first law of power


When ordinary business people think of power they often think that power has nothing to do with then or their business operations. This could not be farther from the truth. No matter what business you are in and no matter what your industry, power matters. One idea that you must look at when dealing with power is can you safely outshine a superior?


The first law of power  is  “Never Outshine the Master.” My question is, why not?

The first of Robert Greene’s laws of power is, never outshine the master. When explaining this principle, Greene talked about Nicolas Fouquet who was King Louis XIV’s finance manager. Fouquet had a beautiful home and staged an impressive party to celebrate the completion of his home and to pay tribute to the king. King Louis XIV wanted to be the center of attention and thought of as great. According to Greene, he could not share the limelight or be outdone by another. So, instead of being flattered by Fouquet, he was threatened and had Fouquet placed in jail, in solitary confinement for the rest of his life.

When analyzing the idea of never outstanding the master,  and how to apply it in your life or if it applies to your life, take time to objectively look at who you are and the people with whom you work. Is the superior in question the kind of person who gets upset when someone else is praised? Does she get angry when others get noticed for their accomplishments? If the answer to these  two questions is yes, this is a superior who will not be happy to see you prosper at work. This is not a position in which you will be able to simply work to the best of your abilities, grow and shine without political cost. With a superior like this, you will need to learn how to work to your best efforts and make the superior feel safe at the same time.

If you are dealing with superior who is insecure and cannot abide by the success of others, perhaps it is a good idea not to outshine that person. It is stifling to work under a person who hates you for your success. With this type of superior whenever you do well, the superior is unhappy and feels insulted. In this case you must walk a careful line because you must do a good job and at the same time you do not want to irritate the insecure superior. WIth this kind of person, it is best to look at the big picture and think long-range. This means you may have to find a place to work with a different superior. In the meantime, look for ways to make the superior feel secure, at ease and not threatened by you and your good work.


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However, if you have a supervisor who is secure in who she is and her place in the universe you do not have to hide your light under a barrel and can shine with all your might. When it comes to the idea that one should never outshine the master, one should keep in mind the importance of knowing your place in the universe. If your superior celebrates  when you receive praise and even freely praises others, she will not harm you if she is outshined. If your superior works to share the accomplishments of others, she will not be angry when you accomplish good and wonderful things at work. With this type of superior you will be able to work to your best efforts, shine and succeed without fear. When your superior is secure, you do not need to practice deceit, but can safely put forth best efforts. Do not make practicing deceit a habit. It is a dangerous one that is harder to get out of than one might imagine.


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Even when your superior at work or in business is insecure and will punish you for shining, it is still possible to shine. One way to do it is to compliment your superior each time you are praised or complimented.  Look at the following scenario for example.

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