The 48 Laws of Power is one of the most important books that I have ever read, and for good reason too. This book opens you up to the real world and the way powerful people truly operate. The 48 Laws of Power contain many of the essential life skills that you won’t learn in University.
These laws aren’t little things that you read and forget about, these laws permeate your subconscious and come to you when you need them the most.
What the book is about:
This book is solely about being aware of and taking advantage of the power struggle that naturally occurs in society. It is nothing more than a toolbox containing 48 tools that will help you succeed whether you are in college, climbing your way up the corporate ladder, starting your own business, dealing with corporate suits, or even in your everyday socializing.
What the book is not about:
Despite what you might read on amazon reviews, this book is not about being a cold-hearted, immoral, manipulative scum bag. Nor is this about controlling the actions of other people for your own benefit while leaving them in the dust. These laws are nothing more than tools, and how these tools are used all depends on the individual using them.
The following section will be my own summaries of Law 1-12 with the excerpt from the book in italic.
Law #1: Never Outshine the Master.
Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please and impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite— inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.
Imagine you hire a personal trainer and give the impression that you know more about working out than them. How do you think they will react? They would probably hate training you since you’re portraying yourself as a know-it-all, or they will become insecure about their knowledge and profession. Either way, they will start to resent you.
No one likes a know-it-all or a show off, they spread envy and anger to your colleagues and higher-ups that will doom them eventually. Keep a level head and don’t let your ego guide your actions, make your bosses and superiors feel powerful and they will raise you up.
Law #2: Never Put Too Much Trust in Friends: Learn How to Use Enemies.
Be wary of friends— they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy. They also become spoiled and tyrannical. But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove. In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.
Friends can stab you in the back before you even see the knife coming. All you feel is a sharp pain and by then it is too late. Friends can betray you in an instant be it in a small way by humiliating or embarrassing you in front of others, or in a large way by taking something from you swiftly and subtly like a job promotion.
The only solution is to have a small circle of friends that you can manage and trust. I myself am completely bewildered when somebody I have just met tells me something incredibly personal or private about them. These individuals set them up for back-stab after back-stab.
The good thing about enemies is that they are more direct with you. They do not care about your feelings and they do not care about you. The best part is that once an enemy is turned into a friend, you will have more to prove to each other and more trust will spring from that relationship.
An honest enemy is often more useful than a lying friend.
Law #3: Conceal your Intentions.
Keep people off-balance and in the dark by never revealing the purpose behind your actions. If they have no clue what you are up to, they cannot prepare a defense. Guide them far enough down the wrong path, envelop them in enough smoke, and by the time they realize your intentions, it will be too late.
Some people get a kick out of telling every Tom, Dick, and Harry about their plans, ambitions, goals, and whatnot. There is absolutely no purpose in telling people about your long term goals and plans unless they are a significant part of it. If people are nosy and need to hear something from you, feed them misinformation or tell them what they want to hear.
No one should obey this law more than aspiring entrepreneurs. No one believes than an entrepreneur can succeed until they have already succeeded. Telling friends about your big business idea serves no purpose and opens the door for criticisms, discouragements, and a plethora of reasons as to why the idea is bad, or why you cannot make that idea work.
Not to mention that by constantly talking of our plans, we can indirectly trick our subconscious into believing that we have already succeeded at them, lowering the amount of effort and focus that we are allotting towards it.
The only solution is to shut up, and tell people exactly what they want to hear, they will leave you alone and you can go about your way.
Law #4: Always Say Less than Necessary.
When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control. Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original if you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike. Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.
The more you talk, the more chances you have to say something stupid that will come back to haunt you.
Not to mention that most people prefer to converse with a listener, someone who will sit back and listen to them speak. Most of us are so self-absorbed that all we talk about in a conversation is ourselves. By giving the other person a chance to speak, we protect ourselves from talking too much and we gain power and influence over the other person.
Law #5: So Much Depends on Reputation: Guard it with your Life.
Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win; once it slips, however, you are vulnerable, and will be attacked on all sides. Make your reputation unassailable. Always be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen. Meanwhile, learn to destroy your enemies by opening holes in their own reputations. Then stand aside and let public opinion hang them.
Reputation is incredibly important, people judge you based on your reputation, people view you through the smokescreen of your reputation. A ruined reputation is incredibly hard to recover from and can often cripple you despite your best efforts to get past it.
You never want to have the reputation of being a pest, annoying, needy, rude, snobby, over-emotional, or any other negative quality. People will view you strictly on your reputation despite your actions that may say otherwise.
Take care of your reputation, you will always need it.
Law #6: Court Attention at all Costs.
Everything is judged by its appearance; what is unseen counts for nothing. Never let yourself get lost in the crowd, then, or buried in oblivion. Stand out. Be conspicuous, at all cost. Make yourself a magnet of attention by appearing larger, more colorful, more mysterious than the bland and timid masses.
The passive person who sits in the shadow has no power to speak of. Those who shy away from the spotlight, and act awkward once in it, are generally cast away to the side by more outgoing individuals. Remember, attention gives the impression of power. You must be able to thrive in the spotlight, because once the attention is on you the power is in your hands.
Imagine a man who is infatuated with a woman, yet the woman doesn’t even know him because he shy’s away from the spotlight. Meanwhile other men are commanding the attention of this lady while the passive man sits in the background, her thoughts a thousand miles away from him. In her world he does not exist, he is nothing more than a dreamer.
In the corporate world, the extrovert is always more likely to get the big promotion over the introvert, mainly because the boss’ attention is usually always on the outgoing individual, and because the smart extrovert can weasel his way into his boss’ circle.
While there are plenty of ways to garner attention, not all attention is created equal. Attention must never damage your reputation or make you look like a fool, that would be completely counterproductive to your goals.
Law #7: Get Others to Do the Work for you, but Always Take the Credit.
Use the wisdom, knowledge, and legwork of other people to further your own cause. Not only will such assistance save you valuable time and energy, it will give you a godlike aura of efficiency and speed. In the end your helpers will be forgotten and you will be remembered. Never do yourself what others can do for you.
Possibly the cruelest law in this book. While this law isn’t one that I follow myself, I see it happen all too often, in-fact is happens right in-front of our eyes everyday.
Take Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft. All the credit for these three companies is given to Mark Zuckerburg, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates respectfully. Yet you will never about the hundreds of engineers, designers, board executives, or salesmen being given credit for the functioning of these companies, it is always the top dog who takes all the glory, and most of the money.
Understand, the world is not so nice and there are those who will have you toil away for them and take the fruit of your labor for themselves. Keeping a watchful eye out for these types is essential, especially if you are working in a competitive environment.
Law #8: Make Other People Come to You—Use Bait if Necessary.
When you force the other person to act, you are the one in control. It is always better to make your opponent come to you, abandoning his own plans in the process. Lure him with fabulous gains— then attack. You hold the cards.
Sometimes you need to force people into action. Many people live their lives responding to whatever comes up in their day-to-day life, these types are easily swayed by introducing some drama in their lives. This get’s them excited and this get’s them to you.
It is always better to be the one forcing people to do something than to be on the receiving end of the stick and having your options taken away from you.
Law #9: Win Through Your Actions, Never Through Argument.
Any momentary triumph you think you have gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory: The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.
Only idiots spend their time arguing. It is pointless to argue about irrelevant topics or opinions. Most arguments can become heated, especially since people who are prone to arguing can become very emotionally attached to their side or point of view.
Now on occasions where you need to convince a person or a group of people of something important, arguing is never the best way to go about doing it. Fighting battles head on is stupid when there are much more effective means.
Actions speak louder than words and are much more convincing than any argument. Simply let the other side see your actions for a quick and painless victory. You will not offend, and you will not be met with resistance.
Law #10: Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and the Unlucky
You can die from someone else’s misery— emotional states are as infectious as diseases. You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only precipitating your own disaster. The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you. Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.
I’ve always believed that you are the reflection of the people you spend most of your time with. Their ways rub off onto you more than you may realize. If you’re spending your time with people who are down, people who have given up, guess what will happen to you eventually.
You have to surround yourself with like-minded people and people who have traits that you want. If you are unconfident you should spend your time with confident people. If you are weak you should spend your time with people who are strong. The list goes on-and-on. Never spend your time with people who will bring you down, or with people who embody the traits you cannot stand, eventually they will rub off on you.
Law #11: Learn to Keep People Dependent on You.
To maintain your independence you must always be needed and wanted. The more you are relied on, the more freedom you have. Make people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity and you have nothing to fear. Never teach them enough so that they can do without you.
What makes someone truly independent is having other people dependent on them. When people are dependent on you for some reason or another, you automatically hold power over them. Those who are dependent on you are also those who you can count on the most, they will not want to lose your support.
Perhaps one of the reasons for high divorce rates in the western world is due to a lack of dependence on both partners for each other. A woman is no longer dependent on the man for money as she can work for herself, and have alimony and child support provide income for her if she chooses to divorce him. A man is no longer dependent on a single woman since sex outside of marriage is no longer tabooed in society. If you look at other cultures where gender roles are more stagnant, you will find much lower divorce rates and much higher rates of marriage.
Law #12: Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm your Victim
One sincere and honest move will cover over dozens of dishonest ones. Open-hearted gestures of honesty and generosity bring down the guard of even the most suspicious people. Once your selective honesty opens a hole in their armor, you can deceive and manipulate them at will. A timely gift— a Trojan horse— will serve the same purpose.
A sincere compliment, a genuine act of friendship, or a big favor can make other people see you in a whole new light. As manipulative and immoral it seems, this concept is true and used by everyone, even if they didn’t mean to. By giving someone an unexpected, but sincere compliment, you open the door for more acts of power and manipulation.
People long to be noticed and appreciated, a simple compliment to something they try hard to show off such as their work ethic, the way they speak, how they dress, their style, or whatever else. Always compliment something they try to show off but are under-appreciated for.
Telling a beautiful girl how beautiful she is won’t garner you any power, but complimenting her in a different fields such as her intelligence will give you much influence over her as you have given her something no other person has.
Not to mention the greatest power behind this law: Your victim will forgive your other transgressions once another compliment is given. They become your loyal followers, like a dog on a leash.
Part 2 coming soon
You can buy The 48 Laws of Power here.