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Book Summaries Psychology

Law 4: Determine the Strength of People’s Character (The Laws of Human Nature)

The Law of Compulsive Behavior

You should take the behavior of people seriously. If you see someone act in a peculiar way, do not turn a blind eye, but take note of their behavior – they are bound to repeat it. It is a mistake to think that people act randomly, or that their past actions will not inform their future behavior. The individual is very much a product of his past conditioning and small actions may reveal a lot about them. Someone who consistently overlooks minor details is likely to be blind to bigger, more important things in their lives.

You should understand these behavioural patterns because they will protect you in the long run. They will help you avoid the destructive relationships with romantic partners that will eventually ruin your life, they will steer you away from forming business partnerships with the wrong kinds of people. By paying close attention to the details that can predict people’s behavior, you can save yourself a lot of time, heartache, resentment, and regret.

The Life of Howard Hughes

Howard Hughes was a young, overly sensitive boy who looked up to his father, who was a very successful entrepreneur. His father owned a large tools manufacturing business, and his mother was overly protective and involved in his life, determining what he wore, what he learned about, and who he befriended. As we will see, these things would come to determine his destiny.

When Howard was a young adult, both of his parents had passed away. As a polite, harmless and obedient young boy who was highly dependent on his parents for everything, the death of his parents was a huge shock to his life. Almost immediately and to everyone’s surprise, Howard transformed into a maverick. He bought out the remaining shares of his father’s company that his relatives owned, and began charting his destiny. He clearly had great ambition – he wanted to outdo his father. At first, he went into the film industry.

He hired people to direct his high budget movie Hells Angels about World War I. Howard struggled to create the movie because he did not trust the people who worked for him. He wanted to be involved in everything, until his director, fed up with Howard’s behavior, told him that he should direct the movie himself since he already knew everything. And that was exactly what Howard did, the movie had good action scenes that had people talking but it was a failure. It turned a negative profit close to $2 million. Howard learned that he could not do everything himself, and that he should have trusted others with the work.

Later, he branched out his father’s tool company into an aviation company too. But again, despite his charm and grandiose promises, Howard constantly sabotaged his own projects by being too much of a control freak. His subsequent ventures were all failures. But he managed to survive because the only companies that were managed without him made enough money for him to cover his losses. One day, his plane crashed and he died. His autopsy revealed that he was on drugs for the latter part of his life. He isolated himself completely because he developed a phobia against germs.

Howard’s tragic life was the result of his earliest experiences. His father demanded too much of him, and his mother made her soon too dependent. He resented his parents for this, and he felt betrayed by them. He became rebellious because he wanted to gain back the control he was never given. The weight of his father’s expectations pushed him to take unnecessary risks with his life, and to overlook everything else. He developed a need to control everything around him. He even hired private investigators to track his romantic partners when he was not around.

There are two layers that underlie people’s behavior. The first is genetic, it is what was passed down to you by your parents. The second is what kind of relationship you had with your mother or early caregiver, whether they allowed you freedom, or tried to control your life too much. And whether they were ambiguous at times, and at other times too enmeshed in everything you did.

When the child grows up, they will unconsciously gravitate towards choosing partners that offer something that was missing from their own childhood. If it is a need for control, the individual may choose a partner that is notably less intelligent or attractive than they are – this would make their partner much more attached to them and unwilling to ever abandon them. If instead, they were not given enough parental attention, they may opt for a partner who can play the role of the mother or father figure, providing them with the necessary discipline, order, and care that they lacked as children.

Extroversion vs Introversion

The extrovert cares a lot about what other people think. Their own interests often stem from whatever is most trendy, and they always have an eye for what that is. The extrovert needs stimulation and often involves himself in activities that provide him with that excitement. If they are bold they will look for any form of physical adventure to stimulate them. They see introverts as boring, stubborn, and anti-social.

The introvert is more attuned to what is going on inside their own minds. They are less interested I statistics for their own sake but how they feel about them. Their boldness is expressed in their artistic and creative endeavors. They try to avoid too much external stimulation, they avoid large groups, they prefer the intimate company of a few good friends. They see extroverts as shallow, flighty and too concerned with what others think.  

The Toxic Types

There are many different toxic types of people that exist. Often, they appear very charming and may succeed in attracting you towards them, but later you will find the cracks in their personality and will realize how much time you have lost because of them. Here are the toxic types to watch out for.  

The Hyper-perfectionist: Works himself to the bone, often more than the lowliest employee. This often attracts people, because surely this person is destined for success. But these people are difficult to be around. They care much less about the team’s success and much more about domination and control. These people, like Howard Hughes, often had a troubled childhood where they learned that they could not depend on others for everything. These types often have health problems because of how hard they work and tend to have a great success followed by many spectacular failures. They are always suspicious that those around them are slacking off and create a feeling of insecurity within the group. If they are the king, their courtiers will constantly struggle for their approval – and this will result in chaos within the group itself. This type will slowly chew you with their insecurities and anxieties.

The Relentless Rebel: These are the teenage types that have a hatred and distrust for authority. They hate being told what to do and will often make jokes at other people’s expense. They can be charming and fun to be around, but their behavior is mostly triggered by their desire for superiority.  

The Personalizer: These seem sensitive, caring, and good to work with. But their sensitivity only goes inward. They are very touchy, and they take criticism very badly. One bad statement will have them brooding for years. They are always on guard – they need constant attention and care. But often, reality will not sit well with them. They will inevitably have a look of perpetual disappointment.

The Drama Magnet: This type learned early on that the most efficient way to get their parent’s attention is to tell them about extreme emotional events that happened to them. As adults, they internalize this behavior and are quick to share their dramatic stories, where there is always a theme of betrayal, and they are always framed as the victims. They manage always to find ways to enmesh themselves in this drama, to relish it when most people simply try to avoid it.

The Big Talker: This person can attract you with their ideas and insight. They seem much more knowledgeable than they are, but they have two sides to them. One side deeply fears the demands of real work, and the other side is obsessed with getting success and power. They end up looking for other people to do the real work, while they spend their time managing people. If you look at their track record, they have probably not accomplished anything of value, but they will tend to blame bad luck, other people, or make up other nebulous excuses for their failures. They are not overtly dangerous but can waste a lot of your time

The Sexualizer: These people may seem charming at first, willing to blend business with pleasure, and refreshingly liberated, but often this comes from a dark place, a time in the past where they were sexually abused. For them, sex is a means for self-validation and can lead exciting, promiscuous lives in their youth, but as they get older, they seem pathetic and desperate.

The Pampered Prince/Princess: These regal types are very attractive to be around. They have a sense of superiority and calm to them. But often, they will get you to do favors for them without you understanding how or why. They are experts at getting people to pamper them, since at an early age, they were spoiled as children. Their parents fed their every whim. As adults, they will often appear helpless and get others to do the hard work for them, and if things don’t go their way, you can expect a temper tantrum. If they fail to get pampered, they will resort to drugs or alcohol to make them feel better.

The Pleaser: This person is so nice and charming, that you just can’t believe it. But there is such a thing as too good to be true. These people are often the ones who talk behind your back, they are not nice because they genuinely love you but because it is a useful defence mechanism. There is a lot of resentment that underlies their niceness.

The Savior: This person always wants to help you – they have the perfect book or solution to your problems. They were not given enough attention as children or had neglectful parents –  so they try to benefit from an inverted relationship. They will derive great satisfaction from rescuing others – they will make it their pastime. To know how to spot them from genuinely caring people, notice how much freedom they give you. If they allow you freedom after initial help, they are truly noble. If they constantly want to involve themselves in everything you do, then they are trying to fill a deep hole within themselves. They should be saving themselves instead.

The Easy Moralizer: These are the politically correct types that believe that all their problems can be solved by having a simplistic vision of reality where people are either good or bad. They take pleasure in condemning others, they believe that virtue signalling will validate them in the eyes of other people, and many people will indeed fall for this but they are at war with human nature. They tend to thrive in cultures that promote political correctness.

The Superior Character

Remember that character is more important than intelligence. The person with a strong character will learn to adapt to new situations and show resiliency in the face of uncertainty. They will outgrow their old selves, they will recognize their flaws and come to terms with them. If they are introverted and highly sensitive, they will restrict themselves to occupations that promote their tendencies. And if they are extroverted, they will seek occupations that reward social interaction

They do not lie to themselves, they accept who they are, and they try to form habits that improve their behavior and enter into ventures that match their strengths rather than their weaknesses.

Howard Hughes was not a good manager of people, and yet he was never honest with himself, he decided to live a life of self-deceit where he tried to outdo his father, and this ended in tragedy.

In anything, it is a mistake to think one can perform an action or behave in a certain way once and no more. (The mistake of those who say: “Let us slave away and save every penny till we are thirty, then we will enjoy ourselves.” At thirty they will have a bent for avarice and hard work, and will never enjoy themselves any more…) What one does, one will do again, indeed has probably already done in the distant past. The agonizing thing in life is that it is our own decisions that throw us into this rut, under the wheels that crush us. (The truth is that, even before making those decisions, we were going in that direction.) A decision, an action, are infallible omens of what we shall do another time, not for any vague, mystic, astrological reason but because they result from an automatic reaction that will repeat itself.

Cesare Pavese

Read The Laws of Human Nature

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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