Law 1: Never Outshine the Master
Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please or 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.
If you are more intelligent than your master seem the opposite: Make him appear more intelligent than you. Act naive. Make it seem that you need his expertise. Act naive.
Your master must appear as the sun around which everyone revolves, radiating power and brilliance, the center of attention.
Law 2: 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.
“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
– Abraham Lincoln
The friend is rarely the one who is most able to help you; and in the end, skill and expertise are far more important than friendly feelings.
Keep friends for friendship, but work with the skilled and competent.
Without enemies around us, we grow lazy. An enemy at our heels, sharpens our wits, keeping us focused and alert.
Law 3: 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, envelope them in enough smoke, and by the time they realize your intentions, it will be too late.
Our first instinct is to always trust appearances. This fact makes it relatively easy to conceal one’s intentions. Simply dangle an object you seem to desire, a goal you seem to aim for, in front of people’s eyes and they will take the appearance for reality. Once their eyes focus on the decoy, they will fail to notice what you’re really up to.
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.
The best deceivers utilize a bland and inconspicuous front that calls no attention to themselves. They know that extravagant words and gestures immediately raise suspicions. Instead, they envelop their mark in the familiar, the banal, the harmless.
“The world wants to be deceived.”
– Soren Kierkegaard
Law 4: 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.
“Is this the best you can do?”
A person who cannot control his words shows that he cannot control himself.
“I shall see.”
– Louis XIV
Power is in many ways a game of appearances, and when you say less than necessary, you inevitably appear greater and more powerful than you are. Your silence will make other people uncomfortable. Humans are machines of interpreation and explanation; they have to know what you are thinking. When you carefully control what you reveal, they cannot pierce your intentions are your meaning. Your short answers and sentences will put them on the defensive, and they will jump in, nervously filling the silence with all kinds of comments that will reveal valuable information about them and their weaknesses.
“I learned that you actually have more power when you shut up.”
– Andy Warhol
“The longer I keep quiet, the sooner others move their lips and teeth.”
– Han-fei-tzu, Chinese philosopher
It is occasionally wiser to imitate the court jester, who plays the fool but knows he is smarter than the king. He talks and talks and entertains, and no one suspects that he is more than just a fool.
Law 5: 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 you slip, 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.
Once you have a solid base of respect, ridiculing your opponent both puts him on the defensive and draws more attention to you, enhancing your own reputation.
In the social realm, appearances are the barometer of almost all of our judgments.
In the beginning, you must work to establish a reputation for one outstanding quality, whether generosity or honesty or cunning – or smarts. This quality sets you apart and gets other people to talk about you. You then make your reputation known to as many people as possible, and watch as it spreads like wildfire.
A solid reputation increases your presence and exaggerates your strengths without your having to spend much energy.
You reputation inevitably precedes you, and if it inspires respect, a lot of your work is done for you before you arrive on the scene, or utter a single word.
An attack on another man’s reputation is a potent weapon, particularly when you have less power than he does. He has much more to lose in such a battle, and your own thus-far-small reputation gives him a small target when he tries to return your fire.
Since we must live in society and must depend on the opinions of others, there is nothing to be gained by neglecting your reputation. By not caring how you are perceived, you let others decide this for you. Be the master of your fate, and also of your reputation.
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.
At the beginning of your rise to the top, spend all your energy on attracting attention. The quality of the attention is irrelevant.
P.T. Barnum would even write anonymous attacks on his own work, just to keep his name in the papers. (link Ryan Holiday, fake comments on blogs)
If you find yourself in a lowly position that offers little opportunity for you to draw attention, an effective trick is to attack the most visisble, most famous, most powerful person you can find.
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 emenate an aura of mystery.
Victor Lustig would sit alone in the dining room, reading a large and impressive-looking book, smiling at people yet remaining aloof.
An air of mystery can make the mediocre appear intelligent and profound.
Every now and then, act in a way that does not mesh with other people’s perception of you.
Law 7: 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.
The credit for an invention or creation is as important, if not more important, than the invention itself. (f.e. Edison & Tesla)
Peter Paul Rubens, late in his career, found himself deluged with requests for paintings. He created a system: In his large studio he employed dozens of outstanding painters, one specializing in robes, another in backgrounds, and so on. (Oldschool Outsourcing)
If you think it important to do all the work yourself, you will never get far, and you will suffer the fate of the Teslas of the world. Find people with the skills and creativity you lack. Either you hire them, while putting your own name on top of theirs (Steve Jobs), or find a way to take their work and make it you own (Edison). Their creativity thus becomes yours, and you seem a genius to the world.
Use the past! A vast storehous of knowledge and wisdom:
“Standing on the shoulders of giants.”
– Isaac Newton
Learn to use the knowledge of the past and you will look like a genius, even when you’re just a clever borrower.
“Fools say they learn by experience. I prefer to profit by others’ experience.”
– Otto von Bismarck
Kissinger played the game expertly: He took credit for the work of those below him while graciously giving credit for his own labors to those above. That is the way to play the game.
Law 8: 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 to keep the initiative, to get others to react to your moves, to keep your opponent and those around you on the defensive. When you make other people come to you, you suddenly become the one controlling the situation. And the one who has control has power.
One added benefit of making the opponent come to you is that it forces him to operate in your territory. Being on hostile ground will make him nervous and often he will rush his actions and make mistakes. 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.
Law 9: Win through your Actions, Never through Argument
Any momentary triumph you think 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.
Learn to demonstrate the correctness of your ideas indirectly.
The problem in trying to prove a point or gain a victory through argument is that in the end you can never be certain how it affects the people you’re arguing with: They may appear to agree with you politely, but inside they may resent you.
“The truth is generally seen, rarely heard.”
– Baltasar Gracian
“Never argue. In society nothing must be discussed; give only results.”
– Benjamin Disraeli
When caught in a lie, the more emotional and certain you appear, the less likely it seems that you are lying.
Law 10: Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky
You can die from someone else’s misery – emotional states are as infectious as disease. 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.
Humans are extremely susceptible to the moods, emotions, and even the ways of thinking of those with whom they spend their time.
How can you protect yourself against such insiduous viruses?
The answer lies in judging people on the effects they have on the world and not on the reasons they give for their problems. 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. Be forewarned by these signs of an infector; learn to see the discontent in their eye. Most important of all, do not take pity. Do not enmesh yourself in trying to help.
The infector will remain unchanged, but you will be unhinged.
Never associate with those who share your defects – they will reinforce everything that holds you back. Only create associations with positive affinities. Make this a rule of life and you will benefit more than from all the therapy in the world.
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. Never teach them enough so that they can do without you.
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.
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. The best you can hope for is that others will grow so dependent on you that you enjoy a kind of reverse independence: Their need for you frees you.
Having an appearance of specialized knowledge and skill gives you leeway in your ability to deceive those above you into thinking they cannot do without you.
Do not imagine that your master’s dependence on you will make him love you. In fact, he may resent and fear you. But, as Machiavelli said, it is better to be feared than loved. Fear you can control; love, never.
Law 12: 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.
With a well-timed gesture of honesty or generosity, you will have the most brutal and cynical beast in the kingdom eating out of your hand.
Selective honesty is best employed on your first encounter with someone. We are all creatures of habit, and our first impressions last a long time. If someone believes you are honest at the start of your relationship it takes a lot to convince them otherwise.
Few people can resist a gift, even from the most hardened enemy, which is why it is often the perfect way to disarm people. A gift brings out the child in us, instantly lowering our defenses. (Cialdini, Influence Hare Krishna example)
“When you are about to take, you should give.”
– Han-fei-tzu, Chinese philosopher
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.
“Self-interest alone moves some men.”
“Most men are so thoroughly subjective that nothing really interests them but themselves.”
– Arthur Schopenhauer
There is an art to asking for help, an art that depends on your ability to understand the person you are dealing with, and not to confuse your needs with theirs. (f.e. Ryan Holiday on writing press releases for bloggers)
Every person you deal with is like another culture, an alien land with a past that has nothing to do with yours. Yet you can bypass the differences between you and him by appealing to his self-interest.
A key step in the process is to understand the other person’s psychology. Is he vain? Is he concerned about his reputation or his social standing? Does he have enemies you could help him vanquish? Is he simply motivated by money and power?
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.
“The shortest and best way to make your fortune is to let people see clearly that it is in ther interests to promote yours.”
– Jean de La Bruyere
Law 14: 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.
Talleyrand’s ability to suppress himself in the conversation, to make others talk endlessly about themselves and inadvertently reveal their intentions and their plans. […] He was a superb conversationalist – yet he actually said very little. He never talked about his own ideas; he got others to reveal theirs.
As you spy on other people, you must be prepared for them to spy on you. One of the most potent weapons in the battle for information, then, is giving out false information.
By planting the information of your choice, you control the game. (f.e. Trust Me I’m Lying, press releases)
Law 15: 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.
“Men must either be caressed or else annihilated; they will revenge themselves for small injuries, but cannot do so for great ones; the injury therefore that we do to a man must be such that we need not fear his vengeance.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli
Law 16: Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor
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.
“People whom distance magnifies
Who, close to, don’t amount to much.”
– Jean de La Fontaine
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.
“Why do I not see you more often?” The Dervish replied, “Because the words ‘Why have you not been to see me?’ are sweeter to my ear than the words ‘Why have you come again?'”
By completely withdrawing for a while, you create a kind of death before death. And when you come back, it will be as if you had come back from the dead.
By withdrawing something from the market, you create instant value.
Extend the law of scarcity to your own skills. Make what you are offering the world rare and hard to find, and you instantly increase its value.
The need to withdraw only comes after you have established your presence; leave too early and you do not increase your respect, you are simply forgotten. When you are first entering onto the world’s stage, create an image that is recognizable, reproducible, and is seen everywhere.
Law 17: 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.
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.
“The best calculation is the absence of calculation. Once you have attained a certain level of recognition, others generally figure that when you do something, it’s for an intelligent reason. So it’s really foolish to plot out your movements too carefully in advance. You’re better off acting capriciously.”
– Pablo Picasso
Law 18: 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.
Instead of falling into the fortress mentality, view in the world in the following manner: It is like a vast Versailles, with every room communicating with another. You need to be permeable, able to float in and out of different circles and mix with different types.
About the only thing that constant human contact cannot facilitate is thought. The weight of society’s pressure to conform, and the lack of distance from other people, can make it impossible to think clearly about what is going on around you. As a temporary recourse, then, isolation can help you to gain perspective. Many a serious thinker has been produced in prisons, where we have nothing to do but think. Machiavelli could write The Prince only once he found himself in exile and isolated on a farm far from the policitcal intrigues of Florence. (f.e. Malcolm X)
Law 19: 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 offend or deceive the wrong person.
There is nothing to be gained by insulting a person unnecessarily. Swallow the impulse to offend, even if the other person seems weak. The satisfaction is meager compared to the danger that someday he or she sill be in a position to hurt you.
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. By maintaining your independence, you become the master of others – playing people against one another, making them pursue you.
Desire is like a virus: If we see that someone is desired by other people, we tend to find this person desirable too.
“Do not commit yourself to anybody or anything, for that is to be a slave, a slave to every man… Above all, keep yourself free of commitments and obligations – they are the device of another to get you into his power… ”
– Baltasar Gracian
You have only so much energy and so much time. Every moment wasted on the affairs of others substracts from your strength. You may be afraid that people will condemn you as heartless, but in the end, maintaining your independence and self-reliance will gain you more respect and place you in a position of power from which you can choose to help others in your own initiative.
Law 21: Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker – Seem Dumber than your Mark
No one likes feeling stupider than the next persons. The trick, 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.
“[…] it is a real recommendation to be stupid. For just as warmth is agreeable to the body, so it does the mind good to feel its superiority; and a man will seek company likely to give him this feeling, as instinctively as he will approach the fireplace or walk in the sun if he wants to get warm. […] if a man is to be liked, he must really be inferior in point of intellect.”
– Arthur Schopenhauer
Subliminally reassure people that they are more intelligent than you are, or even that you are a bit of a moron, and you can run rings around them. The feeling of intellectual superiority you give them will disarm their suspicion-muscles.
“Masquerading as a swine to kill the tiger.”
– Chinese proverb
Always make people believe they are smarter and more sophisticated than you are. They will keep you around because you make them feel better about themselves, and the longer you are around, the more opportunities you will have to deceive them.
“Know how to make use of stupidity: The wisest man plays this card at times. There are occasions when the highest wisdom consists in appearing not to know – you must not BE ignorant but capable of playing it. It is not much good being wise among fools and sane among lunatics. He who poses as a fool is not a fool. The best way to be well received by all is to clothe yourself in the skin of the dumbest of brutes.”
– Baltasar Gracian
At the start of your climb to the top, of course, you cannot play too stupid: You may want to let your bosses know, in a subtle way, that you are smarter than the competition around you. As you climb the ladder, however, you should to some degree dampen your brilliance.
If you SEEM to have authority and knowledge, people will believe what you say.
Law 22: 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 check you infuriate and unsettle him. Make surrender a tool of power.
It is always our first instinct to react, to meet aggression with some other kind of aggression. But the next time someone pushes you and you find yourself starting to react, try this: Do not resist or fight back, but yield, turn the other cheek, bend. You will find that this often neutralizes their behavior – they expected, even wanted you to react with force and so they are caught off-guard and confounded by your lack of resistance.By yielding, you in fact control the situation, because your surrender is part of a larger plan to lull them into believing they have defeated you.
Inwardly you stay firm, but outwardly you bend.
You have to remember that you only APPEAR to surrender, like the animal that plays dead to save its hide.
Use surrender to gain access to your enemy. Learn his ways, insinuate yourself with him slowly, outwardly conform to his customs, but inwardly maintain your own culture.
Law 23: 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.
“There is no higher and simpler law of strategy than that of keeping one’s forces concentrated… In short the first principle is: act with the utmost concentration.”
– Carl von Clausewitz (On War)
Single-mindedness of purpose, total concentration on the goal, and the use of these qualities against people less focused, people in a state of distraction – such an arrow will find its mark every time and overwhelm the enemy.
You must find out who controls the operations, who is the real director behind the scenes. As Richelieu discovered at the beginning of his rise to the top of the French political scene during the early seventeenth century, it was not the King Louis XIII who decided things, it was the king’s mother. And so he attached himself to her, and catapulted through the ranks of the courtiers, all the way to the top.
“Prize intensity more than extensity. Perfection resides in quality, not quantity. Extent never rises above mediocrity, and it is the misfortune of men with wide general interests that while they would like to have their finger in every pie, they have one in none. Intensity gives eminence, and rises to the heroic in matters sublime.”
– Baltasar Gracian
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. 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
Always talk less about yourself than about other people. Modesty is generally preferable.
Never seem to be working too hard. Seem like a genius rather than a workaholic.
Be Frugal with Flattery.
Learn to flatter indirectly – by downplaying your own contribution to make your master look better.
Arrange to Be Noticed.
Find a way to create a distinctive – a subtly distinctive – style and image.
Alter Your Style and Language According to the Person You Are Dealing With.
You must change your style and your way of speaking to suit each person. This is not lying, it is acting, and acting is an art.
Never Be the Bearer of Bad News.
Bring only good news and your approach will gladden your master.
Never Affect Friendliness and Intimacy with Your Master.
He doesn’t 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.
Never Criticize Those Above You Directly.
Couch your advice and criticism as indirectly as possible.
Be Frugal in Asking Those Above You for Favors.
Ask for favors as rarely as possible […] it is always better to earn you favors, so that the ruler bestows them willingly.
Never Joke About Appearances of Taste.
Avoid any kind of joke about appearance or taste, two highly sensitive areas, especially with those above you. Do not even try it when you are away from them.
Do Not Be the Court Cynic.
Express admiration for the good work of others. By expressing admiration for other people’s achievements, you paradoxically call attention to your own. The ability to express wonder and amazement, and seem like you mean it, is a rare and dying talent.
YOU must be the mirror, training your mind to see yourself as others see you.
Master Your Emotions.
You must be the master of your own face. Call it lying if you like; but if you prefer to not play the game and to always be honest and upfront, do not complain when others call you obnoxious and arrogant.
Fit the Spirit of the Times.
It is never a good idea to stand out too much in this area; you are best off at least being able to mimic the spirit of the times.
Be a Source of Pleasure.
It is an obvious law of human nature that we will flee what is unpleasant and distasteful.
“A man who knows the court is master of his gestures, of his eyes and of his face; he is profound, impenetratable; he dissimulates bad offices, smiles at his enemies, controls his irritation, disguises his passions, belies his heartm speaks and acts against his feelings.”
– Jean de La Bruyere
Never be so self-absorbed as to believe that the master is interested in your criticisms of him, no matter how accurate they are.
The greatest skill of all is the ability to make the master look more talented than those around him.
Do what you are assigned to do, to the best of your abilities, and never do more. To think that by doing more you are doing better is a common blunder. It is never good to seem to be trying too hard – it is as if you were covering up some deficiency.
Make your master a gift of your talents and you will rise above other courtiers. Let him take the credit if necessary, it will only be temporary: Use him as a stepping stone, a way of displaying your talent and eventually buying your freedom from enslavement.
Law 25: Re-Create Yourself
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 world wants to assign you a role in life. And once you accept that role you are doomed.
To stop allowing others that ability to limit and mold you. Working on yourself like clay should be one of your greatest and most pleasurable life tasks. It makes you in essence an artist – an artist of creating yourself.
Good actors control themselves better. They can PLAY sincere and heartfelt, can affect a tear and a compassionate look at will, but they don’t have to FEEL it. They externalize emotion in a form that others can understand.
Learn to play many roles, to be whatever the moment requires. Adapt your mask to the situation.
Even appearing natural requires art – in other words, acting.
Law 26: 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.
Excuses satisfy no one and apologies make everyone uncomfortable. The mistake does not vanish with an apology; it deepens and festers. Better to cut if off instantly, distract attention from yourself, and focus attention on a convenient scapegoat before people have time to ponder your responsibility or your possible incompetence.
“Folly consists not in committing Folly, but in being incapable of concealing it. 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 Gracian
Let someone else be the executioner, or the bearer of bad news, while you bring only joy and glad tidings.
As a leader you may imagine that constant dilligence, and the appearance of working harder than anyone else, signify power. Actually, though, they have the opposite effect: They imply weakness. Why are you working so hard? Perhaps you are incompetent and have to put in extra effort just to keep up; perhaps you are one of those people who does not know how to delegate, and has to meddle in everything. The truly powerful, on the other hand, never seem to be in a hurry or overburdened. While others work their fingers to the bone, they take their leisure. They know how to find the right people to put in the effort while they save their energy and keep their hands out of the fire.
Law 27: Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cultlike 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.
The Science of Charlatanism, Or How to Create a Cult in Five Easy Steps
Step 1: Keep It Vague; Keep It Simple.
Your initial speeches, conversations, and interviews must include two elements: on the one hand the PROMISE of something great and transformative, on the other a total VAGUENESS.
To make your vagueness attractive, use words of great resonance but cloudy meaning, words full of heath and enthusiasm. Fancy titles for simple things are helpful, as are the use of numbers and the creationof new words for vague concepts. All of these create the impression of specialized knowledge.
Talk TOO vaguely and you have no credibility. But it is more dangerous to be specific.
Most people want to hear that a simple solution will cure their problem. The ability to offer this kind of solution will give you great power and build you a following.
Step 2: Emphasize the Visual and the Sensual over the Intellectual.
Amuse the bored and ward of the cynics.
Dazzle your followers with visual splendor, fill their eyes with spectacle. Not only will this keep them from seeing the ridiculousness of your ideas, the holes in your belief system, it will also attract more attention, more followers.
Step 3: Borrow the Forms of Organized Religion to Structure the Group.
Create rituals for your followers; organize them into a hierarchy, ranking them in grades of sanctity, and giving them names and titles that resounds with religious overtones; ask them for sacrifices that will fill your coffers and increase your power.
Talk and act like a prophet.
Step 4: Disguise Your Source of Income.
Never reveal that your wealth actually comes from your followers’ pockets; instead, make it seem to come from the truth of your methods.
Step 5: Set Up an Us-Versus-Them Dynamic.
First, make your followers believe that they are part of an exclusive club, unified by a bond of common goals.
Second, manufacture the notion of a devious enemy out to ruin you. There is a force of nonbelievers that will do anything to stop you.
If you have no enemies, invent one.
“To become the founder of a new religion one must be psychologically infallible in one’s knowledge of a certain average type of souls who have not yet recognized that they belong together.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
“Men are so simple of mind, and so much dominated by their immediate needs, that a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli
People are not interested in the truth about change. They do not want to hear that it has come from hard work, or from anything as banal as exhaustion, boredom, or depression; they are dying to believe in something romantic, otherworldly. (the task of the marketer is to convey/design this romantic message)
Our tendency to doubt, the distance that allows us to reason, is broken down when we join a group. The warmth and infectiousness of the group overwhelm the skeptical individual. This is the power you gain by creating a cult.
Remember too that the most effective cults mix religion with science. Take the latest technological trend or fad and blend it with a noble cause, a mystical faith, a new form of healing.
“The charlatan achieves his great power by simply opening a possibility for men to believe what they already want to believe.”
– Grete de Francesco
You may often prefer to deal with people one by one. Isolating them from their normal milieu can have the same effect as putting them in a group – it makes them more prone to suggestion and intimidation.
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.
“Fear of failure in the mind of a performer is, for an onlooker, already evidence of failure… Actions are dangerous when there is doubt as to their wisdom; it would be safer to do nothing.”
Largeness of scale deceives the human eye.
“Fearful persons seldom fail to fall into real inconveniences, occasioned by imaginary dangers.”
– Cardinal De Retz
The best place to begin is often the delicate world of negotiation, particularly those discussions in which you are asked to set you own price. How often we put ourselves down by asking for too little.
Set your value high, and then, as Count Lustig did, set it higher.
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 a way out of proportion to reality, and in fact the consequences of timidity are worse.
“I certainly think that it is better to be impetuous than cautious, for fortune is a woman, and it is necessary, if you wish to master her, to conquer her by force; and it can be seen that she lets herself be overcome by the bold rather than by those who proceed coldly.”
– Nicollo Machiavelli
Timidity has no place in the realm of power; you will often benefit, however, by being able to feign it. At that point, of course, it is no longer timidity but an offensive weapon: You are luring people in with your show of shyness, all the better to pounce on them boldly later.
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. Gently guide fortune and help determine the future by thinking far ahead.
The ability to ignore immediate dangers and pleasures translates into power. It is the power of being able to overcome the natural human tendency to react to things as they happen, and instead to train oneself to step back, imagining the larger things taking shape beyond one’s immediate vision.
“How much easier it is never to get in than to get yourself out! […] In their beginning it is we who guide affairs and hold them in our power; but so often once they are set in motion, it is they which guide us and sweep us along.”
– Michel de Montaigne
Law 30: 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.
– Nassim Taleb
“Keep the extent of your abilities unknown. The wise man does not allow his knowledge and abilities to be sounded to the bottom, if he desires to be honored by all. He allows you to know them but not to comprehend them. […] For guesses and doubts about the extent of his talents arouse more veneration than accurate knowledge of them, be they ever so great.”
– Baltasar Gracian
As a person of power, you must research and practice endlessly before appearing in public, onstage or anywhere else. Never expose the sweat and labor behind your poise. Some think such exposure will demonstrate their dilligence and honesty, but it actually just makes them look weaker – as if anyone who practiced and worked at it could do what they had done, or as if they weren’t really up to the job. Keep your effort and your tricks to yourself and you seem to have the grace and ease of a god. One never sees the source of a god’s power revealed; one only sees its effects.
“Practice in all things a certain nonchalance which conceals all artistry and makes whatever one says or does seem uncontrived and effortless.”
– Baldassare Castiglione (on sprezzatura)
Only the finished masterpiece should be shown to the public.
The idea of sprezzatura is relevant to all forms of power, for power depends vitally on appearances and the illusions you create.
When you reveal the inner workings of your creation, you become just one more mortal among others. What is understandable is not awe-inspiring – we tell ourselves we could do as well if we had the money and time. Avoid the temptation of showing how clever you are – it is far more clever to conceal the mechanisms of your cleverness.
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.
Keep others at distance and they will only see the ease with which you move.
“A man who performs well with so much facility must possess even greater skill than he does.”
– Baldassare Castiglione
As long as the PARTIAL disclosure of tricks and techniques is carefully planned, rather than the results of an uncontrollable need to blab, it is the ultimate in cleverness. It gives the audience the illusion of being superior and involved, even while much of what you do remains concealed from them. (Bloggers do this: they reveal some of their stuff, just not all of it so their future book will sell; Tim Ferriss f.e. 4HWW 4HB)
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. Put them on the horns of a dilemma: They are gored wherever they turn.
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 comfort us.
Most Common Forms of Controlling the Options:
Color the Choices.
Kissinger would propose 3 or 4 choices of action for each situation, and would present them in such a way that the one he preferred always seemed the best solution compared to others.
Force the Resister.
Push them to “choose” what you want them to do by appearing to advocate the opposite.
Alter the Playing Field.
John D. Rockefeller set out to create an oil monopoly. If he tried to buy up the smaller oil companies they would figure out what he was doing and fight back. Instead, he began secretly buying up the railway companies that transported the oil. When he then attempted to take over a particular company, and met with resistance, he reminded them of their dependence on the rails.
The Shrinking Options.
Raise the price every time the buyer hesitates and another day goes by. This is an excellent negotiation 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.
Work on their emotions – use fear and terror to propel them into action. Try reason and they will always find a way to procrastination.
Brothers in Crime.
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, and are easily manipulated.
The Horns of a Dilemma.
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.
Law 32: 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 for 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.
They wanted to believe.
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. As you search for the fantasy that will take hold of the masses, then, keep your eye on the banal truths that weigh heavily on us all. Never be distracted by people’s glamorous portraits of themselves and their lives; search and dig for what really imprisons them. (Breakthrough Advertising! Search for the one desire of the masses)
Promise a great deal and total change – from poor to rich, sickness to health, misery to ecstasy – and you will have followers.
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.
Do not allow your “common” persona to become too familiar or it will not project as fantasy.
Law 33: Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew
Everyone has a weakness, a gap in the castle wall. That weakness is usual y 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.
One of the most important things to realize about people is that they all have a weakness, some part of their psychological armor that will NOT resist, that will bend to your will if you find it and push on it.
Pay Attention to Gestures and Unconscious Signals.
Find people’s idols, the things they worship and will do anything to get – perhaps you can be the supplier of their fantasies.
What oozes out in the little things outside our conscious control is what you want to know.
Find the Helpless Child.
Knowing about a childhood need gives you a powerful key to a person’s weakness.
Look for Contrasts.
You will often find people’s weaknesses in the opposite of the qualities they reveal to you. (shy <=> attention; uptight <=> adventure)
Find the Weak Link.
There is often someone behind the scenes who has a great deal of power. These behind-the-scenes powerbrokers are the group’s weak link.
Fill the Void.
The insecure and the unhappy are the people least able to disguise their weaknesses.
When entering the court, find the weak link. The person in control is often not the king or queen; it is someone behind the scenes – the favorite, the husband or wife, even the court fool.
Count Lustig had an eagle eye for other people’s weaknesses. Loller, for instance, overtipped waiters, seemed nervous in conversation with the concierge, talked loudly about his business. His weakness, Lustig knew, was his need for social validation and for the respect that he thought his wealth had earned him.
Look at the part of a person that is most visible – their greed, their lust, their intense fear. These are the emotions they cannot conceal, and over which they have the least control. And what people cannot control, you can control for them.
Look to the opposites and never take appearances at face value.
Law 34: 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. 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.
“With all great deceivers there is a noteworthy occurence to which they owe their power. In the actual act of deception they are overcome by BELIEF IN THEMSELVES: it is this which then speaks to miraculously and compellingly to those around them.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
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. This outward radiance will infect the people around us, who will think we must have reasons to feel so confident.
Take as an example those happy children who ask for whatever they want, and get it. Their high expectations are their charm.
Believing so firmly in their own greatness that is becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Be overcome by your self-belief. Even while you know you are practicing a kind of deception on yourself, act like a king.
Dignitiy 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.
Always make a bold demand.
Go after the highest person in the building.
Give a gift of some sort to those above you.
It is up to you to set your own price. Ask for less and that is just what you will get. Ask for more and you send a signal that you are worth a king’s ransom. Even those who turn you down respect you for your confidence.
The greatest emperors crown themselves.
A man who sets a high price on himself must either be mad or somehow be worth it.
Confidence. Not arrogance, or disdain.
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. 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.
People who lack the time to think will make mistakes – so set their deadlines for them.
Joseph Duveen, the famous art dealer, knew that if he gave an indecisive buyer like Rockefeller a deadline – the painting had to leave the country, another tycoon was interested in it – the client would buy just in time.
The deadline is a powerful tool. Close off the vistas of indecision and force people to make up their damn minds or get to the point – never let them play you on their exruciating terms. Never give them time.
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.
“If we really think very highly of a person, we should conceal it from him like a crime. This is not a very gratifying thing to do, but it is right.”
– Arthur Schopenhauer
“MAN: Kick him – he’ll forgive you. Flatter him – he may or may not see through you. But ignore him and he’ll hate you.”
– Idries Shah
You need to turn your back on what you want, show your contempt and disdain. This is the kind of powerful response that will drive your targets crazy.
Periodically showing people that you can do without them.
When you are attacked by an inferior, deflect people’s attention by making it clear that the attack has not even registered. Look away, or answer sweetly, showing how little the attack concerns you.
The powerful responses to 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 Gracian
Law 37: 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.
Find an image or symbol from the past that will neatly fit your situation, and put it on your shoulders like a cape. It will make you seem larger than life.
Words put you on the defensive. If you have to explain yourself your power is already in question. The image, on the other hand, imposes itself as a given.
Words stir up arguments and divisions; images bring people together.
“The truth is generally seen, rarely heard.”
– Baltasar Gracian
The visual is the easiest route to their hearts.
“The people are always impressed by the superficial appearance of things… The prince should at fitting times of the year, keep the people occupied and distracted with festivities and spectacles.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli
Law 38: 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.
Think with the few and speak with the many.
There is no point in making a display of your dangerous ideas if they only bring you suffering and persecution.
“For a long time I have not said what I believed, nor do I ever believe what I say, and if indeed sometimes I do happen to tell the truth, I hide it among so many lies that it is hard to find.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli
We believe what we want to, but on the outside we wear a mask.
The invaluable ability to be all things to all people. When you go into society, leave behind your won ideas and value, and put on the mask that is most appropriate for the group in which you find yourself.
Stay with the herd – there is safety in numbers. Keep your differences in your thoughts and not in your fleece.
The only time it is worth standing out is when you already stand out.
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. Put your enemies off-balance: Find the chink in their vanity through which you can rattle them and you hold the strings.
To show your frustration is to show that you have lost your power to shape events.
“Anger and 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 Schopenhauer
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 cloacked in the form of hurt feeling and anger. (similar to example in How to Make Friends and Influence People)
Train yourself not to take matters personally and to control your emotional responses.
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.
Neither mocking nor triumphant. Simply indifferent.
“If your opponent is of a hot temper, try to irritate him. If he is arrogant, try to encourage his egotism… One who is skilled at making the enemy move does so by creating a situation according to which the enemy will act; he entices the enemy with something he is certain to take. He keeps the enemy on the move by holding out bait and then attacks him with picked troops.”
Law 40: 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.
“Nothing is more costly than something given free of charge.”
Strategic generosity is always a great weapon in building a support base, particularly for the outsider.
The recipients of gifts are suddenly as vulnerable as children, espescially when the gift comes from someone with authority.
Law 41: 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.
Most people are afraid to break so boldly with tradition, but they secretly admire those who can break up the old forms and reinvigorate the culture. This is why there is so much power to be gained from entering vacuums and voids.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, whenever he wrote a succesful novel, would feel that the financial security he had gained made the act of creation unnecessary. He would take his entire savings to the casino and would not leave until he had gambled away his last penny. Once reduced to poverty he could write again.
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 poisoned 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.
Understanding who controls the group dynamic is a critical realization.
The most effective form of isolation is somehow to separate your victims from their power base.
When trying to seduce people, it is often wise to isolate them from their usual social context. Once isolated they are vulnerable to you, and your presence becomes magnified. […] Here they feel weak, and succumb to deception more easily.
“Any harm you do to a man should be done in such a way that you need not fear his revenge.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli
Law 43: 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.
“The men who have changed the universe have never gotten there by working on leaders, but rather by moving the masses.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte
There is no more infuriating feeling than having your individuality ignored, your own psychology unacknowledged. It makes you feel lifeless and resentful.
The key to persuasion is softening people up and breaking them down, gently. Seduce them with a two-sided approach: Work on their emotions and play on their intellectual weaknesses. Be alert to both what separates them fron everyone else (their individual psychology) and what they share with everyone else (their basic emotional responses). Aim at the primary emotions – love, hate, jealousy.
To find the key that will motivate them, first get them to open up. The more they talk, the more they reveal about their likes and dislikes – the handles and levers to move them with.
The quickest way to secure people’s minds is by demonstrating, as simply as possible, how an action will benefit them.
Law 44: 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 Mirror Effect.
The narcissistic power of mirrors.
Four main Mirror Effects:
The Neutralizing Effect.
Do what your enemies do, following their actions as best you can, and they cannot see what you are up to – they are blinded by your mirror.
The Narcissus Effect.
If you can show you understand another person by reflecting their inmost feelings, they will be entranced and disared, all the more so because it happens so rarely.
The Moral Effect.
Mirror what people have done to you, and do so in a way that makes them realize you are doing to them exactly what they did to you.
The Hallucinatory Effect.
Creating a perfect copy of an object, a person, a place.
“When I wish to find out how wise, or how stupid, or how good, or how wicked is any one, or what are his thoughts at the moment, I fashion the expression of my face, as accurately as possible, in accordance with the expression of his, and then wait to see what thoughts or sentiments arise in my mind or heart, as if to match or correspond with the expression.”
– Edgar Allan Poe
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. Once you have used the mirror to seduce them, you have great power over them.
Study the world’s surfaces and learn to mirror them in your habits, your manner, your clothes.
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.
Borrow the weight and legitimacy from the past, however remote, to create a comforting and familiar presence. This will give your actions romantic associations, add to your presence, and cloak the nature of the changes you are attempting.
“He who desires or attempts to reform the government of a state and wishes to have it accepted, must at least retain the semblance of the old forms; so that it may seem to the people that there has been no change in the institutions, even though in fact they are entirely different from the old ones. For the great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli
Law 46: 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.
“It takes great talent and skill to conceal one’s talent and skill.”
– La Rochefoucauld
Kierkegaard call envy “unhappy admiration”.
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 thought.
“Envy is the tax which all distinction must pay.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Law 47: 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.
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.
“The greatest danger occurs at the moment of victory.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte
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:
1. 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.
2. 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.
If you prepare for the fall, it is less likely to ruin you when it happens. (Stoicism)
When you serve a master, it is often wise to measure your victories carefully, letting him get the glory and never making him uneasy.
If a master or superior grants you a favor, the proper response is to accept the favor graciously and withdraw. Any subsequent favors you should earn without having to ask for them.
There is no better time to stop and walk away than after a victory.
It is not because you have tasted VICTORY, that you should abandon STRATEGY. “Momentum” after victory is NOT a strategy. Momentum is emotional. Don’t be like that.
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.
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 again and again. So train yourself to take nothing personally. Never let anyone get you back up.
Be 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.
Formlessness is a tool. Never confuse it with a go-with-the-flow style.
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.