Conformity is the jailor of freedom and the enemy of growth.
~ John F. Kennedy
Conformity is the jailor of freedom and the enemy of growth.
~ John F. Kennedy
Nothing great was ever achiever without enthusiasm. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. ~ Lao Tzu
In a society where people first and foremost think about themselves and their own interests it’s not always as easy to get people to work for your cause. Of course monetary incentives work to some degree, but there are better ways to establish partnerships which are much more effective. It is the mark of a good leader that he can inspire the people around him.
It’s been proven that money is not the driving force behind the ambition of people. In fact some of the most interesting creations that mankind has produced are not functions of greed, but rather from a sense of purpose and meaning. It is us who give purpose and meaning to our creations and therefore it is us who have the power to inspire others to create things that inbibe those very qualities. When you can give other people a sense of purpose they will create wonders for you.
I’m not religious, but when I see a cathedral I cannot help but to stand in awe as I wonder how much time and effort has been put into creating something so beautiful. There are buildings which took hundreds of years to finish, which means that various generations had been working on them. The reason why those kind of buildings even exist is because the people who made it had a very strong sense of purpose and meaning. It gave them the power to rise above themselves by contributing to something that is bigger than their lives.
Now I’m not saying that you should start your own religion and convince people to build a structure in the name of God, but the point is that people will deliver a better product for you when you can involve them in the idea that is behind it. It is for this reason that powerful ideas are the strongest force in the minds of men and understanding that is one of the most important lessons in order to become a successful leader. Every great leader in history has had a great vision that inspired those who followed him.
There are no right or wrong ideas, only weak and strong ones. We see that in history people have fought each other over disagreements regarding ideas and obviously the strongest ideas survived, because they were supported and defended by many. Think of the idea of liberty for example that has never failed to move people because it’s one of the most powerful ideas. Unfortunately ideas can also be used as a means of manipulation to get people to support something outside of their own interest. Good examples are the numorous wars that the USA fights in the name of liberty and democracy even when that’s obviously not the case.
What I’m trying to say is that an idea needs to be strong, but it also needs to be communicated properly in order to be supported. We attach ourselves to ideas when we’re able to identify with that idea. When an idea is part of our identity it becomes one of the driving forces in our lives. People desire a sense of identity and by belonging to something bigger than ourselves we feel more powerful. In order to spread an idea we have to become the idea itself. They call it being an example or walking the talk.
When a leader can inspire his followers to become part of his idea then they’ll become leaders themselves. This is why strong ideas will live on even when the people who created them passed away. Ideas which appeal to the spirit of the current time are always strong, because they resonate very well with the collective mind. Creating an idea therefore is not as hard as it seems if you can manage to tap in to this collective mind. It doesn’t even have to be a new idea, but it can also be an old idea displayed in a modern fashion.
One of the most important factors in communicating an idea successfully is how it is displayed; being an example is not enough. People have a weak spot for spectacles and mystery and both should be used to create a large movement. In one of my posts (How The Human Psyche Works) I wrote about the power of secrets, because whatever is not spoken out loud creates an aura that is much stronger than words. The same counts for ideas; an idea should be expressed in every way, but it shouldn’t be spoken out loud. Giving away the secret means no more mystery, which is a turn off.
It is the sense of mystery that will draw people closer and every expression of the idea is spectacular. At the same time you give them purpose and meaning. I’ve seen first hand how mysterious organizations have multiple layers of followers. The ones who were the closest with the organization were told the most important ‘secrets’. Secrery inspires loyalty and turns men into kids who will take anything they’re given. I’m not saying this is the right thing to do, but in this particular organization it worked for whatever reason was behind it.
I would say that the most important thing to learn is to recognize the elements that make a movement strong and powerful. It’s not about what they do, but how they do it. In that sense a strong movement definitely has some of the charactaristics that we see in religious organizations. That’s not because it has anything to do with religion, but those guys just figured that out way back. A definite important factor is that it needs to appeal to the desire of people to believe in something which is bigger than themselves in order to be part of it and create a sense of purpose and meaning.
Like I said before it doesn’t matter as much what you do, but it’s much more important how you do it. You don’t have to form a religion in order to create a religious kind of following. The idea is what creates the powerful aura and its presentation is the key in order to inspire people to become part of it. Mystery draws people in, but a leader who appears like he’s a mystery to himself is not a good thing; a good leader knows exactly what he’s doing and even if he doesn’t it should appear as if he does.
People have to feel that they can count on their leader; they need to be able to trust him. Trust can be gained simply by showing understanding towards others. It’s the distance between people that creates distrust and makes one see another as a stranger. A good leader can make an intimate connection with another person instantly on the first eye contact. Trust is a strong bond and is hard to break, because it’s part of people’s sense of identity. This is what I mean with showing understanding; letting someone know that you understand who that person is. People adore that, because often they don’t even know themselves that well.
Finally I would like to say that being a leader doesn’t mean you have to have followers. On the contrary, leadership starts by taking charge of yourself. If your ideas are strong enough people are bound to follow you to help advance the idea even further. One trap is the ego, because that should never be part of the idea. You have to realize yourself that the idea is more important than you and that you’re simply the bearer of it; a tool of the universe so it can spread and create a larger movement.
Those who like to be followed in order to feel better about themselves are not going to be followed. Weak ideas perish in the presence of stronger ones. In order to be a good leader you have to become the biggest follower of your own idea.
Social interaction is one of the hardest yet most valuable skills to master, because it concerns everyone. No matter what you do with your life you will always be part of some kind of community and have your own social circle. And as much as we like to think we’re unique and different we’re all just people at the end of the day who communicate using the same code of interaction.
I’m not referring to language but rather to the mechanics of the human psyche. It is the manner in which we communicate that really tells the underlying message to those who are clever enough to hear it. It’s been proven that most of our communication channels through body language and tone of voice and only a very tiny part has to do with the actual words we speak. That’s not to say that words are unimportant, but they are often not as revealing. A true master of the game always remains a mystery and is hard to read. He is totally aware and in control of what he is conveying through words and gestures.
Social interaction is a game and perhaps the most interesting there is to play. Understanding this game is important to reach your goals, because no matter what you do you’ll always have to deal with other people in one way or another. Whether you want to attract the woman of your dreams or get your dream job you’ll have to convince others that you’re the person they’re looking for. Ironically it’s those who try the hardest who will always fail the hardest. Maybe convincing is the wrong word to use for that matter, because it implies that you have to prove something to someone else and there’s nothing that will lower your value as much as doing that.
Rather it is about make believe. Considering everyone has their own reality which is by definition not absolute, but much closer to imagination and projection, it then becomes clear that this is a game of appearances. How you appear to someone else will determine who you are in their reality. How people perceive you depends on nothing more than as to how you suggest them to perceive you. This happens subconsciously with most people, because they’re not aware of everything they’re communicating.
The things that hold the highest value are those things left unsaid. Did you ever notice how in a relationship unaddressed problems will make for a very uncomfortable atmosphere? It doesn’t really matter what it is, but the point is that whatever you don’t speak out is still very present. By keeping things to yourself you make them powerful because they’re untouchable to others. The moment you give your prize away anyone will have the opportunity to put their hands on it, twist it around and shape it into whatever they want. The result is that they will hold a power over you, because they’ll have control over something which is dear to you.
Secrets are strong because they remain hidden, but are very present at the same time. Whatever you keep to yourself will radiate around you and create a very powerful aura that others don’t understand, yet feel attracted to. At least if that aura is one made out of positive energy. It depends on the quality of the secret. This is the reason why bad secrets should be shared and good secrets should be kept to oneself. Let’s go back to the example of the unaddressed problem in the relationship. The moment you put your finger on that spot you’re creating an opportunity for you and your partner to heal your relationship, whereas the longer you ignore the problem and pretends it doesn’t exist will only create distance and distrust between you, leading to an inevitable break-up.
In all its irony a very important part of social interaction is to give away as little as possible. You would say that communication is about obtaining total clarity and transparency, but this is not how the human mind works. We are helplessly drawn to mystery and get bored with that which is plain, tasteless, unimaginative and predictable. People will try their best to make you show your cards, but those who master themselves will see through it and understand the underlying motives. Keep in mind I’m talking about how you present yourself to the world. It is not to be confused with how business is done, because that should be clear and transparent.
Also in the game of seduction mystery is a very powerful tool to draw people towards you. The most important thing is to be in a position where you know more about the other person than the other way around. I myself have made this mistake in the past where I would give away too much information which made me lose her interest. On the other side I have had great flirtations with women who were dying to figure out the mystery which was me. Of course I never told them. Ironically there was no mystery at all, but only a suggestion of mystery which was enough to stir their feelings.
So lets assume you understand what to keep to yourself in order to create that aura around yourself. You’re aware and in control of what you communicate to the world, especially in tense situations. Contrary to what people may think, being in control of yourself is exactly the opposite of being a robot. In fact is it those who are not in control of themselves who act like robots, because their behaviour is running on the software of human interaction which is programmed in their brains that everyone else is also subjected to. Your emotions don’t make you unique and special, because everyone experiences these emotions and most people act on them the same as anyone else would. What makes you unique and special is to respond rather than to react to situations by acting consciously and self-aware.
Knowing how to keep power is one thing, but gaining power is the other side of the coin. This is basically about addressing the secrets of others by listening carefully. The only way to truly understand others is by dissolving yourself into them. It is very powerful, because on one hand you don’t give anything away for you don’t exist and at the same time you learn valuable things about the other person. This knowledge is to be taken with responsibility, because you have the power to shape it into whatever you like. It is the enlightened human being who will use this power to become a catalyst in the development of another. It is the corrupted human being who will use this power to put another into a state of submission.
When you dissolve it means that you no longer exist as an individual with his own thoughts and feelings, but as an extension of the other person. You literally become a means for their expansion of consciousness when you link yourself to another. This may sound strange to some, but it is truly as simple as saying it and other than awareness and intent there is no need for any specific action to put yourself in such a state. I believe that by making this kind of connection with people we can be of true value to the world around us.
At the same time there is also often a need for feedback which requires your personal ideas and feelings. It is the balance between listening and speaking. When you really listen and can show understanding for another then they will feel they can trust you. In the same way you should only share yourself with people that you can trust. It has happened to me that I felt sorry for sharing something of profound value to me with someone who didn’t recognize this value and it lost some power because of that. This is why it hurts people so much when their trust is broken, because they feel something was taken from them and smashed to pieces.
Most people are very self-centered; they only think about themselves and everything else comes second. They’re not the ones who rule the world, because their ideas are too weak to be supported by many. However, they can still contribute to a good idea and serve it willingly when you can give them what they want. It is not hard to figure that one out, because they’ll be communicating it constantly. You could even say that it can be perceived as a cry for help, because there’s always something desperate about anything that’s overly expressed. People who repeat the same thing are often those who engage in wishful thinking as they’re trying to convince themselves of something that’s so obviously not true.
When you can go past this stage of self-centered thinking a whole new dimension opens up to you. No longer having to be concerned with yourself you can start to explore the world and all its hidden potential and possibilities which will also show the limitlessness within yourself. When one can be formless like water and shape into whatever is needed at that time and place then one will be of immense value to everyone. The answer why one would want to do so is simple: Because happiness will be your witness throughout the whole journey and you’ll have the opportunity to contribute to something that’s bigger than your own life. Next to that you’ll have endless amounts of resources because everyone will want a piece of you so you can set your price high.
We live in a world of excessive consumption, because most people are unhappy and have no idea what to do about it. They’re constantly promised happiness through commercials, but often find themselves in misery at the end of the day. It is impossible to make another person truly happy, but it is possible to help them find their purpose and realize their dreams. If you can uncover from other people what they really want then you’ll know them better than they know themselves. We see in the world of commercialism that this technique is used to a degree of exploitation when the crowd is manipulated as a very powerful desire like happiness is addressed and is immediately followed by suggestions of products to help fulfil that desire. We’re being sold an illusion and a lot of people fall for it. The result is that we come back home from shopping with big smiles that never last.
Like I said before it’s a game of appearance and the palette to color the image you want to create is endless. When one can attain this flexibility it becomes very easy to move about in the world, because many doors will open. All it takes is good observation and imagination. The rest will flow naturally. The more you limit yourself the more predictable you become. Being predictable is one way to lose your power, because others will set you up to play right into their hands. Most people are predictable and that’s why people generally act and think alike.
Ask any random person a question and give them a few answers to choose from. They will choose whatever, but the point is that most of them won’t realize the limitation you’ve just set for them by only providing a small set of answers. This is basically how democracy works; we’re sold the illusion of having a certain say in our country’s affairs while our governments rule in aristocracy. Make a suggestive comment and you immediately implant a belief within the audience that the premises on which that comment is founded is true. It’s like making two steps in one move so that the attention is set on the second step while the first step is left out of the equation.
Derren Brown is an expert in mind manipulation techniques such as the above. It’s about distracting the mind so it cannot keep up with what’s going on. In fact it’s very similar to how computers can be hacked, by blasting them with an overload of information which creates cracks in the system. One way to do this is by asking questions or make statements that will occupy the mind and distract it from what is really going on. I would definitely urge you to check out some of his videos in case you haven’t, because it’s quite fascinating.
Finally I would like to point out that lying is the worst thing you can do and please don’t ever resort to that, because it will do more harm than good. Lying is an act brought forth by fear and by doing so will expand this fear within yourself and strengthen it. Being in control is facing your fears and making a conscious choice. It is about surpassing yourself in favor of a higher purpose. When you can rise above yourself you will be taken care of one way or another and all of your dreams will be within a hand’s reach. It is the journey from the small mind to the big mind.
One of the worst feelings that we experience is when we feel powerless and out of control. It directly confronts us with the fear of not being able to shape our own reality. From that point on you can do two things: Either you play the victim and indulge in self pity, attracting people in the process who will support these self-limiting beliefs by crying along with you, or you accept the fact that you are totally responsible for the situation you’ve put yourself in, and look for ways to get out which will put you back in a position of power.
I’ve experienced this first hand in the past week, transforming myself from play ball to king of my own jungle. I had let myself be a toy of others until I became so miserable that in a moment of clarity I decided to flip everything around 180 degrees, and from that point on everything changed. The details concerning these events are unimportant, but it is interesting that when I look back in hindsight, I realize that I was given the proper tools to deal with the situation at hand; the universe will never let you face a problem that you cannot solve.
The reason I’m writing this is because I’ve been reading a very inspiring book called the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. It is a mind blowing handbook that covers a whole lot of insights concerning being the master of your own universe. Since I’ve been reading it I’ve come to grasp the common theme of the book, which is that we stay in control of situations by staying in control of ourselves.
At first glance, the book may give the impression of being a very immoral piece of literature, as it is written in a ruthless fashion that reminds you of power games being played at the King’s court when Europe was mostly ruled by monarchies. The cold blooded way in which courtiers acted is described as a civilized war, and my first thought when I started reading the book was: This is going to spoil me.
However I did believe that either way it’s always a good thing to expand your knowledge, even if only for the sake of recognizing the games other people may play on you to put themselves in a position of power, and put you at a disadvantage in the process. In the end it’s always better to be conscious and aware than to be ignorant and oblivious.
As I got further into the book I started to discover a recurring theme in most of the laws. It became clear to me that it’s not so much about what course of action you take, but far more important are the intentions behind your actions. What I’m saying is that acting out of emotional impulse is never a good thing when you want to stay in control, because your power is based on how you appear to the outside world, and how predictable your moves are.
See it like a game of chess; he who thinks ahead will always inevitably beat those who do not. For this reason it is very easy to manipulate people into triggering them to perform certain actions if they don’t look at the bigger picture. In the process they will think that they’re making the proper moves, not knowing that they’re playing right into your hands.
You become predictable when you give away too much information. The game is about knowing as much about the other person as possible while remaining a mystery yourself. This also works like a charm in the art of seduction. What is interesting though, is that you give away most information not by what you say, but rather by body language and how you say things. For instance, a person who appears overly confident probably feels exactly the opposite on the inside.
We are often in control of the words we speak, but are rarely aware of the body language we’re conveying. For me this is where most of my attention is directed at; reading the signs of the body, which basically represents the subconscious mind. Listening in this sense is a far more powerful than speaking. It becomes clear who’s pulling the strings in those moments of silence, rather than during a discussion. This is also why it is often a good idea to stay silent when not sure how to proceed; the more you give away the more you’re likely to make a mistake by saying something stupid.
Either way, the book explains a lot about social dynamics, and I would say it’s a must read for any person who wants to be more self-aware and be in control of his or her life. In the end everything is creation, yet more often than not for most people it is a case of subconscious creation rather than conscious creation. You can switch this around at any time and start being the master of your own universe.
Like anything that holds real value it is only meant for those who deserve to have it, so don’t expect it to come to you without effort. Everything that you get for free has a hidden price tag and is rather a curse than a blessing when you take it for granted. Yesterday I paid a visit to the museum of broken relationships here in Zagreb, and among the beautiful stories it also became very clear to me that emotions can drive people totally insane.
So never let yourself become the victim. Life is like a drama and it is up to you which role you play. If you don’t decide on it others will take advantage and let you play that person that everyone feels sorry for. The last thing anyone wants is to have their bank account be a charity for themselves filled with sympathy from others. This is why Machiavelli spoke of fear being stronger than love.
As with anything, I wouldn’t recommend taking the laws as absolute truths. Some of the philosophers that have a dominant presence in the book are Schopenhauer, Nietsche, Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, and Bismarck. If you’re able to fully understand the point being made, then you will see that there is no contradiction with other philosophies that emphasize peace, love, and oneness; it is merely a different aspect of the same thing.
In that sense the book is not complete, because it only offers insights in a certain reality. I have found however that it is an excellent addition to the other book I’m reading: Mastering Your Hidden Self. You can expect more on that in the near future. Right now it’s time to enjoy the last part of my holiday in the hot and sunny country of Croatia. Bok!