Power is not what people do, but it is in how people react to what people do. Your power lies in yourself in how you treat each situation, either in complete control or being induced by emotions to act carelessly or without thought. In reading the 48 laws of power you can come to see that the truest essence of power is not the resources you have but in your ability to be resourceful, to maintain a stoic demeanor in the eye of adversity and to shift a negative into a positive. The uninitiated desire power over others, things and circumstances but have not done the inner work to have power over themselves. A person that can not control themselves, should never be given power to control anything else. A person of absolute power does not need to have control of anyone because they know true power comes when they are in control of themselves. They automatically take control of any situation life hands to them. Remember when you play the game of power, it is not about being underhanded or sneaky, but about being the model of mastery of one’s thoughts, actions, habits and emotions.
Article 1: Law 1–8
Article 2: Law 9–16
Article 3: Law 17–24
Article 4: Law 25–32
Article 5: Law 33–40
Article 6: Law 41–48
Law 17: Keep others in suspended terror: cultivate an air of unpredictability.
In a life that can become mundane and familiar, we as people tend to crave a little adventure, even terror. Hence, the reason why we go to horror films or ride roller coasters. There is something about not knowing an outcome that adds spice to the scene and makes us feel alive. This is the reason why the unpredictable can be so alluring, better yet seductive.
The unpredictable gets our adrenaline moving, similar to an Earthquake, yes, it is scary, terrifying plus random, but people are still moving into high Richter scale areas like California not away from them. People become bored with the familiar which makes us crave the unpredictable and the unorthodox.
In the game of power, business, relationships or even in sports, being unpredictable gives you an astronomical advantage against any opponent because they could never pin you down or predict your strategies or contemplate your way of doing things. This will throw off the competition, better yet this will throw any opponent off their game. Leaving them dazed and confused, being unable to forecast your next move. Not knowing how to play you or what you will do next will make you feared, respected and admired, like Hurricanes or Tropical Storms. You will be the topic of conversation while causing trepidation to all that are in your way.
Law 18: Do not build fortresses to protect yourself — isolation is dangerous
Human beings have a natural desire to poses the feeling of security, protection and comforts but what makes us the most comfortable can be the most dangerous to our success, our lives and our power, financially, spiritually and physically. This can be a great detriment, especially for those who have already reached some levels of success. They tend to want to hoard what they have, stop expanding and reaching out for new allies and experiences. Which will only separate you from the people you get or got your success and power from in the first place.
When we retreat and isolate ourselves, we start to lose the admiration, the friendships, the access, the networks, associations and even the motivation that brings us to success and power. People forget about us. The term “out of site; out of mind,” is loaded with truths to the highest caliber, for if people are not thinking about you, they will go on to the next and you will start to be seen as “old news.”
Isolation also removes your ear from the streets. You no longer have access to the upcoming trends, the shifts in the marketplace, the new up and comers preparing to take your spot or even your enemies whispers, plotting against you. You no longer are aware of what’s happening around you. Removing yourself completely from the public eye will tend to diminish your sixth sense on what moves to make or what strategies to implement, you become a novice in your own industry or game that you spent years developing.
Lastly, you start to lose mobility, you are planted in one place which makes it easy for opponents to find you, figure out your routine and outshine it, even come to attack you at the location that they know you’ve isolated yourself in. You become an easy target for robbers and enemies because they know all of your moves, you have become predictable. The best way to remove this stigma from your repertoire is to get back out there, gain new allies, make new associates, change things up and expand your reach. Comfort zones can be very hypnotic, so we must force ourselves out of its spell, by pursuing new and different places, people and things to be around. The more we can be around different opportunities the more we create an air of power. Always remember your power is gained by the people you associate with, but more importantly who you keep in touch with!
Law 19: Know who you’re dealing with — do not offend the wrong person
Watch who you make your enemy! This law is of the utmost importance not to violate, it can be the difference between being and maintaining the tallest skyscraper in the world or being demolished from the ground up. Having enemies is detrimental to power, especially if this enemy has the skills or know-how to eat away at your business, your finances, your relationships, your strategy or your mind. When dealing with people, it is imperative that we do not offend or make competition with the wrong people.
With that said, still, most people will break this vital law and wonder how did they let someone else erode their success or another business model completely destroy the empire they have built, for example of what Google did to Yahoo. The gentlemen of Google’s original intention were to sell their technology directly to Yahoo but were looked at as rookies, not taken seriously and was offered an abysmal sum for their business idea. The frustration of being dismissed plus rejected they decided then to do it themselves, evidently eclipsing the once leaders in the search engines industry. The author in the book illustrates the 5 personality types you must keep a watchful eye on to make sure we do not make the mistake of challenging, offending or even trying to manipulate these types so we don’t inadvertently create discontent that will come back to haunt us in the long run.
The Arrogant and the Prideful: Remove yourself from this type for they are quick to anger, short fuses with hot tempers. This person will blast you on social media, slander your name, spew negativity to anyone who will listen about you or carry out a physical altercation against you. People like this are sensitive to disrespect, so a bad joke, an unruly comment, a misrepresentation will have them picketing at your doorstep or throwing bricks through your corporate windows. Do your best to flee from this type whenever in their presence.
The Hopelessly Insecure: This type is extremely dangerous because they are similar to the prideful just harder to spot. They will not have an uproar exposing their hurt but will eat away at your business, personal life or career bit by bit, taking small bites, so by the time you realized what happened it will be too late. This type will dedicate their entire life to taking you down, such as the Madeiran is to Iron Man or a slighted ex-wife getting ready to remove everything you worked so hard to build.
The Suspicious: This person is the pinnacle of a catch 22. They are so suspicious that they can be easily misled, for example buying a product they don’t need, taking an expensive class that they have no business attending or even listening to an influencer that doesn’t have their best interests at heart. They are easily sold, the problem is when they figure out, they are being misinformed and they all eventually do, they will never trust, buy, listen or be in your confidence again. Some may read this and think that this is not a huge deal, so what, it is just one client or customer? Shame on you, if you think this way! You never know who this person will become or who they know. All it takes is for one of them to tell someone of high influence how deceptive they think you are, which will cause a domino effect in your business. Understand word of mouth is the greatest advertising a business can have and one negative review to the wrong people will collapse what you’ve worked so hard to erect.
The Serpent: Is the type that will become your visible or invisible enemy, the one steady plotting against you even if you are aware of it or not. They will even act like a friend or a confidant while deliberately feeding you false or even dangerous information to destroy you. The serpent is smart, learning all aspects of your life, gaining intel to use against you. This person could just be jealous of your charm, your money, your success or just you being you. You have offended their sensibilities so they want you gone. Prevent this by watching your association with them also doing your best not to offend with your grand flares or natural charm and good looks.
The Plain and Unassuming: This type is very complicated because they can become your appointment without even realizing it. Their dimwitted personality prevents them from seeing your sales pitch, your charm, your influence or even what you can do for them. They just become a waste of your time. The more you push to gain this person’s favor, the more frustrated you will become because they just don’t see the value in what you are offering or just too slow to pick up on your advances. This is the type that can pulverize you just by making you go crazy. You’ll be thinking about them while they have forgotten about you in seconds.
The major point is this, in dealing, speaking and trading with other people we have to become very cognizant of how we do so and not be fooled by their status, their demeanor or their confidence because most people are seldom who they appear to be on the surface. Study the people you are currently dealing with, that means understanding the audience, the prospect, the clients, the potential mate or even the friend before you offer, reject, dismiss, joke or communicate because one wrong gesture can cause an enemy for life.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking someone is not offended by your comment just because they have a smile on their face, or that a person is smaller than you just because your company is large and theirs are not just yet, or that a large bravado persona is not caring a scared insecure person behind their mask. Our job is to dissect people’s personalities to find the root of them and what truly makes them tick before we make our move. Do market research, check online reviews, ask questions and listen, check profiles, probe but never assume you know the people you are dealing with because 99.9% of the time you have not a clue. Finally, treat all you come across with respect and admiration because it is the one you least suspect will become a huge success or come back to hurt you!
Law 20: Do not commit to anyone
Many believe power is gained through aggression, being the biggest bully on the block, having the most weapons in the arsenal or being the strongest in town, which is a complete misconception. The power lies in how many allies you can obtain. Creating and sustaining enemies is a hindrance to power but having friends, especially friends in high places is the key to power.
In life people, groups, organizations and bi partisans will want you to choose a side, living in a state of duality believing it has to be one or the other but don’t fall for this trap, because neutrality is charming, seductive and keeps friends on both sides of the line, which will make both want to confide in you. Leaving you with supreme power because one side has to lose which allows us to always be on the winner’s corner. When the advocates come, as they surely will, tempting us to choose a side we must become neutral not swaying too far in one direction. Our duty is to be like Switzerland, offering safe passage to both sides of the war, while not letting the other know.
This will prevent us from getting dragged into unnecessary conflicts to focus on our profits, our business and our clients. When we don’t commit fully, it gives us an air of being ungraspable. We have become so open-minded but yet playing to the ear of the person that wants us to hear their side and to understand their points of view. Words such as, “You are so right,” while not emotionally being involved in their issues at all. Be like the bartender who listens to his or her client’s problem even giving advice but not truly judging in any way. Telling people what they want to hear and agreeing with them even if you really don’t is the Zenith of power. People just want to feel that they are right or justified in their actions, even if the truth is more complicated than that. Sometimes all a person wants is to be heard, so providing that ear of sympathy and agreement is highly attractive.
The author illustrates the story of Queen Elizabeth who was continually advanced by suitors wanting her hand in marriage but she knew if she married any of them, they would gain power as King and she would lose her station which she did not want so she would let them shower her with gifts, take her to fancy dinners and woo for her affections. She would flirt but never commit to any of them, which made them want her even more. If she committed to one of them, the rest would disperse or even get angry, but by her keeping her autonomy, she was stared at by others like a goddess until her dying day. Added, never losing her power as Queen. Follow in the steps of the great royals of the past, do not be swayed to enter into battle, devoting yourself to one group or community but have a vast interaction with all communities while never sullying yourself with arguments.
Law 21: Play a sucker to catch a sucker- seem dumber than your mark
A strategy that I struggled with in my early years was the act of playing dumber than others because as an egotistical youth, I thought my value came from my intelligence, which I would flaunt at every turn. Bragging about my good grades, using large intellectual words to appear posh and always trying to prove myself more knowledgeable. All this led to scuffles, problems and enemies. People despise the naturally talented or even those who have an arrogance that they are better than them. This type of attitude completely decreases your power, but when someone can feel more superior than you at something than they tend to purr like a kitten. It is best to hide your intellect until you are around those that can match or understand it, for the rest of the world, play dumb, people love to make fun, established jokes plus point fingers so they feel better about themselves. Give them this luxury and they will never suspect your power games or the plans for ultimate success.
If people think you are dimwitted, they will soften up to you, they will feel less threatened, better yet they will trust you that much more. They think, “He or she is not smart enough to take over my business, find a better mate or do anything that would jeopardize our company.” This is the exact position you want to be in. Their belief in your stupidity will make them give you more responsibility, more leeway, even more, friendship. People like to feel like the smartest person in the room, feed their ego and they will show you behind the iron gates to all the secrets they possess because surely you are too stupid to do anything about it. Do not let your own vanity get in your way, thinking they need to know how intelligent you are, this only makes them feel inferior and in return have the urge to get rid of you. Now you do not need to act like an imbecile, just dumb enough that they feel smarter and smart enough that they still respect you. Ask them questions, even if you know the answer, play as if you need their knowledge and they will gladly give it especially if you act as if you are in awe at what they know, even if it’s just a little.
Law 22: Use the surrender tactic: transform weakness into power
All gurus, ancient sages, spiritual masters and the enlighten have known for centuries that true power does not come from the aggressors, the violent or the rageful but the passive and still. To stay Zen in the face of adversity takes a heightened level of self-control that the aggressive do not own. The rageful is out of control, letting anger consume them into darkness, while the truly powerful stay in full command. The one thing that is most difficult is to master oneself. Some people are experts at making people change their states, responding to frustration with frustration, anger with anger, vengeful with revengeful but it takes a true master to not lower themselves to those base levels but keep themselves elevated at all times. This is extremely powerful because you refuse to be a slave to others' indiscretions but fully immerse in yourself, not letting no one or no circumstances make you feel the way you do not want.
When people come to you that are ready and willing to argue, you can disarm them instantly by making them feel right. Everyone wants to feel validated in their feelings, in other words, they don’t want to feel wrong by getting angry but feel justified in it, so all you must do is give them this satisfaction. Take the high road, even if you know for a fact you are right and they are wrong, make them feel right and they will soften to you every time. This is a major key in Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. He tells a story about an officer that just wanted his authority and ego massaged so he would get up and arms for the smallest of items. The more the man argued the more the police officer planted his feet and would not budge giving the man a warning for a large ticket. Instead of becoming upset the next time he saw the cop, he began telling him how wrong he was and that he deserved to be punished, which made the policeman soften to him, saying “No, it’s not a big deal.” What an amazing shift.
Try it yourself, the next time your boss, your spouse, your kids, your co-worker, your partners or even the customer wants to argue their point, let them feel superior by not engaging in a fight, but by placing the blame on yourself. In turn, they will feel better about themselves since they bested you but in reality, you gave it to them for that very reason. This will make you seem more charming and charismatic. They will think they have power over you but in actuality, you have gained massive power over them. Always remember you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. People have an adolescence sense to show their authority, so play the power game and give it to them by surrendering to this army of emotions and they will begin to look at you like an ally, even a friend. Your duty is to keep your own emotions in check, to not get caught up in their whirlwind of drama but knowing that your ease will completely disarm them to the point they can’t even remember something was bothering them in the first place. The masters of Kung-Fu would use this in their fighting techniques, by only playing defense, using the opponent’s own aggression against them. By yielding you gain all of the control, because it takes two to fight, if you don’t fight, they have nothing else to do.
Law 23: Concentrate your forces
“Where attention goes, energy flows,” the author of Chicken Soup for the Soul and co-author of The Secret, Jack Canfield would quote, but what happens when our attention is on a multitude of things, does our energy get split? The answer is yes. There is only enough energy and attention one human being can provide, so when a person is trying to do too many things without one being mastered, it becomes a sorry attempt at all of them. Most people, especially entrepreneurs are trying to do too many things, their business model has too many moving parts and their strategy is all over the place, while the successful practices on doing one thing well before moving on to another. McDonald's perfected the fast assembly before they branched into franchising, Amazon mastered on-line sales with books, before expanding into other products, Facebook conquered the peer to peer social sharing before adding any business element to their platform. The point is that they concentrated their minds, their efforts and their strategy on one thing before they ever reach out for another.
In this day of splitting energy, mastery of something has become a lost art form except for the highly successful. The greats work on their one craft day in and day out, like a great painter, actor, doctor, speaker, writer or sculpture. They practice on one thing without getting swayed by the next shiny penny. In war, the victor is usually the one who has engaged their enemy full-fledged using their forces to attack one single point, versus the one who has their forces split into various smaller campaigns. If you are going to attack something, let it be concentrated in one task, one skill or one area, so all of your energy, concentration and focus can be aimed at it, which is the utmost in the game of power. Don’t be the person that dilutes themselves by doing 10 things at a time. If you are going to read a book, immerse yourself in one book at a time, which will help you gather more information that can be used in your everyday life. If you are with one person, give them your full undivided attention which will make them putty at your feet. You are only one person, so do only one task at a time!
Law 24: Play the perfect courtier
In the art of dating, marriage, making friends or even in sales, become the perfect courtier and the people will not only love you but recommend you to others. They will always speak highly of you; they will tell their friends and they will be loyal to you forever. The perfect courtier knows how to be charming and yet not make anyone else feel insecure. When Casanova, was wooing women, it was not his outstanding good looks that won them over, it was the way he made the women feel. He would give them his full attention when he was with them, never argued but agree, made them feel special by his words and actions, faced dangers just to see them, was generous and at the moments he was with them, he made them feel like the most important person in the world. When you are dealing with your spouse, your clients, your customers, or a prospective buyer, be like Casanova, make them feel like the most important person in the world and they will pay whatever price you hand them or will love you until the end of time.
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