Today I want to introduce my power series. This series will explore power and individualism through the lenses of The 48 Laws of Power.
What Is The 48 Laws of Power?
The 48 Laws of Power is, without a hint of hyperbole, a masterpiece. Robert Greene masterfully describes how to gain, maintain, and expand power through self-control, manipulation, and subterfuge. For the individual, The 48 Laws of Power will help you understand how to protect yourself from the power-hungry as well as how to achieve self-mastery.
Through five blog posts, I want to analyze this book through the lens of individualism. Our current post serves as an introduction to the power-hungry. Additionally, I cover the tactics they use to gain and expand their power.
My second post covers offensive tactics. For example, how to conceal your intentions, the importance of doing rather than saying, and much more. These tactics are primary proactive and rely heavily on your volition, direction, and determination.
My third post will cover defensive tactics. Tactics include how to avoid supporting evil causes and how to reject gifts from dishonest people. My defensive techniques are perfect for protecting yourself against the power-hungry who seek to control you.
My fourth post will detail the crucial laws individuals should avoid at all costs. These laws will undermine your virtue and individual sovereignty. Why? Because submitting to the lust of power will enslave you to the very people you wish to control.
Lastly, I will conclude with a post summarizing everything and providing further tools for growth and development.
What Is Power?
Power is the capacity to act upon something or act in a particular way. Through the development and cultivation of control, individuals influence events, manipulate lives, and change the physical world. It takes the power of knowledge to fix a car. It takes the power of influence to manipulate others into doing your bidding. It takes the power of self-control to act in sustainable and positive ways.
Many wrongfully assume all forms of power are evil. However, power built by merit, such as the dynamic between an apprentice and a master, is preferable and necessary for skill growth. Or, the power dynamics between a child and a parent are not evil if the parent is providing a moral upbringing for their child.
That being said, most hierarchies are built on deceit, manipulation, and abuse. Governmental institutions are an example of corruption being standard in power dynamics. Additionally, we’ve all had a manager who abused their authority. Lastly, many of us have seen the “ass-kissers” move up in the power hierarchy while the talented and capable are left behind. With these examples and many others, it makes sense why most people dislike power structures.
The Laws of Power
As individuals, we should always acknowledge the reality of power. We need to focus our might on developing self-control while avoiding the machinations of the power-hungry. The 48 Laws of Power can be a painful book to read because Robert Greene is blunt and brutally honest. Throughout the book, he presents the reader with the worst people our species has to offer. He provides disturbing examples of how Empresses, courtiers, kings, queens, and conmen have gained and expanded power to trick, harm, and kill the innocent and guilty alike.
However, the exploration of brutality is the value of the book. As individuals, we have to acknowledge how people wish to control our time, energy, and resources. People will try to manipulate, dominate, and steal from individuals by abusing power structures. Whether through the tax law, corporate structures, or greed, the power-hungry will do everything they can to hurt you.
Therefore, we need to understand the behaviors and tactics of the power-hungry. The following laws are the more crucial tactics utilized by the power-hungry that all individuals need to know.
Law 6 – Court Attention At All Costs
Power-hungry people feed on attention to stay prominent. When you’re seeking to lord over others, you need them to know your name and recognize your brand. Why? Because recognition makes manipulating the masses much more manageable. Think of the latest social media icon with no discernable talents or the office clown who is more interested in attention than in accomplishing something worthwhile.
For example, Paul is running for office. He has no solid ideas, and it’s clear he’s corrupt. However, Paul garners attention from the local news. Through this attention, he manages to slander his opponents with false accusations. Through his slander and pretentious attitude, Paul courts all the focus, and by election day he manages to win.
Paul held the attention of the voters. He constantly exposed voters to his foolish ideas. He abused his influence by lying about his opponents. The news continued to play his sound bites, and Paul gained more exposure and voters. Despite his lack of experience, dishonesty, and arrogance, Paul courted attention and brought himself to the top.
Ignore Those Who Only Want Your Attention
Attention-grabbing is a crucial component of dominance. The best way for an individual to deal with an attention grabber is avoidance. Social media icons can be unfollowed and de-friended with little to no repercussions. An overzealous, attention-grabbing boss can be placated with smiles and nods while you invest in skill growth. An arrogant politician can be ignored in favor of someone more level-headed.
As individuals, we cannot stop the power-seekers from controlling others, but we can ensure they aren’t taking up our time. When you see an attention-grabber, ignore them as much as reasonably possible and return to your work or community.
Law 7 – Get Other’s To Do The Work For You, But Always Take The Credit
It’s happened to everyone. You were assigned to a project that your manager deligated to you. Once the project was done, the manager took credit. Moments like these can be irritating.
Stealing credit is a favored tactic of the power-driven. Manipulators want to be seen as capable and hardworking while refusing to acknowledge the work others have done.
What are the solutions? First, say no. Decline the project if you’ve experienced the manager taking credit. Let him fool someone else.
The secondary course is to talk directly to a higher-up. State your hard work and processes. Don’t brag – treat this meeting as an informal review where you highlight the progress you’ve made within the project. In the past, I’ve emailed managers my activities for that past week. My emails created a proper paper trail of what I’m doing for the company. With a paper trail, my efforts were not forgotten.
When around manipulators, remain silent
Lastly, you can always withhold critical information from your power-hungry manager. For example, you can state there are aspects of the project you want to present. Frame your desire to present as a way of helping your power-hungry manager. When the project is ready for display, you’re in front of an audience and declaring your contributions.
The goal is to avoid complaint. Yes, the situation is unfair, but whining will only lose you points with your team. It’s better to focus on indirectly stating your participation in the project. The power-hungry is evident in their goal of manipulating – never fall into the trap of criticizing their machinations. Find a way to highlight your abilities or avoid being dragged into a project where you won’t receive credit.
Law 11 – Learn To Keep People Dependent on You
Dependence is a complex subject that I will explore in later posts. However, I will state that the more independent you are, the freer you are from manipulators. For example, if you work at a crappy job as a fry cook, you may be trapped under the reign of an abusive boss. Your boss wants you to remain dependent on this job. You have to eat, pay bills, pay taxes, etc. so you need a steady income. However, you don’t have to work as a fry cook.
This is the importance of independence. If you learn more skills, grow your network, and improve your habits, then you’ll expand your opportunities. Because your opportunities expand, you don’t have to stay within the crappy fry cook gig anymore. You can break free and pursue better jobs.
Never let manipulators lie to you. You are not weak or helpless.
From manipulative parents to abusive boyfriends, the power-hungry always states that there is no choice. Abusers will tell you your life is determined. “You can’t replace family,” “you’ll never find a better wo/man than me,” “you’re not skilled enough to take another job,” etc. These narratives are designed to build within victims a sense of helplessness and dependence.
However, we do have a choice. You can radically change your lives through your efforts. You can form close relationships outside of your family by befriending virtuous people. You can find better, non-abusive partners. You can learn new skills and land better jobs.
Although it is not possible to do everything on your own, the goal should always be an expansion of your current opportunities. Never remain dependent on people; otherwise, you’ll be a reliable victim of the power-hungry.
Law 12 – Use Selective Honesty & Generosity to Disarm Your Victim
Never fall for one or two acts of kindness. The manipulative know how to utilize honest, charitable acts as a means of closing in on their victim. A social media icon may give to charity once in a while to court the attention of the skeptical before stealing people’s time away. Or, a flirtatious lover may win over the heart of an individual before using that individual sexual, then promptly abandoning him or her.
The office gossiper will state they wish to speak frankly. The manipulative manager may declare that employees can talk freely without repercussions. The elected official may apologize for misconduct. However, they are all disarming their victims by utilizing a brief moment of sincerity or honesty. The office gossip should be ignored. The manager’s words should not be taken seriously. We should not hand power over our lives to the “reformed” state official.
Study Habits and Actions Not Words
When dealing with those who have consistently done poorly in the past, never listen to their words. Watch their actions carefully, but only respond to a change in their habits. When habits and beliefs change for the better, then we may believe their improvement. However, a person who improves does not deserve free reign of your resources. For example, a lover who lied to you can earn forgiveness, but forgiveness does not mean restarting the relationship.
Being cautious is important. The power-hungry know the quest for more control leads to brutal and vicious acts. Therefore, they will do all that they can to appear more “humane” and approachable. Never fall for these tricks and keep such people at arm’s length.
Law 14 – Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy
Individuals can be defensive around the power-hungry. Such defensiveness cuts manipulators off from crucial and vital information about their victims. Therefore, the power-seekers know they have to earn their victim’s trust by posing as a friend while secretly gathering information.
The gossiper is very skilled at posing as a friend. He or she will pretend to care about your life before extracting information from you. Gossipers will then lord this information over your head and use it to sabotage your reputation.
Another example: I had a manager who had an “open door” policy. I would privately vent my frustrations to him while foolishly thinking everything would stay between us. However, during review time, these complaints were used against me and stifled my promotion. Instead, a colleague with less talent, ability, and people smarts was promoted. And of course, this person was well-liked by the manager, while I was not.
Notice The Spy Tactic
My mistake was not seeing the spy tactic. Manipulators will appeal to what you want (an ally). Then, abuse you with the information you give. Another example is politicians who state they will “clean up Washington” before becoming apart of the very monster they claimed to want to destroy. They lie to the voters by appealing to what the voters desire before betraying that trust and grabbing the ring of power.
Be wary of these manipulations by testing people. Ask pointed questions and make people invest in meaningful conversations and dialogue. Don’t complain around others. Instead discuss broader, neutral topics such as the meaning of life or favorite TV shows. Furthermore, if you believe you truly can’t trust someone, then keep your guard up. It requires time to build a meaningful relationship, and it’s okay to not jump into things quickly.
Law 21 – Play A Sucker to Catch A Sucker
Many conmen and manipulators pretend to be dumber than those they seek to control. Politicians always play the role of “everyman,” for instance. Such an act leads to the average person seeing themselves as equal to or greater than the politician. This ploy works well and leads to the whole “I can have a beer with him” mentality. A politician is not meant to be one’s friend. However, by appearing less intelligent or equal to the voters, the politician easily garners more support based on nothing substantial (such as his policy ideas).
The best way to protect yourself from the utilization of this law is to decrease your ego. Conmen and salespeople manage to trick individuals because the individual will believe he or she is smarter than the conman. It’s always worthwhile to never undermine your enemy’s abilities or play into your inflated sense of importance.
Look Out For Smoke
If people start overtly complimenting you by blowing smoke up your ass, then put up your barriers. “A smart man like you would make this purchase,” “only the best drivers use this car,” “you’re a smart, capable individual, I’m sure you’ll make the best decision,” etc. Be on the lookout for such unbridled praise. Especially, if validation is attached to an action you have to make such as a purchase or vote.
Also, remember you can’t have something for nothing. The power seekers, especially those who seek control over your finances, always promise something for nothing. Fear the free lunch and back away from anyone who promises their scheme will help you make it big. They’re playing off your greed and hoping you’re dumb enough to play along.
Law 27 – Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cult-like Following
Reasoning, thinking, and choosing virtuous decisions are difficult. Therefore, the masses are always happy to follow any cult leader, politician, or manipulator who promises to think for the masses.
However, we are individuals. We have to build our willpower and strengthen our mental capacities. Never turn to a politician who promises “easy solutions” to complex issues such as immigration or the economy. Such a politician will take your vote and continue the current power system without changing anything.
Never seek a leader – be your own leader. Control yourself and seek validation through the exercising of that control instead of external justification. Develop security in yourself and your abilities, so you’re not following others for momentary comfort.
However, the power-seekers may turn the cult on you. Say you work in a restaurant and a gossiper has managed to sway most of the staff but hasn’t gotten to you. The gossiper may turn the other employees against you, and there’s only one solution: leave. Keep your head down in such an irrational and abusive culture while building in silence. Once you’re ready to go, bow out gracefully and find a better job elsewhere.
Law 39 – Stir Up Waters to Catch Fish
The power-hungry love to emotionally undermine their victims. Emotional instability makes it impossible to make the best decisions. Therefore, it’s crucial to remain emotionally-connected to yourself, and control your outbursts and urges.
I’ve been the victim of such tactics before. Managers will stir my emotions by making blatantly dishonest statements. However, I would respond too aggressively. They would trap me by making the conversation about my attitude, not their lying.
Keep Your Emotions In Check: Focus on the Facts and Ignore Everything Else
The best way to deal with manipulations is to stick to the facts. Additionally, you need to remain stable. For example, I focus on my work and my talents. When my managers seek to attack me, I calmly move the conversation back to my work ethic. They struggle to undermine me and have to end their manipulations.
Invest time and energy into developing your emotional control while keeping up with your work. You’ll need rational pride to withstand manipulations. Additionally, you’ll need a firm understanding of your values and purpose in life. When you understand who you are, what you’re born to do, and how you’re going to accomplish your goals, it becomes impossible to undermine your emotions.
To ignore power is to be consumed by it. From the pickup artist to the president of the United States, manipulative and abusive individuals use techniques to dominate others. We can wag our fingers at them, condemn their actions, and ignore them. Or we can better understand their tactics and utilize this knowledge to protect ourselves from their machinations.
Next week, I will discuss what we as individuals can learn from The 48 Laws of Power to go on the offensive. How do we use our volition, will, and intelligence to hurt the power-hungry? Understanding your enemy’s tactics helps you use those tactics against him.
Come back next week as we discuss the ways to fight back against the power-hungry.
- Which law have you fallen victim to? How do you feel about being manipulated?
- Have you ever used any of these laws to gain power over others? Why did you us the law?
- Which law is the hardest for you to avoid if someone used it on you? Why?
- How would you rank your emotional control and willpower? Are you working on trying to improve them? How are you seeking to improve them?
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.