Today, I want to conclude my analysis of The 48 Laws of Power, by looking at the value of building sustainable, personal power.
The Reality of Power
Power is the capacity to directly influence the course of events or the behavior of others. There are many forms of power:
- Financial power enables us to purchase what we want
- Physical strength involves utilizing force to affect the world
- Influence is power over people’s hearts and minds.
Power can be obtained by and used for evil ends:
- A dictator will accumulate political might through violence before abusing the masses he controls
- A manager may manipulate her way to the top before abusing the employees under her management
- A parent may poorly raise his child before demanding loyalty from the very child he abused
Power can also be obtained by and used for virtuous ends:
- A hard-working businessman can utilize his wealth to open a business and employ hundreds of people
- A direct and honest politician can use his influence to reduce laws and regulations, thereby freeing citizens
- A generous man can use his power and resources to feed the hungry and care for the sick
Everyone is obsessed with power. Denying power and the role it plays in relationships between individuals is foolish. Multiple people and institutions would love nothing more than to have control over your time, finances, and energy. Luckily, The 48 Laws of Power provides individuals with a framework to understand the power-hungry and how best to deal with them.
When dealing with power-hungry individuals, we should understand how to act offensively and defensively. However, when reflecting internally, we should understand how to master the art of self-control.
Power – Offensive Tactics
Passivity is not a virtue. Many manipulators and abusers wish to harm us and gain control over our actions. We should never sit back and accept their plots and manipulations – our goal should always be to push back.
There are many examples of people trying to gain influence over us. For example, the salesman who wants us to buy a car we don’t need with money we don’t have so that he’ll have power over us in the form of debt. Or, look at the politician who promises freedom in exchange for your vote before working hard to expand his control over your life. Lastly, there’s the gossiper who will lie about being loyal to you before taking your secrets and using them to undermine your reputation.
It pays to understand the tactics and lies of the powerful then fight back with righteous vigor. The game of power can be played offensively without a loss of virtue. The key is to develop your mental integrity, willpower, and emotional control, so you can be proactive when faced with the power-hungry.
- Be direct and respectful. Listen to others. Never seek to dominate conversations. Always let people, especially manipulators, talk as you listen intently. Developing the ability to listen and ask direct questions will sharpen your mind during uneasy or tense situations. Never let the pressure of a salesman or a gossiper get you down. Remain stable in your interactions while being as direct and bold as possible. People respond well to confidence and attentiveness.
- Play the courtier and remain people smart. Even if you are in troubled waters, it pays to be pleasant and professional. Being professional is an offensive power tactic that confuses those who may want to exploit you. When you remain positive and emotionally stable, it’s difficult to read you and understand your thinking process. Imagine a salesman who wishes to sell you a car, but you deny him with a disarming and submissive smile. He will be somewhat troubled by your clear and mature response as you walk away with your money firmly in your pocket.
- Expand your skills and talents. The more capable you are, the more opportunities you can make for yourself. Growing your skillset requires a strong will and the ability to plan long-term, but you’ll be in better a position to deal with manipulators. For example, if you have money in the bank, a set of refutable skills, and charisma, it’ll be easier to land a better job when your current one becomes unbearable. Keep your options open, and always seek to improve yourself.
Power – Defensive Tactics
Because manipulators and abusers are continually seeking to control you, it is crucial to develop the means to defend against their power grabs. When we build willpower, financial stability, emotional control, and moral habits, we can respond much easier to abuses of power. Seek to develop your personal strength, so when the power-hungry attacks you, you can defend yourself with ease.
- Respond to upsetting events with emotional stability. Did your favored politician reveal themselves to be corrupt? Shrug your shoulders and move toward improving yourself. Is your manager taking their bad day out on you? Shake your head and continue to build your empire. The ability to respond to upsetting events as well as the abuses of the powerful with maturity will save you time and energy. Emotional anguish does not improve your situation. Develop your emotional stability, so you can easily withstand unfortunate events while pursuing the solutions you need.
- Never reveal your personal life. Keep details about your personal life to yourself, so the power-hungry have absolutely nothing to attack. From whom you’re dating to regrets you’ve made in the past, keeping personal details private will ensure the powerful have less information to use. Never talk too bluntly in mixed company and always be on the lookout for spies posing as friends.
- Remain formless, and it’ll become impossible to stop you. Only a fool puts all his eggs in one basket. When we develop skills, talents, and opportunities, we expand the choices we have. Furthermore, having good monetary habits, staying healthy, and building a virtuous community will protect you when the power-hungry wish to attack your resources. For example, if you get fired from a job because of childish office-politics, you will worry less if you have money in the bank, valuable skills, and a family to emotionally support you while you search for a new job.
Being defensive with power is all about reacting but reacting maturely. The powerful will poke and prod you to better understand your weaknesses. Don’t give them the time and if you must respond, respond with grace.
Become Your Own Tyrant
Ultimately, self-control is the highest form of power. The ability to control yourself, overcome your flaws, and defeat your vices will provide you with the tools you need to obtain and maintain true power.
Once power is cultivated from within, it becomes easier to create the world you want. When you control your actions, then you can direct your efforts towards greatness.
Being your own tyrant means others will have a harder time controlling you. For example, if you aggressively stick to a budget, then you won’t fall for monetary tricks. A budget ensures you won’t end up in debt, and you’ll remain in control of your finances and your future.
When you have power over yourself, your behaviors and actions are not random. You can act with intention. Every move you make is calculated, and your life has a firmer sense of purpose that doesn’t feel outside of your control.
How to Become Your Own Tyrant
- Set clear goals and stick to them. I cover how to create a clear goal plan in my goal series. However, you want to start with a life goal where you determine what fires you up. Then create long-term goals followed by short-term, daily tasks you can accomplish that will help you achieve your dreams. Stick to these goals and never deviate from the path you have chosen for yourself.
- Learn the ten virtues and live them. Magnanimity, Fortitude, Zeal, Persistence, Courage, Frugality, Generosity, Gratitude, Loyalty, Patience. The tyrant within us should continuously filter our actions and behaviors through the lens of virtue. Is this generous? Am I being courageous? Am I maintaining my patience? It can be annoying to ask yourself these questions, but once acting virtuously becomes a default, you will live a better life.
- Develop your willpower and emotional control. Willpower is the control you have over your behaviors, thoughts, and actions. To be emotionally stable is to respond to any situation with a level head. It pays to build these traits and improve your ability to react to upsets with grace and ease.
- Be frugal with your time, energy, and money. You should always ask yourself, “Is this activity/purchase/action/thought/person going to help me become a more virtuous person or help me reach my life goal?” If the answer is “no” then it’s time to move on.
Never Forget About Power
The 48 Laws of Power is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. It is brimming with expertise, insight, and sound advice to help the individual achieve great things.
Many people see the book as evil, but it is amoral. Robert Greene presents the facts and gives us a brutally honest view of the human species. If we are bothered by the techniques that the powerful have utilized to gain and maintain power, then we have the option of not following in their footsteps. We can choose to be more humane and generous.
However, power exists. Some men and women would love nothing more than to control your actions. For example, debt entraps millions of Americans and ensures they lack the flexibility to make crucial financial decisions.
Another example: many people are under the power of crappy managers. These individuals work jobs they hate to buy crap they don’t need to impress people they don’t like. Your poor decisions ensure your employer, the corporations you buy from, and the people you wish to impress all have power over you.
Understand the power tactics, see the techniques being used, then fight like hell against the people who use them. Be free in your abilities and life so that you can change your world for the better. Don’t wag your finger at the powerful and evil. Gain control over your life and laugh in their faces as they fail to influence your actions to their ends.
- How do you feel about your personal power? Do you feel you have control over your actions? Why or why not?
- Do you have emotional stability? When was the last time you lost your temper? Why did you lose it?
- What are some things you’d love to do but presently can’t? Make a list. Now analyze that list and see which items would be possible if you had greater control over yourself. For example, if you want to lose weight, the best option is to control your eating habits while taking trips to the gym.
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.