Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Robert Greene’s new book, The Laws of Human Nature.
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 achievements, and your contributions to society.
Continue reading “Know Your Limits: The Law of Grandiosity”
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Back in 2016, a bizarre story emerged in pop culture. Professional wrestler Hulk Hogan won a $115 million dollar lawsuit against the gossip website Gawker for publishing a sex tape that had been made without his consent. The victory was somewhat surprising but the real surprise was who was actually behind the lawsuit; it wasn’t Hogan himself, but the billionaire founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel.
Thiel had his own axe to grind against Gawker, and he had been honing it since 2007. He had been plotting to take down Gawker for almost a decade.
What may sound like a tawdry story of celebrity and scandal, actually contains surprisingly potent lessons on revenge, Stoicism, strategy, perseverance, hubris, privacy, and the underrated power of secrets.
- Why was Ryan drawn to this story? How did he end up chronicling it?
- How did Ryan choose an approach to this book? How did he write it differently than most journalists already had?
- The backstory of Gawker.com and its outing of Peter Thiel
- Why it took 4+ years for Thiel to realize he could do something about it
- How did Thiel find and end up paying for Hulk Hogan’s case against Gawker?
- What Ryan meant in calling Thiel a “high agency” individual
- Can a person become high agency? Or are you born that way?
- Why Thiel wants to be underestimated and under-the-radar
- Why competition is for losers
- The difference between conspiracy and war
- Why Thiel sought revenge rather than taking, say, a Stoic approach to the problem
- Did Thiel go too far? Why was his identity and scheme revealed?
- Why secrecy can actually be an effective, powerful tool in getting things done
- The value of privacy in our modern transparent society
- How did all the players in this story turn out?
- What happened when Thiel and Denton met in person?
- Ryan’s takeaways on strategy, getting things done, etc.