Book review: The master of the dark arts

“33 Strategies of War” by Robert Greene

Robert Greene is the only author that I hesitate to reveal too much in my review, due to the immense amount of tricks he teaches us in order to thrive in this rough world. His lessons are so valuable and directly applicable it feels like I’ve been given the cheat code in the game of life, one that I’d rather put in a metaphorical safe box rather than give away for nothing.

At many points in my life I can see his theses and examples from the many wars in history get analogically implemented by the most successful people and the best of the best around me, which prompted me to wonder whether they all read Greene’s books? Nah, some of them don’t even like to read books. Or do they, secretly? Even if I don’t implement them all, the book gives me so much insights from all the tricks that may be used by others, and that’s really useful.

Now, the fact of the matter is the majority of human existence are spent in wars. And this book selected some of the best stories from wars, diplomacy and many other confrontational nature throughout history, to learn from their strategies, the implementations, and the philosophies behind them. And in the world according to Robert Greene, there’s no time to be kind and be genuinely nice as it is a rough dog-eat-dog world out there, which as you can imagine have drawn many criticism from the “world peace” crowd.

But he’s a no-bullshit realist, whom approaches life as it is with no sugar coating or hope for an ideal circumstance. Indeed, instead of thinking like a religion and preaching people how to live perfectly and be naive with our imperfect surroundings, Greene acknowledges the chaotic reality of daily lives and teaches us the tools to function well in it. Some are subtle, some are even decent, but many are viciously effective.

In this regard, he’s like the master of the dark arts to the other side of the coin: Greene’s own protege Ryan Holiday’s meditations on Stoicism that approaches the chaos of life from the calm and thoughtful side, one that provide us with inner strength. Combine this with Greene’s array of strategies for our outer strength, and you’ll get one mighty set of survivor tools at your disposal in the journey of life. Ok I should stop, I’ve said too much already.