a number of reasons why you might want to study human nature. On the one hand it can help you to observe others around you and judge their intentions and overall character in a better way. This can prevent you from falling into traps of malicious or cunning people. On the other hand, studying human nature also helps to understand your own motivation and drivers and the things that are holding you back. This, of course, is essential if you want to grow as a human being and influence those around you (whether it’s career-oriented, relationship-oriented, or something else).

As with Greene’s previous books (on power, warfare, or mastery), The Laws of Human Nature is incredibly rich and well-researched. Apparently it took six years to research and write and this really shows. I highly recommend everyone to read this book because the applications are limitless.

For more details and reviews go to Amazon.

Book Summary & Notes

All text that is quoted & italicized is taken directly from the book.

1. Master Your Emotional Self – The Law of Irrationality

You like to imagine yourself in control of your fate, consciously planning the course of your life as best you can. But you are largely unaware of how deeply your emotions dominate you. They make you veer toward ideas that soothe your ego. They make you look for evidence that confirms what you already want to believe. They make you see what you want to see, depending on your mood, and this disconnect from reality is the source of the bad decisions and negative patterns that haunt your life. Rationality is the ability to counteract these emotional effects, to think instead of react, to open your mind to what is really happening, as opposed to what you are feeling. It does not come naturally; it is a power we must cultivate, but in doing so we realize our greatest potential.”

  • Humans like to think they are rational but that’s not really true, we are usually driven by emotion. However, we all possess the skills to become rational but it’s not something we are born with. It requires deliberate practice and effort.
  • We should pursue rationality because it provides the mental clarity we need. Rushing into action, or acting emotionally, usually causes more issues down the line.
  • One of the key tactics to become more rational is to resist acting immediately. Instead, take a step back and think things through. The more time we take the less emotional and more reflective we can act.
  • Highly rational people (Greene cites Pericles, Marcus Aurelius, Leonardo da Vinci, Abraham Lincoln and others) share a few characteristics: “a realistic appraisal of themselves and their weaknesses; a devotion to truth and reality; a tolerant attitude toward people; and the ability to reach goals that they have set.”

2. Transform Self-love into Empathy – The Law of Narcissism

“We all naturally possess the most remarkable tool for connecting to people and attaining social power – empathy. When cultivated and properly used, it can allow us to see into the moods and minds of others, giving us the power to anticipate people’s actions and gently lower their resistance. This instrument, however, is blunted by our habitual self-absorption. We are all narcissists, some deeper on the spectrum than others. Our mission in life is to come to terms with this self-love and learn how to turn our sensitivity outward, toward others, instead of inward. We must recognize at the same time the toxic narcissists among us before getting enmeshed in their dramas and poisoned by their envy.”

  • Everyone is narcissistic to a certain degree.
  • Greene advises us to train our empathy: give people the same amount of attention as you give to yourself. Stop the constant internal monologue. Be eager to hear the opinions of others and to fully understand them. Mirror things back to them. Notice the things left unsaid.
  • “Each person is like an undiscovered country.”

3. See Through People’s Mask – The Law of Role-playing

“People tend to wear the mast that shows them off in the best possible light – humble, confident, diligent. They say the right things, smile, and seem interested in our ideas. They learn to conceal their insecurities and envy. If we take this appearance for reality, we never really know their true feelings, and on occasion we are blindsided by their sudden resistance, hostility, and manipulative actions. Fortunately, the mask has cracks in it. People continually leak out their true feeling and unconscious desires in the nonverbal cues they cannot completely control – facial expressions, vocal inflections, tension in the body, and nervous gestures. You must master this language by transforming yourself into a superior reader of men and women. Armed with this knowledge, you can take the proper defensive measures. On the other hand, since appearances are what people judge you by, you must learn how to present the best front and play your role to maximum effect.”

  • In order to become a better reader of others, we must understand our own self-absorption and how little we actually observe in daily life. Then we must understand that observational skills are like learning a new language. It’s not just about noticing things, it’s about internalizing the physical energy and getting the message from a gesture or an expression.
  • Life has a theatrical quality to it and there is no point in railing against it. But we must realize that people play a role and never mistake appearances for reality.
  • Greene suggests that we should also start to observe our own non-verbal clues (fake smiles, nervous ticks, et cetera) since it will help us to spot it in others.
  • Confidence is shown non-verbally with greater relaxation and freedom of movement. Confident people look around more, make eye contact with whomever they please, take up more space, their gestures are relaxed, and people tend to mimic their energy.

4. Determine the Strength of People’s Character – The Law of Compulsive Behavior

“When choosing people to work and associate with, do not be mesmerized by their reputation or taken in by the surface image they try to project. Instead, train yourself to look deep within them and see their character. People’s character is formed in their earliest years and by their daily habits. It is what compels them to repeat certain actions in their lives and fall into negative patterns. Look closely at such patterns and remember that people never do something just once. They will inevitably repeat their behavior. Gauge the relative strength of their character by how well they handle adversity, their ability to adapt and work with other people, their patience and ability to learn. Always gravitate toward those who display signs of strength, and avoid the many toxic types out there. Know thoroughly your own character so you can break compulsive patterns and take control of your destiny.”

  • Persons of character are rare, but they’re also invaluable since they can learn and are willing to improve themselves. So when choosing whom to work with take this into account since it’s critical to your success.
  • The lives of people have patterns, but they are not determined by gods or fate. Instead our character controls us: it ensures that we act in certain ways, and is the precursor to failure or success.
  • What constitutes a strong character? Greene lists the following:
    • They have a feeling of self-worth, which allows them to take criticism and learn from experiences
    • They don’t give up easily but are persistent
    • They’re open to new ideas
    • When facing adversity they are calm or have a presence of mind
    • They do what they promised to do
    • They are patient
    • They are willing to let the group interest take precedence over their personal interests
  • If you want to determine a person’s character look at how they handle difficult situations or responsibilities.
  • “Remember: weak character will neutralize all of the other possible good qualities a person might possess. People of real strength are as rare as gold, and if you find them, you should respond as if you had discovered a treasure.”

5. Become an Elusive Object of Desire – The Law of Covetousness

“Absence and presence have very primal effects upon us. Too much presence suffocates; a degree of absence spurs our interest. We are marked by the continual desire to posses what we do not have – the object projected by our fantasies. Learn to create some mystery around you, to use strategic absence to make people desire your return, to want to possess you. Dangle in front of others what they are missing most in life, what they are forbidden to have, and they will go crazy with desire. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Overcome this weakness in yourself by embracing your circumstances, your fate.”

  • No matter what people say, they don’t really desire the truth or honesty. Instead they want their imaginations to be stimulated, and to be taken away from their everyday circumstances.
  • This is why people are so attracted to the exotic, to the get-rich-quick schemes, to a new job or relationship, or to a utopia. But once we actually do these things it’s usually quite disappointing and our desires move on to some place new.
  • Possession doesn’t drive people, desire does. Open-endedness, withdrawal, and surprise keep people in the illusion of fantasy and in the chase of obtaining them.

6. Elevate your Perspective – The Law of Shortsightedness

“It is in the animal part of your nature to be most impressed by what you can see and hear in the present – the latest news reports and trends, the opinions and actions of the people around you, whatever seems the most dramatic. This is what makes you fall for alluring schemes that promise quick results and easy money. This is also what makes you overreact to present circumstances – becoming overly exhilarated or panicky as events turn one direction or the other. Learn to measure people by the narrowness or breadth of their vision; avoid entangling yourself with those who cannot see the consequences of their actions, who are in a continual reactive mode. They will infect you with this energy. Your eyes must be on the larger trends that govern events, on that which is not immediately visible. Never lose sight of your long-term goals. With an elevated perspective, you will have the patience and clarity to reach almost any objective.

  • Humans live in the present moment and react to the things they hear and see right now. But we are also deeply connected to the past, and every decision we take in the present will have consequences for the future.
  • In the present moment we lack perspective – with the passage of time we gain more information and insight.
  • This short-term orientation is dangerous and it’s giving in to our animal nature. Instead we need to gain perspective and thinks things through before taking an action.
  • “Nonconsequential thinking is a veritable plague in the world today that is only growing worse with the speed and ease of access to information, which gives people the illusion that they are informed and have thought deeply about things.”
  • However, due to the complexity of life, we cannot possibly map out all the consequences of an action (even if we think about it deeply). But, by at least trying to think consequentially, we will be aware of the obvious pitfalls and this is often the difference between failure and success.
  • “In life as in warfare, strategists will always prevail over tacticians.”

7. Soften People’s Resistance by Confirming their Self-opinion – The Law of Defensiveness

Life is harsh and people competitive. We naturally must look after our own interests. We also want to feel that we are independent, doing our own bidding. That is why when others try to persuade or change us, we become defensive and resistant. To give in challenges our need to feel autonomous. That is why to get people to move from their defensive positions you must always make it seem like what they are doing is of their own free will. Creating a feeling of mutual warmth helps soften people’s resistance and makes them want to help. Never attack people for their beliefs or make them feel insecure about their intelligence or goodness – that will only strengthen their defensiveness and make your task impossible. Make them feel that by doing what you want they are being noble and altruistic – the ultimate lure. Learn to tame your own stubborn nature and free your mind from its defensive and closed positions, unleashing your creative powers.”

  • If you want to influence and change other people’s actions you need to put them in spotlight. Let them do all the talking and let them give their opinions. This amount of attention is rare and so it will lower their resistance (allowing you the plant the seeds of your own ideas).
  • Don’t do the opposite where you give your own opinions and ideas, and where you ask for favors, or make great promises about what you will deliver. This puts all the attention on yourself and since people are self-absorbed they will turn inward, heightening their resistance.
  • People have a self-opinion about themselves that might be accurate or not. Greene states that the most commonly held self-opinions are: “I am autonomous, acting of my own free will”; “I am intelligent in my own way”; and “I am basically good and decent.”
  • If you do need a favor don’t tell them what you have done in the past for them, but instead tell them what they have done for you – this appeals to, and helps to confirm their self-opinion.
  • Since people often don’t want to do if you tell them something directly (since they want to show their free will), reverse psychology is a good tactic.

8. Change Your Circumstances by Changing Your Attitude – The Law of Self-sabotage

Each of us has a particular way of looking at the world, of interpreting events and the actions of people around us. This is our attitude, and it determines much of what happens to us in life. If our attitude is essentially fearful, we see the negative in every circumstance. We stop ourselves from taking chances. We blame others for mistakes and fail to learn from them. If we feel hostile or suspicious, we make others feel such emotions in our presence. We sabotage our career and relationships by unconsciously creating the circumstances we fear the most. The human attitude, however, is malleable. By making our attitude more positive, open, and tolerant of other people, we can spark a different dynamic – we can learn from adversity, create opportunities out of nothing, and draw people to us. We must explore the limits of our willpower and how far it can take us.”

  • Greene states that our attitudes and perceptions don’t just color the world but they also determine what happens in our lives.
  • While attitudes can come in many different flavors, in general they can be categorized as:
    • Negative and narrow. This attitude is based on a fear of life; unconsciously people with this attitude want to limit what they experience so that they can feel more in control.
    • Positive and expansive. People with this attitude are open to new experiences and ideas.
  • Improving our overall attitude, and how we see and interpret events, will elevate all other elements of life as well.

9. Confront Your Dark Side – The Law of Repression

People are rarely who they seem to be. Lurking beneath their polite, affable exterior is inevitably a dark, shadow side consisting of the insecurities and the aggressive, selfish impulses they repress and carefully conceal from public view. This dark side leaks out in behaviour that will baffle and harm you. Learn to recognize the signs of the Shadow before they become toxic. See people’s overt traits – toughness, saintliness, et cetera – as covering up the opposite quality. You must become aware of your own dark side. In being conscious of it you can control and channel the creative energies that lurk in your unconsciousness. By integrating the dark side into your personality, you will be a more complete human and will radiate an authenticity that will draw people to you.”

  • People craft their own public persona, the side which they want to show to the world. But each of us also has a darker side that contains traits we don’t want to show to the world (insecurities, desires of revenge, suspicions of others, longing for attention, et cetera).
  • Sometimes this dark side leaks out in the comments we make or when we are stressed or anxious.
  • But this ‘shadow’ is what makes humans unique: it is the authenticity that makes artists and leaders stand out from the crowd. Without it they would just be like everyone else.
  • Greene advises us to start consciously showing our shadows more rather than being differential. He mentions six steps:
    • 1) Start respecting your own opinions more and others’ less. We need to trust our own ideas and initiatives.
    • 2) Assert yourself more and compromise less.
    • 3) Care less about what others think of you.
    • 4) Realize that there will be moments when you have to offend or hurt others, especially those who block or criticize you.
    • 5) Sometimes you have to mock the stupidity and hypocrisy of others.
    • 6) Don’t let the current conventions that people follow stop you – disregard them where needed.

10. Beware the Fragile Ego – The Law of Envy

We humans are naturally compelled to compare ourselves to one another. We are continually measuring people’s status, the levels of respect and attention they receive, and noticing any differences between what we have and what they have. For some of us, this need to compare serves as a spur to excel through our work. For others, it can turn into deep envy – feelings of inferiority and frustration that lead to covert attacks and sabotage. Nobody admits to acting out of envy. You must recognize the early warning signs – praise and bids for friendship that seem effusive and out of proportion; subtle digs at you under the guise of good-natured humor; apparent uneasiness with your success. It is most likely to crop up among friends or your peers in the same profession. Learn to deflect envy by drawing attention away from yourself. Develop your sense of self-worth from internal standards and not incessant comparisons.”

  • Everyone experiences envy – the feeling that we want the possessions, respect or attention that others have (and that we deserve!). But to feel envy means to admit to ourselves that we are inferior, and this is not something that we normally do. Instead we cover it up. We say it’s unfair, that we’re unlucky, and start to resent the other person. But what the other person sees is not our envy, but our anger and criticisms.
  • This is why when we experience sabotage and criticism by others we most likely don’t know what inspired those actions.
  • Envy is not a positive emotion and so we must try to combat it. Greene suggests different ways of doing this:
    • Move closer to what you envy, and you will experience it’s not perfect. There are always flaws and downsides.
    • Instead of comparing upwards, compare downwards. Look at people less fortunate than you – this will help you appreciate what you have more.
    • Use what Nietzsche called Mitfreude, “joying with”. Instead of feeling envious try to cultivate a genuine satisfaction and joy when something good happens to others.
    • Use envy to spur excellence – rather than feeling this toxic envious feelings use to motivate and spur yourself to reach the same level.

11. Know Your Limits – The Law of Grandiosity

“We humans have a deep need to think highly of ourselves. If that opinion of our goodness, greatness, and brilliance diverges enough from reality, we become grandiose. We imagine our superiority. Often a small measure of success will elevate our natural grandiosity to even more dangerous levels. Our high self-opinion has now been confirmed by events. We forget the role that luck may have played in the success, or the contributions of others. We imagine we have the golden touch. Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last. Look for the signs of elevated grandiosity in yourself and in others – overbearing certainty in the positive outcome of your plans; excessive touchiness if criticized; a disdain for any form of authority. Counteract the pull of grandiosity by maintaining a realistic assessment of yourself and your limits. Tie any feelings of greatness to your work, your achievement, and your contributions to society.”

  • All humans have a weakness in which they overestimate their skills and abilities. When we achieve something we did it because we are so talented, smart, or hardworking. And the more we experience forms of achievement, the more we start to uncouple our self-opinion from reality.
  • So remember that any form of success always contains a hefty dose of luck, timing, and that others contributed to your successes as well.
  • Greene also warns us for low-grade grandiosity: the feeling that what we’re doing or working on now, is not up to par with our assessment of ourselves. This results in wanting to continually experience something new (career change, learning new skills, or testing new ideas) – we don’t have the patience to stick with what we’re doing right now. We don’t want to confront reality with our actual skill set, and so we quit and start something new. It’s changing jobs before we master it, or never executing any ideas we have because means we would have to confront reality with our (limited) skill-set.

12. Reconnect to the Masculine or Feminine Within You – The Law of Gender Rigidity

All of us have masculine and feminine qualities – some of this is genetic, and some of it comes from the profound influence of the parent of the opposite sex. But in the need to present a consistent identity in society, we tend to repress these qualities, overidentifying with the masculine or feminine role expected of us. And we pay a price for this. We lose valuable dimensions to our character. Our thinking and ways of acting become rigid. Our relationships with members of the opposite sex suffer as we project onto them our own fantasies and hostilities. You must become aware of these lost masculine or feminine traits and slowly reconnect to them, unleashing creative powers in the process. You will become more fluid in your thinking. In bringing out the masculine or feminine undertone to your character, you will fascinate people by being authentically yourself. Do not play the expected gender role, but rather create the one that suits you.”

  • Children have a more fluid sense of the self: they experience a wide range of emotions and are open to new experiences. But as we age our character starts to become more rigid and we become either masculine or feminine.
  • But over-identification with a single gender role means we miss out on some of the benefits of gender fluidity.
  • People with fluid gender are usually more ‘fascinating’ and attract attention of others, they defy the rigid gender roles that society propels unto them. Opening up this part of our selves that we closed-off also helps to boost creativity.

13. Advance with a Sense of Purpose – The Law of Aimlessness

Unlike animals, with their instincts to guide them past dangers, we humans have to rely upon our conscious decisions. We do the best we can when it comes to our career path and handling the inevitable setbacks in life. But in the back of our minds we can sense an overall lack of direction, as we are pulled this way and that way by our moods and by the opinions of others. How did we end up in this job, in this place? Such drifting can lead to dead ends. The way to avoid such a fate is to develop a sense of purpose, discovering our calling in life and using such knowledge to guide us in our decisions. We come to know ourselves more deeply – our tastes and inclinations. We trust ourselves, knowing which battles and detours to avoid. Even our moments of doubt, even our failures have a purpose – to toughen us up. With such energy and direction, our actions have unstoppable force.”

  • The dilemma that most humans face is that we are complex, and even though we want to present a coherent front to the world, we are faced with internal struggles. Which way to go? What direction to choose?
  • This aimlessness is often soothed with new pleasures, experiences or addictions, but those are not solutions. The only way out of this is to find a higher purpose or mission that provides us with direction.
  • There are a few ways in which this aimlessness is felt. We might feel bored with our work, and try to find distractions. We might feel insecure when the discrepancy between our dreams and reality is too big. We might feel anxious that we’ve avoided most of life’s obstacles and are now stagnating. Finally, we might feel depressed when we feel there is some purpose to life but we can’t pinpoint what it is.
  • Cultivation of a higher purpose or calling is the only way out of this. Greene advises us to look at childhood years (what interested us?), or to find moments where we are unusually interested or fascinated by a subject or something you were doing.
  • “Money and success that last come from remaining original and not mindlessly following the path that others are following. If we make money our primary goal, we never truly cultivate our uniqueness, and eventually someone younger and hungrier will supplant us.”

14. Resist the Downward Pull of the Group – The Law of Conformity

We have a side to our character that we are generally unaware of – our social personality, the different person we become when we operate in groups of people. In the group setting, we unconsciously imitate what others are saying and doing. We think differently, more concerned with fitting in and believing what others believe. We feel different emotions, infected by the group mood. We are more prone to taking risks, to acting irrationally, because everyone else is. This social personality can come to dominate who we are. Listening so much to others and conforming our behaviour to them, we slowly lose a sense of our uniqueness and the ability to think for ourselves. The only solutions is to develop self-awareness and a superior understanding of the changes that occur in us in groups. With such intelligence, we can become superior social actors, able to outwardly fit in and cooperate with others on a high level, while retaining our independence and rationality.”

  • As part of our primate nature we are very concerned with what others think of us when we are in groups. There is a certain pressure to adapt in order to fit in with the group – this shapes our thoughts and beliefs.
  • In a group setting we often lose our natural doubts and reflections, and instead focus more on taking action. As a consequence we are more likely to agree with the group direction which makes risk taking more likely.
  • We need to be aware of the pressure of the group and make sure we detach ourselves from it to think rationally and clearly.
  • It is possible for a group to be functional but it needs to have a clear relationships to reality. Groups should not be about endless discussions or infighting or scheming; a group should exist to get things done and not focus on political games. Greene calls this the reality group.

15. Make Them Want to Follow You – The Law of Fickleness

Although styles of leadership change with the times, one constant remains: people are always ambivalent about those in power. They want to be led but also to feel free; they want to be protected and enjoy prosperity without making sacrifices; they both worship the king and want to kill him. When you are the leader of a group, people are continually prepared to turn on you the moment you seem weak or experience a setback. Do not succumb to the prejudices of the times, imagining that what you need to do to gain their loyalty is to seem to be their equal or their friend; people will doubt your strength, become suspicious of you motives, and respond with hidden contempt. Authority is the delicate art of creating the appearance of power, legitimacy, and fairness while getting people to identity with your as a leader who is in their service. If you want to lead, you must master this art from early on in your life. Once you have gained people’s trust, they will stand by you as their leader, no matter the bad circumstances.”

  • A leader’s authority is based on two pillars: vision and empathy. If a leader does not establish this, then the subordinates will slowly start to rebel and create friction for the leader.
  • Also remember that people willingly follow your lead: they chose to listen to you, to take your advice, and to follow what you think is best. Force or rewards have their time and place, but the less you use them, the better.
  • Visionary leadership means stepping out of the current moment and having the presence of mind to tap into trends and patterns. Once you have a vision of the future you can start to work backwards to develop a plan to get there.
  • Greene advises to cultivate inner authority which is “the conscious of our higher self.” It’s the voice that tells us a code of behavior which consists of the following:
    • “You have a responsibility to contribute to the culture and time you live in
    • To service this higher purpose, you must cultivate what is unique about you
    • In a world full of endless distractions, you must focus and prioritize
    • You must adhere to the highest standards in your work
  • The select man, the excellent man is urged, by interior necessity, to appeal to himself to some standard beyond himself, superior to himself, whose service he freely accepts… We distinguished the excellent man from the common man by saying that the former is one who makes great demands on himself, and the latter the one who makes no demands on himself, but contents himself with what he is, and is delighted with himself.” – José Ortega y Gasset

16. See the Hostility Behind the Friendly Façade – The Law of Aggression

On the surface, the people around you appear so polite and civilized. But beneath the mast, they are all inevitably dealing with frustrations. They have a need to influence people and gain power over circumstances. Feeling blocked in their endeavors, they often try to assert themselves in manipulative ways that catch you by surprise. And then there are those whose need for power and impatience to obtain it are greater than others. They turn particularly aggressive, getting their way by intimidating people, being relentless and willing to do almost anything. You must transform yourself into a superior observer of people’s unsatisfied aggressive desires, paying extra attention to the chronic aggressors and passive aggressors in our midst. You must recognize the signs – the past patterns of behavior, the obsessive need to control everything in their environment – that indicate the dangerous types. They depend on making you emotional – afraid, angry – and unable to think straight. Do not give them this power. When it comes to your own aggressive energy, learn to tame and channel it for productive purposes – standing up for yourself, attacking problems with relentless energy, realizing great ambitions.”

  • Aggression is a natural part of being human – it’s hardwired into our species.
  • You can see aggression as an energy that we possess. But there are good and bad ways in which we can express and use it. If we use it negatively (i.e. anti-socially) it will only sabotage us in what we want to accomplish.
  • However, if we can harness it positively and pro-socially, we can feel more confident, bolder and authentic. Greene compares it to how we were as children: fearless, not afraid to speak up, or to tell others they did something stupid or unacceptable. Part of harnessing this energy is gaining back this fearlessness.
  • We can also channel our aggression energy into our work and projects .

17. Seize the Historical Moment – The Law of Generational Myopia

You are born into a generation that defines who you are more than you can imagine. Your generation wants to separate itself from the previous one and set a new tone for the world. In the process, it forms certain tastes, values, and ways of thinking that you as an individual internalize. As you get older, these generational values and ideas tend to close you off from other points of view, constraining your mind. Your task is to understand as deeply as possible this powerful influence on who you are and how you see the world. Knowing in depth the spirit of your generation and the times you live in, you will be better able to exploit the zeitgeist. You will be the one to anticipate and set the trends that your generation hungers for. You will free your mind from the mental constraints placed on you by your generation, and you will become more of the individual you imagine yourself to be, with all the power that freedom will bring you.”

  • All of life is in a constant flux – nothing ever stays the same. People change, institutions change, power dynamics change, et cetera.
  • Individually these changes may seem isolated, but taken together they often form a pattern.
  • Although we cannot remove our generational / historical mindset, we can try to understand the collective spirit that is currently active. Maybe it’s not easy to put it into words, but the general zeitgeist / mood can be felt and experienced.

18. Meditate on Our Common Mortality – The Law of Death Denial

“Most of us spend our lives avoiding the thought of death. Instead, the inevitability of death should be continually on our minds. Understanding the shortness of life fills us with a sense of purpose and urgency to realize our goals. Training ourselves to confront and accept this reality makes it easier to manage the inevitable setbacks, separations, and crisis in life. It gives us a sense of proportion, of what really matters in this brief existence of ours. Most people continually look for ways to separate themselves from others and feel superior. Instead, we must see the mortality in everyone, how it equalizes and connects us all. By becoming deeply aware of our mortality, we intensify our experience of every aspect of life.”

  • Although it’s a truth we often don’t want to face it’s important to understand that all life comes to an end. This may seem morbid, but once we realize that life is short it allows us to focus on the things that really matter to us.
  • “Our repugnance to death increases in proportion to our consciousness of having lived in vain.” – William Hazlitt
  • “Premeditation of death is premeditation of freedom…He who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave. Knowing how to die frees us from all subjection and constraint.” – Michel de Montaigne
  • Since death has terrified humans since the beginning, it is ingrained in our beliefs and religions and we all fear it. But opening up to death – becoming more aware of our mortality – means that we stop all illusions and remove the fear that numbs life. Like Montaigne says, if you know how to die, you can spend the rest of your life to actually live and experience this freedom.

Interested in The Laws of Human Nature? Get the book on Amazon.

Or, browse all book notes here.