“Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires.” The Prince, Niccoló Machiavelli
If you want to use power for good, start with these four books. They’ll arm you with knowledge on correctly challenging yourself, protecting yourself against other people’s power, and amassing power of your own.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield – Like 9/11, you’ll always remember where you were when you first started reading this book. Pressfield explains the switch from living like an Amateur to living like a Professional by illuminating the universal force of the Resistance. The Resistance is what keeps you from doing to work that is truly challenging, it’s what keeps you in an unfulfilling relationship, and it’s what makes you say, “I’ll start (whatever excites you and you know you should do) tomorrow.”
48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene – Read this you will be able to defend yourself against other people’s power, you’ll see what’s coming around the corner, and you will know learn how to use power to get what you want. This is politics, people, red herrings, cunning, navigating the real world and picking out people’s true motivations. This book has helped me avoid countless blunders.
Mastery by Robert Greene – I wish I had this when I first started college. Greene dissects the stories from many masters, alive and dead, to reveal a relatively clear path to becoming a master. The overall lesson is that mastery comes from constantly being creative and pushing yourself. But he also tells the stories of potential masters who lose it all through complacency, arrogance, and ignoring social mores.
On Writing Well by William Zinsser – You will need to communicate through writing at some point, and the better you are the more influencial you’ll gain. The main takeaways here are that everyone’s first draft is terrible and that powerful communication comes from cutting the fluff out of your writing. Think of this Winston Churchill Quote “Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all.” Another useful article on writing here
It never hurts to be prepared. Obviously these books are not silver bullets for real life but they’re a good investment. What books have been most helpful to you?