48 Laws of Power Full Book:
Law Number 1:
Never Outshine the Master
The law has been observed in the legend of King Louis XIV and his finance minister Nicolas Fouquet. Louis XIV was the king monarch of Versailles and was very interesting of all the French monarchs. His most famous quote is “Letat c’est Moi!” literally “I am the state”.
A second example would be Galileo Galilei: one of the distinguished minds of the sixteenth-century who used this law in his favor. Galileo was crafty in perceiving this law by giving grandeur to his benefactors.
The lessons we should take away from the misfortune of Fouquet and the brilliance of Galileo are:
- Present your ideas in a way that they echo your boss’ thought.
- Act less-smarter than your boss.
- Don’t take your position in life or at work for granted.
- Always make sure to make it look like you wanna seek the expertise & advice of superior.
Law Number 2:
Never Put Too Much Trust in Friends, Learn How to Use Enemies:
The law has been observed with Michael III of the Byzantine Empire and his friend, Basillius. In the mid-19th century A.D., Michael placed too much trust in his friends Basilius. They had met a few years before when Michael had been visiting the stables. His strength & courage had impressed Michael, who immediately raised Basilius from the obscurity of being a horse trainer to the position of head of stables. He loads up his friend with gifts & favors until they became inseparable.
Michael transformed the farmer Basilius into a sophisticated & educated courtier. Who later on became greedy for more wealth & power and had his former benefactor and best friend Michael murdered.
The lessons learned in this example are:
- A Friend will not plainly disagree with you to avoid arguments.
- An enemy doesn’t expect anything, so he will be amazed when you are generous.
- An enemy spared the guillotine will be more grateful to you than a friend.
- When you decide to hire a friend, you will discover qualities they’ve kept hidden, be on the look-out for any signs of emotional disturbance such as envy and ingratitude.
- Skill & competence are more vital than friendly feelings.
You might also like: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Law Number 3:
Conceal your Intentions:
The Marquis de Sevigne wanted to seduce a young countess. Instead of being indirect and subtle he exposed his factual feelings for her & she lost all interest as he blurted out that he loved her. Add the sense of inexplicable mystery to your character.
Law Number 4
Always Say Less Than Necessary
Due to his unpredictability, Louis xiv would have his courtiers tremble in fear when delivering bad news. He would say “I shall see”, have them leave the room & either take action or decide to do nothing about the issue, but always with an intimidating silence. Only speak when you have something meaningful to say. Actions speak louder than words.
Law Number 5:
So Much Depends on Reputation:
During the World War II, Erwin Rommel was known for his superior skill in cunning & deceptive strategy. All of the opposition were demoralized & doubting their chances of success facing him. Your reputation precedes you. Build & protect it carefully.
Law Number 6:
Court Attention at all Cost:
Pablo Picasso would not allow himself to fade into the background. He would rather paint something out of the ordinary and ugly than be forgotten. All publicity is good publicity. Don’t let yourself become one of many.
Law Number 7:
Get others to Do the Work For You:
Thomas Edison wasn’t much of a scientist, but a businessman. He would capitalize on Nikola Tesla’s genius and garner all the credit. Hire talents capable of doing what you can’t.
Law Number 8:
Make Other People Come to you – Use Bait if Necessary
“When I have laid the bait for deer, I do not shoot at the first doe that comes to Sniff, but wait until the whole herd has gathered around.” Otto von Bismarck forces your opponent to react to your moves.
These are some strategies to keep in mind during war times.
- Reacting rather than directing.
- Keep others reacting to your moves, keep them on the defensive.
- Play to their ineffectiveness to stay calm.
- Aggression versus effective action.
- Don’t waste a lot of energy trying to make your point, bide your time like Talleyrand.
- Make the other person come to you, set the bait.
- Control the situation.
- Know your opponent’s weakness.
- He who has control has the power.
- Master your emotions.
- Never be influenced by your anger.
- Aggressive people are never in control.
Law Number 9:
Win Through Your Actions – Not Through Arguments:
Mucianus needed strong ships. Without guarding his tongue his engineer argued that a different type than the one Mucianus is preferred would be much better for conquest. Despite being right the engineer was sentenced to death. Don’t argue with authorities. Agree & suggest an alternative then demonstrate.
Law Number 10:
Infection Avoid the Unhappy & Unlucky:
Lola Montez brought down the King of Bavaria and his whole kingdom by seducing him. Her lust for destruction & chaos was insatiable. Countless lives perished, because of her nature. Cut off the fire starters. Try to help them instead and you too will burn alongside them.
Law Number 11:
Learn to Keep People Dependent on You:
Otto von Bismarck led the King’s hand in uniting a mighty Prussia. None other than Bismarck was able to do so. He proved himself to be an indispensable asset and had a strong position secured. Be the only one who can do what you do or see yourself replaced in fear sooner or later.
Law Number 12:
Use Selective Honesty to Disarm your Victim:
Count Victor Lustig was going to double Al Capone’s $50,000. Instead of running with the money he gave it all back to Capone who thought he was being played by a con artist. Capone gave Lustig the $5,000 simply to help the “honest” man. Tell the truth to gain your opponent’s trust. Be honest when expected to be dishonest to throw your opponent off guard.
Law numbers 13:
Asking for Help Appeal to People’s Self-Interest:
In 433 B.C., the Athenians found themselves in a favorable position. The Corcyrans and the Corinthians were preparing for war. Both parties wanted to secure the help of the Athenians. The Corinthians chose to remind them of an existing debt. The Corcyrans, on the other hand, spoke only of mutual interest the combined force of their Navy directed at Sparta. The Athenians allied with the Corcyrans. In sales of any kind, pragmatic arguments will always trump emotional Appeals. The past doesn’t matter. Don’t count on loyalty. Aim for win-win deals.
Law Number 14:
Pose As a Friend, Work As a Spy:
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, French politician, and mastermind behind Napoleon Bonaparte’s defeat would hold himself back in the conversation and get others to talk endlessly of themselves to the point of betraying their own thoughts, intent, and strategy.
An interrogation disguised as a friendly chat, so subtle that the victim did not notice. Learn to judge a person’s character by what they reveal of themselves so that you can recognize a threat before it arises. The people’s honesty before you consider trusting them.
Law Number 15
Crush Your Enemy Totally:
A priest asked the dying Spanish statesman and general Ramon Maria Narvaez (1800-1868), “Does your excellency forgive all your enemies?” “I do not have to forgive my enemies,” answered Narvaez, “I have had them all shot.” The last resort, when words are no longer heard and the enemy cannot possibly be reasoned with, the chances for peace at their lowest, the only option is total destruction. Merely wounds the enemy, he will recover and show no mercy in turn.
Law Number 16
Use Absence to Increase Respect & Honor:
A man said to a dervish: “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?’ – Mulla Jami, quoted in Adries Sha’s caravan of Dreams, 1968 give people time to miss you by robbing them of your presence. It’s when we lose something, that we discover how valuable it had been to us. On your return, you will be appreciated all the more.
Law Number 17:
Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability:
Once Pablo Picasso had become a recognized artist, others would assume that whatever action he took must have been calculated. The art dealer Paul Rosenberg was confused when one day Picasso told him they would no longer work together.
Rosenberg’s couldn’t find out why and offered him a much better deal. The unpredictable is terrifying. When you don’t know what to expect you cannot prepare properly, you can’t devise a clever plan, because you’re in the dark. Put others in such a position when negotiating.
Law Number 18
Isolation is Dangerous:
The more you are isolated, the easier it is to deceive you. You lose touch with reality. When someone is urging you to cut friends and family out of your life realize that they want to control and influence you all by themselves. Whether they do this consciously or unconsciously it is malicious. Be careful in cutting yourself off from others for too long. Introverted or not you may cause yourself great harm psychologically by pushing others away from you.
Law Number 19
Do Not Offend the Wrong Person:
Muhammed, the Shah of Khwarezm, and Inalchik had beheaded Ghengis Khan’s messengers who had come in peace with great gifts and offerings. The Khan declared war, seized the enemy’s capital and had Inalchik killed quote “by having molten silver poured into his eyes and ears.”
Later Ghengis khan seized Samarkand, bringing his brutal conquest of Muhammad’s vast empire to an end. What would have become of Adolf Hitler had he been given a chance of becoming an artist? Perhaps history would be very different. Avoid insulting others, you don’t know who you are dealing with… even though we live in a time where everyone is offended and the level of political correctness borders on absolute madness.
Law Number 20
Do Not Commit to Anyone:
Alcibiades, Greek soldier & statesman found himself courted by the Athenians & the Spartans because he had an influence on the Persians and honored by Persians because he had influence over the Greek city-states. Instead of committing to one side, he played all of them in his favor. Committing is like handling yourself over to someone else. It means more obligations and less control.
Law Number 21
Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker:
Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” He didn’t actually believe in himself that he didn’t know anything. It was his way of disarming people. Sometimes you’ve to play dumb so that the other lets his guard down. Being openly smart is foolish. Being openly foolish is smart.
Law Number 22
Surrender Tactics: Transform Weakness into Power:
The Melians were prompted to surrender but declined the Athenians’ offer. Despite their alliance, the Spartans didn’t come to the rescue. Melos was conquered and their population slaughtered and sold into slavery. To quote Cardinal de Retz “Weak people never give way when they ought to.”
Avoid weakness, but when you find yourself in a weak spot, choose to fight another day. You will lose the current battle, but the war is not over.
Law Number 23
Concentrate Your Forces:
The greater an Empire’s territories the more vulnerability. Great lands need strong borders. Else they may be overrun by another barbarian tribe as seen with the collapse of Rome. Your armies are strongest when forced together. Divide them & they may not be able to protect the empire from an invasion. Dedicate your complete focus to one front, using every resource at your disposal and all of your energy to master your craft through Total Immersion.
Law Number 24
Play the Perfect Courtier:
One cannot spell courtier ship without Charles Maurice de Talleyrand Périgord, the man who brought down Napoleon Bonaparte, master of the battlefield, with extreme subtlety. You’re a courtier [French], whether you like it or not. You must play the game of power so you might as well choose to be good at it. The perfect courtier obeys his masters but shines in his own light.
He is not powerless, doesn’t trust, but appears trustful, doesn’t talk much, but finds the right words and the right timing when he does. Everyone likes him. He is charming, witty and helpful. He appears to be neutral, a paragon of honesty and fairness. And he always has a genuine smile on his face and we don’t doubt his intentions for one second.
Although he is a great talent, we are not threatened by him. We seek him as an ally. This way, the perfect courtier holds more power than the king himself without the dangers of that position. As we target the highest authorities, he’s in the shadows observing the current state of the chessboard.
Pieces may fall and be sacrificed on both ends, but he is winning regardless. Learn the art of courtier ship.
Law Number 25
Others will call you what they think you are or what they think they see in you. It’s all superficial. Every now & again you’ll receive a genuine compliment, but your parents, friends, society, even your governments expect you to be someone or something else. It’s important that you choose to be whatever you want to be and that you feel free to change whenever you like. You have got the freedom to dismiss the opinions of others, even to put on a good show like Gaius Julius Caesar. The world is your stage. It’s up to you what role you want to play. Think of life like a book and you’re writing it, you are the main character so act like it.
Law Number 26
Keep Your Hands Clean:
As written in Niccolo Machiavelli‘s letter to the prince, Cesare Borgia was using Ramiro di Orco as a tool to take gruesome action against all of his enemies. In the end, he used him as a scapegoat, put the full blame on di Orco and threw lavish banquets for the common folk, presenting not only his clean slate but positive change. It is the ultimate act of betrayal. To have someone’s back only to find out they’ve been using you this whole time. Avoid falling into the trap of being someone’s cat’s paw or scapegoat.
Law Number 27
Play on People’s Need to Believe:
“There are two different types of people in the world, and those who want to know, and those who want to believe.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
We strive to find meaning in a world full of formless chaos. Hence most of us resort to the comfort of believing in unproven divine entities. Your quest for answers and your need to belong is used against you, whether for your recruitments as a mindless disciple or your loyal customer ship for a particular brand.
If someone claims to have all the answers, they are full of shit. Fall prey to them and all you are doing is giving more power to those who don’t have your best interest at heart. You cannot let others think for you. If something doesn’t make sense to you, perhaps like right now, feel free to dismiss it, but consider doing so on your own behalf.
Law Number 28
Enter Action with Boldness:
If you’re confident enough to play the role of Monsieur Lusting, one of the greatest con artists in history, selling the Eiffel Tower to greedy scrap metal business owners looking to make a fortune overnight for millions of dollars, not once, but twice – one thing is crystal clear. You’re not playing around. You don’t hesitate and your moves have a high rate of success, be that in seduction, strategy or power games.
There’s that one split second before a boxing fight, where Mike Tyson‘s opponent will flinch and break eye contact. He already knows he’d beaten. There’s that scene where Marco Polo and Kublai Khan stare down a wolf. It’s hesitation versus boldness. In order to be fearless, you need courage. Be bold.
Law Number 29
Plan All the Way to the End:
Before you take action to consider the possible outcomes and consequences, calculate the risk, then execute, if it’s worth doing. However, as time goes on things reform and it would be foolish to stick to a plan that ignores change.
Law Number 30
Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless:
Harry Houdini made his stunts performances look like they were a walk in the park, a piece of cake, as easy as stealing a child’s lollipop. No one saw just how much work, preparation, and practice went into every piece of the puzzle. This illusion we call magic. Make it look like it was improvised, made up on the spot and it will seem genuine. Boast how much work went into something and its natural allure, the magic, is gone.
Law Number 31
Get Others to Play with the Cards You Deal:
Ivan the Terrible let Russia choose between him as their car or a total destruction from its enemies, the Boyars. He made them see that they could only possibly be protected by him. It wasn’t really a choice and the Russians probably had other options that they were unaware of. They begged him to come back to the Capitol and lead them. This was what he wanted all along.
People like to think they have got a choice. Present them options that will work for you either way. This is the norm in elections and anything of real importance. Just like Houdini’s performance, it is an illusion.
Law Number 32
Play to People’s Fantasies – There Isn’t a Big Difference:
IL Bragadino was an alchemist. People believed he could turn objects like wood into gold. Ironically the only gold he ever made was given to him by the people who wanted him to multiply it. And others started to learn and practice alchemy.
Stop clicking on How to Make a Million Dollars Overnight type clickbait, stop buying six-minute ab workout programs and stop going to the 7 steps on How to Pull Hot Chicks Within Hours event and get real. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Law Number 33
Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew:
Cardinal Richelieu would find out the weaknesses of everyone around him, then worked on it by being useful to them until they were of no use to him. One by one he worked his way up to the king, who at the time was a mere child. Know the weak spots of your opponents, the crack in their defense and you will know what to work with when you need it. In reverse do not betray your own weaknesses.
Law Number 34
Be Royal in Your Own Fashion – Act Like a King:
Christopher Columbus didn’t accept his low standing in the world he was born. He recreated his family tree, married into nobility and peddled with kings. Now, unless he was mad, people thought, there must be valid reasons behind his bold requests. He must be legitimate. Ask for less, receive less. What you tolerate is what you end up with. Do not think lowly of yourself. You’re a king in your own right. You’re a queen in your own right. Princes & princesses are no good today.
Law Number 35
Master the Art of Timing:
Joseph Fouche was switching sides whenever he sensed danger. His biography is riddled with my impossible escapes from death. He didn’t deem it necessary to be loyal to disloyal men. Say what you want of his attitude, but he certainly knew when to act and when to lay low. With time comes change. It is important to not only know how to adapt but at what exact moment for maximum effect. Too fast and you’re a traitor. Too late and you’re imitating the others. In any case, learn to use the time to your advantage.
Law Number 36
Disdain Things You Cannot Have:
King Henry VIII of England ignored his wife Catherine of Aragon for denying him a son. With Thomas Cromwell on his side, he devised a clever plan to marry Anne Boleyn. When you ignore someone, they cannot argue with you. They cannot influence you. You’re out of reach and they can’t do anything about it. If there is something you cannot and will never have, it’s best to push it aside with discontent.
Law Number 37
Create Compelling Spectacles:
Dr. Weisleder healed his patients with the mere energy of moonlight. The wine was this obvious scam so Successful? Well, people didn’t have the internet back then, but they also believed it was too spectacular to be fraud. The grandiosity, the associated status, rich and famous personalities were waiting in line to be healed and healed again. Using symbols as powerful as the moon and the very absence of explanation lets people fill in the logical gaps all by themselves. If everyone believes it, it must be true.
Law Number 38
Think as You Like, But Behave Like Others:
478 B.C the fearless and experienced warrior Pausanias and his Greek troops captured part of the Persian Empire. Being the overseer of these lands went to his head and he began acting rather strangely, even for Pausanias. He spoke ill of his own people. Feeling and showing superiority breeds hate. His god-complex and constant to stand out had him killed in the end. You want to fit in, whether you share common beliefs or not. Being better or different in any way just causes trouble through other people’s envy and disdain. They’ll ostracize you from the group and slander your reputation. How much money do you make? About 70% of whatever they make.
Law Number 39
Stir Up Waters to Catch Fish:
This is the good old lay a trap with Bait and wait. Monkey-see, monkey-do. The spiderweb. Mice desire cheese so much they won’t even see the obvious construction around it. When you know your enemies and their weaknesses you know what they react to and you use this knowledge against them. Create a false alarm. They’ll make a run to save what they hold so dearly and weaken themselves by exposing their flank. That’s certainly where they will hit you if you fall for it.
Keep yourself from being reactive. All that rage, blinding emotions, fear, desire. It makes you predictable and it makes you weak. Don’t be impulsive.
Law Number 40
Despise the Free Lunch:
Louis XIV had an eagle eye for the strategic power of money. He would gift paintings of great value to people who didn’t like him very much, until then. This way he got nobility, the keys to power, on his side. At the same time, he increased operational costs for the aristocrats who wanted him gone. It’s ingenious. He took money from his enemies and gave it to his new friends.
Two birds with one stone. This is one of my favorite laws because it states that sheep misers miss out on opportunities. It pays to be generous and it pays not to accept “free” gifts. What is the Return of Investments (ROI) on paying for someone’s coffee? You sit down at Starbucks with an influential, connected and experienced entrepreneur. You get to talk to him for 10 minutes, ask his advice, learn from his mistakes. I do not care if the coffee cost $50, I’m paying because there is a lot of upsides.
Law Number 41
Avoid Stepping into A Great Man’s Shoes:
Alexander the Great’s father had set the standard of achievement very high. Alexander was not going to be contempt in his father’s shadow. He was not going to rest on his father’s and later on his own laurels.
Now imagine if Alexander the Great had a son who wanted to be a Conqueror. That he would pale in comparison is an understatement. Not a soul would have attributed his success to him for he’d achieve everything on the shoulders of his father. Don’t make it your life’s task to be better at being someone else. Instead, go your own way. Unapologetically be your best self.
Law Number 42
Strike the Shepherd and The Sheep Will Scatter:
“When the tree falls, the monkeys scatter.”
“Cut the snake at the head.”
What is an army without its generals, without leadership? Whole empires have been secured off of conscientious leaders with iron willpower and vision. Take them away and much like Alexander’s Empire after his death, they break apart and crumble, turning on each other, defecting and deserting. Often the glue that sticks everything together consists of a few key people at the top in any kind of organization, any kind of social group or hierarchy. Do with this information what you will.
Law Number 43:
Work on The Heart And Mind Of Others:
October of 1793, the French Revolution declared the end of the monarchy. Marie-Antoinette knelt at the guillotine for she never cared about the people’s opinion of her as their queen. She thought herself above the common folk. Pampered and disgustingly narcissistic she paid the price, never learning from her mistakes. You should influence people and win friends as Dale Carnegie suggests. It is more than beneficial to be recognized for your kindness and helpful demeanor. Be agreeable or face the consequences of being indifferent. Be humble or be humbled.
Law Number 44
Disarm & Infuriate with The Mirror Effect:
Alcibiades charmed the Athenians, got accused of profaning sacred statues and fled, then charmed the Spartans, impregnated the King’s wife and fled, then charmed the Persians and helped Athens win their war against Sparta. They welcomed him back with open arms.
You like people, who like you, who are like you. Match people’s energy, speak their language, eat their food, find common ground and even envious people will drop their preconceived notions about you.
Law Number 45
Preach Change but Never Reform Quickly:
Change is imperative, but human beings love the comforts familiarity provides. The unknown, disorder and chaos are very disruptive and undesirable to us, even when it is for the better. Hence, we need small, incremental changes that build over a long period of time allowing everyone to adjust at a comfortable pace.
You are moving things in the right direction while avoiding stirring up too much anxiety and dissent. Change things gradually, one step at a time, dragging the voluntary rest of us with you.
Law Number 46
Never Appear to Perfect:
If you have been paying attention, you will have noticed that a lot of these power plays revolve around the master and the students or slave, domination and Submission, superiority or authority and inferiority, ego, pride, arrogance and envy, jealousy, hatred. It’s a very vicious and ultimately destructive cycle. Everyone wants to be the king, no one wants to be the pawn.
Me, I do not want to be a pawn, but I do not want to be the king either. I want to faceless man behind the throne. I do not want to be on the chessboard. And I do not want to be a visible target, but I still want to win the game of power no matter what side loses.
Law Number 47
In Victory Learn When to Stop:
In 1751, Madame de Pompadour found herself unable to satisfy Louis XV’s lust. He holds onto her privileged position she arranged younger, prettier women to keep the king happy. This was a loss for she had to swallow her pride and share Louis with others. They, however, could not compete with her charm, talents, taste and flawless sense for fashion.
“Her reign as mistress had lasted an unprecedented 20 years.”
Do not push too far or you risk losing it all. Know when to take a loss and move on.
Law Number 48
The Spartans, the most powerful infantry the world had ever seen at the time, lost the war with Athens, for they were outnumbered and unwilling to change their views. They did not adopt the circumstance, they didn’t build war. They didn’t want to conquer new lands, nor engage in trade for gold gave rise to corruption.
Meanwhile, Athens was thriving through constant reform. Sparta fell behind and collapsed. Don’t fight change. When you catch yourself in the futile attempt to resist a new order, remind yourself that you not only miss the opportunity to predict it but to adapt to it in time. You’ve to be anti-fragile.
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