Consultant Physician and Diabetologist at Balaji Hospital Tikrapara
&Diabetic Clinic .
1 अप्रैल 2017
Radical Realism -3
Host: I think there will be plenty of questions. Let’s see some and we also have, since Casper sent out a page before, there is even some anonymous questions. We may get to them. Why don’t we take . . .
Audience Member: All right. You sort of wound up talking about happiness. Would you say that you are happy?
Robert: Me? Me personally? Well, it is a weird thing of language to have a word like happiness. When your reality in the day is for three minutes you are happy and then for three minutes you are anxious. Then you get a phone call. Happiness never lasts for three days, I’m happy. You know? But overall, I’m very lucky and very blessed with my lifestyle in being able to write these books. So if I had to say am I happier than I was? Yes, I’m much happier than I was before I had a success as a writer.
Audience Member: So I have to ask. You know how to control men and do you know how to control women, God bless you. But . . .
Robert: I don’t know about the latter.
Audience Member: But what makes the good life?
Robert: The good life?
Audience Member: Is it power?
Robert: Yes, because with power comes a degree of freedom. Now, everybody is an individual. Some people like a position of dependence, and they feel happiest when there is somebody taking care of them. But, ultimately, I’m not happy with that because I know that that person will eventually withdraw their support. That unless this is someone who I am going to live with my whole life, that’s a different question, that eventually I am going to be left alone. And that dependency, that love or happiness that came from someone else, I can’t really 100 percent depend on it. I want to be able to have it depend on something that comes from within. Even to love somebody, even if you are going to live with them, is almost a skill that you have to develop, and it has to come from within.
And the only thing that is of value is something that you develop yourself through your life experiences, through maybe some hard times where you learn how to seduce. You learn how to compromise. You learn how to be in a relationship and how to love. And then once you have that skill or whatever you want to call it, then nobody can take it away from you and you have power and you have freedom and a degree of happiness. I don’t know if I answered your question.
Audience Member: But what would be the intrinsic goodness be? What is your intrinsic end of the power?
Robert: Well, there is no end. Because we die and what can I say? That is the absurd human condition that we have. You can accumulate millions, all the money in the world and all the beautiful women and then it’s gone at some point. So I don’t know what your question would be.
Audience Member: Those people that opt out of your system, can they not keep happiness because they don’t have that liberty.
Robert: Well, I think that it is hard to gauge, and you can’t put a number on it. But I think people who are depressed are often depressed because they have no control over their lives. They have no control over their destiny. They feel helpless. They feel like at work they might lose their job any moment now. It’s a terrible feeling. They feel that their children aren’t listening to them. The man or woman that they want to have a relationship with isn’t listening to them. That sense of helplessness, to me, is the worst feeling in the world.
Obviously there is a quote you’ve all heard of. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Malcolm X had a comeback to that line that I like a lot more. He said, absolute powerlessness corrupts even more than that. I’m not quoting it correctly. But the sense of being powerless is much worse, more debilitating on the human spirit, than the few people who are corrupted by having power. I still don’t know if I’ve answered your question.
Host: Well I wonder whether part of your question is, what do you use the power for? Is power the end that you are searching for? Or are there things you actually care about trying to use, to make sense to bother to have power for?
Robert: Well, it’s interesting.
Host: I’m not sure if that’s your question, but that’s mine.
Robert: No, I didn’t, that’s my fault, I didn’t understand. Well, let’s say, I could talk about myself. The pleasure that comes for me is in writing a book and in writing the book well, in spending a lot of time getting it right and understanding the real world as it is, the power game, the seduction game, whatever, and then creating a book that goes out in the real world. Half the game of life is doing something that you love and engaging with it deeply.
It is your study. It is your field. It is whatever you produce. But that is only half of it. Because if you don’t understand the social part, then the book that I write, if I don’t know how to deal with people, and I don’t understand human nature, and I can’t market my book, and my editor hates me, and my agent doesn’t know how to work with me, I could love my book. But it won’t get out there. It won’t get published. It won’t have success. And I won’t be happy.
The end in life is doing your work that you love and feeling satisfaction. But my experience is that a lot of people in this world are talented, and they don’t succeed because they don’t understand that there is this other side of life — the power game, the Machiavellian game. They fail at it. They might be a great painter, a great musician, a great business idea. But we are never going to hear of them because they don’t understand this.
To answer your question, the end is the satisfaction that you get with your work. For me. But that can only come with a larger understanding of the social component.
Host: That is interesting because you succeeded in a way, with these goals, because you were powerless. At least in the vignette that you gave that was your own experience. You couldn’t accomplish what you wanted to.
Host: That started getting you to think about how do you accomplish it?
Robert: That’s right.
Host: That has now put you where you feel like you have accomplished it, which is right. For you, somehow that experience with this extreme powerlessness . . .
Host: . . . that became the focus of your book.
Host: And what you cared about getting.
Robert: And not to compare myself to 50, because I can’t. But it was the same thing with him. When he was shot, he was very depressed. Nearly died. He was sitting in bed. He can’t talk anymore. He can’t sing anymore. He can’t go back to the streets hustling, because they are going to kill him. The record label dropped him. He experienced extreme powerlessness. And out of that he analyzed what it was that he needed to do and then he re-emerged. So maybe there is something to what you are saying.
Audience Member: You said earlier that it’s only when we step out of Yale that we will see this other dark, the other side and beneath all this Machiavellian strategy. But we will be stepping out into society. Yale is a society. Now why is it different? Like you say, here is a place where there is no need for that. And you are blinded
Robert: At a university, let’s say your goal, more or less, is to graduate with a very high GPA, as high as possible and land a really great job, perhaps, out of this. To get those high grades, do you need to have Machiavellian skills? Usually not. Usually, I mean, professors can be, they are not immune to favoritism, to being emotional. So there is a degree of seduction and charm going on. You could charm your professor perhaps. But more or less, you are being graded on what you’ve accomplished.
That’s how life should be, and I wish it were that way. I wish talent and getting answers right and doing a great essay, I wish that was the whole component. That would be a beautiful world if it could be like that. But it is not how it operates.
All I am saying is, the element of ego and gamesmanship and politicking, how much does that enter into your goal of success at the university? I don’t think it is as much, nearly as much, as one experiences in the real world. In fact, the university, and I could be wrong here, but, in fact, it tends to breed the opposite idea, which is why I think so many people suffer in life. It breeds the idea that just doing a good job and getting the good grades and succeeding is what will translate into power in the world. And actually, learning that that is not the case 100 percent can be quite traumatic. I don’t know.
Audience Member: Is it not interesting that a Yale graduate could go out and be involved in positions of power, as you might call it.
Robert: How do you mean?
Audience Member: After graduation, as I said, those people involve in society and they are doing well because of the character of the education that they got over here.
Robert: Well, the education is extremely valuable, and I don’t mean to devalue it at all. It is extremely valuable. The skills that you learn, the analytical skills, the knowledge that you gain will be very valuable. But it is just part of it. And maybe your connections at Yale and the degree, it’s has a lot of weight to it. It can lead to a good job. But then you are on your own. Your interpersonal, political skills were not developed at Yale.
There is a university called CalArts in California. I have friends who have gone there. Very interesting place. It was a school that was formed in the sixties, essentially, and basically it is an arts school. They discerned that the art world, there is no more political, crabby, competitive, mean-spirited world than the art world. Because what makes a great work of art or film is very subjective. So there is a lot of politicking. And they created this university to literally train their students to be good at that. They created this thing where you had to learn how to deal with your professors and deal with the politicking and talk about your work in a way that would charm and seduce. And actually develop the kind of political skills that you are going to need when you later go into the art world. That is kind of a unique thing for a university, and a very interesting idea.
Audience Member: You talk about the importance of expressing individuality. What if following your own ideals means that you have to separate yourself from the crowd. Which one would you say is more important? Is it being unique or being able to mix?
Robert: Well, they don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. And I didn’t get to go into my idea in as much depth as I would like to. I don’t mean that the moment you graduate Yale, you dye your hair green and you start doing something really wild because that is just who you are. That’s ridiculous. And it is often not really who you are. It is just because you are trying to rebel and be different. It is more subtle than that. For instance, we all have to serve an apprenticeship in life. So once you graduate Yale, you are going to go work for some high powered law firm or Wall Street or wherever you go. I don’t know.
You are not going to have the luxury of suddenly not fitting in and being so weird and different. You are not going to last very long if you do that. You have to be able to take your time and fit into the culture that’s created and find your place in it. But the problem is that that ends up becoming the end in life. You end up becoming a kind of person that only knows how to fit in, hat only knows how to fit into that particular culture. And if you do that long enough, and now you are there and you are 30 years old and that is the only thing you have ever learned to do, you are afraid to step away from that. You are afraid to express something unique about yourself.
You have to, when you are in your apprenticeship, in those first years working at that high powered firm, you have to be constantly waiting for that moment when you are going to do something different. You have to cultivate your own individuality, your own self-reliant skills. People who now, particularly in business, who are successful, are creating really unique kinds of business. There are new models being created every day. You are having to think about, that is the end game in life. I want to be an entrepreneur. I want to create my own business.
You can do that from within a large corporation, that apprenticeship phase, while you are learning about the world and you are preparing for that moment when you are going to step out on your own. But all I am saying is if you end up becoming the kind of person that only knows how to fit into a corporate culture, that is going to be the end of it. That is as far as you are ever going to go. And if that is what you want, then that’s fine. But power lies in a slightly different direction.
Host: So let me ask one of the written in questions, and then maybe we’ll have time for two more after that. People talk about the importance of charm and charisma. How can these traits be defined? And do you have to be born with them? And I assume implied in the latter question is what do I have to do to get it? How do I learn to be charming and charismatic? Or can I?
Robert: The answer to your question is you have to read “The Art of Seduction” because I explain and describe nine types of seducers in the world. One of them is the charmer, and one of them is the charismatic. They are different people. They are different types. Usually charmers are not charismatic. Usually charismatics are not necessarily charmers. They are almost not the same.
Charismatics are people who have a tremendous need to get love from the world. They don’t want love from one person. They want it from an audience. They often come from backgrounds that are a little bad. They didn’t have happy childhoods. So, to sublimate this need for affection and love, they turn to a large group. They become charismatic on a political, on a global level. They become a Mahatma Gandhi, a John F. Kennedy. All charismatics are burning with a mission, with an idea that makes their whole face light up, their eyes light up with this idea that they want to convey to people. And the sense of being alive with this inner fire is what people feel this charisma.
Seduction is a non-verbal language, which is why, I know “The Art of Seduction” is written with words. But it is a language that is non-verbal. You can’t tell people you are charismatic. You can’t communicate it outwardly. They have to feel it in an animal way.
In the book, I say some people are born with charisma because they come from bad backgrounds. Like Marilyn Monroe, who was an orphan. You are not necessarily from that background, but you can learn the idea. Your inner conviction is what people feel. They see it in your hands, in your eyes.
50 has charisma. I’ve watched him. Everybody feels it around him. You have to have that inner conviction. Your whole body has to be alive with it or you are not going to have charisma. You can learn to a degree, but there is a limit unless you are born that way.
Charm is a whole, more possible realm for everyone. Charm is knowing how to please other people. There is a famous quote about a woman who said, this is about Gladstone and Disraeli, two British politicians of the 19th century who were rivals. And she said, “Sitting next to Gladstone, I thought he was the most brilliant man in the world. Sitting next to Disraeli, I thought I was the most brilliant woman in the world.”
That’s the charmer. The charmer is somebody who knows how to make the other person feel great about themself. It is a really important social skill. It means not thinking about yourself but imagining what the other person wants to hear. What their weakness is. What they need, validation. You have to be outer directed. And it is very important and very powerful and anybody can learn it. And I talk about it in the book. Seducers are not born, they are made. You may not end up becoming Cleopatra, but you can go halfway or a quarter of the way.
I’m sorry, did you want to ask another anonymous question?
Audience Member: Audience Member: You mentioned entrepreneurs. And I also heard from a lot of entrepreneurs that they say that in order to be wildly successful, you have to be prepared to wildly fail.
Audience Member: And does that fit into your paradigm of maintaining power?
Robert: Very much so. I’ll be looking at a lot about that in my next book. All of the most creative people are experimenters who have many failures. Einstein, who I have been reading a lot about, he said, “I measured my success by how full my wastebasket was. How many ideas I threw away meant that I was on the right track. If my wastebasket was empty, I wasn’t being creative.”
You are going to be measured by your failures, and the reason is we learn by doing. You can’t learn how to run a business, you can’t learn how to have success by reading a book. I’m afraid I’m dissuading all of you from buying my books. But, ultimately, a book has a limit. It is your own experience in doing things where you learn, “Oh, this is what connected with my audience. Oh, this is what got that guy interested in my idea.” And so you have to go out there and not be afraid of trying things. Starting a business.
They have shown entrepreneurs that, I don’t know the number, but it was like 95 percent of them, their first ventures fail. And the ones who are successful go on to a second and a third one and a fourth one. They are called serial entrepreneurs.
So you have to not be afraid of failure. You have to be the kind of person that tries things out and learn from your experiences. If you are afraid of that, it is going to be very difficult to gain the real world knowledge that you need in order to have success. So it is very important.
Audience Member: You talk a lot about personal characteristics like charisma, aggressiveness, etc. But, you know, 50 Cent wouldn’t have been able to sell that mixed tape if the environment wasn’t ready for it. And there is that French minister who survived from the French Revolution all the way through Napoleon and after.
Robert: Oh, Fouchet?
Audience Member: Yeah, Fouchet. Just the ebbs and flows and trends. What do you think about, aside from personal charisma and characteristics at all, about the natural way that opportunities and political opinions sway with the times?
Robert: Well, it’s a good question because a lot of people will say, they will look at a Clinton or a Barack Obama and they’ll say, “What makes them so brilliant or how do they succeed in an election?”
A lot of it, a good degree is luck. You come on the world stage at the right time. So there is always a degree of luck in anybody’s success. I met this man in Italy. If I hadn’t met him in 1995, I still might be slaving away in some cubicle in Hollywood and you would never have heard of me. I had the luck to meet this man. But the difference is everybody has luck. Everybody, something happens to you. It is just what do you do with it? Are you the kind of person that recognizes the opportunity?
When Barack Obama was first deciding to run for presidency, it happened to be a lucky moment. This was probably the only moment where he could have won an election given his background. But he was the one that recognized this was the moment and I am going to seize it, when everybody was telling him, “You are not ready to run. You need to wait four more years.” And he said, “No. I see this is the opportunity.” So what separates people in life are, a good thing will happen to you and you let it pass. You know?
If you are an opportunist, which I talk about in “The 50th Law,” you recognize that opportunity has come, and you work like a fiend in order to make it happen. When this man gave me an opportunity to write “The 48 Laws of Power,” I worked night and day, my birthday, Christmas, 365 days a year until 1:00 in the morning. I was not going to let go of my one opportunity in life. And that is, to me, what separates people who take an opportunity like that and others who let it slip by.
Host: So let me make a comment and then get your reactions and then I think we’ll finish up. I know when I first started looking at some of what you wrote, and hearing you today, it would be easy to take much of what you say as instructions for how to use other people. How to get them to do your bidding. And there is clearly a way in which a bunch of the laws are written, that way. That is a very instrumental view of other people. How do I turn them into a means for me to accomplish something?
Also, though, mixed into, as you have talked and as we talked earlier, there had a sense that some of what you are really interested in is something that say, some of the psychologists here and our provost here have studied, which is emotional intelligence. How do I understand how other people think and what moves them? And what their emotional state is. And how my actions will interact with theirs. And that having some honed emotional intelligence might put me in a position to be able to accomplish things that I want but also be attuned to what they want. And not necessarily treat them as minions, but treat them as their own independent entities. So I was wondering how you think about those tensions?
Robert: Yeah. It becomes tricky, because if you are thinking about them deeply and their own needs, where is the distinction for them becoming a means to it? What are you trying to accomplish? If you are trying to, for instance, forge a political organization where people are all on the same page with a sense of mission and you need to be sensitive to the kinds of people that will join your group, and you are aware of their own needs and the fact that they are an individual. But, on the other hand, you are bringing them into the group and you have a mission you are trying to accomplish. What separates them from being a means or an instrument and also being attuned to their individuality and what their separateness is? Why does it have to be mutually exclusive?
Host: I don’t know that they are.
Robert: Oh, okay.
Host: I don’t know that they are. But I do think that the focus on what’s that other person’s interest and what would really matter to that person and how might we both be able to accomplish what we both care about? To get our goals in alignment. We go back to where you ran to, the difficulty that you talked about.
Host: The boss who was squashing you. Was there another way than just to say, “Well, never outshine my boss.” But to think, well, I shouldn’t outshine her. How do I bring her over?’
Host: But then it aligns with we both want to create these stories.
Robert: In the book, “The 48 Laws of Power,” I talk about how you do not outshine people and get them. But then it gets very Machiavellian. It is a good point because people mistake my books for being purely about how to use people. And it is all kind of selfish.
But, particularly in “The Art of Seduction,” I make the point that you are not going to get far unless you are the kind of person that knows how to think inside the other person’s mind. And that requires a totally different kind of personality. Where you have to not be so self-absorbed. Where you can think inside of other people and what their interests are and what is going to appeal to them. That is the secret to being successful as a politician or a businessperson or in any kind of relationship. And I go as deeply into that as I can. But not many people recognize that, because they only see the element of using other people for what you want.
Host: Yeah. Well, that is what I was aware of.
Host: You do have that component, but it may not be the most visible.