Saturday, May 8, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: The 50th Law of Power: Fear Nothing By Robert Greene and 50 Cent. Reviewed by Afrah Jamal.

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / 8 May 2010 under the heading, LEARNING FROM THE 50's

It is blue and gold and it is all about you — the present day ‘you’, planning a rendezvous with destiny, flanked by fear and unhappy at the prospect of rocking that nice boat. This version of you tiptoeing around people’s feelings (sweet), working up the courage to do ‘something grand’ and looking aggrieved at having missed that turning to ‘greatness’ yet again, can use some perspective.

The 50th Law of Power: Fear Nothing is a one on one session with 50 Cent and Robert Greene, designed to give everyone a shot at a life unencumbered by the fear we were just talking about. 50 Cent is a former hustler, present rapper from the hood. Robert Greene has authored books like 33 Strategies of War, 48 Laws of Power, etc.

Robert Greene you get. But 50 Cent!

Their wildly different backgrounds — one roamed the mean streets of Southside Queens, the other walked the mean corridors of power — similar experiences and combined perspectives are used to provide an accurate read of one’s inner fears. This fear manifests itself in a hundred different ways and in all its manifestations has the same debilitating effect.

While Curtis Jackson (50 Cent) models the 50th law, Robert Greene provides actionable intelligence useful in isolating fear from the complex forces that govern our lives and avail the fast narrowing window of opportunity that comes by once in a while.

The 50th Law of Power is a fascinating study into the ways of the world to give those vying for a good place a sporting chance at success. Greene runs down familiar scenarios singling out “common foes” with advice on how to defend or advance, takes apart daily encounters for telltale signs of fear and does a forensic analysis on the people we meet. He also identifies the 50th law practitioners through their “supreme boldness, unconventionality, fluidity and sense of urgency”. The darkness from 50 Cent’s repertoire of moves serves to illuminate the path to fearlessness. Together, they tap into our warped view of the world that stands in the way of all that can be accomplished and cannot be, a world where every second a victim is claimed by fear, rational or irrational; a world just waiting to be conquered. Both men have done a cold appraisal of the surroundings to create a revised dictionary of rules and regulations to match the slick new reality.

Greene’s sketches of classic fearless types who fashioned a new way from the remains of the broken yellow brick road provide the foundation for his case. He suggests using the “Fearless Approach” to reprogramme natural impulses and adapt. “Fearless types,” he reflects, “have often had to face a lot of hostility in their lives and they invariably discover the critical role that one’s attitude plays in thwarting people’s aggression” (page 129). He goes on to add that “...when you submit in spirit to an aggressor or to an unjust and impossible situation, you do not buy yourself any real peace...you encourage people to go further...they sense your lack of respect and feel justified in mistreating you.” He also notes, “If they sense that you are the type of person who accepts and submits, they will push and push till they have established an exploitative relationship with you” (page 131). “By a paradoxical law of human nature,” he continues, “trying to please people less is more likely to earn their respect in the long run.”

He rifles through the past to show that the fearless types in history inevitably display a higher tolerance for repetitive, boring tasks and that ‘aha’ moment is preceded by an intense learning process. For instance, the forced isolation brought on by London plague that led Newton away from Cambridge also led him towards his destiny (page 214).

“Keys to Fearlessness” reveal the guiding principles to abide by if one is to master the art of living fearlessly. “Reversal of Perspectives” flips classical interpretations of terms like opportunist, egotism, etc, on their head (page 45). It declares dreamers to be “sources of greatest mistakes”, showing realists to be inventors, innovators with an imagination, attuned to the environment, who make capable guides in hard times.

Featured here are the people who, instead of surrendering to their fate, discarded the assigned post of victims and came out as victors. Some went ahead to take on bigger roles of visionaries (Edison), leaders (Napoleon), and abolitionists/writers (Fredrick Douglass).

The book promises that bringing a 50 Cent style street savvy to survive works not only in the corporate world but it can also be used to thrive in any environment. But walking in 50 Cent’s shoes can be uncomfortable. The hood is hardwired with explosive situations and can go off any instant. That explains the jaded tone of the book. 50 Cent’s philosophy was to outlast, outwit, outplay. Lack of scruples, a fair amount of guile and aggression may have been a part of the game, but their presence can be disconcerting in a ‘civilised’ world. Yet, the laws, in their toned down form are sound in essence even if their origins are, well, less so. Choosing to follow the 50th law can be liberating. All it asks is for you to take back the rights to your own life story, where fear has a recurring role, and explore some alternative endings.

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