An outstanding book that will no doubt remain a classic for a long time. 48 Laws of Power details the laws for attaining power in life, business, and more, and gives historical examples of each law in practice, as well as examples of those who do not respect these laws.
A book I will continue to go back and reference. Those who are cynical may see some of the laws as manipulative, and some are. That said, they are all grounded in the reality of human nature, and it's more important to understand them, and then choose how, when, and which to apply, than to just remain ignorant of them and refuse to acknowledge they exist.
A long read, but well worth it and entertaining throughout.
48 Laws of Power:
Never outshine the master.
Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please and impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite—inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.
Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies.
Be wary of friends—they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy. They also become spoiled and tyrannical. But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove. In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.
Friends often conceal things in order to avoid conflict; this can be dangerous.
Keep friends for friendship, but work with the skilled and competent.
Whenever you can, bury the hatchet with an enemy, and make a point of putting him in your service.
Use enemies to define your cause more clearly to the public, even framing it as a struggle of good against evil.
It is better off to know who and where your opponents are than to not know where your real enemies lie.
Conceal your intentions.
Keep people off-balance and in the dark by never revealing the purpose behind your actions. If they have no clue what you are up to, they cannot prepare a defense. Guide them far enough down the wrong path, envelop them in enough smoke, and by the time they realize your intentions, it will be too late.
I: Use decoyed objects of desire and red herrings to throw people off the scent:
If at any point in the deception you practice people have the slightest suspicions to your intentions, all is lost. Do not give them the chance to sense what you are up to: Throw them off the scent by dragging red herrings across the path. Use false sincerity, send ambiguous signals, set up misleading objects of desire. Unable to distinguish the genuine from the false, they cannot pick out your real goal.
Hide your intentions not by closing up, but by talking endlessly about your desires and goals - just false ones.
II: Use smoke screens to disguise your actions:
Deception is always the best strategy, but the best deceptions require a screen of smoke to distract people attention from your real purpose. The bland exterior—like the unreadable poker face—is often the perfect smoke screen, hiding your intentions behind the comfortable and familiar. If you lead the sucker down a familiar path, he won’t catch on when you lead him into a trap.
A helpful or honest gesture can divert from a deception.
Patterns will also help mask a deception.
Often the key to deception is being bland and acting with humility.
Always say less than necessary.
When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control. Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original if you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike. Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.
Silence generally makes people uncomfortable - they will jump in and nervously fill the silence.
Generally saying less makes you appear more profound and mysterious.
Be particularly careful with sarcasm - rarely is it valuable.
Be careful with arousing suspicion or insecurity by being silent. At times it is easier to blend by playing the jester.
So much depends on reputation - guard it with your life.
Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win; once it slips, however, you are vulnerable, and will be attacked on all sides. Make your reputation unassailable. Always be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen. Meanwhile, learn to destroy your enemies by opening holes in their own reputations. Then stand aside and let public opinion hang them.
Work to establish a reputation of outstanding quality, whether generosity or honesty or cunning.
A good reputation can save you much - a lot of work is done in advance by your reputation.
Once established, always take the high road when attacked.
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.
I: Surround your name with the sensational and scandalous
Draw attention to yourself by creating an unforgettable, even controversial image. Court scandal. Do anything to make yourself seem larger than life and shine more brightly than those around you. Make no distinction between kinds of attention—notoriety of any sort will bring you power. Better to be slandered and attacked than ignored.
At the beginning of your rise, spend all your energy on attracting attention. The quality of attention is irrelevant.
II: Create an air of mystery
In a world growing increasingly banal and familiar, what seems enigmatic instantly draws attention. Never make it too clear what you are doing or about to do. Do not show all your cards. An air of mystery heightens your presence; it also creates anticipation—everyone will be watching you to see what happens next. Use mystery to beguile, seduce, even frighten.
Remember: 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.
Do not let mystery turn to an air of deceit; it must always seem a game, playful, unthreatening.
Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit.
Use the wisdom, knowledge, and legwork of other people to further your own cause. Not only will such assistance save you valuable time and energy, it will give you a godlike aura of efficiency and speed. In the end your helpers will be forgotten and you will be remembered. Never do yourself what others can do for you.
You must secure the credit for yourself.
Learn to take advantage of others work to further your own cause.
Use the past, a vast storehouse of knowledge and wisdom. Learn this and you will look like a genius.
Note: be sure to know when letting other people share the credit furthers your cause.
Make other people come to you - use bait if necessary.
When you force the other person to act, you are the one in control. It is always better to make your opponent come to you, abandoning his own plans in the process. Lure him with fabulous gains—then attack. You hold the cards.
The essence of power is keeping the initiative and forcing others to react, keeping them on the defensive.
Master your anger yet play on people’s natural tendency to react angrily when pushed and baited.
Win through your actions, never through argument.
Any momentary triumph you think you have gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory: The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.
When aiming for power, always look for the indirect route.
Verbal argument has one use: deception when covering tracks or caught in a lie.
Infection: avoid the unhappy and unlucky.
You can die from someone else’s misery—emotional states are as infectious as diseases. You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only precipitating your own disaster. The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you. Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.
The most important person to avoid: the sufferer of chronic dissatisfaction.
Examine someone’s history to recognize these people: turbulence, a long line of broken relationships, etc.
The other side of infection is equally valid: there are those who attract happiness by their good cheer, natural buoyancy, and intelligence.
Use this rule to counteract your own undesirable or weak qualities.
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. Never teach them enough so that they can do without you.
Do not mistake independence for power; power requires a relationship.
To cultivate this: possess a talent and creative skill that simply cannot be replaced.
Use selective honesty and generosity to disarm your victim.
One sincere and honest move will cover over dozens of dishonest ones. Open-hearted gestures of honesty and generosity bring down the guard of even the most suspicious people. Once your selective honesty opens a hole in their armor, you can deceive and manipulate them at will. A timely gift—a Trojan horse—will serve the same purpose.
Learn to give before you take - an actual gift, a generous act, a kind favour, an “honest” admission - whatever it takes.
Selective honesty is best employed on your first encounter with someone.
A history of deceit will cause any act of generosity to be viewed with suspicion. Counter by embracing your reputation for dishonesty openly.
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.
Do not be subtle: you have valuable knowledge to share, you can make him rich, you can make him live longer and happier.
Train yourself to see inside other’s needs and interests and desires.
Distinguish differences among powerful people and figure out what makes them tick. When they ooze greed, do not appeal to charity; when they want to look charitable and noble, do not appeal to their greed.
Pose as a friend, work as a spy.
Knowing about your rival is critical. Use spies to gather valuable information that will keep you a step ahead. Better still: Play the spy yourself. In polite social encounters, learn to probe. Ask indirect questions to get people to reveal their weaknesses and intentions. There is no occasion that is not an opportunity for artful spying.
During social gatherings and innocuous encounters, pay attention. This is when people’s guards are down, and they will reveal things.
Give a false confession, and someone else will give you a real one.
Contradict others to stir them to emotion and lose control of their words.
Crush your enemy totally.
All great leaders since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed completely. (Sometimes they have learned this the hard way.) If one ember is left alight, no matter how dimly it smolders, a fire will eventually break out. More is lost through stopping halfway than through total annihilation: The enemy will recover, and will seek revenge. Crush him, not only in body but in spirit.
Recognize that you will accumulate enemies who you cannot bring over to your side, and that to leave them any escape will mean you are never secure. Crush them completely.
Use absence to increase respect and honour.
Too much circulation makes the price go down: The more you are seen and heard from, the more common you appear. If you are already established in a group, temporary withdrawal from it will make you more talked about, even more admired. You must learn when to leave. Create value through scarcity.
The truth of this law can most easily be appreciated in matters of love and seduction.
Another example of this law exists in economics - scarcity increases value.
Note: this law only applies once a certain level of power has been attained. Leave too early and you do not increase respect, you are simply forgotten. Similarly, absence is only effective in love and seduction once you have surrounded the other with your image.
In the beginning, make yourself not scarce but omnipresent.
Keep others in suspended terror: cultivate an air of unpredictability.
Humans are creatures of habit with an insatiable need to see familiarity in other people’s actions. Your predictability gives them a sense of control. Turn the tables: Be deliberately unpredictable. Behavior that seems to have no consistency or purpose will keep them off-balance, and they will wear themselves out trying to explain your moves. Taken to an extreme, this strategy can intimidate and terrorize.
Unsettle those around you and keep the initiative by being unpredictable.
Predictability and patterns can be used as a tool when deceiving.
Do not build fortresses to protect yourself - isolation is dangerous.
The world is dangerous and enemies are everywhere—everyone has to protect themselves. A fortress seems the safest. But isolation exposes you to more dangers than it Protects you from—it cuts you off from valuable information, it makes you conspicuous and an easy target. Better to circulate among people, find allies, mingle. You are shielded from your enemies by the crowd.
Retreat to a fortress and you lose contact with your sources of power, and your knowledge of what is going on.
If you need time to think, then choose isolation as a last resort, and only in small doses.
Know who you’re dealing with - do not offend the wrong person.
There are many different kinds of people in the world, and you can never assume that everyone will react to your strategies in the same way. Deceive or outmaneuver some people and they will spend the rest of their lives seeking revenge. They are wolves in lambs’ clothing. Choose your victims and opponents carefully, then—never of fend or deceive the wrong person.
Being able to recognize the type of person you’re dealing with is critical. Here are the five most dangerous:
The Arrogant and Proud Man: any perceived slight will invite vengeance. Flee these people.
The Hopelessly Insecure Man: similar to the proud man, but will take revenge in smaller bites over time. Do not stay around him if you have harmed or deceived him.
Mr. Suspicion: sees the worst in others and imagines that everyone is after him. Easy to deceive - get him to turn on others.
The Serpent with a Long Memory: if hurt, he will show no anger, but will calculate and wait. Recognize by his calculation and cunning in other areas of life - he is usually cold and unaffectionate. Crush him completely or flee.
The Plain, Unassuming, and Often Unintelligent Man: this man will not take the bait because he does not recognize it. Do not waste your resources trying to deceive him. Have a test ready for a mark - a joke, a story. If reaction is literal, this is the type you are dealing with.
Never rely on instincts when judging someone; instead gather concrete knowledge. Also never trust appearances.
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. By maintaining your independence, you become the master of others—playing people against one another, making them pursue you.
Part 1: Do not commit to anyone, but be courted by all.
Stay aloof and gain the power that comes from attention and frustrated desire.
Part 2: Do not commit to anyone - stay above the fray.
Do not let others drag you into their fights. Seem interested and supportive, but neutral.
Staying neutral allows you to keep initiative, and take advantage of the situation when one side starts to lose.
You only have so much time and energy - every moment wasted on affairs of others subtracts from your strength.
Make sure to maintain emotional objectivity in the affairs of others.
Play a sucker to catch a sucker - seem dumber than your mark.
No one likes feeling stupider than the next person. The trick, then, is to make your victims feel smart—and not just smart, but smarter than you are. Once convinced of this, they will never suspect that you may have ulterior motives.
Intelligence, taste and sophistication are all things you should downplay, or reassure others that they are more advanced than you.
Use the surrender tactic: transform weakness into power.
When you are weaker, never fight for honor’s sake; choose surrender instead. Surrender gives you time to recover, time to torment and irritate your conqueror, time to wait for his power to wane. Do not give him the satisfaction of fighting and defeating you—surrender first. By turning the other cheek you infuriate and unsettle him. Make surrender a tool of power.
The essence of the surrender tactic: inwardly you stay firm, but outwardly you bend. Your enemy will be bewildered when properly executed, as they will be expecting retaliation.
Concentrate your forces.
Conserve your forces and energies by keeping them concentrated at their strongest point. 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. When looking for sources of power to elevate you, find the one key patron, the fat cow who will give you milk for a long time to come.
Concentrate on a single goal, a single task, and beat it into submission.
Note: when fighting a stronger enemy, you must be prepared to dissolve your forces and be elusive.
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. Learn and apply the laws of courtiership and there will be no limit to how far you can rise in the court.
The Laws of Court Politics
Avoid Ostentation: modesty is always preferable.
Practice Nonchalance: never appear to be working too hard; your talent must appear to flow naturally, with ease. Showing your blood and toil is a form of ostentation.
Be Frugal with Flattery: flatter indirectly by being modest.
Arrange to be Noticed: pay attention to your appearance, and find a way to create a subtly distinctive style and image.
Alter Your Style and Language According to the Person You’re Dealing With: acting the same with all will be seen as condescension by those below you, and offend those above you.
Never Be the Bearer of Bad News: the messenger is always killed. Bring only glad news.
Never Affect Friendliness and Intimacy with Your Master: he does not want a friend for a subordinate.
Never Criticize Those Above You Directly: err on the side of subtlety and gentleness.
Be Frugal in Asking Those Above You for Favours: it is always better to earn your favours. Do not ask for favours on another person’s behalf.
Never Joke About Appearances or Taste
Do Not Be the Court Cynic: express admiration for the good work of others.
Be Self-Observant: you must train yourself to evaluate your own actions.
Master Your Emotions
Fit the Spirit of the Times: your spirit and way of thinking must keep up with the times, even if the times offend your sensibilities.
Be a Source of Pleasure: if you cannot be the life of the party, at least obscure your less desirable qualities.
Do not accept the roles that society foists on you. Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define it for you. Incorporate dramatic devices into your public gestures and actions—your power will be enhanced and your character will seem larger than life.
The first step in the process of self-creation is being aware of yourself and taking control of your appearances and emotions.
The second step is the creation of a memorable character that compels attention and stands above the others on the stage.
Rhythm, timing and tempo over time also contribute greatly to the creation of a character.
Appreciate the importance of stage entrances and exits.
Keep your hands clean.
You must seem a paragon of civility and efficiency: Your hands are never soiled by mistakes and nasty deeds. Maintain such a spotless appearance by using others as scapegoats and cat’s-paws to disguise your involvement.
Part 1: Conceal your mistakes - have a scapegoat to take the blame.
It is often wise to choose the most innocent victim possible as a sacrificial goat. Be careful, however, not to create a martyr.
A close associate is often the best choice - the “fall of the favourite”.
Part 2: Make use of the cat’s-paw.
Use those around you to complete dirty tasks to hide your intentions and accomplish your goals while keeping your hands clean.
An essential element in this strategy is concealing your goal.
Devices like this are best for approaching those in power, or planting information.
You may also offer yourself as the cat’s-paw to gain power.
Note: you must be very careful in using this tactic, as being revealed would be disastrous.
Play on people’s need to believe to create a cult like following.
People have an overwhelming desire to believe in something. Become the focal point of such desire by offering them a cause, a new faith to follow. Keep your words vague but full of promise ; emphasize enthusiasm over rationality and clear thinking. Give your new disciples rituals to perform, ask them to make sacrifices on your behalf. In the absence of organized religion and grand causes, your new belief system will bring you untold power.
How to create a cult in 5 easy steps:
Keep It Vague, Keep it Simple: use words to attract attention, with great enthusiasm. Fancy titles for simple things are helpful, as are the use of numbers and the creation of new words for vague concepts. All of these create the impression of specialized knowledge. People want to hear there is a simple solution to their problems.
Emphasize the Visual and the Sensual over the Intellectual: Boredom and skepticism are two dangers you must counter. The best way to do this is through theatre, creating a spectacle. Appeal to all the senses, and use the exotic.
Borrow the Forms of Organized Religion to Structure the Group: create rituals, organize followers into hierarchy, rank them in grades of sanctity, give them names and titles, ask them for sacrifices that fill your coffers and increase your power. Talk and act like a prophet.
Disguise Your Source of Income: make your wealth seem to come from the truth of your methods.
Set Up an Us-Versus-Them Dynamic: first make sure your followers believe they are part of an exclusive club, unified by common goals. Then, manufacture the notion of a devious enemy out to ruin you.
People are not interested in the truth about change - that it requires hard work - but rather they are dying to believe something romantic, otherworldly.
The most effective cults mix religion with science.
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.
Some of the most pronounced psychological effects of boldness and timidity:
The Bolder the Lie the Better: the sheer audacity of a bold lie makes the story more credible, distracting from its inconsistencies. When entering a negotiation, ask for the moon and you’ll be surprised how often you get it.
Lions Circle the Hesitant Prey: everything depends on perception, and if on a first encounter you demonstrate a willingness to compromise, back down, and retreat, you will be pushed around without mercy.
Boldness Strikes Fear; Fear Creates Authority: the bold move makes you seem larger and more powerful than you are. If it comes suddenly, with stealth and swiftness, it inspires much more than fear - you will be intimidating, and people will be on the defensive in future.
Going Halfway with Half a Heart Digs the Deeper Grave: if you enter action with less than total confidence, problems will cause you to grow confused rather than pushing through.
Hesitation Creates Gaps, Boldness Obliterates Them: when you take time to think, you create a gap that allows others time to think as well. Boldness leaves others no space to doubt and worry.
Audacity Separates You from the Herd: the bold draw attention, and seem larger than life. We cannot keep our eyes off the audacious.
Most of us are timid. We want to avoid tension and conflict and be liked by all. We are terrified of consequences, what others might think of us, and the hostility we will stir up if we dare go beyond our usual place.
You must practice and develop your boldness. The place to begin is in negotiations. How often we ask too little.
Remember: the problems created by an audacious move can be disguised, even remedied, by more and greater audacity.
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. Gently guide fortune and help determine the future by thinking far ahead.
The ending is everything - it is the end of action that determines who gets the glory, the money, the prize. Your conclusion must be crystal clear, and you must keep it constantly in mind.
Make your accomplishments seem effortless.
Your actions must seem natural and executed with ease. All the toil and practice that go into them, and also all the clever tricks, must be concealed. When you act, act effortlessly, as if you could do much more. Avoid the temptation of revealing how hard you work—it only raises questions. Teach no one your tricks or they will be used against you.
Some think exposure to how hard they work and practice demonstrates diligence and honesty, but really it just shows weakness.
Sprezzatura: the capacity to make the difficult seem easy.
What is understandable is not awe-inspiring. The more mystery surrounds your actions, the more awesome your power seems.
You appear to be the only one who can do what you do, and because you achieve accomplishments with grace and ease, people believe that you can always do more.
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. Put them on the horns of a dilemma: They are gored wherever they turn.
Withdrawal and disappearance are classic ways of controlling the options. You give people a sense of how things will fall apart without you, and you offer them the choice: I stay away and you suffer, or I return under my conditions.
We actually find choices between a small number of alternatives more desirable than complete freedom of options.
The following are among the most common forms of controlling the options:
Color the Choices: Propose multiple solutions, but present the preferred one in the best light compared to the others. Excellent device for the insecure master.
Force the Resister: This is a good technique to use on children and other willful people who enjoy doing the opposite of what you ask them to: Push them to choose what you want them to do by appearing to advocate the opposite.
Alter the Playing Field: In this tactic your opponents know their hand is being forced, but it doesn’t matter. The technique is effective against those who resist at all costs.
The Shrinking Options: A variation on this technique is to 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.
The Weak Man on the Precipice: He would describe all sorts of dangers, exaggerating them as much as possible, until the duke saw a yawning abyss in every direction except one: the one Retz was pushing him to take. This tactic is similar to "Color the Choices," but with the weak you have to be more aggressive. Work on their emotions—use fear and terror to propel them into action. Try reason and they will always find a way to procrastinate.
Brothers in Crime: This is a classic con-artist technique: You attract your victims to some criminal scheme, creating a bond of blood and guilt between you. They participate in your deception, commit a crime (or think they do), and are easily manipulated. It is often wise to implicate in your deceptions the very person who can do you the most harm if you fail. Their involvement can be subtle—even a hint of their involvement will narrow their options and buy their silence.
The Horns of a Dilemma: This is a classic trial lawyer’s technique: The lawyer leads the witnesses to decide between two possible explanations of an event, both of which poke a hole in their story. They have to answer the lawyer’s questions, but whatever they say they hurt themselves. The key to this move is to strike quickly: Deny the victim the time to think of an escape. As they wriggle between the horns of the dilemma, they dig their own grave.
Controlling the options has one main purpose: to disguise yourself as the agent of power and punishment.
Play to people’s fantasies.
The truth is often avoided because it is ugly and unpleasant. Never appeal to truth and reality unless you are prepared for the anger that comes from disenchantment. Life is so harsh and distressing that people who can manufacture romance or conjure up fantasy are like oases in the desert: Everyone flocks to them. There is great power in tapping into the fantasies of the masses.
Never promise a gradual improvement through hard work; rather, promise the moon, the great and sudden transformation, the pot of gold.
The key to fantasy is distance - the distance has allure and promise, seems simple and problem free. What you are offering, then, should be ungraspable. Never let it become oppressively familiar.
Discover each man’s thumbscrew.
Everyone has a weakness, a gap in the castle wall. That weakness is usually an insecurity, an uncontrollable emotion or need; it can also be a small secret pleasure. Either way, once found, it is a thumbscrew you can turn to your advantage.
How to find weaknesses:
Pay Attention to Gestures and Unconscious Signals: everyday conversation is a great place to look. Start by always seeming interested. Offer a revelation of your own if needed. Probe for suspected weaknesses indirectly. Train your eyes for details.
Find the Helpless Child: knowing about a childhood can often reveal weaknesses, or when they revert to acting like a child.
Look for Contrasts: an overt trait often conceals its opposite. The shy crave attention, the uptight want adventure, etc.
Find the Weak Link: find the person who will bend under pressure, or the one who pulls strings behind the scenes.
Fill the Void: the two main emotional voids are insecurity and unhappiness.
Feed on Uncontrollable Emotions: the uncontrollable emotion can be a paranoid fear or any base motive such as lust, greed, vanity or hatred.
Always look for passions and obsessions that cannot be controlled. The stronger the passion, the more vulnerable the person.
People’s need for validation and recognition, their need to feel important, is the best kind of weakness to exploit. To do so, all you need to do is find ways to make people feel better about their taste, their social standing, their intelligence.
Timidity can be exploited by pushing them into bold actions that serve your needs while also making them dependent on you.
Be royal in your own fashion: act like a king to be treated like one.
The way you carry yourself will often determine how you are treated: In the long run, appearing vulgar or common will make people disrespect you. For a king respects himself and inspires the same sentiment in others. By acting regally and confident of your powers, you make yourself seem destined to wear a crown.
How you carry yourself reflects what you think of yourself.
Use The Strategy of the Crown - if we believe we are destined for great things, our belief will radiate outward, just as a crown creates an aura around a king.
The trick is simple: be overcome by your self-belief.
This may separate you from people, but that’s the point. You must always act with dignity, though this should not be confused with arrogance.
Dignity is the mask you assume that makes it as if nothing can affect you, and you have all the time in the world to respond.
There are other strategies to help:
The Columbus Strategy: always make a bold demand. Set your price high and do not waver.
The David and Goliath Strategy: go after the highest person in the building. This immediately puts you on the same plane as the chief executive you are attacking.
The Patron Strategy: give a gift of some sort to those above you.
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. Become a detective of the right moment; sniff out the spirit of the times, the trends that will carry you to power. Learn to stand back when the time is not yet ripe, and to strike fiercely when it has reached fruition.
Three types of time and how to deal with them:
Long Time: be patient, control your emotions, and take advantage of opportunities when they arise. You will gain long-term perspective and see further in the future.
Forced Time: the trick in forcing time is to upset the timing of others - to make them hurry, make them wait, make them abandon their own pace. Use the deadline, apply sudden pressure, change pace to use this.
End Time: patience is useless unless combined with a willingness to act decisively at the right moment. Use speed to paralyze your opponents, cover any mistakes, and impress people with your aura of authority and finality.
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.
Desire creates paradoxical effects: the more you want something, the more you chase after it, the more it eludes you. You need to do the reverse: turn your back on what you want, show your contempt and disdain to create desire.
Instead of focusing attention on a problem, it is often better not to acknowledge it’s existence:
Sour-grapes approach: act as if something never really interested you in the first place.
When attacked, look away, answer sweetly, and show how little the attack concerns you.
Treat it lightly if you have committed a blunder.
Note: make sure to show the above publicly, but to monitor the problem privately, making sure it is remedied.
Create compelling spectacles.
Striking imagery and grand symbolic gestures create the aura of power—everyone responds to them. Stage spectacles for those around you, then, full of arresting visuals and radiant symbols that heighten your presence. Dazzled by appearances, no one will notice what you are really doing.
Words often go astray, but symbols and the visual strike with emotional power and immediacy.
Find an associate yourself with powerful images and symbols to gain power.
Most effective of all is a new combination - a fusion of images and symbols that have not been seen together before, but that clearly demonstrate your new idea, message, religion.
Think as you like but behave like others.
If you make a show of going against the times, flaunting your unconventional ideas and unorthodox ways, people will think that you only want attention and that you look down upon them. They will find a way to punish you for making them feel inferior. It is far safer to blend in and nurture the common touch. Share your originality only with tolerant friends and those who are sure to appreciate your uniqueness.
Flaunting your pleasure in alien ways of thinking and acting will reveal a different motive - to demonstrate your superiority over your fellows.
Wise and clever people learn early on that they can display conventional behavior and mouth conventional ideas without having to believe in them. The power these people gain from blending in is that of being left alone to have the thoughts they want to have, and to express them to the people they want to express them to, without suffering isolation or ostracism.
The only time it is worth standing out is when you already stand out—when you have achieved an unshakable position of power, and can display your difference from others as a sign of the distance between you.
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. Put your enemies off-balance: Find the chink in their vanity through which you can rattle them and you hold the strings.
This is the essence of the Law: When the waters are still, your opponents have the time and space to plot actions that they will initiate and control. So stir the waters, force the fish to the surface, get them to act before they are ready, steal the initiative. The best way to do this is to play on uncontrollable emotions—pride, vanity, love, hate.
Angry people end up looking ridiculous. It is comical how much they take personally, and more comical how they belief that outbursts signify power.
We should not repress our angry or emotional responses, but rather that realize in the social realm, and the game of power, nothing is personal.
Reveal an apparent weakness to lure your opponent into action.
In the face of someone angry, nothing is more infuriating than someone who keeps his cool while others are losing theirs.
Note: do not provoke those who are too powerful.
There are times when a burst of anger can do good, but it must be manufactured and under your control.
Despise the free lunch.
What is offered for free is dangerous-it usually involves either a trick or a hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit. It is also often wise to pay the full price—there is no cutting corners with excellence. Be lavish with your money and keep it circulating, for generosity is a sign and a magnet for power.
What is offered for free often has a psychological price tag - complicated feelings of obligation, compromises with quality, the insecurity those compromises bring, on and on. By paying the full price, you keep your independence and room to maneuver.
Being open and flexible with money also teaches the value of strategic generosity.
Avoid these people who fail to use money creatively and strategically, or turn their inflexibility to your advantage:
The Greedy Fish. The greedy fish take the human side out of money. Cold and ruthless, they see only the lifeless balance sheet; viewing others solely as either pawns or obstructions in their pursuit of wealth, they trample on people’s sentiments and alienate valuable allies. No one wants to work with the greedy fish, and over the years they end up isolated, which often proves their undoing. Easy to deceive with promise of money.
The Bargain Demon. Powerful people judge everything by what it costs, not just in money but in time, dignity, and peace of mind. And this is exactly what Bargain Demons cannot do. Wasting valuable time digging for bargains, they worry endlessly about what they could have gotten elsewhere for a little less. Just avoid these types.
The Sadist. Financial sadists play vicious power games with money as a way of asserting their power. They believe the money they give you allows them to abuse your time. Accept a financial loss instead of getting entangled.
The Indiscriminate Giver. These people give to everyone, and as a result no one feels special. Appealing as a mark, but you will often feel burdened by their emotional need.
Never let lust for money lure you from true power. Make power your goal and money will find it’s way to you.
Note: bait your deceptions with the possibility of easy money, and many will fall for it.
Avoid stepping into a great man’s shoes.
What happens first always appears better and more original than what comes after. If you succeed a great man or have a famous parent, you will have to accomplish double their achievements to outshine them. Do not get lost in their shadow, or stuck in a past not of your own making: Establish your own name and identity by changing course. Slay the overbearing father, disparage his legacy, and gain power by shining in your own way.
If you cannot start materially from ground zero - it would be foolish to renounce an inheritance- you can at least begin from ground zero psychologically.
Never let yourself be seen as following your predecessor’s path. You must physically demonstrate your difference, by establishing a style and symbolism that set you apart.
Repeating actions will not re-create success, because circumstances never repeat themselves exactly.
Success and power make us lazy - you must reset psychologically to counter this laziness.
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.
In every group, power is concentrated in the hands of one or two people.
When troubles arise, find the source, and isolate them - physically, politically or psychologically. Separate them from their power base.
Work on the hearts and minds of others.
Coercion creates a reaction that will eventually work against you. You must seduce others into wanting to move in your direction. A person you have seduced becomes your loyal pawn. And the way to seduce others is to operate on their individual psychologies and weaknesses. Soften up the resistant by working on their emotions, playing on what they hold dear and what they fear. Ignore the hearts and minds of others and they will grow to hate you.
Remember: The key to persuasion is softening people up and breaking them down, gently. Seduce them 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.
Play on contrasts: push people to despair, then give them relief. If they expect pain and you give them pleasure, you win their hearts.
Symbolic gestures of self-sacrifice can win sympathy and goodwill.
The quickest way to secure people’s minds is by demonstrating, as simply as possible, how an action will benefit them.
Disarm and infuriate with the mirror effect.
The mirror reflects reality, but it is also the perfect tool for deception: When you mirror your enemies, doing exactly as they do, they cannot figure out your strategy. The Mirror Effect mocks and humiliates them, making them overreact. By holding up a mirror to their psyches, you seduce them with the illusion that you share their values; by holding up a mirror to their actions, you teach them a lesson. Few can resist the power of the Mirror Effect.
Mirror Effects can disturb or entrance others, giving you power to manipulate or seduce them.
There are four main Mirror effects:
The Neutralizing Effect: do what your enemies do, following their actions as best you can, and they are blinded. A reverse version is the Shadow - shadow your opponents every move without them seeing you.
The Narcissus Effect: look into the desires, values, tastes, spirit of others, and reflect it back to them.
The Moral Effect: teach others by giving them a taste of their own medicine. They must realize you are doing to them the same thing they did to you.
The Hallucinatory Effect: create a perfect copy of an object, a place, a person, that people take for the real thing, because it has the physical appearance of the real thing.
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.
One way to create a mirror for someone is to teach them a lesson through an analogy, avoiding the reactionary increase in resistance you’d encounter if brought up directly.
Note: avoid mirrored situations you don’t understand, as those involved will quickly see through it, and the mirrored situation will not live up to the original.
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.
Borrow the weight and legitimacy from the past, however remote, to create a comforting and familiar presence.
Humans desire change in the abstract, or superficial change, but a change that upsets core habits and routines is deeply disturbing to them.
Understand: The fact that the past is dead and buried gives you the freedom to reinterpret it. To support your cause, tinker with the facts. The past is a text in which you can safely insert your own lines.
A simple gesture like using an old title, or keeping the same number for a group, will tie you to the past and support you with the authority of history.
Never appear too perfect.
Appearing better than others is always dangerous, but most dangerous of all is to appear to have no faults or weaknesses. Envy creates silent enemies. It is smart to occasionally display defects, and admit to harmless vices, in order to deflect envy and appear more human and approachable. Only gods and the dead can seem perfect with impunity.
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 envy of the masses can be deflected quite easily - appear as one of them in style and values. Never flaunt your wealth, and carefully conceal the degree to which it has bought influence. Make a display of deferring to others, as if they were more powerful than you.
Use envy to motivate you to greater heights.
Keep a wary eye for envy in those below you as you grow more successful.
Expect that those envious of you will work against you.
Emphasize luck, and do not adopt a false modesty that will be seen through.
Deflect envy of political power by not seeming ambitious.
Disguise your power as a kind of self-sacrifice rather than a source of happiness for you. Emphasize your troubles and you turn potential envy into a source of moral support (pity).
Beware signs of envy: excessive praise, hypercritical people, public slandering.
Note: once envy is present, it is sometimes best to display the utmost disdain for those who envy you.
Do not go past the mark you aimed for; in victory, learn when to stop.
The moment of victory is often the moment of greatest peril. In the heat of victory, arrogance and overconfidence can push you past the goal you had aimed for, and by going too far, you make more enemies than you defeat. 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.
Understand: 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. When you attain success, step back. Be cautious. When you gain victory, understand the part played by the particular circumstances of a situation, and never simply repeat the same actions again and again. History is littered with the ruins of victorious empires and the corpses of leaders who could not learn to stop and consolidate their gains.
The powerful vary their rhythms and patterns, change course, adapt to circumstance, and learn to improvise. They control their emotions, and step back and come to a mental halt when they have attained success.
Good luck is more dangerous than bad luck, because it deludes you into thinking your own brilliance is the reason for your success.
Note: There are some who become more cautious than ever after a victory, which they see as just giving them more possessions to worry about and protect. Your caution after victory should never make you hesitate, or lose momentum, but rather act as a safeguard against rash action. On the other hand, momentum as a phenomenon is greatly overrated. You create your own successes, and if they follow one upon the other, it is your own doing. Belief in momentum will only make you emotional, less prone to act strategically, and more apt to repeat the same methods. Leave momentum for those who have nothing better to rely upon.
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.
The powerful are constantly creating form, and their power comes from the rapidity with which they can change.
The first psychological requirement of formlessness is to train yourself to take nothing personally. Never show any defensiveness.
When you find yourself in conflict with someone stronger and more rigid, allow them a momentary victory. Seem to bow to their superiority. Then, by being formless, slowly insinuate yourself.
The need for formlessness becomes greater as we age, as we become more likely to become set in our ways and assume too rigid a form. As you get older, you must rely even less on the past.
Remember: Formlessness is a tool. Never confuse it with a go-with-the-flow style, or with a religious resignation to the twists of fortune. You use formlessness, not because it creates inner harmony and peace, but because it will increase your power.
Finally, learning to adapt to each new circumstance means seeing events through your own eyes, and often ignoring the advice that people constantly peddle your way. It means that ultimately you must throw out the laws that others preach, and the books they write to tell you what to do, and the sage advice of the elder.
Note: when you do finally engage an enemy, hit them with a powerful, concentrated blow.
Read the book notes for The 50th Law - Robert Greene.