Tuesday, September 06, 2011

48 Laws of Power by Rober Greene ****

The follow up that Machivelli would have loved to write. The book is something of a guidebook but it is also a joy to read because of the 100s of historical references and fables to back up all of the dictums. If you end up becoming more powerful as a result – well, more power to you. But you’re guaranteed to be entertained by all of the interesting backstories.

Being perfectly honest will inevitably hurt and insult a great many people, some of whom will choose to injure you in return. No one will see your honest statement as completely objective and free of some personal motivation. And they will be right: in truth the use of honesty is indeed a power strategy, intended to convince people of one’s noble, good hearted, selfless character. It is a form of persuasion, even a subtle form of coercion. pXVIII

The most important of these skills, and power’s crucial foundation is the ability to master your emotions. An emotional response to a situation is a mistake that will cost you a lot than any temporary satisfaction you might gain by expressing your feelings. Emotions cloud reason, and if you can’t see the situation clearly, you can’t prepare for and respond to it with any degree of control. pXIX

You can’t repress anger or love, or avoid feeling them, and you shouldn’t try. But you should be careful about how you express them, and most important, they should never influence your plans and strategies in any way. pXX


Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please and impress them, don’t 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 heights of power. P1

If you are more intelligent than your master seem the opposite: Make him appear more intelligent than you. Act naïve. Make it seem that you need his expertise. Commit harmless mistakes that will not hurt you in the long run but will give you the chance to ask for his help… A master who can’t bestow on you the gifts of his experience may direct rancor and ill will at you instead. P6


Be wary of friends – they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy. They also became 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. P8


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 can’t 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. P16

Most people are open books. They say what they feel, blurt out their opinions at every opportunity, and constantly reveal their plans. They do this for several reasons. First, it is easy and natural to always talk about one’s feelings and intentions for the future. Second, many believe that by being honest and open they are winning people’s hearts. They are decidedly wrong. Honesty is likely to offend people; it’s much more prudent to tailor your words, telling people what they want to hear rather than the coarse and ugly truth of what you feel and think. P20

One of the most effective smoke screens is the noble gesture. People want to believe apparently noble gestures are genuine, for the belief is pleasant. They rarely notice how deceptive these gestures can be. P28


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 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. P31


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 reputations. Then stand aside and let public opinion hang them. P37

In the social realm, appearances are the barometer of almost all of our judgments, and you must never be misled into believing otherwise. P40


Everything is judged by its appearance; what is unseen counts for nothing. Never let yourself get lost in the crowd or buried into oblivion. Stand out. Be conspicuous at all costs. Make yourself a magnet of attention by appearing larger, more colorful, more mysterious than the bland and timid masses. P44

Most people are upfront, can be read like an open book, take little care to control their words or image, and are hopelessly predictable. By simply holding back, keeping silent, occasionally uttering ambiguous phrases, deliberately appearing inconsistent, and acting odd in the subtlest of ways, you will emanate an aura of mystery. The people around you will then magnify that aura by constantly trying to interpret you. P52


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. P56


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. P62


Any momentary triumph you think you have gained through argument is really 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. P69


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. P76

If you are miserly by nature, you will never go beyond a certain limit; only generous souls attain greatness. Associate with the generous, and they will infect you, opening up everything that is tight and restricted in you. If you are gloomy, gravitate to the cheerful. If you are prone to isolation, force yourself to befriend the gregarious. Never associate with those who share your deficits – they will reinforce everything that holds you back. Make this a rule of life and you will benefit more than from all the therapy in the world. P81


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. P82


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. At timely gift – a Trajan horse – will serve the same purpose. P89


If you need to turn to an ally for help, don’t 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. P95


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. P101


All great leaders since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed completely. If one ember is left alight, a fire will eventually break out. More is lost through stopping halfway than through total annihilation.: the enemy will never recove, and will seek revenge. Crush him, not only in body but in spirit. P107


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. P115

Love never dies of starvation, but often of indigestion – Ninon De Lenclos p119

Once you die, everything about you will seem different. You will be surrounded by an instant aura of respect. People will remember their criticisms of you, their arguments with you, and be filled with regret and guilt… But you don’t have to wait until you die: 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 – an air of resurrection will cling to you. P120


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. P123


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. P130


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 lamb’s clothing. Choose your victims and opponents carefully then – never offend or deceive the wrong person. P137

The types of person to avoid:

The arrogant and proud man – Any perceived slight will lead to a vengeance of overwhelming violence… There is no sanity behind this overreaction, so don’t waste any time trying to figure him out. Flee. Whatever you are hoping for from this person isn’t worth it.

Hopelessly Insecure man – If his pride is wounded, he will attack you in bites that will take forever to get big enough for you to notice. Disappear for a long time or he will nibble you to death.

Mr. Suspicion- He sees what he wants to see in you – usually the worst – and imagines everyone is after him. He is the least dangerous of the 3 because he is genuinely unbalanced and easy to deceive. Play on his suspicious nature to get him to turn against your enemies, just don’t become the target – or watch out.

Serpent with the long memory – If hurt, he will show no anger, but will calculate and wait. Then when in a position of strength, he will exact a revenge marked by a coldblooded shrewdness. Recognize him by his cold calculation, cunning, and lack of affection in different areas of his life.

The unintelligent man – He is harder to deceive than you imagine because falling for a ruse often takes intelligence and imagination – a sense for the possible rewards. The danger becomes not that he will harm you, but rather that he’ll waste your time. Have a test ready – a joke, a story. If his reaction is utterly literal, continue at your own risk. P139

To see if you are dealing with an insecure person who can’t tolerate the slightest offense make a mild joke at their expense. A confident person will laugh; an overly insecure one will react as personally insulted. P141


It is the fool who always rushes to take sides. Don’t 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. P145

When Henry Kissinger, as US secretary of state, wanted to reach détente with the Soviets, he made no concession or conciliatory gestures, but courted China instead. This infuriated and scared the Soviets. But this move pushed them to the negotiating table. This tactic has a parallel in seduction: court the sister first and stay aloof initially to the woman you really want. P149

Hold back from the fray between 2 parties, giving yourself time to position yourself and take advantage of the situation once one side starts to lose. You can take the game a step further by promising both sides your support while maneuvering that the one to come ahead is you. This is what Castruccio Castracani, a small rule in 14th century Italy did when he had designs on the town of Pistoia. A siege would have been expensive in money and lives, but he knew the town had 2 rival factions – the blacks and whites – which hated each other. He promised each side, secretly, that he would come to their aid against the other. And keeping his promise, he sent an army to the black controlled gate, and another army to the white controlled gate. The armies proceeded to enter the city, and unite in the middle, whereupon the occupied the city, killed the leaders of both factions, ended the internal war, and took the town. P153


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 have ulterior motives. P156

To reveal the true nature of your intellect rarely pays; you should get in the habit of downplaying it at all times. If people inadvertently learn the truth – they will admire you for being discreet than for making your brilliance show. At the start of your climb you can’t play too stupid: you must let your bosses know in a subtle way that you are smarter than your competition. As you climb the ladder up, you should dampen your brilliance. P161

There is one situation where it pays to do the opposite – when you can cover up a deception with a show of intelligence. If you have the authority and knowledge, people will believe what you have to say. P161


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. Don’t 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. P163


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 form 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. P171


The perfect courtier thrives in a world where everything revolves 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. P178

In 19th century Arab Darfur courtier had to do whatever the sultan did: if he were injured, they had to suffer the same injury; if he fell off of his horse during a hunt, they fell too. P179

The Laws of Court Politics

  1. Avoid Ostentation

Modesty is preferable; trumpeting your achievements will stir up enough envy among your peers to induce treachery and backstabbing.

  1. Practice Nonchalance

Even when something demands a lot of sweat, make it look effortless; letting them see your blood and toil is another form of ostentation.

  1. Be Frugal with Flattery

Flatter indirectly, otherwise too much flattery will lose its value and stir up suspicion among your peers.

  1. Arrange to be Noticed

Pay attention to your physical appearance, and find a way to create a distinctive – subtly distinctive – style and image.

  1. Alter your style and language according to who you are dealing with

Equality – the idea of talking and acting the same with everyone – is a terrible mistake. Those below you will take it as a form of condescension, and those above will be offended.

  1. Never be the bearer of bad news

Bring only good news and your approach will gladden your master

  1. Never affect intimacy and deep friendship with your master

He doesn’t want a friend, he wants a subordinate. If he wants a friendship, make the distance between you clear.

  1. Never directly criticize those above you

When some of sort criticism is necessary – and to say nothing or give no advice would open risks of another sort – you must learn to couch your advice and criticism indirectly and politely.

  1. Ask superiors for few favors

Nothing irritates a master more than having to reject someone’s request. So ask for favors rarely. And never ask on another person’s behalf, least of all friends.

  1. Never joke about appearance of taste of those above you

Don’t even try it when they are not present, as these are 2 highly sensitive areas.

  1. Don’t be the court Cynic

Express modest admiration rather than constant criticism. This will invite others to reciprocate.

  1. Be Self Observant

You need a mirror for your actions, this can be trusted colleague, but you must become the mirror eventually.

  1. Master your Emotions

You must learn to cry and laugh on command when its appropriate. You must be able to disguise your anger and frustration, and fake your contentment and agreement.

  1. Fit the fashion of the times

Your spirit and way of thinking must keep up with the times, even if it offends your sensibilities. Be too forward thinking, and no one will understand you. Wear fashions from 10 years ago, and you’ll be the court the jester.

  1. Be a source of Pleasure

Not everyone can play the role of favorite, for not everyone is blessed with charm and wit. But we can all control our unpleasant qualities and obscure them when necessary. P182


Don’t accept the roles that society foists on you. Recreate 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 you. Incorporate dramatic devices into your public gestures and actions – your power will be enhanced and your character will seem larger than life. P191


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. P200


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 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. P215

How to create a cult in 5 easy steps:

  1. Keep it vague; keep it simple

Most people’s problems have complex causes: deep rooted neurosis, interconnected social factors, roots that go back in time and are exceedingly hard to unravel. Few, however, have the patience to deal with this; most people want to hear that a simple solution will cure their problems. The ability to offer this kind of solution will give you great power and build you a following.

  1. Emphasize the visual and the sensual over the intellectual

Once people have begun to gather around you, 2 dangers will present themselves; boredom and skepticism… You need to amuse the bored, and ward off the cynics. The best way to do this is through theater… Appeal to all the senses; use incense, soothing music, colorful charts and graphs, gadgets to tickle the mind – as long as you don’t’ make anyone really think. Use the exotic – distant cultures, strange customs to make the banal appear extraordinary.

  1. Borrow the forms of organized religion and structure

Create rituals and organize them into a hierarchy, ranking them in grades of sanctity and giving them names and titles that resound with religious overtones; them for sacrifices that will fill your coffers and increase your power.

  1. Disguise your source of income

Surround yourself with luxury so you become living proof of the soundness of your belief system to others, but never reveal that your wealth comes from your follower’s pockets; instead make it seem that it comes from the truth of your methods. Followers will copy your each and every move in the belief that it will bring them the same results, and this will blind them to the true nature of your wealth.

  1. Setup and Us vs. Them dynamic

Make sure your followers believe that they are part of an exclusive club, unified by a bond of common goals. Manufacture a devious enemy out to ruin you. Any nonbelievers who try to reveal your charlatan nature can now be described as a member of this devious force. P219

Our tendency to doubt 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… Play on people’s repressed sexuality, you lead them to mistake their excited feelings for signs of your mystical strength. You gain untold power by working on people’s unrealized desire for a kind of promiscuous and pagan unity… Take the latest technological trend or fad and blend it with a noble cause – faith, healing – and people will attribute powers to you that you never even thought to claim. P225


If you are unsure of a course of action, don’t 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. P227

Boldness and Hesitation: a brief psychological comparison:

The bolder the lie, the better.

When putting together a con or entering any kind of negotiation, go further than you planned. Ask for the moon and you will be surprised how often you get it.

Lions circle hesitant prey

If you compromise, back down, and retreat, you bring out the lion even in people who are not bloodthirsty. Once you are seen as a person who quickly goes on the defensive, you will be pushed around without mercy.

Boldness strikes fear; Fear creates authority

By intimidating with a bold move, you establish a precedent: in every subsequent encounter, people will be on the defensive, in terror of your next strike.

Going halfway digs a deeper grave

Entering an action without total confidence sets up obstacles. When a problem arises you will grow confused, seeing options where there are none, and inadvertently creating more problems.

Hesitation creates gaps; Boldness obliterates them

When you take time to think, hem and haw you create a gap that allows others time to think as well. Boldness destroys such gaps; swiftness leaves no time to doubt and worry. In seduction, hesitation is fatal – it makes your victim conscious of your intentions. The bold move crowns seduction with triumph. It leaves no time for reflection.

Audacity separates you from herd

We can’t keep our eyes off the audacious – we can’t wait to see their next bold move. P228

Casanova’s boldness was not revealed in a daring approach, or in intrepid words of flattery, it consisted in his ability to surrender himself to her completely and to make her believe he would do anything for her, even risk his life, which he sometimes did. This was infinitely more flattering than compliments. At no point during the seduction did he show hesitation or doubt, simply because he never felt it. P233


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 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. P236

Because most people are too imprisoned in the moment to plan, the ability to ignore immediate dangers and pleasures translates into power… Most people believe that they are in fact aware of the future, that they are planning and thinking ahead. They are usually deluded: what they are really doing is succumbing to their desires, to what they want the future to be. Their plans are vague, based upon their imagination not reality. They are really focusing on the happy ending, and deluding themselves by the strength of their desire. P241

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


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 temptation of revealing how hard you work – it only raises questions. Teach no one your tricks or they will be used against you. P245

Early on in Houdini’s career, an old Japanese performer taught him an ancient trick: how to swallow an ivory ball, then bring it back up. He practices this endlessly with a small peeled potato tied to a string – up and down he would manipulate the potato with his throat muscles, until they were strong enough to move it without the string. His body could be searched thoroughly before his tricks, but no one could check inside his throat for small tools to help him escape. P249

Never expose the sweat and labor behind your poise. Some think that such exposure will demonstrate their diligence and honesty, but it actually just makes them look weaker – as if anyone who practiced and worked could do what they had done. P250

When seeing performers who put too much effort into their act breaks the illusion, making us uncomfortable. Calm, graceful performers set us at ease, creating the illusion that they are being natural, even when everything they are doing involves labor and practice. P251

Finally, because you achieve your accomplishments with grace and ease, people believe that you could always do more if you tried harder. P252


The bees 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. P254

Withdrawal and disappearance are classic ways of controlling options. You give people a sense of how things will fall apart without you, and you offer them a choice: I stay away and you suffer the consequences or I return under circumstances that I dictate. P256

A good technique to use on children and other willful people who enjoy doing the opposite of what you ask: push them to ‘choose’ what you want them to do by appearing to advocate the opposite. P259

Common forms of controlling the options:

Color the choices, present multiple options, but color your favored option the best.

Force the resister, force them to conduct themselves as if the source of their resistance has come true. Now they’ll have to resist that!

Alter the playing field, to force them to only have the options that you want

Shrink their options, use their hesitation against them by removing options as time goes by.

Weak man on the precipice, exaggerate the dangers to strike fear and emotion to get them to make a decision.

Brothers in crime. Get them to commit a crime (or think that they have). Its 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 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. P263

Reality vs Fantasy:

Reality: Self change is slow and gradual, requiring hard work, a bit of luck, self sacrifice, and a lot of patience.

Fantasy: a sudden transformation will bring change in one’s fortunes, bypassing work, luck, self sacrifice, and time in one fantastic stroke.

Reality: the social realm has hard set codes and boundaries. We understand their limits and know that we have to move within the same familiar circles, day in and day out.

Fantasy: We can enter a new world with different codes, and the promise of adventure.

Reality: Society is fragmented and full of conflict

Fantasy: People can come together in a mystical union of souls

Reality: Death

Fantasy: A sudden reversal of this intolerable fact allows the dead to be brought back and the past to be changed. P268


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. P271

Finding the Thumbscrew:

Pay attention to gestures and unoonscious signals. Start by always seeming interested – a sympathetic ear will always spurn anyone to talk… Train your eyes for details – how someone tips a waiter, what delights a person, hidden messages in clothes. Find people’s idols, the things they worship and will do anything to get – perhaps you can be the supplier of their fantasies. Since we all try to hide our weaknesses, there is little to be learned from our conscious behavior. What oozes out in the little things outside our conscious behavior is what you want to know.

Find the Helpless Child. One sign of this weakness is that when you touch on it the person will often act like a child. If your victim reveals that they went without parental support, supply it. If they reveal a secret taste, a hidden indulgence, indulge it.

Look for Contrasts. People who thump their chest are often cowards; a prudish exterior may hide a lascivious soul; the uptight are often screaming for adventure; the shy are dying for attention.

Find the Weak Link. Find the one person who has the greatest influence in a group win their favor and you influence the king, or find who is the weakest in a united team, he will bend to pressure.

Fill the Void. The 2 emotional voids to fill are insecurity and unhappiness. The insecure crave social validation. Find the roots of the unhappiness. These people are the least able to hide their weaknesses.

Feed on Uncontrollable Emotions. People in the grip of fear, lust, greed, vanity, hatred, etc. can’t control themselves, and you can do the controlling for them. P273


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. P282

As children we expect and demand everything from the world. This generally carries over into our first forays into society, as we begin our careers. But as we grow older the rebuffs and failures we experience set up boundaries that only get firmer with time. Coming to expect less from the world, we accept limitations that are really self imposed. The solution to such a shrinking of horizons is to deliberately force ourselves in the opposite direction – to downplay and ignore limitations, to make ourselves demand and expect as much as a child… We must believe that we are destined for great things, our belief will radiate outward and infect people around us, who will think that we must reasons to feel so confident. P287

Dignity is 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. P288


Never seem to 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 ripe, and to strike fiercely when it has reached fruition. P291


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 can’t have, show contempt for it. The less interest you reveal, the more superior you seem. P300


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 visual and radiant symbols that heighten your presence. Dazzled by appearances, no one will notice what you are really doing. P309

Establish a trademark to set yourself apart. Then take the game further; find an image or symbol from the past that will fit your situation, and put it on your shoulders like a cape. It will make you seem larger than life. P313


If you make a show of going against the times, flaunting your unconventional ideas and unorthodox ways, people will think 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 with your closest friends and only those who are sure to appreciate your uniqueness. P317

Many of us feel the siren call of the exotic, the foreign. Measure and moderate this desire. Flaunting your pleasure in alien ways of thinking and acting will reveal a different motive – to demonstrate your superiority over others. P319

The reason that arguments don’t work is that most people hold their ideas and values without thinking about them. There is strong emotional content in their beliefs: they really don’t want to have to rework their habits of thinking, and when you challenge them, whether directly through your arguments or indirectly through your behaviors, they are hostile. P322


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 and you hold the strings. P325

Anger at first may strike fear and terror, but only in some, but as the days pass and storm clears, other responses emerge – embarrassment and uneasiness about the shouter’s capacity for going out of control, and resentment of what has been said. Long your temper, you always make unfair and exaggerated accusations. A few such tirades and people are counting the days until you are gone. P327

You shouldn’t repress your anger or emotion. For repression drains us of energy and pushes us into strange behaviors. Instead we have to realize that nothing is the social realm is personal. Everyone is caught up in a chain of events that long predates the present. Our anger most often stems from our childhood, from problems with our parents, whose problems stem from their own childhood, on and on… This shift in perspective will let you play the game with clarity and energy. Instead of overreacting and becoming ensnared in other people’s emotions, you will turn their loss of control to your advantage. You will keep your head while they lose theirs. P330

Sun Pin, commander of Chi, faced the armies of Wei, which outnumbered his army 2 to 1. “Let us light 100,000 fires when our army enters Wei, then 50,000 the next day, and only 30,000 on the 3rd day.’ On the 3rd day, the Wei general exclaimed ‘The men of Chi are cowards, after only 3 days more than ½ have deserted!’ So leaving his slow heavy infantry, the general decided to seize the moment and move swiftly on the Chi camp with a light force. Sun Pin’s troops retreated, drawing Wei’s army into a narrow pass, where they ambushed and destroyed them. Sun Pin easily defeated the rest of the Wei army the next day. P330


What is offered for free is dangerous – it usually involves either a trick or hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit. It is often worth paying full price – there is no cutting corners with excellence. Be lavish with your money, and keep it circulating, for generosity is a sign and magnet for power. P333

The story soon spread of an Incan Indian chief from Peru who once a year would cover himself in gold dust and dive into a lake. Soon word of mouth transformed Golden Man or El Dorado in Spanish, into an empire called El Doraodo, where the streets were paved with gold. And why not? For surely if a chief could afford to waste gold dust in a lake, he must rule a golden empire. P335

Beware of the:

Greedy Fish: They take the human element out of money. Cold and ruthless, viewing others either as pawns or obstuctions in their pursuit of wealth. No one wants to work with them, and over the years they end up isolated… They are easy to deceive, for they spend so much time dealing with numbers that they become blind to psychology, including their own.

Bargain Demon: They worry endlessly about what they could have gotten elsewhere for a little less. The costs of their pursuits is time and worry, for bargains often are shabby, in need of repair, or have to be replaced often.

Sadist: They seem to think that paying for something gives them the right to torture and abuse the seller.

Indiscriminate Giver: Generosity attracts people, softens them up, makes allies out of them. Indiscriminate givers are generous because they want to be loved and admired by all. But if they give to one and all, why should the recipient feel special?

Baron Rothschild knew that money had created a barrier between him and others, making him look ugly and untrustworthy. The best way to overcome this was to literally waste huge sum, to show he didn’t value money. This is what the potlatch was to the Pacific Northwest Indians in an absurd display to show their power. The base of the power is not money, but the confidence that the tribe could easily restore all that the potlatch had destroyed. P340


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. Don’t get lost in their shadow or stuck in a past not of your own making: establish your own name and identify by changing course. Slay the overbearing father, disparage his legacy, and gain power by shining in your own way. P347

The son will never step out of his father’s shadow unless he adopts the ruthless strategy of Alexander: disparage the past, create your own kingdom, put the father into the shadows instead letting him do the same to you. P353

When Gen Douglas MacArthur took over the Philippines during WW2, an assistant handed him a book of precedents established by the prior commanders. MacArthur asked how many copies were there. The assistant answered 6. MacArthur replied, ‘get those 6 copies together – and burn every one of them. I’ll not be bound by precedents. Any time a problem comes up, I’ll make the decision at once – immediately.” P354

When our power is secure, there is no need to act. Many who are successful when young, will self destroy themselves to rekindle the will to act. Tennesse Williams had to bring himself to have a nervous breakdown to resume his writing career after the success of Glass Menagerie brought him fame. In his own words, “I was not aware o how much vital energy had gone into this struggle until the struggle was removed. This was security at last. I sat down and looked about me and was suddenly very depressed.” Pushed to the edge, Williams could write with vitality again, and produced ‘Streetcar Named Desire”. .. Dostoyevsky 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. P355


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. Don’t wait for the troubles they cause to multiply, don’t 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. P358


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. P367

When most people meet someone new, rather than stepping back and probing to see what makes this person unique, they talk about themselves, eager to impose their own willpower and prejudices. They argue, boast, and make a show of their power. They may not know it, but they are secretly creating an enemy, a resister, because there is no more infuriating feeling than having your individuality ignored. P372

Don’t believe that this approach works only on the illiterate and uneducated – it works on one and all. All of us are mortal and face the same dreadful fate, and all of us share the desire for attachment and belonging. Stir up these emotions and you captivate our hearts. P373

Play on contrasts: push people to despair and then give them relief. If they expect pain, give them pleasure. Creating pleasure of any kind will usually bring you success, as will allaying fears and providing security. P373

A great gesture of self sacrifice – to show that you suffer as those around you – will make people identify with you, even if your suffering is symbolic or minor and theirs is real. P373


The mirror reflects reality, but it is also the perfect tool for deception: when you mirror your enemies, doing exactly as they do, they can’t figure out your strategy. The mirror 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. P376

If you can show you understand another person by reflecting their inmost feelings, they will be entranced and disarmed, all the more because it happens so rarely. P375

When Alcibiades, Athenian circa 400 BC, argued his ideas strongly with other people he would win over a few hearts while at the same time alienating many more. The secret to gaining ascendancy over large numbers he came to believe was not to impose his colors but to absorb the colors those around him, like a chameleon. Once people fell under his spell, he could practice his deceptions invisibly. P382


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 make a show of respecting the old way of doing things. If change is necessary, make it feel like a gentle improvement. P392

Emperor Aurelian,in 274AD established 12/25 as the birthday of the Sun god Mithras. This cult spread from Persia throughout the Roman empire, and was held especially by the Roman legions as a bringer of peace and fertility, and victory. So it was a clever move that in 354, the Pope coopted the birthday of Mithras and declared December 25 to be the birthday of Jesus Christ. P394

Emperor Wang Mang (AD 8-23), found some Confucian text still intact, after the first Emperor Chin in 200 BC had ordered all such texts destroyed. This gave Wang an opportunity. He first confiscated them, then had scribes insert passages into them that seemed to support the changes he had been imposing on the country. When he released the texts, it seemed that Confucius sanctioned Wang’s reforms. The fact that the past is dead and buried gives your freedom to reinterpret it. P397

“A new scientific truth doesn’t triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die.”.. So pay lip service to tradition. Identify the elements in your revolution that can be made to seem to build on the past. Say the right things, make a show of conformity, and meanwhile let your theories do the radical work. Play with appearances and respect protocol. This is true in every arean – science being no exception. P398


Appearing better than others is dangerous, but most dangerous is to appear to have no faults. Envy creates silent enemies. It’s smart to occasionally display defects and admit to harmless vices in order to deflect envy and appear more human.

Only a minority can succeed in the game of life, and that minority inevitably arouses the envy of those around them. Once success happens your way, however, the people to fear the most are those in your own circle, the friends and acquaintances you have left behind. Feelings of inferiority gnaw at them… Either dampen your success, purposely revealing a defect, weakness, or anxiety or attributing your success to luck; or simply find yourself new friends. P403

In dealing with envy, first accept the fact that there will be people who will surpass you, and that you may envy them. But make that feeling a way of pushing yourself to equal or surpass them. Let envy point inward and it poisons the soul; expel it outward and it can move you to greater heights. Second, that those below you will envious of you. Read between the lines of their criticisms, their little sarcastic remarks, the signs of backstabbing, the excessive praise that is preparing you for a fall, the resentful look in the eye. Finally expect the people who envy you to work against you insidiously. P406

It is often your own actions that stir up envy, your own unawareness. By becoming conscious of those actions that create envy, you can take the teeth out of it before it nibbles you to death. P406

Subtly emphasize how lucky you have been to make your happiness seem more attainable to others, but be careful not to affect a false modesty that can be easily seen through. This will only make them more envious. P407

Once envy is there out in the open it is best to affect the opposite approach. Instead of hiding your perfection, make it obvious. Make every new triumph an opportunity to make the envious squirm. Their open envy can have little effect on you, since it is known and to be expected, and you will have the best revenge; they are trapped in envy while you are free in your power. P409


The moment of victory is often the moment of greatest peril. In the heat of victory, overconfidence and arrogance can push you past the initial goal, and in going too far, you make more enemies than you defeat. Don’t allow success to go to your head. Set a goal, and when you reach it. Stop.


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. P419

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