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Law 40: Despise The Free Lunch

In the image: Cynthia “Cynt” Marshall – Dallas Mavericks CEO

What is offered for free is dangerous — it usually involves a trick or a hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt and deceit. It is also often wise to pay the full price — there is no cutting corners with excellence. Be lavish with your money and keep it circulating, for generosity is a sign and a magnet for power.

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Key To Power

  • In the realm of power, everything must be judged by its cost, for everything has a price. What is offered for free or at a bargain often comes with a psychological price tag — complicated feelings of obligation, compromises with quality, the insecurity these comprises bring etc.
  • The powerful learn early to protect their most valuable resource: independence and room to maneuver.
  • Being open and flexible also teaches the value of strategic generosity.

Recognize These 4 Types And Avoid Them/Use Them

1. The Greedy Fish

  • They take the human side out of money. They view others solely as pawns or obstructions in their pursuit of wealth.

2. The Bargain Demon

  • They waste time digging for bargains, worry endlessly about what they could have gotten elsewhere for a little less.
  • They might seem to only harm themselves, but their attitudes are contagious.

3. The Sadist

  • They play vicious power games with money as a way of asserting their power.
  • They think that paying for something gives them the right to torture and abuse the seller.

4. The Indiscriminate Giver

  • They are generous because they want to be loved and admired by all.
  • Their generosity is needy and may not have the desired effect.


  • This Law offers great opportunities for swindling and deception if you apply it from the other side. Dangling the lure of a free lunch is the con artist’s stock in trade.


In the image: Louis XIV

Louis XIV had an eagle eye for the strategic power of money. He would gift paintings of great value to people who didn’t like him very much, until then. This way he got nobility, the keys to power, on his side. At the same time, he increased operational costs for the aristocrats who wanted him gone. It’s ingenious. He took money from his enemies and gave it to his new friends. Two birds with one stone. This is one of my favorite laws, because it states that cheap misers miss out on opportunities.

It pays to be generous and it pays not to accept “free” gifts. What is the Return of Investment (ROI) on paying for someone’s coffee? You sit down at Starbucks with an influential, connected, and experienced entrepreneur. You get to talk to him for 10 minutes, ask his advice, learn from his mistakes. I don’t care if the coffee costs 50$, I’m paying, because there is a lot of upside.

About The Book

The 48 Laws of Power (1998) is a non-fiction book by American author Robert Greene. The book is a bestseller, selling over 1.2 million copies in the United States.

Buy The 48 Laws of Power or Listen to it for FREE on Audible