top of page

The key points of 'The 33 Strategies Of War (The Modern Machiavellian Robert Greene Book 1)' by Robert Greene

The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene is a comprehensive guide to understanding and implementing strategies in various aspects of life. Each strategy outlined in the book provides valuable insights on how to navigate challenges and achieve success. In this article, we will focus on key takeaways from some of the strategies discussed in the book.

Key Takeaways

  • Strategic thinking is essential for overcoming obstacles and achieving goals.

  • Adaptability and flexibility are key components of effective strategy implementation.

  • Understanding the psychology of your opponents can give you a strategic advantage.

  • Maintaining a balance between offense and defense is crucial in strategic decision-making.

  • Leadership and decisive action play a significant role in successful strategy execution.

1. The Polarity Strategy

The Polarity Strategy, as outlined by Robert Greene, emphasizes the power of contrasts to create tension and dynamism. By deliberately accentuating differences, one can lead opponents into a state of imbalance, making them easier to manipulate and defeat.

Create stark contrasts to highlight your strengths against the weaknesses of others. This strategy is not about subtlety; it's about clear and unmistakable differentiation.

Polarity can be applied in various contexts, from military campaigns to business negotiations. It's about understanding and exploiting the natural dualities that exist in any competitive environment.

  • Identify the polar opposite of your opponent's position

  • Exaggerate your position to make the contrast more dramatic

  • Use the tension created to your advantage

2. The Guerilla-War-of-the-Mind Strategy

The Guerilla-War-of-the-Mind Strategy emphasizes the importance of psychological warfare in gaining an advantage over an opponent. Mental dominance is achieved not through direct confrontation, but through indirect, unpredictable actions that confuse and demoralize the enemy.

Flexibility and adaptability are key components of this strategy, allowing one to stay ahead of the adversary's thought processes. By remaining elusive and unpredictable, you can create a sense of fear and uncertainty in the minds of your opponents.

  • Use misinformation to mislead the enemy.

  • Employ surprise tactics to keep the adversary off-balance.

  • Cultivate an air of mystery to make your actions unfathomable.

3. The Death-Ground Strategy

The Death-Ground Strategy is a psychological tactic that involves putting oneself in a situation where failure is not an option. By creating a sense of urgency and desperation, this strategy forces individuals or groups to fight with everything they have to survive. It's a do-or-die scenario that can lead to unexpected levels of motivation and innovation.

  • Recognize when you are on 'death ground' and act accordingly.

  • Use the pressure to your advantage to spur action and creativity.

  • Avoid the death ground but if inevitable, use it to catalyze change.

This approach can be particularly effective when all conventional methods have failed and a radical shift is necessary. It's a high-risk maneuver that demands total commitment and can result in either spectacular success or catastrophic failure.

4. The Grand Strategy

The Grand Strategy is about the big picture, focusing on long-term objectives rather than short-term gains. Maintain your strategic depth by not getting mired in the day-to-day operations, but rather, keep an eye on the ultimate goal and the steps needed to get there.

  • Understand the environment and the context of the battle.

  • Align your tactics with the overarching strategy.

  • Stay flexible to adapt to changing circumstances.

By mastering the Grand Strategy, leaders can steer their organizations through complex landscapes, much like Steve Jobs' innovation and design philosophy revolutionized the tech industry, inspiring future entrepreneurs with a focus on user experience, attention to detail, and pushing boundaries.

5. The Counterbalance Strategy

In 'The 33 Strategies Of War', Robert Greene emphasizes the importance of finding equilibrium in power dynamics. Balance your actions to prevent any single force from dominating. This strategy is about maintaining stability while pursuing your objectives, ensuring that no aspect of your plan becomes a liability.

Equilibrium is key in the Counterbalance Strategy. It's not just about reacting to external forces but also about proactively managing your resources and efforts to create a harmonious state that can withstand turbulence.

  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses

  • Assess the forces in play

  • Allocate resources to maintain balance

6. The Non-Engagement Strategy

In the realm of conflict, the Non-Engagement Strategy is a subtle yet powerful approach. Avoid direct confrontation when it is not advantageous, and instead, focus on strength conservation and indirect tactics. This strategy is not about inaction; it's about selective engagement.

  • Wait for the right moment to act

  • Exploit the opponent's impatience

  • Use time as your ally

The Non-Engagement Strategy aligns with principles found in the Lean Startup methodology, which emphasizes validated learning and iterative improvements. Like a startup avoiding the pitfalls of scaling too quickly, in warfare or competition, it's crucial to engage only when the conditions are most favorable.

7. The Flanking Strategy

In The 33 Strategies Of War, Robert Greene describes the Flanking Strategy as a method of attacking an opponent from the side, where they are least protected or expect it the least. This approach is about finding the weak points in the enemy's defenses and striking there swiftly and unexpectedly.

Avoid head-on confrontations whenever possible, as they can be costly and unpredictable. Instead, look for alternative angles of approach that can give you a strategic advantage. The Flanking Strategy is not just about physical positioning; it's also about outmaneuvering your opponent mentally and strategically.

To effectively implement the Flanking Strategy, consider the following points:

  • Identify the opponent's areas of strength and weakness.

  • Devise a plan to approach from an unexpected angle.

  • Execute your maneuvers with speed and decisiveness.

  • Maintain flexibility to adapt as the situation evolves.

8. The Center-of-Gravity Strategy

In the realm of conflict and competition, identifying and targeting the center of gravity is crucial. Strike at the source of strength of your adversary, and the rest will follow. This could be a key ally, a critical resource, or a pivotal piece of the opponent's strategy.

  • Determine the main source of your opponent's power

  • Devise a plan to attack this vital point

  • Disrupt the center to cause a ripple effect

Understanding the center of gravity requires not only knowledge of the opponent but also a deep insight into the dynamics of the conflict itself. It's about finding the linchpin that holds the enemy's forces or strategy together and devising a way to remove it, thereby causing their downfall.

9. The Enigma Strategy

The Enigma Strategy revolves around shrouding your actions in mystery. By keeping your opponents guessing, you create a smokescreen that conceals your true intentions and disorients the competition. Maintain an air of unpredictability to keep others off balance.

Uncertainty is a powerful tool in strategy. It forces adversaries to hesitate, overthink, and sometimes make rash decisions. This strategy is not about outright deception but about being inscrutable.

  • Keep plans close to your chest

  • Change tactics frequently

  • Use misinformation to your advantage

10. The Blitzkrieg Strategy

The Blitzkrieg Strategy, derived from the German term for lightning war, emphasizes rapid and unexpected attacks to overwhelm an opponent. Strike swiftly and exploit the element of surprise to destabilize adversaries before they can mount a coherent defense.

  • Identify weaknesses in the enemy's position.

  • Concentrate forces to hit these vulnerabilities hard and fast.

  • Use speed and surprise to create psychological shock and confusion.

This strategy requires meticulous planning and precise execution. The goal is to achieve victory with minimal resistance by disrupting the enemy's ability to respond effectively.

11. The Counterattack Strategy

The Counterattack Strategy revolves around turning the tables on your adversaries, using their own momentum against them. Wait for the perfect moment to strike back, capitalizing on the element of surprise. This strategy is about biding your time and not reacting impulsively to an attack.

Patience is key in executing a successful counterattack. By holding off and maintaining your defensive position, you force your opponent to make the first move, often revealing their weaknesses or overextending themselves.

  • Assess the situation and your opponent's strategy.

  • Maintain a strong defensive stance.

  • Identify the opportune moment to launch your counterattack.

12. The Guerrilla Strategy

The Guerrilla Strategy is about using unconventional methods to achieve your objectives, often by relying on speed, surprise, and psychological warfare. Flexibility and adaptability are the cornerstones of this approach, allowing one to navigate through complex situations effectively.

  • Stay unpredictable to keep your opponents off-balance.

  • Use the element of surprise to your advantage.

  • Employ psychological tactics to demoralize the enemy.

This strategy draws parallels with 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' by Ken Kesey, which explores themes of power and rebellion against established norms, much like a guerrilla fighter challenging a larger force.

13. The Passive-Aggression Strategy

The Passive-Aggression Strategy in Robert Greene's 'The 33 Strategies Of War' is about the subtle art of indirect confrontation. Instead of engaging in open conflict, this strategy involves using delay, avoidance, and non-commitment to undermine an opponent. It's a way to conserve energy and create frustration in others.

  • Use procrastination as a tool to frustrate opponents

  • Employ non-committal responses to avoid giving away your position

  • Create confusion and wear down the opposition through inconsistency

14. The Low-Profile Strategy

Keep a low profile to avoid drawing attention and becoming a target. In the realm of war and power, visibility can often lead to vulnerability. By maintaining a discreet presence, one can observe, plan, and maneuver without interference.

  • Stay under the radar to gather information.

  • Use subtlety to influence situations to your advantage.

  • Avoid boasting about achievements to prevent envy and opposition.

This approach is particularly effective in highly competitive environments where overt aggression can backfire. It allows for strategic positioning and the accumulation of power without triggering alarms.

15. The Chain-Reaction Strategy

The Chain-Reaction Strategy involves setting up a sequence of events that lead to a desired outcome. By carefully planning each step, one can create a domino effect where the success of one action facilitates the next. This strategy requires meticulous preparation and an understanding of the interconnectedness of actions within a system.

Initiate the first move with precision, ensuring that it's strong enough to trigger the subsequent steps. It's crucial to maintain momentum once the process starts, as any delay or misstep can halt the entire chain reaction.

Remember that while this strategy can be highly effective, it also comes with risks. Political interests can skew risk assessment in government, threatening public safety and eroding trust. Transparency and proactive risk management are essential to rebuild public confidence.

16. The Strategic-Withdrawal Strategy

The Strategic-Withdrawal Strategy involves a deliberate retreat to lure the opponent into a trap or to conserve resources for a more favorable time. Boldly embracing retreat can be a powerful tactic when used judiciously.

  • Assess the situation and the strength of the opposition.

  • Plan the withdrawal carefully to avoid the appearance of defeat.

  • Use the retreat to regroup and strategize for a counter-offensive.

This approach requires discipline and the ability to manage one's own troops and resources effectively. It's a maneuver that turns a short-term setback into a setup for a greater victory down the line.

17. The Annihilation Strategy

The Annihilation Strategy is about delivering such a decisive blow to your opponent that their ability to fight back is completely destroyed. Focus on overwhelming force at a critical point to ensure that recovery is impossible. This strategy is not just about physical destruction but also about breaking the enemy's spirit.

Timing and psychological warfare play crucial roles in this strategy. It's essential to strike when the opponent is least prepared and their morale is low. A well-executed Annihilation Strategy leaves no room for a counterattack and can lead to a swift victory.

  • Identify the enemy's weakness

  • Concentrate your forces

  • Strike with speed and surprise

18. The Double-Edged Strategy

The Double-Edged Strategy is about wielding the power of duality to your advantage. Embrace the paradox of using your strengths in a way that also exposes you to vulnerability, turning potential weaknesses into fortifications. This strategy requires a deep understanding of the balance between risk and reward.

  • Recognize the inherent strengths and weaknesses in your position.

  • Exploit the strengths while simultaneously guarding against the weaknesses.

  • Understand that every move has a potential trade-off.

This approach is not without its dangers, as it involves a tightrope walk between opposing forces. However, when executed with precision, it can lead to a powerful position of influence and control.

19. The Feigned-Madness Strategy

The Feigned-Madness Strategy involves adopting a posture of irrationality to confuse and mislead one's opponents. By appearing unpredictable and unstable, adversaries may underestimate your true intentions and capabilities.

  • Create a facade of madness to throw off opponents

  • Use unpredictability as a form of defense

  • Misdirect and confuse to gain strategic advantage

It's important to note that this strategy is not without risks. If overused or poorly executed, it can lead to a loss of credibility and control. Therefore, it must be employed with caution and strategic foresight.

20. The Chain-of-Command Strategy

The Chain-of-Command Strategy involves understanding and utilizing the hierarchy within an organization to achieve strategic goals. By recognizing the flow of authority and information, one can leverage their position to influence decisions and outcomes.

Navigating the chain of command effectively requires tact and foresight. It's not just about knowing who is in charge, but also about understanding the relationships and dynamics between different levels of the hierarchy.

  • Identify key decision-makers

  • Understand their interests and motivations

  • Build relationships at multiple levels

  • Communicate effectively up and down the chain

21. The Divide-and-Conquer Strategy

The Divide-and-Conquer Strategy is a timeless tactic that involves breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that are easier to manage and defeat individually. Divide your opponents, and their collective strength becomes significantly weakened, making them more vulnerable to defeat.

  • Identify the power clusters in your opposition.

  • Create rifts and encourage divisions within enemy ranks.

  • Exploit the individual weaknesses that emerge.

This strategy not only applies to warfare but also to business, politics, and personal relationships. It's about understanding the dynamics of power and using them to your advantage.

22. The Dual-Conquest Strategy

The Dual-Conquest Strategy is about achieving two objectives simultaneously, thereby multiplying the impact of your efforts. Divide your forces to conquer on two fronts, but ensure that each front is strong enough to stand on its own. This strategy requires careful planning and the ability to adapt swiftly to changing circumstances.

  • Identify primary and secondary objectives

  • Allocate resources effectively

  • Maintain strong communication between the two fronts

The success of this strategy often hinges on the element of surprise and the efficient use of resources. It's crucial to keep the enemy off balance, unable to defend against two attacks at once.

23. The Decoy Strategy

In the realm of conflict and competition, the Decoy Strategy is a cunning approach to mislead adversaries. By presenting a false target or interest, you can distract and divert attention from your true intentions or movements. Employing a decoy can create confusion and cause your opponents to make mistakes.

  • Identify a plausible decoy that will attract the enemy's focus.

  • Execute actions that support the illusion of the decoy's importance.

  • While the enemy is distracted, move decisively towards your actual goal.

This strategy, when executed well, can be a powerful tool in both warfare and in competitive environments where misdirection can lead to significant advantages.

24. The Sow-Uncertainty Strategy

The Sow-Uncertainty Strategy is about creating a cloud of mystery around your actions and intentions. By keeping your opponents guessing, you can manipulate their reactions and control the situation to your advantage. This strategy is particularly effective in situations where direct confrontation is not desirable or possible.

  • Keep your plans ambiguous to prevent others from predicting your moves.

  • Use misinformation to lead adversaries astray.

  • Maintain a calm demeanor to avoid giving away your true state of mind.

By fostering an environment of uncertainty, you not only protect your own plans but also create a psychological advantage. This can be particularly useful in motivating team members and encouraging collaboration, as it empowers individuals to take ownership for team success without revealing the full scope of your strategy.

25. The Leadership Strategy and more

The final strategy in Robert Greene's 'The 33 Strategies Of War' is the Leadership Strategy, which encompasses more than just the art of leading. It's about inspiring, influencing, and guiding others towards a common goal. Leaders must embody the vision they wish to achieve, ensuring their actions align with their words to maintain credibility and respect.

Effective leadership is not just about giving orders; it's about fostering an environment where creativity and innovation can flourish. This is akin to the principles discussed in 'Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear' by Elizabeth Gilbert, which delves into the interplay between creativity and fear.

To encapsulate the essence of the Leadership Strategy, consider the following points:

  • A leader must be the embodiment of the strategy they advocate.

  • Communication is key to aligning team efforts with the strategic vision.

  • Adaptability and resilience are crucial in responding to unforeseen challenges.

  • Empowering team members fosters a culture of ownership and initiative.


In conclusion, 'The 33 Strategies of War' by Robert Greene provides valuable insights into the principles of strategy and warfare, drawing from historical examples and timeless wisdom. Through a Machiavellian lens, Greene offers practical advice on navigating the complexities of power dynamics and conflict resolution. Readers are encouraged to apply these strategies in both personal and professional settings to achieve success and outmaneuver adversaries. This book serves as a comprehensive guide for those seeking to understand the art of war and strategic thinking in the modern world.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main concept of 'The 33 Strategies Of War' by Robert Greene?

The book explores various strategies and tactics used in warfare and applies them to modern-day situations and conflicts.

How many strategies are discussed in the book?

The book discusses 33 different strategies of war, each with its own unique approach and application.

Are the strategies applicable in non-military contexts?

Yes, the strategies discussed in the book can be applied to various aspects of life, such as business, relationships, and personal development.

Is 'The 33 Strategies Of War' suitable for all readers?

The book is aimed at readers interested in strategy, history, and human behavior, but it may not be suitable for those who are uncomfortable with the themes of war and conflict.

Are the strategies in the book based on historical examples?

Yes, the strategies are inspired by historical examples of warfare and leadership, providing practical insights and lessons for contemporary situations.

How can readers benefit from applying the strategies in their own lives?

By understanding and implementing the strategies, readers can improve their strategic thinking, decision-making skills, and ability to navigate complex situations effectively.

Related Posts

See All

The key points of 'SPIN Selling By Neil Rackham

The 'SPIN Selling' methodology, developed by Neil Rackham, is a revolutionary sales technique that has transformed the way professionals approach the selling process. This approach emphasizes the impo


bottom of page