A few years back, my older sister Julie gave me a book "The 48 Laws of Power" by Robert Greene. Each of the 48 chapters outlines a strategy for gaining the upper hand in almost any situation. Each law is backed up by a historical account of how it has been applied to win wars, seduce lovers and topple empires.
It's not the type of book one reads cover to cover, but rather it is a collection of chapters, each dealing with a law, that can be read on its own. One might call it bathroom reading.
Take Law #15 - Crush Your Enemy Totally.
Below the chapter title a paragraph reads:
All great leaders since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed completely. (Sometimes they have learned this the hard way.) If one ember is left alight, no matter how dimly it smolders, a fire will eventually break out. More is lost though stopping halfway than through total annihilation: The enemy will recover, and will seek revenge. Crush him, not only in body but in spirit.
The Crush Your Enemy Totally chapter includes a story of two childhood friends who grew up to become rivals and war generals. The more aggressive of the two, Hsiang Yu, had numerous opportunities to slay his former friend, Liu Pang, but each time allowed him to escape. In the end, Liu Pang, bested his Hsiang Yu.
See? That's why its improtant to totally crush your enemy. If not, you'll end up like Hsiang Yu.
For years, I kept this book by my bedstand. Cracking the spine occasionally, to read an anecdote or historical account when I couldn 't sleep. To Greene's credit, it is incredibly well-written and an easy read.
Then, a few weeks back, I picked upthe book for a different reason. My life appeared to be heading in the wrong direction and I wanted to set it straight. I wanted to manipulate people. I wanted to bend them to my will. I wanted every situation to turn out in my favor.
I read the laws over, and a few of the more doable ones stood out:
-Do Not Commit to Anyone
-Control the Options: Get Others to Play with the Cards You Deal
-Concentrate Your Forces
-Strike the Shepherd and the Sheep will Scatter
-Think as You Like But Behave Like Others
-Discover Each Man's Thumbscrew
-Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky
-Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker- seem dumber than your mark
-Pose As A Friend, Work as a spy
I had a plan and this felt better than just letting life happen. After a sleepless night spent planning my emergence into the power scene, I began to falter. Don't commit to anyone? I commit to everyone I love. I don't know any other way to love even though I know it is sometimes to my detriment. Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky? Well, this would involve dodging all of humanity at one point or another. I couldn't pull double duty as a friend and spy. I have a hard enough time just being a friend.
I reconsidered the 48 and found one that might actually be doable.
Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor.
Might this be applicable at work?