48 Laws of Power | Law 10: Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and the Unlucky

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The 48 Laws of Power" by Robert Greene. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here.

Overview of Law #10: Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and the Unlucky

People who are perpetually miserable spread misery like an infection, and they’ll drown you in it. Avoid these people like the plague. Conversely, if you associate with happy people, you’ll share in the good fortune they attract and spread. Seek them out. Infection: Avoid the unhappy and the unlucky.

Principles of Law 10

What does it mean to dodge infection, avoiding the unhappy and the unlucky? People who are hurt by circumstances beyond their control deserve sympathy and help. But others bring unhappiness on themselves and spread it to those around them by their destructive acts and influence on others. You can’t change or improve them — they will change you by afflicting you with their problems.

People are highly susceptible to the emotions and pathologies of those they spend time with. Chronically miserable and unstable people have the greatest influence because of their intensity. Because they paint themselves as victims, it can take you a while to see that they cause their own problems. By the time you realize this, these infectors have sucked you in. Infection: Avoid the unhappy and the unlucky.

When your goal is power, those you associate with can make or break you. If you associate with infectors, you’ll waste time extricating yourself, and others will lose respect for you due to guilt by association.

One of the most damaging types of infectors is the person who is perpetually dissatisfied and aggrieved.

Cassius, who conspired against Caesar, is an example of a miserable person. He couldn’t stand anyone more talented and accomplished than he. His dissatisfaction and hatred of Caesar infected Brutus (who likely would have waited to ascend the throne). The result was one of the great tragedies of history.

The only way to fight this type of infection is by removing it, although often that remedy comes too late because, again, you’ve already been pulled in to the person’s web.

According to Law 10 of the 48 Laws of Power, the best way to protect yourself is by paying close attention to the people you surround yourself with, so you see any ominous signs. Start by considering their effects on others, rather than on who/what they blame for their problems. Avoid the unhappy and the unlucky.

Watch for these characteristics of infectors to avoid the unhappy and the unlucky:

  • They bring misery on themselves and others.
  • They exude discontent.
  • They have tumultuous histories.
  • They’ve left behind a trail of failed relationships.
  • They’ve had unstable careers.
  • They have a charisma that overwhelms people, especially their ability to reason.

Whatever you do, don’t feel sorry for them — you’ll entangle yourself in trying to help. While you’re beside yourself with frustration, they’ll carry on unchanged. Watch out for infection: Avoid the unhappy and the unlucky

At the other end of the spectrum, there are people who attract happiness and spread it. Do everything you can to associate with these people, so you share in the positive vibes and good fortune they attract.

Happiness and success aren’t the only positive qualities you should seek out. Any positive quality of someone else — friendliness, charm, creativity, generosity, etc. — can infect you in a good way.

Although Talleyrand was a conniver, he had other traits that made people want to be around him and they rubbed off on others: he was gracious, charming, and witty. Napoleon, who was a rough peasant, recognized this and kept Talleyrand around, hoping to absorb some of his charm.

You can do the same thing: Strive to associate with people who have traits and qualities you lack. If you’re moody, hang out with cheerful people; if you’re cheap, associate with generous people.

However, always avoid people with the same character flaws as yours — they’ll reinforce your worst traits. Make associating with positive people a rule you live by, and you won’t need a therapist.

Putting Law 10 to Work

How do we follow Law 10, watching out for infection and avoiding the unhappy and the unlucky? Let’s look at an example. Lola Montez, a charismatic courtesan in the 1800s, left a wake of human destruction in Europe. Originally from Ireland (her real name was Marie Gilbert), she went to Paris to be a dancer. She wasn’t good at it, but drew attention from men who tried to help her, married her, and shared their fortunes. They always ended up ruined while she moved on.

Here’s a chronicle of her exploits:

  • First, she insinuated herself into the life of a French newspaper owner. He gave up his social standing, married her, his fortunes declined, he lost his friends over Lola, and his life fell apart. Another man challenged him to a duel and he lost.
  • Lola moved on to Munich where she seduced King Ludwig of Bavaria and became his mistress. She was nasty and outrageous in public and Bavarians hated her (and started turning on the king because of her). She inserted herself in politics and fought with the king’s ministers. Riots and protests broke out. The king finally sent her away (with a big payoff), but it was too late for his reputation and he was forced to abdicate.
  • Lola moved to England and married a young army officer, but they didn’t get along and she slashed him with a knife before finally leaving him. He lost his army position, was ostracized from English society, and moved to Portugal, where he lived in poverty until he died in a boating accident.
  • Finally, she moved to California, had another failed relationship, and turned to God. She toured the country lecturing on religion while dressed in white. She died two years later at age 43.

The various men in Lola’s life made the mistake of trying to help her and ended up destroying themselves. She couldn’t be helped, but infected everyone around her (including the entire country of Bavaria). When you suspect you’ve met someone like this, run immediately. Beware infection: Avoid the unhappy and the unlucky.

Exceptions to Law 10

Are there any exceptions to 48 Laws of Power Law 10: Infection: Avoid the unhappy and the unlucky? There are no exceptions to this law — there’s no benefit from associating with people who spread misery. And only good will come to you from associating with people of positive attributes.

Remember — Infection: Avoid the unhappy and the unlucky!

48 Laws of Power | Law 10: Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and the Unlucky

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of "The 48 Laws of Power" at Shortform. Learn the book's critical concepts in 20 minutes or less.

Here's what you'll find in our full The 48 Laws of Power summary:

  • Why you should never outshine your boss
  • How to appear like a friend but behave like a spy
  • The 6 rules you absolutely must not violate, if you want to be successful

Amanda Penn

Amanda Penn is a writer and reading specialist. She’s published dozens of articles and book reviews spanning a wide range of topics, including health, relationships, psychology, science, and much more. Amanda was a Fulbright Scholar and has taught in schools in the US and South Africa. Amanda received her Master's Degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *