We don’t walk around thinking, “My boss is acting.” “My wife is acting.” “My kids are acting.”
But they are. Whether they know it not.
“Everyone has a character,” Robert Greene said on my podcast. “We have qualities that are deeply ingrained in us. Based on our genetics. Based on our childhood and our parents.”
And this causes patterns in our lives. “Weird patterns that we repeat over and over again.”
I’ll give you an example.
Let’s say I keep going broke (this is a true story). But if I figure out WHY I keep going broke, I can avoid it. I went broke for two reasons:
- I had a scarcity complex. I could have millions in the bank and think I was broke.
- I thought I was the smartest person on the planet. Because my business was doing well. Then I sold it. So I thought my success equaled some higher intelligence. I was wrong. Once I learned I could be stupid and successful, I stopped making dumb decisions.
Knowing your patterns is a type of freedom. But Robert went further than just knowing his own patterns.
He wanted to know all of human nature’s patterns. So he studied it, broke it down and put it into this new book, “The Laws of Human Nature”.
“You want to be able to judge people’s character by seeing their patterns,” he said. “Not by looking at their resume or their charming smile or everything that they try and show you. Look at their past and their patterns and they will reveal their underlying character.”
This book will teach you how to be an x-ray machine. And I know I’ll be recommending this book for the rest of my life.
So here’s what he taught me. And I’m sure I’ll end up doing a Part Two for this because I’m on my third re-read of this book.
1. EVERYONE IS ACTING
“When we were children, we learned how to act. We learned how to smile. We learned how to cry extra hard to get what we wanted from our parents. We’re trained from early on to be actors.”
And it’s non-stop. “We’re continually acting,” he said.
So it’s no wonder we’re tired all the time. Everyday, we wake up and try to be ourselves.
But we’re acting, conforming and playing by other people’s rules. Rules from school, the adults we grew up with, our social circles, etc.
And the influences keep changing.
TV becomes YouTube. Anyone can be “media.” Radio becomes podcasts. The news becomes Twitter and so on.
And that’s just today’s influences. People are designing tomorrow’s influences everyday.
2. DON’T DENY IT
“The worst thing is to be in denial,” Robert said. “That’s what I’m trying to hit you over the head with in this book.”
Acting = human nature.
“You’ll naturally go, ‘Oh, I’m not like that. I do what I want to do. I don’t listen to other people. I’m independent.’ Well, hell you’re not,” Robert said. “You’re much more of a conformist than you realize. Because that is human nature. You are not immune to this no matter what you tell yourself.”
3. KNOW YOUR NATURE (AND OTHER’S)
Robert gave me some examples.
He said, “The ability to judge people’s character is one of the most important skills you can have. It will stop you from choosing the worst kind of romantic partner that will make your life miserable. It will prevent you from hiring people who are charming but slackers or who are out to steal your company from you.”
“Okay, so what’s the first step?” I asked.
“You have to be aware, first of all, that you are conforming, that you are influenced by what other people are doing and saying before you can begin to cut that off.”
4. ADMIT IT
So, to recap, first you have to become aware. Then get out of denial. Then admit it.
“You are not a rational human being,” he said. “Admit it.
And he breaks down all the signs of irrational behavior in his book.
“If you realize that you are not rational, that you are largely governed by emotions, you can now begin to divorce emotions from your decisions. And opinions slowly become rational. But your denial is a big problem in all of these elements in human nature. So you are a conformist. When you admit that and realize it now you can begin to work in the opposite direction.”
5. DON’T BE EMBARRASSED.
Most of us are bad at judging people because of two things:
1. We don’t know our own characters.
– If we don’t know who we’re playing then how can we expect to understand who anyone else is?
2. We don’t know we’re acting. (That’s actually #1.)
– There’s all this pressure to be your authentic self. So if we admit we’re acting, it’s embarrassing.
But when you realize it’s natural and just part of human nature, you’re free.
These lessons all came from just ONE of the laws in Robert’s book.
He goes into:
“The Law of Aimlessness” / how someone finds their sense of purpose
Robert says, “There’s a voice saying, ‘This is where you should be. This is who you are.’ And as we get older we lose touch with that. We listen to our parents. We listen to the culture at large. And suddenly, we’re 30, 40 years old and we’re a lawyer or we’re in some job that we don’t really connect to. And we’re down sized. And we feel like we’re at a loss. We’re aimless. We don’t know where to go.”
“So what do you do if you’ve lost touch with that voice?”
“You need to reconnect to who you are. You need to look at the things that excite you the most. I call them primal inclinations. It may not be so simple. It may not be so simple as saying, ‘golf.’”
Robert knew when he was eight years old that he loved writing. But he could never figure out what to write. He started with journalism. Then he tried novels. Then plays and movie scripts. “I could basically say I was a failure in all of those arenas because they weren’t connecting to something meaningful to me. It wasn’t who I was.”
Finally, someone suggested “Why don’t you do a book?”
Now he’s a bestselling author. “So the lesson there is, I kept trying my hand at things that excited me but weren’t quite right until I found the right thing. So you need to experiment. You need to look at what excites you and try your hand at it. If you’re 45 years old and you suddenly lost your job, you’re not in the position to experiment a lot. So what I advise is take the skills you have and apply them in a direction that suits you more.”
He told me about “The Law of Covetousness,” which is about learning how to be desirable.
And “The Law of Fickleness” where Robert teaches you the steps to develop inner authority.
And so on.
There are only certain books that make me feel like I’m getting smarter. I could feel my IQ go up reading this book.
James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.