The key to transforming yourself — Robert Greene at TEDxBrixton

The key to transforming yourself — Robert Greene at TEDxBrixton


Translator: Marta Palacio
Reviewer: Denise RQ After the publication of my first book
“The 48 laws of power,” I began to receive requests for advice from people
in every conceivable profession and at every level of experience. Over the years, I have now
personally consulted with over 100 different people. In so many of the cases, the following scenario
would play itself out. They would come to me
with a specific problem, a boss from hell, a business relationship
that had turned ugly, a promotion that never came. I would slowly direct their attention
away from the boss and the job, and instead get them to search
inside themselves and try to find the emotional root
of their discontent. Often, as we talked it out, they would realize that at their core,
they felt deeply frustrated – their creativity was not being realized, their careers had
somehow taken a wrong turn – what they actually wanted
was something larger; a real and substantial change
in their careers and in their lives. It would be at this point that I would
tell them a story about myself, about my own peculiar path
to change and transformation from a highly unsuccessful writer, eking out an existence in a small,
one-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica, to best-selling author seemingly, overnight. I have never publicly related
this story before, but for this special occasion,
my first TEDx talk, I thought I would share it with you because it’s actually very relevant
to the subject of change. The story goes like this, I had known since an early age
that I wanted to become a writer. I just couldn’t figure out
what I wanted to write. Perhaps it was novels,
or essays, or plays. After university, I drifted
into journalism, as a way to, at least,
make a living while writing. Then one day, after several years
of working as a writer and editor, I was having lunch with a man who had just edited an article
I had written for a magazine. After downing his third martini,
this editor, an older man, finally admitted to me
why he had asked me to lunch, “You should seriously consider
a different career,” he told me. “You are not writer material. Your work is too undisciplined,
your style is too bizarre, your ideas are just not relatable
to the average reader. Go to law school, Robert,
go to business school, spare yourself the pain.” At first, these words were
like a punch in the stomach, but in the months to come,
I realized something about myself. I had entered a career
that just didn’t really suit me, mostly as a way to make a living, and my work reflected
this incompatibility. I had to get out of journalism. This realization initiated
a period of wandering in my life. I traveled all across Europe,
I worked every conceivable job, I did construction work in Greece,
taught English in Barcelona, worked as a hotel receptionist in Paris,
a tour guide in Dublin, served as a trainee
for an English company, making television documentaries,
living not far from here in Brixton. During all of this time, I wrote several novels
that never made it past 100 pages, and dozens of essays that I would tear up,
and plays that never got produced. I wandered back to Los Angeles,
California, where I was born and raised. I worked in a detective agency,
among other odd jobs. I entered the film business,
working as an assistant to a director, as a researcher, story developer,
and screenwriter. In these long years of wandering,
I had totaled over 50 different jobs. By the year 1995, my parents
– God bless them! – were beginning to get seriously worried about me. I was 36 years old, and I seemed lost
and unable to settle into anything. I too had moments of doubt,
but I did not feel lost. I was searching and exploring,
I was hungry for experiences, and I was continuously writing. That same year, while in Italy
for yet another job, I met a man there, named Joost Elffers,
a packager and producer of books. One day, while we were walking
along the quays of Venice, Joost asked me if I had
any ideas for a book. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere,
an idea just gushed out of me. It was about power. I told Joost that I was constantly
reading books on history, and the stories that I read about Julius Caesar,
the Borgias, and Louis XIV, were the exact same stories that I had personally witnessed
with my own eyes in all of my different jobs,
only less bloody. (Laughter) People want power, and they want to disguise
this wanting of power so they play games. They covertly manipulate and intrigue, all the while presenting
a nice, even saintly, front. I would expose these games. I gave him numerous examples
of what I meant, and he became increasingly excited. He said I should write a treatment,
and if it was good enough, he would pay me to live
while I wrote half the book, enough to sell it to a publisher. Suddenly, in writing what would become
“The 48 laws of power,” everything in my disjointed past
seemed to click into place, like magic, like destiny. All of those various writing experiences – the journalism, the television,
the theater, the film – had given me the skills to tell stories
and organize my thoughts; all of that reading of history
had given me a vast storehouse of ideas that I could draw upon; and my work as a researcher had taught me
how to find the perfect anecdote. Even those different, seemingly
random jobs had exposed me to every type of psychology and to the dark corners of human psyche. Even the languages I learned
while traveling taught me patience and discipline. All of these experiences added up
to rich layers of knowledge and practice that altered me from the inside out. In my own very weird and intuitive way, I had given myself the perfect education for the writing
of ” The 48 laws of power.” The book came out in 1998,
and it was a success. The course of my life was forever altered. The moral of this story, as I told the people
who would come to me for advice, and as I’m telling you now, is the following. We humans tend to fixate
on what we can see with our eyes. It is the most animal part of our nature. When we look at the changes
and transformations in other people’s lives, we see the good luck that someone had
in meeting a person like Joost, with all of the right connections
and the funding. We see the book or the project
that brings the money and the attention. In other words, we see the visible signs
of opportunity and success. — change in our own lives, but we are grasping at an illusion. What really allows
for such dramatic changes are the things that occur
on the inside of a person and are completely invisible: the slow accumulation
of knowledge and skills, the incremental improvements
in work habits, and the ability to withstand criticism. Any change in people’s fortune
is merely the visible manifestation of all of that deep preparation over time. By essentially ignoring
this internal, invisible aspect, we fail to change anything
fundamental within ourselves. And so, in a few years time,
we reach our limits yet again, we grow frustrated, we crave change, we grab at something
quick and superficial, and we remain prisoners forever
of these recurring patterns in our lives. The answer, the key to the ability
to transform ourselves is actually insanely simple:
to reverse this perspective. Stop fixating on what other people
are saying and doing; on the money, the connections,
the outward appearance of things. Instead, look inward, focus on the smaller, internal changes that lay the groundwork
for a much larger change in fortune. It is the difference between grasping at an illusion
and immersing yourself in reality. Reality is what will liberate
and transform you. Here’s how this would work
in your own life. Consider the fact that each and every one of you
is fundamentally unique – one of a kind; your DNA, the particular configuration
of your brain, your life experiences. In early childhood, this uniqueness
manifested itself by the fact that you felt particularly drawn
to certain subjects and activities – what I call in my book ‘mastery, ‘
primal inclinations. You cannot rationally explain
why you felt so drawn to words, or to music, or to particular questions
about the world around you, or to social dynamics. As you get older, you often lose contact
with these inclinations. You listen to parents who urge you
to follow a particular career path. You listen to teachers
and alcoholic magazine editors who tell you what you’re good and bad at. You listen to friends who tell you
what’s cool and not cool. At a certain point, you can almost
become a stranger to yourself and so, you enter career paths that are not suited to you
emotionally and intellectually. Your life’s task, as I call it, is to return to those inclinations
and to that uniqueness that marked each
and every one of you at birth. At whatever age you find yourself, you must reflect back
upon those earliest inclinations. You must look at those subjects
in the present that continued to spark
that childlike intense curiosity in you. You must look
at those subjects and activities that you’ve been forced to do
over the past few years that repel you, that have
no emotional resonance. Based on these reflections, you determine a direction
you must take: writing, or music, or a particular branch of science,
or a form of business, or public service. You now have a loose overall framework
which you can explore and find those angles and positions
that suit you best. You listen closely to yourself,
to your internal radar. Some parts of that framework
– for me. journalism and Hollywood – do not feel right. So you move on, slowly narrowing your path,
all the while accumulating skills. Most people want simple,
direct, straight line paths to the perfect position and to success, but instead, you must welcome
wrong turns and mistakes. They make you aware of your flaws, they widen your experiences,
they toughen you up. If you come to this process
at a later age, you must cultivate a new set of skills that suit this change in direction
you’ll be taking, and find a way to blend them
with your previous skills. Nothing in this process is ever wasted. In any event, the gold that you are after is learning and the acquisition
of skills, not a fat paycheck. Look at what happens to you, as you adopt this very different
internally-driven mindset. Because you are headed in a direction that resonates with you
emotionally and personally, the hours of practice and study
do not seem so burdensome. You can sustain your attention
and your interest for much longer periods of time. What excites you
is the learning process itself, overcoming obstacles,
increasing your skill level. You are immersed in the present instead of constantly
obsessing over the future, and so, you pay greater attention to the work itself
and to the people around you, developing patience
and social intelligence. Without forcing the issue, a point is reached in which you are
thoroughly prepared from within. The slightest opportunity
that comes your way, you will now exploit. In fact, you will draw
opportunities to you because people will sense
how prepared you are, which is, I believe,
what happened to me with Joost. Some of this might sound a bit mystical, but the results of this process
that I’m talking about have been corroborated
by recent scientific research. Most notably, the 1995’s study
by Anders Ericsson that yielded the very famous
10,000-hour rule. In tracking people
who had devoted years of their lives to learning chess or music, Ericsson discovered that somewhere near that magical mark
of 10,000 hours of practice, the minds of these people suddenly
became much more creative and fluid. The structures of their brains
had been altered by all of those hours of practice, and at that 10,000-hour mark, we could see a visible transformation
in their performance and creativity. That is a level you will reach
naturally and organically if you follow this process far enough. Finally, what I’m proposing
to you right now is actually, I think, rather radical, namely, the way to transform yourself
is through your work. I know this runs counter
to our prevailing cultural prejudices; work is too ugly, too boring, too banal. Self-transformation, we think, comes through
a spiritual journey, therapy, a guru who tells us what to do, intense group experiences,
social experiences, and drugs. But most of these are ways of running away from ourselves
and relieving our chronic boredom. They’re not connected to process,
so any changes that occur don’t last. Instead, through our work,
we can actually connect to who we are, instead of running away. By entering that slow, organic process, we can actually change ourselves
from the inside out in a way that’s
very real and very lasting. This process involves
a journey of self-discovery that can be seen
as quite spiritual if you like. In the end of this process, we contribute something unique
and meaningful to our culture through our work, which is hardly ugly, boring, or banal. Thank you very much. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “The key to transforming yourself — Robert Greene at TEDxBrixton

  1. Summary: When we see a person successfully in any area, we think it was luck, because that is what is visible to the eyes. But we do not really see what the person went through, what she had to do, how she developed herself, how much reflection she had, the failures, the readings, the clear nights, anyway … we do not see what is not visible to the eyes, which is what really matters, save it. Therefore, instead of always focusing on what is visible to the eyes, as it is said, that are appearances, wealth, money, results mainly, we should focus on learning … focus on the road to success, focus on way to the result and forget about it (result), because as we have seen is the process that matters. It is each experience, it is every learning, it is being focused 100% in the present moment that brings effectiveness to our days and makes us reach our goals and life purposes. It is to be really interested in learning, not for what learning will bring (money, success), but for learning and self-development itself.

  2. Great advice for people who can ultimately create something new or life changing for the masses. Something you can give or sell. The information in his books is great. However, most should only expect to find inner peace and self fulfillment by becoming experts in their chosen field or favorite pastime. This may be all you need anyway!

  3. I am not big fan of TED, I found most of the orators are charlatans, who came to the auditorium to sell informercial. But the speech by Robert Greene changed my mind a little. I can feel he spoke from the bottom of his heart, he was ingenious and sincere. I am especially drawn to his voice and cadance. I can listen to this video again and again just for his voice.

  4. What a treat to hear this genius speak. I m in owe with his brain….amazing writer. Thank you Robert!!! Your books have helped me so much!!!

  5. We all have an area that could use some attention, constructive criticism and hair brush. A tan or a fashion make over could make a better impression. Love your voice, advice, writing and story telling.

  6. Biggest proof of his points is the way he is peacefully yet sharply expressing his thoughts… knowledge is beautiful itself; not for money or so.

  7. @9:42 "any change in people's fortune is merely the visible manifestation of all of that deep preparation over time". Wow!

  8. I like the part where 'you begin to draw opportunities to yourself because people begin to sense that you are ready for that big BOOM!!!'. This is the key to transformation!! Thank you Robert Greene.

  9. Losing a sense of who you are is one of the hardest places to be at.. good luck to anybody going through that 🙏🏾

  10. 15:37 He's talking about something that I noticed as well.. I often say that you can take 2 people on the same exact skill level, and one would be viewed as greatness while the other can be viewed as mediocre… from a spiritual perspective, I think its simply cause of the energy that one gives off that the other one doesn't. People will always respond to energy.

  11. Just that one click the choice to choose to watch a video can make all the difference. Had I not clicked on this particular video when will I have come across it again? It was meant to be now. Thank you

  12. foram os livros dele que me vi que tinham que comecar a mudar a si mesmo os livros dele simplificam e aumentam a nossa realidades que é a estratégica e fala tambem das configurações que existem tanto no material quanto do mundo das ideiad, muito obrigado Robert greene.

  13. summary
    welcome mistakes and bad turns – dont be in a rush to get into the right job/position and the right salary, experiment until you find what best suits you
    through work you can self transform.
    am i missing something?

  14. There are no words to describe how meaningful this talk was for me. I am a huge Robert's fan and I consider him my favourite non-fiction writer, I am absolutely obsessed with his work and I read every single book written by him. And as someone who admires his originality and unique writing style, I got so emotional listening to this. It just moved me so deeply when he said that he was so harshly criticised but he didn't give up, he was exploring and searching, and finally it all started falling into place.
    it is a message of trusting that even if it all seems messy and chaotic at the moment, at some point you will be able that all those experiences led you to were you meant to be.
    So beautiful! Thank you, Robert!

  15. Thanks for such a nice message you convey to us. By telling your life experiences, you cleared the thought about failure. Failure is the step to learn something new.

  16. Salute Mr Greene!…. Am halfway thru 48 laws right now, and am glad I stumbled upon this talk! Lots of gems that i ll take with me for life!!!!

  17. I have been waiting patiently for my Joost Elffers. I was intrigued the most for 20 seconds beginning at 15:30.

  18. I am 36 and at the same place Robert Greene was, I seem to be “successful” but I am stranger to myself. I am not able to sustain learning and constantly obsessing over a future that is unclear.

    Time for change.

  19. Of all the inspirational or factual whatever talks….this is the best which I could relate to myself completely and I'm at peace after listening to him….he sounds so genuine and realistic….Thanks❤️

  20. makes sense EARL NIGHTINGALE and BOB PROCTOR always used to talk about having personal success before financial success. Financial success is a result of personal success

  21. Notice that Mr Greene did not have a conventional career. He tried many things until things clicked for him. He freed himself to associate with whatever activity his 'inclination' took him without the presumed responsibilities and burdens that come from having to hold a steady job and climb the so-called corporate ladder. I think that is really the key, more so than any internal mindset change, while keeping things fixed externally.

  22. The very first thing to improve is to know where you are now, then to understand the causes of what got you there and finally to take actions to change your results. This can be a cycle loop to ensure continuous self improvement.

  23. This is exactly how using and following and living by the Law of Attraction works. As R. Greene observed – that fateful meeting was no coincide; but rather a result of his constant sifting and sorting and asking the Universe. Bravo.

  24. Thank you for giving us knowledge and tools to apply on our own lives, changing our perspective, habits and future.

  25. Steve Jobs said in interview that you can only connect the dots backwards which basically means looking inward to find out who you really are.

  26. He speaks so much about himself rather than applying principles to the audience. Difficult to engage. Snore…

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