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Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power is relied upon by many people who are looking for ways to amass and increase their power base. Some people see the book as one of the best things ever written on the subject of power. Others see the book as a look at the worse side of the desire for the acquisition of power.
Power is a word that normally evokes an emotional response in those who hear it. At the same time, many people do not have a clear idea of the definition of power. One definition of power found in New Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is the “ability or capacity to do something,” “control or dominion or a position of control, dominion or authority,” and “a person who exercises control, influence or authority.” These definitions, in and of themselves are not inherently negative, harmful or bad. This means that neither power itself or the exercise of power should be seen as negative or something to avoid or fear.
Some people, in fact, many people, have a great affinity for The 48 Laws of Power. I am not one of those people. This article is the first in a series of articles where I will be sharing other ideas on power and its application in the world of business. Whether you agree with The 48 Rules of Power or don’t there will be plenty here for you to find interesting and worthy of discussion. It is my hope that this series will help you to:
1. Have a proper appreciation for power.
2. Protect yourself from those who see and use power only in a negative way.
3. Realize that power can be a good thing that should be used to bring people together in the workplace rather than drive them apart.
Many of The 48 Laws of Power seem good on the surface. The problem is that once you delve into them and start parsing the different sections a clear bias towards deception, lies and hurting others in order to obtain power emerges. I like power as much as the next person, but, I think you can obtain power without deceit, lies and destroying those that stand between you and the power you want.
Many of the concepts found in The 48 Laws of Power are common ideas that are found in other classic books. This includes places including The Bible, The Prince and The Art of War. These are concepts that are familiar to many people and ideas that do not make one uncomfortable on the surface. Here are the 48 Laws of Power in case you are unfamiliar with them.
1. Never outshine the master
2. Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies
3. Conceal your intentions
4. Always say less than necessary
5. So much depends on reputation – guard it with your life
6. Court attention at all costs
7. Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit
8. Make other people come to you – use bait if necessary
9. Win through your actions, never through argument
10. Infection: avoid the unhappy and the unlucky
11. Learn to keep people dependent on you
12. Use selective honesty and generosity to disarm your victim
13. When asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude
14. Pose as a friend, work as a spy
15. Crush your enemy totally
16. Use absence to increase respect and honor
17. Keep others in suspended terror: cultivate an air of unpredictability
18. Do not build fortresses to protect yourself – isolation is dangerous
19. Know who you’re dealing with – do not offend the wrong person
20. Do not commit to anyone
21. Play a sucker to catch a sucker – seem dumber than your mark
22. Use the surrender tactic: transform weakness into power
23. Concentrate your forces
24. Play the perfect courtier
25. Re-create yourself
26. Keep your hands clean
27. Play on people’s need to believe to create a cultlike following
28. Enter action with boldness
29. Plan all the way to the end
30. Make your accomplishments seem effortless
31. Control the options: get others to play with the cards you deal
32. Play to people’s fantasies
33. Discover each man’s thumbscrew
34. Be royal in your own fashion: act like a king to be treated like one
35. Master the art of timing
36. Disdain things you cannot have: ignoring them is the best revenge
37. Create compelling spectacles
38. Think as you like but behave like others
39. Stir up waters to catch fish
40. Despise the free lunch
41. Avoid stepping into a great man’s shoes
42. Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter
43. Work on the hearts and minds of others
44. Disarm and infuriate with the mirror effect
45. Preach the need for change, but never reform too much at one
46. Never appear too perfect
47. Do not go past the mark you aimed for; in victory learn when to stop
48. Assume formlessness
This series of articles on The 48 Laws of Power will be interesting and worth the time you will invest in reading them. As you read the articles, take a look at power in your own life, in your own business. Look at power in your life. Think about how you use power, how you get power, and what you do with your own power. The more comfortable you are with power, the more power is a regular part of life and not a scary thing, the better things will be for you.
As you look at the laws, which ones strike you as real and perfectly on target? Which was strike you as totally off base? Which ones, if any, do you hope are not true? Share your thoughts and ideas here in the comments below.