Author Avijeet Das once said, “The quality of our life is directly proportional to the quality of our thoughts.”
What if you could shape the quality of your life, regardless of your external circumstances? Just imagine that for a moment. Now let me ask you another question: What if you were undergoing something incredibly difficult, but you turned that difficulty into something positive?
Today, my guest knows all about how attitude shapes your life and how you can use difficult moments to grow and create something positive. I’m thrilled to have Robert Greene back on The School of Greatness. Robert is a seasoned veteran of the show, and today he has even more great material that you’re going to learn from.
Today, we’re discussing how attitude shapes your world, how to handle your emotions properly, how to channel your dark side into something positive, and how to understand and influence others. This interview will completely change the way you view yourself and the people around you, so let’s get started!
Robert Greene studied at U.C. Berkley, and he received a degree in classical studies from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Robert published his first book, The 48 Laws of Power, at the age of 36 and has since become one of our generation’s most influential writers. He’s responsible for several inventive successes, including The 33 Strategies of War, The 50th Law, Mastery, The Art of Seduction, and his most recent work, The Laws of Human Nature.
His works are widely praised by a variety of sources, including war historians and acclaimed musicians and actors like 50 Cent, Jay-Z, and Will Smith, amongst many others. Several of his books appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. Robert was also featured in the first episode and Episode 713 of The School of Greatness, so please check out those interviews after hearing this one!
Robert also has personal knowledge of what it takes to overcome hardship. In 2018, he suffered a massive stroke, and he’s had a long road to recovery. But Robert refuses to quit, and today he continues to work, write, and hike just like he used to! I am so inspired by this man and his ability to maintain hope even in the wake of tragedy. You’re going to learn so much from Robert about attitude, human nature, and success, so let’s dive in!
Robert knows all about handling tragedy and the importance of outlook when facing hardships. We kicked off our interview by discussing his stroke and how he’s been able to cope with his affliction. Even though he’s far from fully healed, Robert still finds the drive to continue staying active physically and professionally.
“I wasn’t going to let this defeat me because the alternative was losing hope and becoming suicidal. And I wasn’t gonna let that happen. Also, I knew I had another book that I really wanted to write. … I’ve had moments where I felt like giving up. … But I’m just determined to beat the thing. And sometimes it beats me, so every day is like a battle, … but I’m not going to give up.” – Robert Greene
Rather than give up, Robert continues pushing himself daily. He continues to write and even stays physically active despite having limited mobility.
Robert was with his wife when he had the stroke. He’s incredibly thankful that he wasn’t alone when it happened because he could have died.
“I have to keep reminding myself I’m alive. … This could have been the second anniversary of my death, … but it’s not. I’ve been given a second lease, and I have to think about that every single day.” – Robert Greene
Robert is thankful for every day that he’s alive, and he recognizes that he still has more writing to do before his time on this earth concludes. Are you thankful for every day that you’re alive? We often take life for granted, but Robert’s story is such a sobering reminder that tomorrow is never guaranteed. Appreciate every day of your life because it is truly a gift.
An essential part of both appreciating your life and transforming your life is engaging in a positive perspective.
“You have a viewpoint [or] a perspective. It’s like the lens on a camera. And it’s through that lens that you view the world, and you view people, and you view events, and no two people see the same event in the same way. … And so your attitude [and] how you look at the world will determine what you get in life.” – Robert Greene
Your attitude towards life determines what you get out of it. If you engage in a negative outlook, you’ll create a negative life. You might focus too much on negative things outside of your control, such as COVID-19, the government, or your past, but focusing on negativity isn’t going to help you change your life moving forward. Rather than focusing on negativity, you can use difficult moments to grow. Robert observed that people can even use COVID-19 as an opportunity to evaluate their lives and improve them:
“The opportunity is on many levels to rethink your life, to rethink your values, to rethink where you’re going, to rethink what your career should be, [and] what your relationship to other people should be. … It’s a time to reorient yourself to who you are and what you like and what your goals are and what makes you unique. … If you have that attitude where obstacles are actually the path forward, nothing’s going to stop you. But it’s all how you look at things. It’s kind of a mental process that you switch to seeing the positive side.” – Robert Greene
When we’re willing to view obstacles as opportunities, we can continue to grow, regardless of the adversities that we may be facing. Robert faced tremendous hardship when he suffered a stroke, but he focuses on using that obstacle in his life to grow in his writing and become a better person.
Everyone is facing an unprecedented challenging year with COVID-19. Many people have lost their jobs, their loved ones, and their ability to socialize safely, but we can still use this moment as an opportunity to grow. How can you use the remainder of 2020 to grow in your life? Maybe you can use this time to appreciate those you have in your life or to evaluate your career path. Use the difficult moments of your life as opportunities to strive towards greatness!
Robert is incredibly knowledgeable about how to handle emotions. It’s important to express your emotions while also not being impulsive and letting your emotions control your actions.
Robert observed that the relationship between your emotions and rational brain is like that of a horse and its rider. If the rider holds the reins of the horse too tightly, the horse will not go anywhere and will eventually freak out from the rider trying to maintain too much control. Like the rider controlling the horse, our rational brains can’t permanently repress our emotions. The emotions will come out in an unhealthy way. Although it’s unhealthy to repress our emotions, we also can’t give free rein to our emotions either. We need to strike a balance between control and expressing emotions:
“You have to hold the reins not too tightly, but you have to be able to guide the horse. … Not just give into the emotion, like let the horse go anywhere. So that maybe next time you understand, ‘Well, maybe I don’t need to feel anger or fear because it’s not really related to anything.’… You understand the horse, the emotion, and you can control it to some degree, but not overcontrol it or repress it.” – Robert Greene
If you try to repress your emotions or give them free rein, your emotions will inevitably come out in an unhealthy way. Let’s take anger as an example. If you try to repress your anger entirely and deny that you’re feeling that emotion, it will come out in an unhealthy way. You’ll more than likely direct that anger towards something that didn’t even cause your original emotion. If you don’t control your anger in the moment that you experience it, you might do something impulsive and regrettable because you didn’t let your rational brain control your thinking. In order to control your emotions, you need to strike a balance between your rational brain and the anger that you’re feeling.
Robert used the example of sending an angry email. Before sending the email, evaluate why you’re feeling that emotion:
“You have to go through a process before you send that email. ‘Why am I angry? … Will I be feeling angry in three weeks? Is it really important? Is it possibly my own fault?’ When you go through that process, you’re not repressing the anger. … But you understand it, and you let it work for you.” – Robert Greene
It’s essential for your emotional health to evaluate your emotions rather than giving them full control or repressing them completely. In addition to the importance of not repressing emotions, we should also not repress what Robert refers to as our “dark sides.” According to Robert, everyone has a natural dark side that they typically repress in adulthood:
“Everybody has a dark side. … Our dark side originates from [our childhood.] As a child, we had a lot of powerful emotions that we couldn’t control. … And you get older, and you start repressing those kinds of feelings that are very natural to you.” – Robert Greene
Everyone has natural impulses as a child that we learn to repress to function in society. You may have been physically aggressive and hit other kids as a child, but you can’t take that with you into adulthood without finding yourself in legal trouble. Even though we can’t give in to our dark sides as adults, we should still learn to address them and express them in healthy ways. Otherwise, they will come out in unhealthy ways.
“We all have aggressive impulses, … but we have to repress all that because we have to be good social animals. … And then when you’re 28, you start becoming addicted to alcohol, and you don’t know why you start getting really angry. … You yell at people. … [You] destroy everything that you’ve built. The dark side has come out because you’ve repressed it instead of dealing with it. So the idea was you need to understand your dark side, confront it, and make it work for you.” – Robert Greene
We need to avoid repressing our dark sides, or else they’ll come out involuntarily as we age. Robert channels his dark side into his writing. His ability to express his dark side in a healthy, productive way is one of the secrets to his success:
“Any success I’ve had in life is because I managed to use those dark emotions in my work and channeled them because they have tremendous energy to them. They power you forward.” – Robert Greene
Robert struggled with anger, but he didn’t let his anger consume him and come out in self-destructive ways. He used his anger to write his immensely successful first book, The 48 Laws of Power. He used his dark side to create something positive.
How can you use your dark side to create something positive? For example, countless people feel anger and frustration about current events, but they can use their dark sides to create real, positive change.
“There’s a lot of injustice in this world, particularly nowadays. A lot of things are just wrong in this world today. And if I were young, my anger would be exploding because there’s so much that’s wrong. Channel it into a worthy cause and [towards] justice and lead some kind of movement. That’s a brilliant way to take your dark energy and metamorphosize it into something really positive.” – Robert Greene
How can you create positive changes today? Just because there’s a lot wrong in the world doesn’t mean that things need to stay the same. Maybe you feel a great deal of anger about racial injustice in our society. Rather than trying to repress that anger or let it consume you, maybe you should get involved in movements and organizations seeking social justice. Robert observed that Martin Luther King Jr. struggled with anger, but he used his anger to lead a movement and bring America closer to racial equality.
Don’t let your dark side bring negativity in your life — use it to create something positive.
Robert has written a great deal about the various tools you can use to become successful. I asked him what the most important tool he would recommend people to use when striving toward greatness, and his answer might surprise you:
“The best thing is to be able to get inside the minds of other people. If you develop that skill, the sky’s the limit. Nothing will ever stop you because people are like a mystery. They wear a mask, and you don’t have any idea what they’re thinking.” – Robert Greene
Getting into people’s minds is a powerful tool for obtaining success in every area of your life. Imagine how much easier it would be to get that dream job or make instant connections with others if you could read their minds. While telepathy may not be possible, you can still develop the skill of understanding other people.
So how can we get into other people’s heads?
“You can develop … that power by becoming someone [with] insane empathy. And it’s not easy, and not everybody’s born the same way, but it begins with one very simple step. … [You] need to tell yourself the other person is more interesting than me, their life, their thoughts, their ideas. … It’s taking this one step, which is [that] other people are more interesting than me.” – Robert Greene
You need to develop a great deal of empathy and genuinely care about understanding the people around you. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, and you found that rather than listening to that person, you were merely thinking about what you were going to say next? Oftentimes, people are stuck in their own heads, and they forget to listen and understand those around them. If you make a conscious effort to be genuinely interested in other people, then you’ll begin to understand them.
Aside from the fact that you’ll better understand others if you genuinely listen and care about what they say, you’ll also find that you can learn so much from other people.
“It’s like an undiscovered world. … It’s [like] visiting another culture. They have experiences you’ve never had. They have a world that’s not your world. It’s fascinating. … [People] love movies because they get to go inside other people’s characters, and they get to vicariously live in them. … You could have that in everyday life if you switch that thing where you’re more interested in other people.” – Robert Greene
When you’re with another person, recognize that they have an entirely different perspective than you, and they have fascinating experiences and lessons that you can learn from. When you make a conscious effort to learn everything you can from another person, you’ll begin to understand them. You may not be able to read minds, but you can pick up on someone’s emotions and thought process way more easily.
“I can’t get inside [your] thoughts. It’s impossible, but I can get inside your moods and emotions because we humans are very susceptible to the moods of other people. We can feel them so I can start to … understand the tone in your voice. I can understand the subtext of what you’re saying, and I could pick up the emotion behind it and what you’re intending.” – Robert Greene
Once you genuinely care to understand another person, you can pick up on the inner meaning behind their words and pick up on the emotions that motivate them. When you understand someone’s motivations, you can convince them to help you on your journey to greatness:
“I want to persuade them to help me on a project. Well, now I know what their world is like, what their spirit is, [and] what their problems are. I’m going to mold what I’m saying to get them interested in my idea. Doors open up to you. The whole universe opens up to you once you’re able to put yourself in the mindset and the point of view of other people. Enter their spirit.” – Robert Greene
Once you develop the ability to be genuinely fascinated by other people and learn who they are and what motivates them, you can use your understanding of other people to persuade them. For example, let’s say that you’re going in for a job interview. Rather than just focusing on how you present yourself, you can focus on understanding the person interviewing you. Don’t merely focus on what you’re going to say next while the interviewer speaks — focus on understanding the interviewer. If you’re able to tap into the interviewer’s motivations and emotions, you’ll have an easier time convincing them that you’re the right candidate for the job.
When you engage in conversation, are you genuinely listening to other people or merely focusing on yourself? Other people contain limitless information and experiences that you can learn from. Learning from others and understanding them is a major key to becoming successful!
Guys, I learned so many incredible things from Robert Greene in this interview. Robert never ceases to impress every time he comes on The School of Greatness. We’ve covered so many different topics relating to success, psychology, and mindset from our three interviews together. Make sure to check out this full episode, our first episode, and Episode 713 of The School of Greatness to learn more from Robert Greene.
The final question I asked Robert involved humanity and the direction of our society. I asked him where he thinks we’re going in the next five years based on the current historical events that we’re experiencing. His answer was absolutely fascinating and inspiring.
“I think the human spirit can’t deal with too much stagnation. … And we’re on the verge of what I think could be a revolutionary generation. … We live in a situation [where] the politics and the structures have not really shifted in 50 years. … And so I feel like there’s going to be an outbreak at some point where people are going to say, ‘I don’t want this world that is so unequal.’… I think there will be an outburst.” – Robert Greene
Friends, join me on Episode 1,024 to learn about your attitude shaping your world, handling your emotions, channeling your dark side into something productive, and understanding other people!
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