Know Your Limits: The Law of Grandiosity

People are often unaware of how much they should or shouldn’t do in their own best interests. In order to avoid the misery that comes from overdoing it, we must be aware of what makes us happy and limit our actions accordingly.

The “law of aimlessness” is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when people feel they are not living up to their potential. People will often overestimate the amount of time they can spend on tasks and underestimate how much time it would take to complete them. This leads to feelings of inadequacy, which can lead to depression.

"Icarus's Fall" a civic collection of ancient art.

This is an extract from Robert Greene’s new book, The Laws of Human Nature, which is available now.

Humans have a strong need to think favorably of themselves. We become grandiose when our perceptions of our goodness, grandeur, and genius vary enough from reality. We consider ourselves to be superior. A tiny degree of accomplishment may often boost our inherent grandiosity to hazardous proportions. Events have now validated our strong self-esteem. We overlook the importance of luck, as well as the efforts of others, in our achievement. We think we’ve got the golden touch. We make illogical choices when we lose touch with reality. As a result, our success does not always endure. Look for indicators of heightened grandiosity in yourself and others, such as an overabundance of confidence in the success of your ideas, extreme sensitivity when questioned, and a contempt for any type of authority. Maintain a realistic evaluation of yourself and your boundaries to combat the draw of grandiosity. Any sentiments of grandeur should be linked to your job, accomplishments, and contributions to society. 

The Illusion of Success

Michael Eisner (b. 1942), President of Paramount Pictures, could no longer deny the restlessness that had plagued him for months by the summer of 1984. He was eager to go to a larger platform and upset Hollywood’s underpinnings. His whole life had been a narrative of restlessness. He’d started his career at ABC, and despite never settling down in one area, he’d worked his way up to the post of head of primetime programming after nine years of numerous promotions. However, television started to seem confining and little to him. He need a bigger, more grandiose stage. In 1976, Barry Diller, a former ABC executive who is now the chairman of Paramount Pictures, offered him the position of head of Paramount’s film studio, and he accepted.

With the help of Diller, Eisner converted Paramount into the trendiest studio in Hollywood, with a succession of critically acclaimed pictures including Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Flashdance, and Terms of Endearment. Despite the fact that Diller was instrumental in the studio’s recovery, Eisner considered himself as the key driving factor behind its success. After all, he’d devised a foolproof formula for making money from movies.

The formula required him to keep expenses low, something he was obsessed with. To do so, a film needed to start with a brilliant premise, one that was unique, simple to understand, and dramatic. Executives may employ the most expensive writers, directors, and actors for a film, but it would be a waste of money if the core premise was flawed. Films with a good premise, on the other hand, will sell themselves. A studio could mass-produce these relatively low-cost pictures, ensuring a consistent stream of revenue even if they were only mediocre successes. This thought ran counter to the late 1970s blockbuster culture, but who could dispute with the indisputable revenues Eisner had achieved for Paramount? This formula was memorialized by Eisner in a memo that quickly circulated across Hollywood and became gospel.


But Eisner had had enough of sharing the spotlight with Diller at Paramount, attempting to appease corporate CEOs, and fighting marketing directors and financial people for so long. If only he could be free to manage his own studio. With the formula he’d devised and his unwavering drive, he could build the world’s largest and most successful entertainment conglomerate. He was fed up with others profiting from his ideas and accomplishments. He could control the show and grab all the credit if he was at the top and alone.

In the summer of 1984, as Eisner considered his next and most important professional move, he ultimately picked on the ideal target for his ambitions: the Walt Disney Corporation. This seems to be an odd decision at first look. Since Walt Disney’s death in 1966, the Walt Disney film company has been stuck in time, becoming stranger with each passing year. The atmosphere was more akin to that of a staid men’s club. Many executives left work after lunch and spent their afternoons playing card games or relaxing in the on-site steam room. Almost no one has ever been dismissed. The studio produced one animated picture every four years on average, and just three live-action features in 1983. They hadn’t had a blockbuster picture since 1966’s The Love Bug. The Disney lot in Burbank seemed to be deserted. Tom Hanks, who worked on the set in 1983, characterized it as “a 1950s greyhound bus terminal.”

However, given its deteriorated state, this would be an ideal location for Eisner to work his magic. Only the studio and the business may advance. The company’s board of directors was anxious to turn things around and prevent a hostile acquisition. The terms of Eisner’s leadership role might be dictated by him. Presenting himself as the company’s rescuer to Roy Disney (Walt’s nephew and the company’s biggest shareholder), he sketched forth a thorough and exciting plan for a spectacular turnaround (bigger than Paramount’s), and Roy was won over. The board supported the proposal with Roy’s consent, and Eisner was elected chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Corporation in September 1984. Former Warner Bros. CEO Frank Wells has been appointed president and chief operating officer. Wells would concentrate on the business side of things. Eisner was the boss in every way, with Wells there to assist and serve him.

Eisner didn’t waste any time. He fired over a thousand workers and started hiring former Paramount executives, including Jeffrey Katzenberg (b. 1950), who had served as Eisner’s right-hand man at Paramount and was now made chairman of Walt Disney Studios. No one in Hollywood was more efficient or worked harder than Katzenberg, who could be caustic and plain unpleasant at times. He just got the job done.

Following Eisner’s model, Disney started to produce a surprising sequence of successes within months. Fifteen of their first seventeen pictures made money (Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and so on), an unheard-of run of success for any Hollywood company.


When he and Wells were exploring the Burbank property one day, they went into the Disney library and found hundreds of never-before-seen cartoons from the golden age. All of the great Disney classic animated blockbusters were housed there on infinite shelves. The sight of this prize made Eisner’s eyes light up. He could make a killing by reissuing all of these cartoons and animated pictures on video (the home video industry was booming at the time). The corporation might construct shops based on these cartoons to advertise the numerous Disney characters. Disney was a veritable goldmine ripe for the picking, and Eisner would seize the opportunity.

Soon after, the shops opened, the DVDs flew off the shelves, the box office blockbusters continued feeding money into the corporation, and Disney’s stock price surged. It had supplanted Paramount as the city’s hottest picture studio. Eisner chose to recreate the old Wonderful World of Disney, an hour-long television program presented by Walt Disney from the 1950s and 1960s, in order to establish a larger public presence. Eisner would be the host this time. He wasn’t a natural in front of the camera, but he was certain that viewers would warm to him. He, like Walt, could be reassuring to youngsters. In fact, he grew to believe that the two of them were somehow magically linked, as if he were more than simply the CEO of the company, but rather Walt Disney’s natural son and heir. 

Despite his accomplishments, though, the same restlessness reappeared. He was looking for a new endeavor, a greater challenge, and he quickly found it. In Europe, the Disney Corporation had ambitions to build a new theme park. Tokyo Disneyland, which opened in 1983, was a huge success. Theme park planners have narrowed down two prospective locations for the future Disneyland: one near Barcelona, Spain, and the other near Paris. Eisner picked the French location over the Barcelona site, despite the fact that the weather in Barcelona was far better. This would be more than just a theme park. This was meant to be a statement on culture. He’d recruit the greatest architects the world has to offer. Unlike the typical plastic castles seen at other theme parks, the castles at Euro Disney would be made of pink stone and include handmade stained-glass windows depicting scenes from different fairy tales. Even the snobbish French upper crust would be eager to come. Eisner was a huge fan of building, and he might be a modern-day Medici here.

Euro Disney’s expenses grew as the years passed. Eisner believed that if he constructed it well, the visitors would come and the park would ultimately pay for itself, letting go of his typical fixation with the bottom line. However, when it eventually opened in 1992 as anticipated, it became evident that Eisner had a poor understanding of French preferences and holiday habits. They were less than enthusiastic about waiting in line for rides, especially in inclement weather. No alcohol or wine was provided on the grounds, as was the case in the other amusement parks, which the French considered sacrilege. A family could not afford to remain at the hotel for more than a day. Despite the meticulous attention to detail, the pink stone castles resembled tacky replicas of the originals.


The turnout was half of what Eisner had expected. Disney’s building obligations had skyrocketed, and the money flowing in from guests couldn’t even cover the interest on these bills. It was building up to be his first major failure in his illustrious career. When he finally accepted reality, he determined that Frank Wells was to blame. It was his responsibility to manage the project’s financial health, and he had failed him. Previously, he had always had positive things to say about their working relationship, but now he was constantly complaining about his second-in-command and considering dismissing him.

In the midst of this escalating disaster, Eisner saw a new danger approaching: Jeffrey Katzenberg. Katzenberg was sometimes referred to as his golden retriever because he was so devoted and industrious. It was Katzenberg who oversaw the studio’s early successes, including the largest of them all, Beauty and the Beast, the picture that launched Disney’s animation department into a new era. But there was something about Katzenberg that made him uneasy. Perhaps it was Katzenberg’s message from 1990, in which he discussed the succession of live-action failures Disney had lately made. “We’ve gradually moved away from our basic notion of how to manage a firm since 1984,” he wrote. Katzenberg chastised the company for opting for higher-budget pictures like Dick Tracy in order to create “event movies.” Disney had succumbed to “the blockbuster mindset,” and in the process had lost its essence.

Eisner was irritated by the memo. Eisner’s favourite project was Dick Tracy. Was Katzenberg insulting his employer in a roundabout way? When he thought about it, this looked to be a carbon copy of his own notorious message from Paramount, in which he argued for low-budget, high-concept films. Katzenberg, it seemed to him, viewed himself as the next Eisner. Maybe he was plotting to seize his job, to undermine his authority in a subtle way. This started to wear him down. Why was Katzenberg no longer allowing him to participate in narrative meetings?

With major blockbusters like Aladdin and now The Lion King, which had been Katzenberg’s baby—he had come up with the plot concept and produced it from start to finish—the animation department quickly became the studio’s principal source of revenues. Katzenberg started to be featured in magazine stories as the creative brain behind Disney’s revival in the genre. What about Roy Disney, the animation vice chairman? What about Eisner, who was in control of the whole operation? Katzenberg, according to Eisner, was now manipulating the media in order to boost his own profile. Katzenberg was said to be traveling around boasting, “I’m the Walt Disney of today,” according to a source close to Eisner. Suspicion quickly led to animosity. Eisner couldn’t tolerate being around him. 

Then, in March of 1994, while on a skiing vacation, Frank Wells was killed in a helicopter accident. Eisner quickly declared that he would succeed Wells as president to comfort shareholders and Wall Street. But then came the phone calls and notes from Katzenberg, reminding Eisner that if Wells ever left the business, he had offered him the president’s post. So soon after the incident, how inconsiderate. Katzenberg’s phone calls were no longer returned.


In August 1994, Eisner finally dismissed Jeffrey Katzenberg, startling almost everyone in Hollywood. He’d sacked the town’s most successful studio boss. The Lion King has become one of Hollywood’s most financially successful pictures. Katzenberg was the driving force behind Disney’s purchase of Miramax, which was hailed as a major triumph after the success of Pulp Fiction. Eisner didn’t seem to mind, even if it seemed that he was insane. He could finally rest, knowing that he was no longer under Katzenberg’s shadow, and that he could now take Disney to the next level on his own, with no more distractions.

He immediately astonished the entertainment industry by orchestrating Disney’s acquisition of ABC, proving he hadn’t lost his touch. The daring of the coup made him the focus of attention once again. He was now building an entertainment empire beyond anything anybody has tried or dreamed. However, this action posed a difficulty for him. The company’s size has almost doubled. It was much too complicated and vast for one man to handle. He’d just undergone open-heart surgery a year before, and the extra stress was too much for him.

He needed another Frank Wells, and his mind quickly drifted to his old buddy Michael Ovitz, one of the agency’s founders and CEO. Ovitz was possibly the most influential guy in town, and he was the greatest dealmaker in Hollywood history. They have the potential to dominate the field if they work together. Many people in the company urged him against hiring Ovitz since he wasn’t like Frank Wells in terms of money or attention to detail. Such counsel was rejected by him. People were thinking in a way that was too traditional. He decided to entice Ovitz away from CAA by offering him a rich compensation and the position of President. In multiple conversations, he promised Ovitz that, although he would be second in charge, they would ultimately operate the firm as co-leaders.

Ovitz ultimately agreed to all of the stipulations during a phone conversation, but as soon as Eisner hung up, he knew he had made the worst mistake of his life. What had been on his mind? How could two guys with such colossal personalities ever get along? Ovitz was a power seeker. This is the Katzenberg conundrum multiplied by two. However, it was too late. The hiring had been approved by the board. His personal reputation, as well as his ability to make decisions as a CEO, was on the line. He’d have to figure out a way to make it work.

He devised a plan quickly: he would limit Ovitz’s duties, maintain a close grip on him, and force him to prove himself as president. He may gain Eisner’s confidence and greater influence by doing so. He intended to show Ovitz who was in charge from the start. Instead of putting him in Frank Wells’ former office next to Eisner’s on the sixth level of the Disney headquarters, Eisner placed him in a fairly mediocre office on the fifth floor. To captivate individuals, Ovitz loved to throw money around with presents and costly parties; Eisner had his staff track every cent Ovitz spent on such things and keep a close eye on him. Was Ovitz making calls behind Eisner’s back to other executives? He had no intention of having another Katzenberg at his breast.


Soon, the following relationship emerged: Ovitz would approach him with a prospective contract, and Eisner would encourage him to pursue it. But when it came time to sign the contract, Eisner would say “no.” Slowly, word got around that Ovitz had lost his touch and was no longer able to complete deals. Ovitz became agitated. He was anxious to show that he was deserving of the honor. Since the merger of the two firms was not going well, he volunteered to come to New York to help oversee ABC, but Eisner declined. He warned his lieutenants to stay away from Ovitz. He wasn’t a guy to be trusted; he was the son of a San Fernando Valley booze salesman, and like his father, Ovitz was simply another suave salesperson. He was hooked to the media’s spotlight. Ovitz had been entirely alienated inside the organization.

As the months passed, Ovitz became more aware of what was going on and expressed his displeasure to Eisner. He had left his agency for Disney, and his image had been built on what he would accomplish as president, and Eisner was ruining it. In the business, he was no longer respected. He was plain vicious in his treatment of Ovitz. However, in Eisner’s opinion, he had failed the test he had set for himself; he had not shown patience; he was no Frank Wells. Ovitz was dismissed in December 1996, after just fourteen months on the job, and received a sizable severance payout. It was a fast and startling fall from grace.

After finally being free of this monumental blunder, Eisner proceeded to solidify influence inside the corporation. ABC was having a difficult time. He would have to step in and take command. He started to attend programming meetings, where he reminisced about his glory days at ABC and the fantastic series he developed there, such as Laverne and Shirley and Happy Days. ABC needs to return to its old mentality of producing high-concept family programming.

As the Internet grew in popularity, Eisner had no choice but to become engaged, and he did so in a significant manner. His executives lobbied him to buy Yahoo, but he said no. Instead, Disney would launch Go, its own Internet platform. He’d learned through the years that it was always preferable to create and manage your own show. The Internet would be dominated by Disney. He’d already shown himself a turnaround master twice, and now, with Disney in a slump, he’d accomplish it a third time.

However, the firm was soon plagued by a series of misfortunes. After being dismissed, Katzenberg sued Disney for the performance incentive he was owed under his contract. When Ovitz was president, he sought to settle the case before it went to court and persuaded Katzenberg to agree to a $90 million settlement, but Eisner canceled it at the last minute, certain that he owed Katzenberg nothing. The court found in Katzenberg’s favor in 2001, and they were forced to settle for a stunning $280 million. Go was a huge fiasco for Disney, who had spent a lot of money into it, and it had to be shut down. Euro Disney’s expenditures were still causing the firm to lose money. Disney had a collaboration with Pixar, and the two had collaborated on films like Toy Story. But now, Pixar’s CEO, Steve Jobs, has said that he would never work with Disney again, citing his dislike for Eisner’s micromanagement. ABC was not doing well. The majority of the films Disney made were not just failures, but also costly flops, culminating in the largest of them all, Pearl Harbor, which was released in May of 2001.


Roy Disney seems to have lost trust in him all of a sudden. The stock was in free fall. He advised Eisner that resigning was the right course of action. What ungratefulness, what arrogance! Eisner was the guy who had single-handedly resurrected the corporation from the brink of extinction. Roy, Walt’s dumb nephew, had been spared from tragedy and gained a fortune as a result of his efforts. And now he was going to betray Eisner at his worst hour? He’d never been more outraged in his life. He retaliated promptly, compelling Roy to leave from the board of directors. This just appeared to boost Roy’s confidence. He orchestrated the Save Disney shareholder uprising, which resulted in a scathing rebuke of Eisner’s leadership in March 2004.

Soon after, the board resolved to remove Eisner from his role as chairman. He was losing control of the empire he had built. With few allies to draw on and a sense of being alone and betrayed, Eisner resigned from Disney in September 2005. How could everything go apart so quickly? He assured pals that they would miss him, and he meant everyone in Hollywood; there will never be another like him.

Interpretation: At some time during his career, Michael Eisner fell to a type of delusion or crazy, his thinking so far removed from reality that he took actions that had devastating repercussions. Let us follow this hallucination as it arose and seized control of his thinking.

Eisner had a firm handle on reality from the start of his tenure at ABC. He was a shrewd businessman. His ambition and competitive personality, his hard work ethic, and his acute feel for the entertainment inclinations of the typical American were all traits he recognized and used to the fullest. Eisner was a fast thinker who could inspire others to think imaginatively. He swiftly ascended the corporate ladder by relying on these assets. He was quite confident in his abilities, as shown by a succession of promotions he obtained at ABC. He could afford to be smug since he had learnt a lot on the job and his programming abilities had vastly improved. He was on his way to the top, which he reached at the age of 34 when he was appointed ABC’s head of prime time programming.

He quickly realized that the world of television was restricting him as a guy of strong ambition. The types of entertainment he could program were limited. Something looser, bigger, and more glamorous was available in the film industry. It seemed only logical that he take the job at Paramount. But something happened at Paramount that started the gradual process of his thinking becoming unbalanced. Because the stage was larger and he was the studio’s director, he started to attract media and public attention. He was dubbed “Hollywood’s sexiest film executive” on the covers of publications. This was a fundamentally different experience from the attention and gratification that came with ABC’s marketing. He was now admired by millions of people. How may their viewpoints be incorrect? To them, he was a genius, a new sort of hero who was changing the studio system’s environment.


This was enthralling. It naturally raised his opinion of his abilities. However, it came with a significant risk. Eisner’s success at Paramount was not entirely due to his own efforts. Several films were already in pre-production when he came at the studio, including Saturday Night Fever, which would kick off the turnaround. Barry Diller was Eisner’s ideal counterpoint. He would debate with him about his ideas incessantly, urging Eisner to refine them. But, puffed up by the attention, he had to believe that he earned such praise only for his own efforts, and so he naturally discounted the components of good timing and other people’s contributions from his achievement. His mind was now gradually distancing itself from reality. Instead of concentrating just on the audience and how to amuse them, he began to concentrate more and more on himself, believing in the legend of his grandeur as propagated by others. He believed he has the golden touch.

The practice was replicated and intensified at Disney. He basked in the light of his enormous success there, rapidly forgetting his extraordinary good fortune in acquiring the Disney library at a time when home video and family entertainment were exploding. Wells had played a significant part in balancing him out, but he dismissed it. He was presented with a problem as his feeling of grandeur grew. He’d been hooked to the limelight that comes with making a huge impact and doing something unusual. He couldn’t be satisfied with just achieving success and increasing earnings. To keep the legend alive, he had to add to it. The solution would be to go to Euro Disney. He’d prove to the world that he wasn’t just another business boss, but a Renaissance man.

He refused to listen to expert consultants who advised the Barcelona location and lobbied for a small theme park to keep expenses down while creating the park. He was unconcerned with French culture and instead oversaw everything from Burbank. He believed that his experience as the CEO of a film company could be applied to theme parks and design. He was grossly exaggerating his creative abilities, and his judgments now demonstrated a level of disconnection from reality that qualified him as insane. Once this mental imbalance has taken hold, it can only become worse since returning to earth requires admitting that one’s prior high self-opinion was incorrect, something the human animal nearly never does. Instead, it is common to place blame on others for every failure or setback.

In the throes of his hallucination, he made the most egregious error of all: firing Jeffrey Katzenberg. The Disney system relied on a continual stream of fresh animated successes to provide new characters, goods, attractions, and marketing opportunities to retailers and theme parks. Katzenberg had certainly acquired a penchant for producing blockbusters, as seen by The Lion King’s remarkable popularity. Getting rid of him placed the whole production line in jeopardy. Who would be the next in line? Certainly not Roy Disney or the man himself, Eisner? He also had to be aware that Katzenberg would take his talents elsewhere, which he did when he co-founded Dreamworks Animation. He continued to produce cartoon hits there. The new studio raised the cost of talented animators, thus raising the expense of making an animated feature and jeopardizing Disney’s whole economic scheme. Eisner, on the other hand, was more concerned with the struggle for attention than with a clear grasp on reality. Katzenberg’s growth challenged his inflated ego, therefore he had to forego profit and pragmatism to appease it.


The downward spiral had already started. His increasing separation from reality was highlighted by his purchase of ABC in the notion that more is better. In the era of new media, television was a failing business model. It wasn’t a sound business choice, but rather a PR stunt. He’d produced a giant of entertainment, a blob with no distinct personality. Ovitz’s hiring and termination demonstrated yet another degree of illusion. People had become nothing more than tools in his hands. Ovitz was regarded as Hollywood’s most feared and powerful guy. He had an unconscious urge to embarrass Ovitz. He must be the most powerful guy in Hollywood if he can make Ovitz grovel for crumbs.

The ever-increasing expenses of Euro Disney, the Katzenberg bonus, the lack of hits in both film divisions, the constant drain on resources from ABC, and the Ovitz severance payout all started to cascade as a result of his delusory mind process. The board members couldn’t overlook the stock’s decline any longer. After the firings of Katzenberg and Ovitz, Eisner became the most despised man in Hollywood, and as his riches declined, all of his opponents surfaced to speed his demise. His ascension to power was swift and dramatic.

Recognize that Michael Eisner’s tale is far closer to you than you would imagine. His destiny may very well be yours, but on a far lesser scale. The explanation is simple: we all have a vulnerability that will lead us into the delusionary process without us even realizing it. Our inherent inclination to overestimate our abilities is the source of this flaw. We all have a self-perception that is somewhat inflated in comparison to reality. We all want to feel superior to others in some way, whether it’s intellect, attractiveness, charisma, popularity, or saintliness. This may be a good thing. Confidence motivates us to take on new tasks, push beyond our perceived boundaries, and learn in the process. However, if we achieve success on any level—increased attention from an individual or group, a promotion, project funding—our confidence will likely to climb too soon, and the gap between our self-opinion and reality will widen.

Any success we have in life is inextricably linked to chance, time, the efforts of others, the professors who aided us along the road, and the whims of the general public in search of something fresh. We have a propensity to forget about all of this and believe that our achievement is due to our better self. We start assuming we’ll be able to manage new obstacles before we’re ready. After all, people’s attention has verified our excellence, and we want it to continue. We assume that we have the golden touch and can now miraculously transfer our abilities to an other medium or area. We become more attentive to our ego and fantasies than to the people we work for and our audience without even recognizing it. We become estranged from people who assist us, seeing them as instruments to be used. And we are prone to blaming others for any shortcomings that arise. Success has an enticing draw on us that causes our thinking to become clouded.


Your mission is to assess the components after any form of success. Consider the element of luck that will always be there, as well as the part that other individuals, such as mentors, had in your good fortune. This will counteract your natural desire to exaggerate your abilities. Remind yourself that success breeds complacency, as your focus becomes more essential than your job, and you fall back on old techniques. You must increase your attentiveness as you gain success. With each new endeavor, start at the beginning and wipe the slate clean. As the applause becomes louder, try to pay less attention to it. Recognize your limitations and accept them while working with what you have. Don’t think that larger is always better; in many cases, consolidating and focusing your energies is the superior option. Be careful not to insult others with your developing attitude of superiority—you’ll need friends. Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground to compensate for the drug-like influence of success. Your power will be more genuine and enduring if you create it slowly and organically. Keep in mind that the gods are cruel to those who soar too high on the wings of grandiosity, and you will pay the price.

“For him, existence had never been enough; he had always craved more. Perhaps it was only because of the power of his aspirations that he saw himself as a guy who was allowed more than others.” —Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky 

Human Nature’s Secrets

Let’s pretend you have a project to complete or someone or a group of individuals to convince to accomplish something. A realistic approach toward achieving such objectives may be described as follows: It’s seldom simple to acquire what you desire. Success will be determined by a combination of hard work and luck. You’ll probably have to abandon your earlier approach to make your project work—circumstances change all the time, and you’ll need to have an open mind. The individuals you’re attempting to reach seldom react in the way you expected or wanted. In reality, people’s responses will usually surprise and upset you. They have their own wants, experiences, and psyche, which are not the same as yours. To impress your targets, you must concentrate on them and their personalities. If you don’t get what you want, you’ll have to look closely at what went wrong and try to learn from the experience.

Consider the job or activity at hand as a slab of marble that has to be sculpted into something precise and beautiful. Although the block is considerably bigger than you and the material is fairly tough, the challenge is not insurmountable. You can gently shape it into what you need with enough work, dedication, and tenacity. However, you must begin with a healthy sense of proportion—goals are difficult to achieve, people are resistive, and you have limitations. You can summon the necessary patience and start to work with such a realistic approach.


Imagine, on the other hand, that your brain has succumbed to a psychiatric ailment that damages your sense of scale and proportion. Instead of perceiving the work at hand as huge and the material unyielding, you see the block of marble as little and flexible when you’re infected with this ailment. You lose your sense of proportion and assume it will only take a few minutes to shape the block into the completed product vision you have in your head. You assume that the folks you’re attempting to reach aren’t innately resistive to your message, but rather predictable. You already know how they’ll react to your brilliant idea: they’ll adore it. They really need you and your job more than you require them. They should go out of their way to find you. The focus is on what you believe you deserve, rather than what you need to achieve. With this project, you may expect a lot of attention, but if you fail, you must blame others since you have talents, your cause is good, and only those who are malevolent or jealous might stand in your way.

This mental illness is known as grandiosity. The regular realistic proportions are flipped when you experience its effects—your self becomes bigger and greater than everything else around it. That’s the perspective you’ll take on the assignment and the individuals you need to reach. This isn’t just a case of severe narcissism, where everything has to revolve about you. This is when you regard oneself as expanded (the origin of the term “grandiosity” means “huge and great”), superior, and deserving of not just attention but adoration. It’s a sensation of not only being human, but godlike.

You may assume that powerful, arrogant public figures are the ones who catch such a sickness, but you’d be mistaken. Many powerful individuals, such as Michael Eisner, have high-grade variations of grandiosity, where the attention and praises they get result in a more intense expansion of the self. However, since it is a human feature, there is a low-grade, daily variant of the condition that affects practically everyone. It comes from a strong need to feel important, respected, and superior to others in some way.

You are seldom conscious of your own grandiosity since it distorts your perspective of reality and makes it difficult to judge oneself accurately. As a result, you are ignorant of the troubles it may be giving you right now. Your low-grade grandiosity will encourage you to exaggerate your own powers while underestimating the challenges you’ll confront. As a result, you’ll take on jobs that are beyond your current capabilities. You’ll be certain that others will react to your concept in a specific manner, and if they don’t, you’ll be angry and blame others.


You may get restless and seek a career shift without recognizing that grandiosity is at the basis of your dissatisfaction—your current job isn’t validating your greatness and supremacy, since true greatness would need additional years of training and the acquisition of new abilities. It’s preferable to resign and be enticed by the potential of a new job, which will enable you to indulge in delusions of grandeur. You’ll never be able to perfect anything this way. You may have lots of brilliant ideas that you never try to put into action because doing so would force you to face the realities of your current skill level. You could become relatively passive without realizing it—you expect other people to understand you, give you what you want, and treat you nicely. You feel entitled to their praise rather than having earned it.

Your low-grade grandiosity will hinder you from learning from your errors and growing yourself in all of these situations because you start with the notion that you are already enormous and wonderful, and admitting differently is too tough.

As a student of human nature, you must first comprehend the phenomena of grandiosity, why it is so deeply ingrained in human nature, and why there are many more grandiose individuals in the world now than ever before. Second, you must be able to detect the indications of grandiosity and know how to deal with others who exhibit them. Finally, and most importantly, you must recognize the symptoms of the sickness in yourself and learn how to not only manage but also channel your grandiose inclinations into something beneficial.

Grandiosity, according to famous psychotherapist Heinz Kohut (1913-1981), has its origins in our childhood. Most of us formed a strong attachment with our mothers in the first few months of our lives. We didn’t have a distinct sense of ourselves. She catered to all of our requirements. We began to assume that the breast that provided us with sustenance was a part of ourselves. We were omnipotent—all we had to do was feel hungry or desire anything, and the mother would appear, as if we had magical powers over her. However, as we grew older, we were forced to face the truth that our mother was a distinct creature with other responsibilities. We weren’t omnipotent; rather, we were weak, little, and reliant. We had a deep need to assert ourselves, to show we weren’t so helpless, and to fantasize about powers we didn’t have, and this realization was painful and the source of much of our acting out—we had a deep need to assert ourselves, to show we weren’t so helpless, and to fantasize about powers we didn’t have. (This is why children are attracted to superhero tales because they envision having the capacity to see through walls, fly, and read people’s thoughts.)

We may no longer be physically little as we get older, yet our feeling of insignificance only grows. We begin to comprehend that we are not simply members of a broader family, school, or city, but also members of a global community of billions of people. We have a limited amount of time on this planet. We have limited abilities and mental capacity. There’s a lot we can’t control, especially when it comes to our professions and global trends. It is terrible to think that we would die and be swiftly forgotten, swept up in forever. We want to feel important in some manner, to stand up to our innate smallness, to broaden our sense of ourselves. Unconsciously, what we encountered when we were three or four years old haunts us for the rest of our lives. We fluctuate between acknowledging our insignificance and attempting to deny it. As a result, we’re more likely to regard ourselves as superior.


Some children do not go through the second phase of early infancy, when they are forced to face their relative insignificance, and as a result, they are more open to later types of grandiosity. They’re the ones who have been spoilt and indulged. The mother and father continue to treat such children as if they are the center of the world, sheltering them from the anguish of facing reality. Every hope they have becomes a command. When parents seek to impose even the tiniest bit of discipline, they are greeted with a tantrum. Furthermore, such youngsters develop a dislike for all forms of authority. The parent figure seems to be relatively weak in comparison to themselves and what they may get.

This early treatment leaves an indelible impression on children. They need adoration. They master the art of persuading others to pamper them and lavish attention on them. They have a natural sense of superiority over those above them. If they have any skill, they might go far, since their perception of being born with a crown on their head becomes self-fulfilling. They never genuinely oscillate between sensations of smallness and feelings of grandeur, unlike others; they only know the latter. Eisner certainly came from such a family, with a mother who catered to his every need, helped him with his studies, and shielded him from his cold and occasionally nasty father.

We humans used to be able to pour our grandiose desires into religion. Our feeling of smallness in ancient times was ingrained into us not just by the many years we spent reliant on our parents, but also by our vulnerability in the face of hostile forces in nature. These elemental forces of nature, which dwarfed our own, were personified by gods and spirits. We may earn their protection by worshiping them. We felt expanded as a result of being connected to something far greater than ourselves. After all, the gods or God were concerned about our tribe’s or city’s destiny; they were concerned for our particular soul, a symbol of our own importance. We didn’t just perish and vanish. We diverted this energy into adoring leaders who represented a noble cause and preached a future paradise, such as Napoleon Bonaparte and the French Revolution, or Mao Zedong and Communism, many decades later.

Religions and noble causes have lost their binding force in the Western world today; we find it difficult to believe in them and to fulfill our grandiose energies via identification with a bigger power. The need to feel bigger and more important, on the other hand, does not go away; it is greater than ever. People will prefer to divert this energy towards themselves if there are no alternative avenues available. They’ll figure out a strategy to boost their self-esteem and make them feel terrific and powerful. The ego is what they choose to idealize and adore, though they are seldom aware of it. As a result, we are seeing an increase in the number of grandiose people among us.

Other factors have also had a role in the rise of grandiosity. For starters, we discover that more individuals today than ever before have had their childhoods spoiled. It’s difficult to escape the feeling that they were once the center of the world. They begin to feel that everything they do or accomplish is valuable and deserving of attention. Second, we are seeing an increase in the number of individuals who have little or no respect for authority or specialists of any type, regardless of their own lack of training and experience. They could think to themselves, “Why should their viewpoint be any more legitimate than mine?” “No one is really great; individuals in positions of power are just more fortunate.” “My music and writing are just as valid and deserving as anybody else’s.” They may put themselves among the top if they don’t believe anybody is rightfully above them or worthy of power.


Third, technology’s abilities give us the notion that everything in life may be as quick and easy as the information we can get online. It instills the concept that we no longer need to spend years mastering a talent; instead, we can become competent at anything with a few techniques and a few hours of practice every week. People frequently feel that their abilities can be readily transferred—”because I can write, I can also direct a film.” But it is social media, more than anything else, that spreads the grandiose virus. We have almost endless abilities to grow our visibility on social media, to give the impression that we have the attention and even affection of hundreds or millions of people. We may have the same renown and ubiquity as former kings and queens, or even the gods themselves.

With all of these factors together, maintaining a realistic attitude and a balanced sense of self is more difficult than ever.

When you observe the people around you, you must know that their (and your) grandiosity may take numerous shapes. The most typical response is to attempt to meet the demand by attaining social status. People may pretend to be motivated by the job itself or a desire to help others, but what drives them deep down is a need for attention, to have their high self–esteem validated by people who respect them, and to feel strong and inflated. If they are skilled, they can gain the attention they want for many years or more, but, as in the case of Eisner, their desire for recognition will eventually lead them to overreach.

If individuals are dissatisfied with their professions but yet think they are outstanding and unappreciated, they may seek recompense in a variety of ways, including drugs, alcohol, as much sex as possible with as many partners as possible, shopping, a superior mocking attitude, and so on. Unsatisfied grandiosity may lead to manic energy, with people telling everyone about the wonderful scripts they’ll write or the numerous women they’ll seduce one minute and then sinking into sadness the next when reality sets in.

People still idolize and worship leaders, which you must see as a type of grandiosity. Followers might have a sense of grandeur by thinking that someone else will make everything fantastic. Their thoughts might rise along with the leader’s speech. They may have a sense of superiority over non-believers. On a more intimate level, individuals often idealize those they love, raising them to god or goddess status and, as a result, seeing some of this power reflected back on them.

You will also observe the predominance of negative types of grandiosity in today’s environment. Many individuals feel compelled to hide their grandiose desires from both others and themselves. They will regularly display their humility, claiming that they are uninterested in authority or feeling important. They are content with their meager circumstances. They don’t desire a lot of things, don’t own a vehicle, and are unconcerned with their social standing. However, you’ll observe that they feel compelled to show their humility in public. It’s exaggerated humility, their method of attracting attention and making themselves feel morally superior.


The grandiose victim is a twist on this—they’ve gone through a lot and have been the victim many times. Despite their efforts to portray themselves as merely unlucky and unfortunate, you will note that they have a proclivity to fall for the worst sorts in romantic relationships or to place themselves in situations where they are guaranteed to fail and suffer. In other words, they feel obliged to manufacture the drama that will make them a victim. As it turns out, any connection with them will have to center around their needs; they’ve been through much too much in the past to be concerned about yours. They are the universe’s core. They get a sense of importance and superiority in suffering by feeling and expressing their pain.

There are various basic techniques to assess people’s degrees of grandiosity. Take note of how individuals react to criticism of themselves or their work, for example. When we are criticized, it is natural for us to get defensive and upset. However, since we have questioned their feeling of grandeur, some individuals get outraged and agitated. You can be certain that such a person exudes grandiosity. Similarly, such people may hide their wrath beneath a martyred, tortured countenance that is supposed to make you feel bad. The focus is on their feeling of grievance rather than the critique itself and what they need to learn.

If someone is successful, pay attention to how they behave in more intimate situations. Is it possible for them to relax and laugh at themselves, letting go of their public persona, or have they become so enamored with their strong public persona that it has into their personal lives? They have grown to believe in their own myth and are gripped by strong grandiosity in the latter situation.

People that are grandiose tend to speak a much. They grab credit for everything, even if it’s unrelated to their job, and they make up prior triumphs. They boast about their foresight, claiming to have anticipated specific trends or occurrences, none of which can be substantiated. All of this should make you suspicious. You may blame individuals in the public eye’s strong grandiosity if they say anything that puts them in trouble for being insensitive. They are so aware of their own wonderful ideas that they expect that everyone else would perceive them correctly and agree with them.

Empathy is often low in more grandiose types. They don’t pay attention. When no one is looking at them, they have a distant look in their eyes and their fingers twitch impatiently. They only become lively when the camera is focused on them. People are often seen as extensions of themselves, as instruments to be exploited in their plans or as sources of attention. Finally, their non-verbal conduct can only be defined as opulent. Their movements are large and spectacular. They take up a lot of personal space in meetings. Their voice is usually louder than others’, and they talk quickly, leaving little opportunity for others to interrupt.


You should be kind with folks who have a reasonable level of grandiosity. Almost everyone goes through phases of feeling superior and terrific, followed by periods of coming back down to earth. Look for evidence of normality in persons who have such periods of reality. However, it is preferable to avoid partnerships or entanglements with persons whose self-esteem is so strong that they cannot allow for any concerns. They will want loving one-sided attention in romantic relationships. They will oversell their abilities if they are workers, business partners, or bosses. Their self-assurance will take your attention away from the flaws in their ideas, work habits, and temperament. If you can’t prevent it, be mindful of their inclination to be overconfident in the success of their ideas and keep your skepticism. Examine the concepts themselves rather than getting caught up in their alluring self-assurance. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can approach them and bring them down to earth; you could incite a wrath reaction.

Consider yourself fortunate if such people are your competitors. It’s simple to entice them into overreacting by taunting and baiting them. They will become apoplectic and twice insane if you cast doubt on their magnificence.

Finally, you’ll have to deal with your own grandiosity. Grandiosity may be beneficial and productive. Its euphoria and self-assurance may be transferred into your job to motivate and inspire you. But, in general, it’s better to accept your limits and work with what you’ve got than of fantasizing about godlike abilities you’ll never have. Maintaining a realistic mindset is the most effective defense against grandiosity. You are aware of the things and activities to which you are naturally drawn. You can’t be an expert in every field. You must play to your strengths rather than believing that you can achieve greatness in whatever you set your mind to. You must have a good awareness of your energy levels, how far you can push yourself safely, and how this varies as you get older. You also need a firm grip of your social position—your allies, the individuals with whom you have the best connection, and the ones who will naturally be interested in your work. It’s impossible to satisfy everyone.

There is a physical component to self-awareness that you must be aware of. You feel at peace when you are undertaking things that are in line with your natural tendencies. You are a quick learner. You’re more energized, and you’re better able to deal with the boredom that comes with learning something new. When you take on more than you can manage, you get weary as well as irritated and worried. You get a lot of headaches. When you achieve success in life, you will undoubtedly experience a sense of dread, as if your good fortune may go at any moment. You may sense the hazards of climbing too high (almost like vertigo) and feeling too superior with this anxiety. Your worry is urging you to return to reality. When you’re working against your strengths, you should pay attention to your body’s cues.


Knowing yourself allows you to accept your limitations. You are only one among many people in the world, and you are not intrinsically superior to anybody. You are a fallible person like the rest of us, not a deity or an angel. You recognize that you have no influence over the people around you and that no approach is ever completely flawless. Human nature is much too unpredictably unpredictable. You will have a sense of proportion with this self-awareness and acceptance of boundaries. In your job, you will strive for excellence. When you feel compelled to think more highly of oneself than is acceptable, this self–awareness will operate as a gravity mechanism, drawing you back down and steering you toward the activities and choices that will best suit your nature.

What makes us humans so strong is our ability to be realistic and pragmatic. It’s how, thousands of years ago, people overcome our physical limitations in a harsh environment and learned to collaborate with others to develop strong societies and tools for survival. Although we have strayed from this practicality because we no longer need to depend on our wits to live, it is our real nature as the planet’s most dominant social mammal. You are merely growing more human as you become more realistic.

What makes us humans so strong is our ability to be realistic and pragmatic. It’s how, thousands of years ago, people overcome our physical limitations in a harsh environment and learned to collaborate with others to develop strong societies and tools for survival. Although we have strayed from this practicality because we no longer need to depend on our wits to live, it is our real nature as the planet’s most dominant social mammal. You are merely growing more human as you become more realistic.

The above was borrowed from Robert Greene’s The Laws of Human Nature. Robert’s life study of power, psychology, and history culminated in The Laws of Human Nature, which took six years to complete.



“The law of grandiosity” is a psychological theory that has been around for centuries. It states that humans are motivated to see themselves as more powerful and important than they really are. The “48 laws of power” is a book written by Robert Greene in which he discusses the different ways people use to gain power over others. Reference: robert greene 48 laws of power.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the law of grandiosity?

What are the 5 laws of human nature?

A: There is a law of human nature known as the law of unintended consequences. This means that actions we take often have unexpected and sometimes undesirable outcomes.
There is also the law of action, which states that all behavior has an equal opposite reaction to it.
The next two laws are less concrete, yet still exist in some form or another. The first being social exchange theory, which argues that people tend to like themselves more if they provide benefits or services for others than receiving them back yourself; and finally theres self esteem theory, which suggests humans seek out feedback on their own worth far more than other forms of positive reinforcement such as praise from friends

What is the 48 laws of human nature about?

A: The 48 Laws of Human Nature is a book by Robert Green in which he categorizes the behaviors that cause human beings to behave selfishly, or unethically.

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