48 Laws of Power by Greene & Elffers

  • A strategy of the supposed non-player is to demand equality in every area of life. Everyone must be treated alike, whatever their status and strength. But if, to avoid the taint of power, you attempt to treat everyone equally and fairly, you will confront the problem that some people do certain things better than others. Treating everyone equally means ignoring their differences, elevating the less skillful and suppressing those who excel. Again, many of those who behave this way are actually deploying another power strategy, redistributing people’s rewards in a way that they determine.

  • In truth, the use of honesty is indeed a power strategy, intended to convince people of one’s noble, good-hearted, selfless character. It is a form of persuasion, even a subtle form of coercion.

  • An emotional response to a situation is the single greatest barrier to power. Emotions cloud reason, and if you cannot see the situation clearly, you cannot prepare for and respond to it with any degree of control.

  • Learn how to forget those events in the past that eat away at you and cloud your reason.

  • One of the most important skills to acquire is the ability to see circumstances rather than good or evil.

LAW 1 NEVER OUTSHINE THE MASTER

  • Always make those above you feel comfortably superior.

  • Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.

  • The producer of a great work wants to feel he is more than just the provider of the financing. He wants to appear creative and powerful, and also more important than the work produced in his name. Instead of insecurity you must give him glory.

  • Those who attain high standing in life are like kings and queens: They want to feel secure in their positions, and superior to those around them in intelligence, wit, and charm. It is a deadly but common misperception to believe that by displaying and vaunting your gifts and talents, you are winning the master’s affection. He may feign appreciation, but at his first opportunity he will replace you with someone less intelligent, less attractive, less threatening.

  • The lesson is simple: If you cannot help being charming and superior, you must learn to avoid such monsters of vanity.

  • Remember the following: Never take your position for granted and never let any favors you receive go to your head.

 

LAW 2 NEVER PUT TOO MUCH TRUST IN FRIENDS, LEARN HOW TO USE ENEMIES

  • Hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend,

  • In a speech Abraham Lincoln delivered at the height of the Civil War, he referred to the Southerners as fellow human beings who were in error. An elderly lady chastised him for not calling them irreconcilable enemies who must be destroyed. “Why, madam,” Lincoln replied, “do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

  • Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit, because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.-TACITUS, c. A.D. 55-120

  • Years later, a Japanese visitor tried to apologize to Mao for his country’s invasion of China. Mao interrupted, “Should I not thank you instead?” Without a worthy opponent, he explained, a man or group cannot grow stronger.

  • A sharply defined enemy is a far stronger argument for your side than all the words you could possibly put together.

  • Always be on the lookout for any signs of emotional disturbance such as envy and ingratitude.

 

LAW 3 CONCEAL YOUR INTENTIONS

  • A simple truth about human nature: Our first instinct is to always trust appearances.

  • Hide your intentions not by closing up (with the risk of appearing secretive, and making people suspicious) but by talking endlessly about your desires and goals—just not your real ones. You will kill three birds with one stone: You appear friendly, open, and trusting; you conceal your intentions; and you send your rivals on time-consuming wild-goose chases.

  • Remember: The paranoid and wary are often the easiest to deceive. Win their trust in one area and you have a smoke screen that blinds their view in another, letting you creep up and level them with a devastating blow. A helpful or apparently honest gesture, or one that implies the other person’s superiority—these are perfect diversionary devices.

 

LAW 4 ALWAYS SAY LESS THAN NECESSARY

  • Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less.

  • Saying less than necessary is not for kings and statesmen only. In most areas of life, the less you say, the more profound and mysterious you appear.

  • Learn the lesson: Once the words are out, you cannot take them back. Keep them under control. Be particularly careful with sarcasm: The momentary satisfaction you gain with your biting words will be outweighed by the price you pay.

  • Authority: Never start moving your own lips and teeth before the subordinates do. The longer I keep quiet, the sooner others move their lips and teeth.

  • Silence can arouse suspicion and even insecurity, especially in your superiors; a vague or ambiguous comment can open you up to interpretations you had not bargained for.

 

LAW 5: SO MUCH DEPENDS ON REPUTATION—GUARD IT WITH YOUR LIFE

  • Doubt is a powerful weapon: Once you let it out of the bag with insidious rumors, your opponents are in a horrible dilemma.

  • In the social realm, appearances are the barometer of almost all of our judgments, and you must never be misled into believing otherwise.

  • When your own reputation is solid, use subtler tactics, such as satire and ridicule, to weaken your opponent while making you out as a charming rogue.

 

LAW 6: COURT ATTENTION AT ALL COST

  • Everything is judged by its appearance; what is unseen counts for nothing. Never let yourself get lost in the crowd, then, or buried in oblivion. Stand out. Be conspicuous, at all cost. Make yourself a magnet of attention by appearing larger, more colorful, more mysterious than the bland and timid masses.

  • Make no distinction between kinds of attention—notoriety of any sort will bring you power.

  • To create a crowd you have to do something different and odd. Any kind of curiosity will serve the purpose, for crowds are magnetically attracted by the unusual and inexplicable. And once you have their attention, never let it go.

  • PT Barnum would write anonymous attacks on his own work, just to keep his name in the papers.

  • It is a common mistake to imagine that this peculiar appearance of yours should not be controversial, that to be attacked is somehow bad. Nothing could be further from the truth. To avoid being a flash in the pan, and having your notoriety eclipsed by another, you must not discriminate between different types of attention; in the end, every kind will work in your favor.

  • Society craves larger-than-life figures, people who stand above the general mediocrity. Never be afraid, then, of the qualities that set you apart and draw attention to you. Court controversy, even scandal. It is better to be attacked, even slandered, than ignored. All professions are ruled by this law, and all professionals must have a bit of the showman about them.

  • CREATE AN AIR OF MYSTERY: It invites layers of interpretation, excites our imagination, seduces us into believing that it conceals something marvelous. The world has become so familiar and its inhabitants so predictable that what wraps itself in mystery will almost always draw the limelight to it and make us watch it.

  • Most people are upfront, can be read like an open book, take little care to control their words or image, and are hopelessly predictable. By simply holding back, keeping silent, occasionally uttering ambiguous phrases, deliberately appearing inconsistent, and acting odd in the subtlest of ways, you will emanate an aura of mystery. The people around you will then magnify that aura by constantly trying to interpret you.

  • The attention you attract must never offend or challenge the reputation of those above you—not, at any rate, if they are secure.

 

LAW 7: GET OTHERS TO DO THE WORK FOR YOU, BUT ALWAYS TAKE THE CREDIT

  • Edison was Tesla’s polar opposite. He wasn’t actually much of a scientific thinker or inventor; he once said that he had no need to be a mathematician because he could always hire one. That was Edison’s main method. He was really a businessman and publicist, spotting the trends and the opportunities that were out there, then hiring the best in the field to do the work for him. If he had to he would steal from his competitors.

  • If you think it important to do all the work yourself, you will never get far, and you will suffer the fate of the Balboas and Teslas of the world. Find people with the skills and creativity you lack.

 

LAW 8: MAKE OTHER PEOPLE COME TO YOU—USE BAIT IF NECESSARY

  • You yourself must learn to master your emotions, and never to be influenced by anger.

  • For negotiations or meetings, it is always wise to lure others into your territory, or the territory of your choice. You have your bearings, while they see nothing familiar and are subtly placed on the defensive.

  • Fast attack can be an awesome weapon, for it forces the other person to react without the time to think or plan. With no time to think, people make errors of judgment, and are thrown on the defensive.

 

LAW 9 WIN THROUGH YOUR ACTIONS, NEVER THROUGH ARGUMENT

  • Demonstrate, do not explicate.

  • Science is neutral and reason superior.

  • Learn to demonstrate the correctness of your ideas indirectly.

  • Words have that insidious ability to be interpreted according to the other person’s mood and insecurities.

  • The power of demonstrating your idea is that your opponents do not get defensive, and are therefore more open to persuasion.

 

LAW 10 INFECTION: AVOID THE UNHAPPY AND UNLUCKY

  • Emotional states are as infectious as diseases.

  • The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you. Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.

  • Lola Montez attracted men with her wiles, but her power over them went beyond the sexual. It was through the force of her character that she kept her lovers enthralled. Men were sucked into the maelstrom she churned up around her. They felt confused, upset, but the strength of the emotions she stirred also made them feel more alive. As is often the case with infection, the problems would only arise over time. Lola’s inherent instability would begin to get under her lovers’ skin. They would find themselves drawn into her problems, but their emotional attachment to her would make them want to help her. This was the crucial point of the disease—for Lola Montez could not be helped. Her problems were too deep. Once the lover identified with them, he was lost. He would find himself embroiled in quarrels. The infection would spread to his family and friends, or, in the case of Ludwig, to an entire nation. The only solution would be to cut her off, or suffer an eventual collapse.

  • When you suspect you are in the presence of an infector, don’t argue, don’t try to help, don’t pass the person on to your friends, or you will become enmeshed. Flee the infector’s presence or suffer the consequences.

  • Humans are extremely susceptible to the moods, emotions, and even the ways of thinking of those with whom they spend their time.

  • The incurably unhappy and unstable have a particularly strong infecting power because their characters and emotions are so intense. They often present themselves as victims, making it difficult, at first, to see their miseries as self-inflicted. Before you realize the real nature of their problems you have been infected by them.

  • The people you associate with are critical.

  • There are many kinds of infector to be aware of, but one of the most insidious is the sufferer from chronic dissatisfaction.

  • Infectors can be recognized by the misfortune they draw on themselves, their turbulent past, their long line of broken relationships, their unstable careers, and the very force of their character, which sweeps you up and makes you lose your reason.

  • If you are gloomy, gravitate to the cheerful. If you are prone to isolation, force yourself to befriend the gregarious. Never associate with those who share your defects—they will reinforce everything that holds you back.

  • Recognize the fortunate so that you may choose their company, and the unfortunate so that you may avoid them. Misfortune is usually the crime of folly, and among those who suffer from it there is no malady more contagious.

 

LAW 11: LEARN TO KEEP PEOPLE DEPENDENT ON YOU

  • To maintain your independence you must always be needed and wanted. The more you are relied on, the more freedom you have. Make people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity and you have nothing to fear.

  • No one will come to depend on you if they are already strong. If you are ambitious, it is much wiser to seek out weak rulers or masters with whom you can create a relationship of dependency. You become their strength, their intelligence, their spine.

  • Necessity rules the world. People rarely act unless compelled to. If you create no need for yourself, then you will be done away with at first opportunity.

  • Do not be one of the many who mistakenly believe that the ultimate form of power is independence. Power involves a relationship between people; you will always need others as allies, pawns, or even as weak masters who serve as your front. The completely independent man would live in a cabin in the woods—he would have the freedom to come and go as he pleased, but he would have no power.

 

LAW 12: USE SELECTIVE HONESTY AND GENEROSITY TO DISARM YOUR VICTIM

  • I cannot understand honest men. They lead desperate lives, full of boredom.-Count Victor Lustig, (1890-1947).

  • Learn to give before you take. It softens the ground, takes the bite out of a future request, or simply creates a distraction. And the giving can take many forms: an actual gift, a generous act, a kind favor, an “honest” admission—whatever it takes.

 

LAW 13: WHEN ASKING FOR HELP, APPEAL TO PEOPLE’S SELF-INTEREST, NEVER TO THEIR MERCY OR GRATITUDE

  • If you need to turn to an ally for help, do not bother to remind him of your past assistance and good deeds. He will find a way to ignore you. Instead, uncover something in your request, or in your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emphasize it out of all proportion. He will respond enthusiastically when he sees something to be gained for himself.

  • When people choose between talk about the past and talk about the future, a pragmatic person will always opt for the future and forget the past.

  • Even the most powerful person is locked inside needs of his own, and that if you make no appeal to his self-interest, he merely sees you as desperate or, at best, a waste of time.

  • Do not be subtle: You have valuable knowledge to share, you will fill his coffers with gold, you will make him live longer and happier. This is a language that all of us speak and understand.

  • Self-interest is the lever that will move people. Once you make them see how you can in some way meet their needs or advance their cause, their resistance to your requests for help will magically fall away. At each step on the way to acquiring power, you must train yourself to think your way inside the other person’s mind, to see their needs and interests, to get rid of the screen of your own feelings that obscure the truth.

 

LAW 14: POSE AS A FRIEND, WORK AS A SPY

 

LAW 15: CRUSH YOUR ENEMY TOTALLY

  • Negotiation is the insidious viper that will eat away at your victory, so give your enemies nothing to negotiate, no hope, no room to maneuver. They are crushed and that is that.

 

LAW 16: USE ABSENCE TO INCREASE RESPECT AND HONOR

  • The stronger and longer the disagreement the sweeter the feeling that comes with peace and rapprochement.

  • At the start of an affair, you need to heighten your presence in the eyes of the other. If you absent yourself too early, you may be forgotten. But once your lover’s emotions are engaged, and the feeling of love has crystallized, absence inflames and excites. Giving no reason for your absence excites even more: The other person assumes he or she is at fault. While you are away, the lover’s imagination takes flight, and a stimulated imagination cannot help but make love grow stronger.

  • What withdraws, what becomes scarce, suddenly seems to deserve our respect and honor. What stays too long, inundating us with its presence, makes us disdain it.

  • Create a pattern of absence and presence.

  • Absence diminishes minor passions and inflames great ones, as the wind douses a candle and fans a fire.-La Rochefoucauld, (1613-1680).

  • A strong presence will draw power and attention to you—you shine more brightly than those around you. But a point is inevitably reached where too much presence creates the opposite effect: The more you are seen and heard from, the more your value degrades. You become a habit. No matter how hard you try to be different, subtly, without your knowing why, people respect you less and less. At the right moment you must learn to withdraw yourself before they unconsciously push you away.

  • “Love never dies of starvation, but often of indigestion.”

  • Law of scarcity in the science of economics: by withdrawing something from the market, you create instant value.

 

LAW 17: KEEP OTHERS IN SUSPENDED TERROR: CULTIVATE AN AIR OF UNPREDICTABILITY

  • People are always trying to read the motives behind your actions and to use your predictability against you. Throw in a completely inexplicable move and you put them on the defensive. Because they do not understand you, they are unnerved, and in such a state you can easily intimidate them.

 

LAW 18: DO NOT BUILD FORTRESSES TO PROTECT YOURSELF—ISOLATION IS DANGEROUS

  • Never imagine yourself so elevated that you can afford to cut yourself off from even the lowest echelons.

  • Isolation, on the other hand, engenders an awkwardness in your gestures, and leads to further isolation, as people start avoiding you.

  • The effects of isolation on the human mind: a loss of proportion, an obsession with detail combined with an inability to see the larger picture, a kind of extravagant ugliness that no longer communicates.

 

LAW 19: KNOW WHO YOU’RE DEALING WITH—DO NOT OFFEND THE WRONG PERSON

  • The Hopelessly Insecure Man. This man is related to the proud and arrogant type, but is less violent and harder to spot. His ego is fragile, his sense of self insecure, and if he feels himself deceived or attacked, the hurt will simmer. He will attack you in bites that will take forever to get big enough for you to notice. If you find you have deceived or harmed such a man, disappear for a long time. Do not stay around him or he will nibble you to death.

  • Mr. Suspicion. Another variant on the breeds above, this is a future Joe Stalin. He sees what he wants to see—usually the worst—in other people, and imagines that everyone is after him. Mr. Suspicion is in fact the least dangerous of the three: Genuinely unbalanced, he is easy to deceive, just as Stalin himself was constantly deceived. Play on his suspicious nature to get him to turn against other people. But if you do become the target of his suspicions, watch out.

  • The Serpent with a Long Memory. If hurt or deceived, this man will show no anger on the surface; he will calculate and wait. Then, when he is in a position to turn the tables, he will exact a revenge marked by a cold-blooded shrewdness. Recognize this man by his calculation and cunning in the different areas of his life. He is usually cold and unaffectionate. Be doubly careful of this snake, and if you have somehow injured him, either crush him completely or get him out of your sight.

  • The Plain, Unassuming, and Often Unintelligent Man. Ah, your ears prick up when you find such a tempting victim. But this man is a lot harder to deceive than you imagine. Falling for a ruse often takes intelligence and imagination—a sense of the possible rewards. The blunt man will not take the bait because he does not recognize it. He is that unaware. The danger with this man is not that he will harm you or seek revenge, but merely that he will waste your time, energy, resources, and even your sanity in trying to deceive him. Have a test ready for a mark—a joke, a story. If his reaction is utterly literal, this is the type you are dealing with. Continue at your own risk.

 

LAW 20 DO NOT COMMIT TO ANYONE

  • It is the fool who always rushes to take sides. Do not commit to any side or cause but yourself.

  • If you allow people to feel they possess you to any degree, you lose all power over them. By not committing your affections, they will only try harder to win you over. Stay aloof and you gain the power that comes from their attention and frustrated desire.

  • She had two goals as a ruler: to avoid marriage and to avoid war. She managed to combine these goals by dangling the possibility of marriage in order to forge alliances. The moment she committed to any single suitor would have been the moment she lost her power. She had to emanate mystery and desirability, never discouraging anyone’s hopes but never yielding.

  • I would rather be a beggar and single than a queen and married.-Queen Elizabeth I, (1533-1603).

  • Do not let people drag you into their petty fights and squabbles. Seem interested and supportive, but find a way to remain neutral.

  • Once you step into a fight that is not of your own choosing, you lose all initiative. The combatants’ interests become your interests; you become their tool. Learn to control yourself, to restrain your natural tendency to take sides and join the fight. Be friendly and charming to each of the combatants, then step back as they collide.

 

LAW 21 PLAY A SUCKER TO CATCH A SUCKER—SEEM DUMBER THAN YOUR MARK

  • A man may be as humble as possible in his demeanor and yet hardly ever get people to overlook his crime in standing intellectually above them.

  • It is critical never inadvertently to insult or impugn a person’s brain power. That is an unforgivable sin.

 

LAW 22 USE THE SURRENDER TACTIC: TRANSFORM WEAKNESS INTO POWER

  • When you are weaker, never fight for honor’s sake; choose surrender instead.

  • “Honor often brings men to ruin when they are faced with an obvious danger that somehow affects their pride.

  • People trying to make a show of their authority are easily deceived by the surrender tactic.

 

LAW 23 CONCENTRATE YOUR FORCES

  • You gain more by finding a rich mine and mining it deeper, than by flitting from one shallow mine to another—intensity defeats extensity every time.

  • It is almost a physical law: What is bloated beyond its proportions inevitably collapses.

  • The mind must not wander from goal to goal, or be distracted by success from its sense of purpose and proportion. What is concentrated, coherent, and connected to its past has power. What is dissipated, divided, and distended rots and falls to the ground.

  • “Intellect is a magnitude of intensity, not a magnitude of extensity.”-Schopenhauer.

  • Dispersal is often suitable for the weaker side; it is, in fact, a crucial principle of guerrilla warfare. When fighting a stronger army, concentrating your forces only makes you an easier target—better to dissolve into the scenery and frustrate your enemy with the elusiveness of your presence.

 

LAW 24 PLAY THE PERFECT COURTIER

  • The perfect courtier thrives in a world where everything revolves around power and political dexterity. He has mastered the art of indirection; he flatters, yields to superiors, and asserts power over others in the most oblique and graceful manner.

  • Avoid Ostentation.

  • Always talk less about yourself than about other people. Modesty is generally preferable.

  • Practice Nonchalance. Never seem to be working too hard. Your talent must appear to flow naturally, with an ease that makes people take you for a genius rather than a workaholic.

  • The pseudo-belief in equality—the idea that talking and acting the same way with everyone, no matter what their rank, makes you somehow a paragon of civilization—is a terrible mistake. Those below you will take it as a form of condescension, which it is, and those above you will be offended, although they may not admit it. You must change your style and your way of speaking to suit each person.

  • Never Be the Bearer of Bad News.

  • Never Affect Friendliness and Intimacy with Your Master. He does not want a friend for a subordinate, he wants a subordinate. Never approach him in an easy, friendly way, or act as if you are on the best of terms—that is his prerogative. If he chooses to deal with you on this level, assume a wary chumminess. Otherwise err in the opposite direction, and make the distance between you clear.

  • Master Your Emotions.

 

LAW 25 RE-CREATE YOURSELF

  • Determine your own character. Refuse the limits society would set on you. Create a persona that you can constantly adapt to your own desires, a persona that attracts attention and gives you presence.

  • Understand this: The world wants to assign you a role in life. And once you accept that role you are doomed. Your power is limited to the tiny amount allotted to the role you have selected or have been forced to assume.

 

LAW 26 KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN

  • It is an extremely human response to not look inward after a mistake or crime, but rather to look outward and to affix blame and guilt on a convenient object.

  • All men make mistakes, but the wise conceal the blunders they have made, while fools make them public. Reputation depends more on what is hidden than on what is seen. If you can’t be good, be careful.-Baltasar Gracián, (1601-1658).

  • A favor done indirectly and elegantly has ten times more power.

  • The paradigm for every favor done between friends and peers: never impose your favors. Search out ways to make yourself the cat’s-paw, indirectly extricating your friends from distress without imposing yourself or making them feel obligated to you.

  • Make your assistance subtle and gracious rather than boastful and burdensome.

 

LAW 27 PLAY ON PEOPLE’S NEED TO BELIEVE TO CREATE A CULTLIKE FOLLOWING

  • As humans, we have a desperate need to believe in something, anything. This makes us eminently gullible: We simply cannot endure long periods of doubt, or of the emptiness that comes from a lack of something to believe in.

  • In a group setting, people are more emotional, less able to reason.

  • His choicest audience would be composed of the semiliterate, those who had exchanged their common sense for a little distorted information and had encountered science and education at some time, though briefly and unsuccessfully....

  • Most people’s problems have complex causes: deep-rooted neurosis, interconnected social factors, roots that go way back in time and are exceedingly hard to unravel.

  • The five steps of cultmaking that our charlatan ancestors perfected over the years.  

    • Step 1: Keep It Vague; Keep It Simple.

    • Step 2: Emphasize the Visual and the Sensual over the Intellectual. Once people have begun to gather around you, two dangers will present themselves: boredom and skepticism.

    • Step 3: Borrow the Forms of Organized Religion to Structure the Group.

    • Step 4: Disguise Your Source of Income.

    • Step 5: Set Up an Us-Versus-Them Dynamic.

 

LAW 28 ENTER ACTION WITH BOLDNESS

  • If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it. Your doubts and hesitations will infect your execution. Timidity is dangerous: Better to enter with boldness. Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.

  • Boldness and hesitation elicit very different psychological responses in their targets: Hesitation puts obstacles in your path, boldness eliminates them. Once you understand this, you will find it essential to overcome your natural timidity and practice the art of audacity.

  • The sudden bold move, without discussion or warning builds your authority. You terrify doubters and despisers and gain the confidence of the many who admire and glorify those who act boldly.

  • Although we may disguise our timidity as a concern for others, a desire not to hurt or offend them, in fact it is the opposite—we are really self-absorbed, worried about ourselves and how others perceive us. Boldness, on the other hand, is outer-directed, and often makes people feel more at ease, since it is less self-conscious and less repressed.

  • We admire the bold, and prefer to be around them, because their self-confidence infects us and draws us outside our own realm of inwardness and reflection.

  • Understand: If boldness is not natural, neither is timidity. It is an acquired habit, picked up out of a desire to avoid conflict. If timidity has taken hold of you, then, root it out. Your fears of the consequences of a bold action are way out of proportion to reality, and in fact the consequences of timidity are worse. Your value is lowered and you create a self-fulfilling cycle of doubt and disaster.

 

LAW 29 PLAN ALL THE WAY TO THE END

  • The ending is everything. Plan all the way to it, taking into account all the possible consequences, obstacles, and twists of fortune that might reverse your hard work and give the glory to others. By planning to the end you will not be overwhelmed by circumstances and you will know when to stop.

  • Most men are ruled by the heart, not the head. Their plans are vague, and when they meet obstacles they improvise. But improvisation will only bring you as far as the next crisis, and is never a substitute for thinking several steps ahead and planning to the end.

  • “The most ordinary cause of people’s mistakes, is their being too much frightened at the present danger, and not enough so at that which is remote.”-Cardinal de Retz.

 

LAW 30 MAKE YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS SEEM EFFORTLESS

  • Avoid the temptation of revealing how hard you work.

 

LAW 31: CONTROL THE OPTIONS: GET OTHERS TO PLAY WITH THE CARDS YOU DEAL

  • The best deceptions are the ones that seem to give the other person a choice: Your victims feel they are in control, but are actually your puppets. Give people options that come out in your favor whichever one they choose. Force them to make choices between the lesser of two evils, both of which serve your purpose.

  • This unwillingness to probe the smallness of our choices stems from the fact that too much freedom creates a kind of anxiety. The phrase “unlimited options” sounds infinitely promising, but unlimited options would actually paralyze us and cloud our ability to choose. Our limited range of choices comforts us. Setting up a narrow range of choices, then, should always be a part of your deceptions.

  • Raise the price every time the buyer hesitates and another day goes by. This is an excellent negotiating ploy to use on the chronically indecisive, who will fall for the idea that they are getting a better deal today than if they wait till tomorrow.

  • Work on their emotions—if you try reason, they will always find a way to procrastinate.

 

LAW 32: PLAY TO PEOPLE’S FANTASIES

  • Never appeal to truth and reality unless you are prepared for the anger that comes from disenchantment. Life is harsh and distressing that people who can manufacture romance or conjure up fantasy are like oases in the desert: Everyone flocks to them.

  • People rarely believe that their problems arise from their own misdeeds and stupidity. Someone or something out there is to blame—the other, the world, the gods—and so salvation comes from the outside as well. Sometimes reality is ugly and the solution too painful. Fantasy, on the other hand is easy to understand and infinitely more palatable.

  • Never promise a gradual improvement through hard work; rather, promise the moon, the great and sudden transformation, the pot of gold.

  • The person who can spin a fantasy out of an oppressive reality has access to untold power.

  • Change is slow and gradual. It requires hard work, a bit of luck, a fair amount of self-sacrifice, and a lot of patience. The Fantasy: A sudden transformation will bring a total change in one’s fortunes, bypassing work, luck, self-sacrifice, and time in one fantastic stroke.

  • To bring power, fantasy must remain to some degree unrealized.

  • The key to fantasy is distance. The distant has allure and promise, seems simple and problem free. What you are offering, then, should be ungraspable. Never let it become oppressively familiar; it is the mirage in the distance, withdrawing as the sucker approaches. Never be too direct in describing the fantasy—keep it vague.

  • Truth is cold, sober fact, not so comfortable to absorb. A lie is more palatable. The most detested person in the world is the one who always tells the truth.

 

LAW 33: DISCOVER EACH MAN’S THUMBSCREW

  • Fill the Void. The two main emotional voids to fill are insecurity and unhappiness. The insecure are suckers for any kind of social validation; as for the chronically unhappy, look for the roots of their unhappiness. When searching for suckers, always look for the dissatisfied, the unhappy, the insecure. Such people are riddled with weaknesses and have needs that you can fill.

  • The stronger the passion, the more vulnerable the person. This may seem surprising, for passionate people look strong. In fact, however, they are simply filling the stage with their theatricality, distracting people from how weak and helpless they really are.

  • A man’s need to conquer women actually reveals a tremendous helplessness that has made suckers out of them for thousands of years.

  • Timid souls often yearn to be their opposite—to be Napoleons. Yet they lack the inner strength. You, in essence, can become their Napoleon, pushing them into bold actions that serve your needs while also making them dependent on you.

  • All men are idolaters, some of fame, others of self-interest, most of pleasure.

 

LAW 34 BE ROYAL IN YOUR OWN FASHION: ACT LIKE A KING TO BE TREATED LIKE ONE

  • Let your integrity itself be your own standard of rectitude, and be more indebted to the severity of your own judgment of yourself than to all external precepts.

  • The only kind of common touch that works is the kind affected by Franklin Roosevelt, a style that said the president shared values and goals with the common people even while he remained a patrician at heart. He never pretended to erase his distance from the crowd. Leaders who try to dissolve that distance through a false chumminess gradually lose the ability to inspire loyalty, fear, or love. Instead they elicit contempt.

  • It is within your power to set your own price. How you carry yourself reflects what you think of yourself. If you ask for little, shuffle your feet and lower your head, people will assume this reflects your character. But this behavior is not you—it is only how you have chosen to present yourself to other people. You can just as easily present the Columbus front: buoyancy, confidence, and the feeling that you were born to wear a crown.

  • As children, we start our lives with great exuberance, expecting and demanding everything from the world. This generally carries over into our first forays into society, as we begin our careers. But as we grow older the rebuffs and failures we experience set up boundaries that only get firmer with time. Coming to expect less from the world, we accept limitations that are really self-imposed. We start to bow and scrape and apologize for even the simplest of requests. The solution to such a shrinking of horizons is to deliberately force ourselves in the opposite direction—to downplay the failures and ignore the limitations, to make ourselves demand and expect as much as the child.

  • Be overcome by your self-belief. Even while you know you are practicing a kind of deception on yourself, act like a king. You are likely to be treated as one.

  • Dignity, in fact, is invariably the mask to assume under difficult circumstances: It is as if nothing can affect you, and you have all the time in the world to respond. This is an extremely powerful pose.

 

LAW 35 MASTER THE ART OF TIMING

  • Never seem to be in a hurry-hurrying betrays a lack of control over yourself, and over time. Always seem patient, as if you know that everything will come to you eventually.

  • The truth is that a steady continuous effort is irresistible, for this is the way in which Time captures and subdues the greatest powers on earth.

  • Power rarely ends up in the hands of those who start a revolution, or even of those who further it; power sticks to those who bring it to a conclusion.

  • Time depends on perception, which, we know, can be willfully altered. This is the first thing to understand in mastering the art of timing. If the inner turmoil caused by our emotions tends to make time move faster, it follows that once we control our emotional responses to events, time will move much more slowly. This altered way of dealing with things tends to lengthen our perception of future time, opens up possibilities that fear and anger close off, and allows us the patience that is the principal requirement in the art of timing.

 

LAW 36 DISDAIN THINGS YOU CANNOT HAVE: IGNORING THEM IS THE BEST REVENGE

  • By acknowledging a petty problem you give it existence and credibility. The more attention you pay an enemy, the stronger you make him; and a small mistake is often made worse and more visible when you try to fix it. It is sometimes best to leave things alone. If there is something you want but cannot have, show contempt for it. The less interest you reveal, the more superior you seem.

  • What you do not react to cannot drag you down in a futile engagement. Your pride is not involved. The best lesson you can teach an irritating gnat is to consign it to oblivion by ignoring it.

  • Chi non stima vien stimato, as a subtle Italian proverb has it—to disregard is to win regard.

  • Many things which seemed important [at the time] turn out to be of no account when they are ignored; and others, which seem trifling, appear formidable when you pay attention to them.

  • Desire often creates paradoxical effects: The more you want something, the more you chase after it, the more it eludes you. The more interest you show, the more you repel the object of your desire. This is because your interest is too strong—it makes people awkward, even fearful. Uncontrollable desire makes you seem weak, unworthy, pathetic.

  • It is tempting to want to fix our mistakes, but the harder we try, the worse we often make them. It is sometimes more politic to leave them alone.

  • The powerful responses to niggling, petty annoyances and irritations are contempt and disdain. Never show that something has affected you, or that you are offended—that only shows you have acknowledged a problem.

  • There is no revenge like oblivion, for it is the entombment of the unworthy in the dust of their own nothingness.-Baltasar Gracián, (1601-1658).

 

LAW 37 CREATE COMPELLING SPECTACLES

  • People do not always want words, or rational explanations, or demonstrations of the powers of science; they want an immediate appeal to their emotions.

 

LAW 38 THINK AS YOU LIKE BUT BEHAVE LIKE OTHERS

  • Cultures have norms that reflect centuries of shared beliefs and ideals. Do not expect to scoff at such things with impunity. You will be punished somehow, even if just through isolation—a position of real powerlessness.

  • Find a way to express your ideas subtly for those who understand you. Laying your pearls before swine will only bring you trouble.

  • Never combat any man's opinion; for though you reached the age of Methuselah, you would never have done setting him right upon all the absurd things that he believes. It is also well to avoid correcting people’s mistakes in conversation, however good your intentions may be; for it is easy to offend people, and difficult, if not impossible to mend them. If you feel irritated by the absurd remarks of two people whose conversation you happen to overhear, you should imagine that you are listening to the dialogue of two fools in a comedy.

  • The man who comes into the world with the notion that he is really going to instruct it in matters of the highest importance, may thank his stars if he escapes with a whole skin.-Arthur Sschopenhauer, (1788-1860).

  • The reason arguments do not work is that most people hold their ideas and values without thinking about them. There is a strong emotional content in their beliefs: They really do not want to have to rework their habits of thinking, and when you challenge them, whether directly through your arguments or indirectly through your behavior, they are hostile.

 

LAW 39 STIR UP WATERS TO CATCH FISH

  • Anger and emotion are strategically counterproductive. You must always stay calm and objective. But if you can make your enemies angry while staying calm yourself, you gain a decided advantage.

  • If possible, no animosity should be felt for anyone.... To speak angrily to a person, to show your hatred by what you say or by the way you look, is an unnecessary proceeding-dangerous, foolish, ridiculous, and vulgar. Anger or hatred should never be shown otherwise than in what you do; and feelings will be all the more effective in action in so far as you avoid the exhibition of them in any other way. It is only the cold-blooded animals whose bite is poisonous.-Arthur Sschopenhauer, (1788-1860).

  • Petulance is not power, it is a sign of helplessness.

  • Everyone is caught up in a chain of events that long predates the present moment. Our anger often stems from problems in our childhood, from the problems of our parents which stem from their own childhood, on and on. Our anger also has roots in the many interactions with others, the accumulated disappointments and heartaches that we have suffered. An individual will often appear as the instigator of our anger but it is much more complicated, goes far beyond what that individual did to us. If a person explodes with anger at you (and it seems out of proportion to what you did to them), you must remind yourself that it is not exclusively directed at you—do not be so vain. The cause is much larger, goes way back in time, involves dozens of prior hurts, and is actually not worth the bother to understand. Instead of seeing it as a personal grudge, look at the emotional outburst as a disguised power move, an attempt to control or punish you cloaked in the form of hurt feelings and anger.

  • In the face of a hot-headed enemy, an excellent response is no response. Nothing is as infuriating as a man who keeps his cool while others are losing theirs.

 

LAW 40: DESPISE THE FREE LUNCH

  • What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit. It is also often wise to pay the full price—there is no cutting corners with excellence.

  • Be lavish with your money and keep it circulating, for generosity is a sign and a magnet for power.

  • “Tada yori takai mono wa nai,” meaning: “Nothing is more costly than something given free of charge.”

  • The greedy neglect everything power really depends on: self-control, the goodwill of others, and so on. Understand: With one exception—death—no lasting change in fortune comes quickly. Sudden wealth rarely lasts, for it is built on nothing solid.

  • To succeed best, a gift should come out of the blue. It should be remarkable for the fact that a gift like it has never been given before, or for being preceded by a cold shoulder from the giver.

 

LAW 41 AVOID STEPPING INTO A GREAT MAN’S SHOES

  • Beware of stepping into a great man’s shoes—you will have to accomplish twice as much to surpass him.

  • When a powerful self made man has a son, he becomes domineering and oppressive, imposing his lessons on the son, who is starting off life in circumstances totally different from those in which the father himself began. Instead of allowing the son to go in a new direction, the father will try to put him in his own shoes, perhaps secretly wishing the boy will fail, as Philip half wanted to see Alexander thrown from Bucephalus. Fathers envy their sons’ youth and vigor, after all, and their desire is to control and dominate. The sons of such men tend to become cowed and cautious, terrified of losing what their fathers have gained.

  • Only the weak rest on their laurels and dote on past triumphs.

  • Never let yourself be seen as following your predecessor’s path. If you do you will never surpass him. You must physically demonstrate your difference, by establishing a style and symbolism that sets you apart.

  • There is a kind of stubborn stupidity that recurs throughout history, and is a strong impediment to power: The superstitious belief that if the person before you succeeded by doing A, B, and C, you can re-create their success by doing the same thing. This cookie-cutter approach will seduce the uncreative, for it is easy, and appeals to their timidity and their laziness. But circumstances never repeat themselves exactly.

 

LAW 42: STRIKE THE SHEPHERD AND THE SHEEP WILL SCATTER

  • Trouble can often be traced to a single strong individual —the stirrer, the arrogant underling, the poisoner of goodwill. If you allow such people room to operate, others will succumb to their influence. Do not wait for the troubles they cause to multiply, do not try to negotiate with them—they are irredeemable. Neutralize their influence by isolating or banishing them. Strike at the source of the trouble and the sheep will scatter.

  • Every year in Ancient Athens the people would gather in the marketplace and write on a piece of earthenware, an ostrakon, the name of an individual they wanted to see banished from the city for ten years. If a particular name appeared on six thousand ballots, that person would instantly be exiled.

  • First, recognize troublemakers by their overbearing presence, or by their complaining nature. Once you spot them do not try to reform them or appease them—that will only make things worse. Do not attack them, whether directly or indirectly, for they are poisonous in nature and will work underground to destroy you. Do as the Athenians did: Banish them before it is too late. Separate them from the group before they become the eye of a whirlpool. Do not give them time to stir up anxieties and sow discontent; do not give them room to move. Let one person suffer so that the rest can live in peace.

  • Cancer begins with a single cell; excise it before it spreads beyond cure.

  • In every group, power is concentrated in the hands of one or two people, for this is one area in which human nature will never change: People will congregate around a single strong personality like planets orbiting a sun.

  • Once you recognize who the stirrer is, pointing it out to other people will accomplish a great deal. Understanding who controls the group dynamic is a critical realization. Remember: Stirrers thrive by hiding in the group, disguising their actions among the reactions of others. Render their actions visible and they lose their power to upset.

 

LAW 43: WORK ON THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF OTHERS

  • The higher your station, the greater the need to remain attuned to the hearts and minds of those below you, creating a base of support to maintain you at the pinnacle.

  • In all your encounters, take a step back—take the time to calculate and attune yourself to your targets’ emotional makeup and psychological weaknesses. Force will only strengthen their resistance. With most people the heart is the key: They are like children, ruled by their emotions. To soften them up, alternate harshness with mercy. Play on their basic fears, and also their loves—freedom, family, etc. Once you break them down, you will have a lifelong friend and fiercely loyal ally.

  • Seduce others with a two-pronged approach: Work on their emotions and play on their intellectual weaknesses. Be alert to both what separates them from everyone else (their individual psychology) and what they share with everyone else (their basic emotional responses). Aim at the primary emotions—love, hate, jealousy. Once you move their emotions you have reduced their control, making them more vulnerable to persuasion.

  • Most people never learn this side of the game. When they meet someone new, rather than stepping back and probing to see what makes this person unique, they talk about themselves, eager to impose their own willpower and prejudices. They argue, boast, and make a show of their power. They may not know it but they are secretly creating an enemy, a resister, because there is no more infuriating feeling than having your individuality ignored, your own psychology unacknowledged. It makes you feel lifeless and resentful.

  • Mao Tse-tung similarly always appealed to popular emotions, and spoke in the simplest terms. Educated and well-read himself, in his speeches he used visceral metaphors, voicing the public’s deepest anxieties and encouraging them to vent their frustrations in public meetings. Rather than arguing the practical aspects of a particular program, he would describe how it would affect them on the most primitive, down-to-earth level. Do not believe that this approach works only with the illiterate and unschooled—it works on one and all.

 

LAW 44: DISARM AND INFURIATE WITH THE MIRROR EFFECT

  • In every encounter with others,  sense moods and tastes, then carefully tailor your words and actions to mirror their inmost desires. Seduce with the idea that others values are superior to everyone else’s, and that your goal was to model yourself on them or help them realize their dreams. Few can resist this charm.

  • Understand: Everyone is wrapped up in their own narcissistic shell. When you try to impose your own ego on them, a wall goes up, resistance is increased. By mirroring them, however, you seduce them into a kind of narcissistic rapture: They are gazing at a double of their own soul. This double is actually manufactured in its entirety by you. Once you have used the mirror to seduce them, you have great power over them.

  • When dealing with people who are lost in the reflections of fantasy worlds (including a host of people who do not live in mental hospitals), never try to push them into reality by shattering their mirrors. Instead, enter their world and operate inside it, under their rules, gently guiding them out of the hall of mirrors they have entered.

  • Remember: The wordless communication, the indirect compliment, contains the most power.

 

LAW 45: PREACH THE NEED FOR CHANGE, BUT NEVER REFORM TOO MUCH AT ONCE

  • Everyone understands the need for change in the abstract, but on the day-to-day level people are creatures of habit. Too much innovation is traumatic, and will lead to revolt. If you are new to a position of power, or an outsider trying to build a power base, make a show of respecting the old way of doing things. If change is necessary, make it feel like a gentle improvement on the past.

  • The man who initiates strong reforms often becomes the scapegoat for any kind of dissatisfaction.

  • “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”-Max Planck.

  • Pay lip service to tradition. Identify the elements in your revolution that can be made to seem to build on the past. Say the right things, make a show of conformity, and meanwhile let your theories do their radical work. Play with appearances and respect past protocol. This is true in every arena—science being no exception.

  • The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities.-Niccolò Machiavelli.

 

LAW 46: NEVER APPEAR TOO PERFECT

  • Most dangerous of all is to appear to have no faults or weaknesses.

  • Only a minority can succeed at the game of life, and that minority inevitably arouses the envy of those around them. Once success happens your way, however, the people to fear the most are those in your own circle, the friends and acquaintances you have left behind. Feelings of inferiority gnaw at them; the thought of your success only heightens their feelings of stagnation. Envy, which the philosopher Kierkegaard calls “unhappy admiration,” takes hold.

  • Either dampen your brilliance occasionally, purposefully revealing a defect, weakness, or anxiety, or attributing your success to luck; or simply find yourself new friends. Never underestimate the power of envy.

  • The insidious envy of the masses can actually be deflected quite easily: Appear as one of them in style and values.

  • Humans have a hard time dealing with feelings of inferiority. In the face of superior skill, talent, or power, we are often disturbed and ill at ease; this is because most of us have an inflated sense of ourselves, and when we meet people who surpass us they make it clear to us that we are in fact mediocre, or at least not as brilliant as we had thought. This disturbance in our self-image cannot last long without stirring up ugly emotions.

  • There are several strategies for dealing with the insidious, destructive emotion of envy. First, accept the fact that there will be people who will surpass you in some way, and also the fact that you may envy them. But make that feeling a way of pushing yourself to equal or surpass them someday. Let envy turn inward and it poisons the soul; expel it outward and it can move you to greater heights.

  • It is a common and naive mistake to think you are charming people with your natural talents when in fact they are coming to hate you.

  • Emphasize your troubles and you turn a potential danger (envy) into a source of moral support (pity).

  • The effects of envy are more serious among colleagues and peers, where there is a veneer of equality.

 

LAW 47: DO NOT GO PAST THE MARK YOU AIMED FOR; IN VICTORY, LEARN WHEN TO STOP

  • Do not allow success to go to your head. There is no substitute for strategy and careful planning. Set a goal, and when you reach it, stop.

  • In the realm of power, you must be guided by reason. To let a momentary thrill or an emotional victory influence or guide your moves will prove fatal.

  • Success plays strange tricks on the mind. It makes you feel invulnerable, while also making you more hostile and emotional when people challenge your power. It makes you less able to adapt to circumstance. You come to believe your character is more responsible for your success than your strategizing and planning.

  • The essence of strategy is controlling what comes next, and the elation of victory can upset your ability to control what comes next in two ways. First, you owe your success to a pattern that you are apt to try to repeat. You will try to keep moving in the same direction without stopping to see whether this is still the direction that is best for you. Second, success tends to go to your head and make you emotional. Feeling invulnerable, you make aggressive moves that ultimately undo the victory you have gained. The lesson is simple: The powerful vary their rhythms and patterns, change course, adapt to circumstance, and learn to improvise. Rather than letting their dancing feet impel them forward, they step back and look where they are going.

  • When you are victorious, then, lie low, and lull the enemy into inaction. These changes of rhythm are immensely powerful.

  • The moment when you stop has great dramatic import. What comes last sticks in the mind as a kind of exclamation point. There is no better time to stop and walk away than after a victory. Keep going and you risk lessening the effect, even ending up defeated.

 

LAW 48: ASSUME FORMLESSNESS

  • By taking a shape, by having a visible plan, you open yourself to attack. Instead of taking a form for your enemy to grasp, keep yourself adaptable and on the move. Accept the fact that nothing is certain and no law is fixed. The best way to protect yourself is to be as fluid and formless as water; never bet on stability or lasting order. Everything changes.

  • There was in Sung a man, who tilled a field in which there stood the trunk of a tree. Once a hare, while running fast, rushed against the trunk, broke its neck, and died. Thereupon the man cast his plough aside and watched that tree, hoping that he would get another hare. Yet he never caught another hare and was himself ridiculed by the people of Sung. Now supposing somebody wanted to govern the people of the present age with the policies of the early kings, he would be doing exactly the same thing as that man who watched the tree.-Han Fei Tzu, Chinese Philosopher, 3rd Century BC.

  • The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue.-Mao Tse-tung.

  • The first psychological requirement of formlessness is to train yourself to take nothing personally. Never show any defensiveness. When you act defensive, you show your emotions, revealing a clear form. Your opponents will realize they have hit a nerve, an Achilles’ heel. And they will hit it again and again. So train yourself to take nothing personally. Be like a slippery ball that cannot be held: Let no one know what gets to you, or where your weaknesses lie. Make your face a formless mask and you will infuriate and disorient your scheming colleagues and opponents.

  • As you get older, you must rely even less on the past. Be vigilant lest the form your character has taken makes you seem a relic. It is not a matter of mimicking the fashions of youth—that is equally worthy of laughter. Rather your mind must constantly adapt to each circumstance, even the inevitable change that the time has come to move over and let those of younger age prepare for their ascendancy. Rigidity will only make you look uncannily like a cadaver.

  • Be brutal with the past, especially your own, and have no respect for the philosophies that are foisted on you from outside.