The feeling of having no power over people and events is generally unbearable to us


The feeling of having no power over people and events is generally unbearable to us--when we feel helpless we feel miserable. No one wants less
power; everyone wants more. In the world today, however, it is dangerous
to seem too power hungry, to be overt with your power moves. We have
to seem fair and decent. So we need to be subtle-congenial yet cunning,
democratic yet devious.
This game of constant duplicity most resembles the power dynamic
that existed in the scheming world of the old aristocratic court. Throughout
history, a court has always formed itself around the person in power-king,
queen, emperor, leader. The courtiers who filled this court were in an especially delicate position: They had to serve their masters, but if they seemed
to fawn, if they curried favor too obviously, the other courtiers around
them would notice and would act against them. Attempts to win the master's favor, then, had to be subtle. 

And even skilIed courtiers capable of
such subtlety still had to protect themselves from their fellow courtiers,
who at all moments were scheming to push them aside.
Meanwhile the court was supposed to represent the height of civilization and refinement. Violent or overt power moves were frowned upon;
courtiers would work silently and secretly against any among them who
used force. This was the courtier's dilemma: W hile appearing the very
paragon of elegance, they had to outwit and thwart their own opponents in
the subdest of ways. The successful courtier learned over time to make all
of his moves indirect; if he stabbed an opponent in the back, it was with a
velvet glove on his hand and the sweetest of srniles on his face. Instead of
using coercion or outright treachery, the perfect courtier got his way
through seduction, charm, deception, and subtle strategy, always planning
several moves ahead. Life in the court was a never-ending game that required constant vigilance and tactical thinking. It was civilized war.
Today we face a peculiarly similar paradox to that of the courtier:
Everything must appear civilized, decent, democratic, and fair. But if we
play by those rules too strictly, if we take them too literally, we are crushed
by those around us who are not so foolish. As the great Renaissance diplomat and courtier Niccolö Machiavelli wrote, ''Any man who tries to be
good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who
are not good." The court imagined itself the pinnacle of refinement, but unPREFACE xvii
Courts are, unquestionably, the seats of politeness and good
breeding; were they not
so, they wOllld be the
seals of slallghter and
desolation. Those who
now smile Ilpon and
embrace, would affront
and stab, each other,
if manners did not
illlerpose ..
There is nothing very
odd abollt lambs
disliking birds ofprey,
bllt this is no reason for
holding it against large
birds 0/ prey that they
carry ofnambs. Ami
when the lambs whisper {lmong themselves,
" These birds of prey
are evii, and does this
not give IlS a right to
say that whatever is Ihe
opposite of a bird of
prey must be good? "
there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such
an argllment�though
the birds of prey will
look somewhat quizzically and say, " We have
f/othing against these
good lambs; in fact, we
love them; nothing
tastes beller than a
tender lamb.

derneath its glittering surface a cauldron of dark emotions---greed, envy,
lust, hatred-boiled and simmered. Our world today similarly imagines itself the pinnacle of fairness, yet the same ugly emotions still stir within us,
as they have forever. The game is the same. Outwardly, you must seem to
respect the niceties, but inwardly, unless you are a fool, you learn quickly
to be prudent, and to do as Napoleon advised: Place your iron hand inside
a velvet glove. If, like the courtier of times gone by, you can master the arts
of indirection, leaming to seduce, charm, deceive, and subtly outmaneuver
your opponents, you will attain the heights of power. You will be able to
make people bend to your will without their realizing what you have done.
And if they do not realize what you have done, they will neither resent nor
resist you.
To some people the notion of consciously playing power games---no matter how indirect-seems evil, asocial, a relic of the past. They believe they
can opt out of the game by behaving in ways that have nothing to do with
power. You must beware of such people, for while they express such opinions outwardly, they are often among the most adept players at power.
They utilize strategies that cleverly disguise the nature of the manipulation
involved. These types, for example, will often display their weakness and
lack of power as a kind of moral virtue. But true powerlessness, without
any motive of self-interest, would not publicize its weakness to gain sympathy or respect. Making a show of one's weakness is actually a very effective
strategy, subtle and deceptive, in the game of power (see Law 22, the Surrender Tactic).
Another strategy of the supposed nonplayer is to demand equality in
every area of life. Everyone must be treated alike, whatever their status and
strength. But if, to avoid the taint of power, you attempt to treat everyone
equally and fairly, you will confront the problem that some people do certain things better than others. Treating everyone equally means ignoring
their differences, elevating the less skillful and suppressing those who
excel. Again, many of those who behave this way are actually deploying
another power strategy, redistributing people's rewards in a way that they
Yet another way of avoiding the game would be perfect honesty and
straightforwardness, since one of the main techniques of those who seek
power is deceit and secrecy. But being perfectly honest will inevitably hurt
and insult a great many people, some of whom will choose to injure you in
return. No one will see your honest statement as completely objective and
free of some personal motivation. And they will be right: In truth, the use
of honesty is indeed a power strategy,

 intended to convince people of one's
noble, good-hearted, selfless character. It is a form of persuasion, even a
subtle form of coercion.
Finally, those who claim to be nonplayers may affect an air of na'ivete,
to protect them from the accusation that they are after power. Beware
again, however, for the appearance of naivete can be an effective means of
deceit (see Law 21, Seem Dumber Than YOUf Mark). And even genuine
naivete is not free of the snares of power. Children may be naive in many
ways, but they often act from an elemental need to gain control over those
around them. Children suffer greatly from feeling powerless in the adult
world, and they use any means available to get their way.

 Genuinely innocent people may still be playing for power, and are often horribly effective
at the game, since they are not hindered by reflection. Once again, those
who make a show or display of innocence are the least innocent of al!.
The only means to gain
one:,' ends with people
are force and cunning
Love also, Ihey say; bul
that is 10 wait for
sunshine, am/ life needs
every monzent.
You can 1749-1S32 recognize these supposed nonplayers by the way they flaunt
their moral qualities, their piety, their exquisite sense of justice. But since
all of us hunger for power, and almost all of our actions are aimed at gaining it, the nonplayers are merely throwing dust in OUf eyes, distracting us
from their power plays with their air of moral superiority. If you observe
them closely, you will see in fact that they are often the ones most skillful at
indirect manipulation, even if some of them practice it unconsciously. And
they greatly resent any publicizing of the tactics they use every day.
If the world is like a giant scheming court and we are trapped inside it,
there is no use in trying to opt out of the game. That will only render you
powerless, and powerlessness will make you miserable. Instead of struggling against the inevitable, instead of arguing and whining and feeling
guilty, it is far better to excel at power. In fact, the better you are at dealing
with power, the better friend, lover, husband, wife, and person you become.

 By following the route of the perfect courtier (see Law 24) you learn
to make others feel better about themselves, becoming a SOUfce of pleasure
to them. They will grow dependent on YOUf abilities and desirous of YOUf
presence. By mastering the 48 laws in this book, you spare others the pain
that comes from bungling with power-by playing with fire without knowing its properties. If the game of power is inescapable, better to be an artist
than a denier or a bungler.
The arrow shot by the
archer fllay or fnay not
kill a single person, Bul
slralagems devised hy a
wise man can kill even
habes in Ihe womh,
Learning the game of power requires a certain way of looking at the world,
a shifting of perspective. It takes effort and years of practice, for much of
the game may not come naturally. 

Certain basic skills are required, and
once you master these skills you will be able to apply the laws of power
more easily.
The most important of these skills, and power's crucial foundation, is ] the ability to master your emotions. An emotional response to a situation is
the single greatest barrier to power, a mistake that will cost you a lot more
than any temporary satisfaction you might gain by expressing YOUf feelings. Emotions cloud reason, and if you cannot see the situation clearly,
you cannot prepare for and respond to it with any degree of contro!.
Anger is the most destructive of emotional responses, for it clouds
your vision the most. It also has a ripple effect that invariably makes situations less controllable and heightens your enemy's resolve. If you are trying to destroy an enemy who has hurt you, far better to keep hirn off-guard
by feigning friendliness than showing your anger.

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