• REALITY CAN BE RATHER HARSH. YOUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED. IT TAKES CONSTANT EFFORT TO CARVE A PLACE FOR YOURSELF IN THIS RUTHLESSLY COMPETITIVE WORLD AND HOLD ON TO IT. PEOPLE CAN BE TREACHEROUS. THEY BRING ENDLESS BATTLES INTO YOUR LIFE. YOUR TASK IS TO RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO WISH IT WERE ALL DIFFERENT; INSTEAD YOU MUST FEARLESSLY ACCEPT THESE CIRCUMSTANCES, EVEN EMBRACE THEM. BY FOCUSING YOUR ATTENTION ON WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND YOU, YOU WILL GAIN A SHARP APPRECIATION FOR WHAT MAKES SOME PEOPLE ADVANCE AND OTHER FALL BEHIND. BY SEEING THROUGH PEOPLE’S MANIPULATIONS, YOU CAN TURN THEM AROUND. THE FIRMER YOUR GRASP ON REALITY, THE MORE POWER YOU WILL HAVE TO ALTER IT FOR YOUR PURPOSES.

  • KNOW THE OTHER, KNOW YOURSELF, AND THE VICTORY WILL NOT BE AT RISK; KNOW THE GROUND, KNOW THE NATURAL CONDITIONS, AND THE VICTORY WILL BE TOTAL – Sun Tzu.

  • In war or any competitive game, you don’t pay attention to people’s good or bad intentions. They don’t matter. It should be the same in the game of life. Everyone is playing to win, and some people will use moral justifications to advance their side. All you look at are people’s maneuvers—their actions in the past and what you might expect in the future. In this area, you are fiercely realistic. You understand that everyone is after power, and that to get it we all occasionally manipulate and even deceive. That is human nature and there is no shame in it. You don’t take people’s maneuvers personally; you merely try to defend or advance yourself. As part of this approach, you must become a better observer of people. This cannot be done on the Internet. It must be honed in personal interactions. You are trying to read people, see through them as best you can. You come to understand, for instance, that a person who is too obviously friendly after too short a time is often up to no good. If they flatter you, it is generally out of envy. Behavior that stands out and seems excessive is a sign. Don’t get caught up in people’s grand gestures, in the public face they put on. Pay more attention to the details, to the little things they reveal in their day-to-day lives. Their decisions reveal a lot, and you can often discern a pattern if you look at them closely. In general, looking at people through the lens of your emotions will cloud what you see and make you misunderstand everything. What you want is a sharp eye towards your fellow humans—one that is piercing, objective, and nonjudgmental.

  • Your increasing powers of observation must occasionally be aimed at yourself. Think of this as a ritual you will engage in every few weeks—a rigorous reassessment of who you are and where you are headed. Look at your most recent actions as if they were the maneuvers of another person. Imagine how you could have done it all better—avoided unnecessary battles or confronted people who stood in your way, instead of running away from them. The goal here is not to beat up on yourself but to have the capacity to adapt and change your behavior by moving closer to the reality. The endgame of such an exercise is to cultivate the proper sense of detachment from yourself and from life. It is not that you want to feel this detachment at every moment. There are times that require you to act with heart and boldness, without doubts or self-distance. On many occasions, however, you need to be able to assess what is happening, without your ego or emotions coloring your perceptions. Moving to a calm, detached inner position to observe events will become a habit and something you can rely on amid any crisis. At those moments in life when others lose their balance, you will find yours with relative ease. As a person who cannot be easily ruffled by events, you will attract attention and power.

  • WHEN YOU WORK FOR OTHERS, YOU ARE AT THEIR MERCY. THEY OWN YOUR WORK; THEY OWN YOU. YOUR CREATIVE SPIRIT IS SQUASHED. WHAT KEEPS YOU IN SUCH POSITIONS IS A FEAR OF HAVING TO SINK OR SWIM ON YOUR OWN. INSTEAD YOU SHOULD HAVE A GREATER FEAR OF WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO YOU IF YOU REMAIN DEPENDENT ON OTHERS FOR POWER. YOUR GOAL IN EVERY MANEUVER IN LIFE MUST BE OWNERSHIP, WORKING THE CORNER FOR YOURSELF. WHEN IT IS YOURS TO LOSE-YOU ARE MORE MOTIVATED, MORE CREATIVE, MORE ALIVE. THE ULTIMATE POWER IN LIFE IS TO BE COMPLETELY SELF-RELIANT, COMPLETELY YOURSELF.

  • Your goal in life must be to always move higher and higher up the food chain, where you alone control the direction of your enterprise and depend on no one. Since this goal is a future ideal, in the present you must strive to keep yourself free of unnecessary entanglements and alliances. And if you cannot avoid having partners, make sure that you are clear as to what function they serve for you and how you will free yourself of them at the right moment You must remember that when people give you things or do you favors it is always with strings attached. They want something from you in return—assistance, unquestioned loyalty, and so forth. You want to keep yourself free of as many of these obligations as possible, so get in the habit of taking what you need for yourself instead of expecting others to give it to you.

  • IN NOOKS ALL OVER THE EARTH SIT MEN WHO ARE WAITING, SCARCELY KNOWING IN WHAT WAY THEY ARE WAITING, MUCH LESS THAT THEY ARE WAITING IN VAIN. OCCASIONALLY THE CAL THAT AWAKENS—THAT ACCIDENT WHICH GIVES THE “PERMISSION TO ACT—COMES TOO LATE, WHEN THE BEST YOUTH AND STRENGTH FOR ACTION HAS ALREADY BEEN USED UP BY SITTING STILL; AND MANY HAVE FOUND TO THEIR HORROR WHEN THEY “LEAPED UP” THAT THEIR LIMBS HAD GONE TO SLEEP AND THEIR SPIRIT HAD BECOME TOO HEAVY. “IT IS TOO LATE,” THEY SAID TO THEMSELVES, HAVING LOST THEIR FAITH IN THEMSELVES AND HENCEFORTH FOREVER USELESS —Friedrich Nietzsche.

  • You must adopt an attitude that is the opposite to how most people think and operate. When things are going well, that is precisely when you must be concerned and vigilant. You know it will not last and you will not be caught unprepared. When things are going badly, that is when you are most encouraged and fearless. Finally you have material for a powerful reversal, a chance to prove yourself. It is only out of danger and difficulty that you can rise at all. By simply embracing the moment as something positive and necessary you have already converted it into gold.

  • Our minds possess powers we have not even begun to tap into. These powers come from a mix of heightened concentration, energy, and ingenuity in the face of obstacles. Each of us has the capacity to develop these powers, but first we have to be aware of their existence. This is difficult, however, in a culture that emphasizes material means—technology, money, connections—as the answer to everything. We place unnecessary limits on what the mind can accomplish, and that becomes our reality. Look at our concept of opportunity and you will see this in its clearest light.

  • According to conventional wisdom, an opportunity is something that exists out there in the world; if it comes our way and we seize it, it brings us money and power. This could be a particular job, the perfect fit for us; it could be a chance to create or join a new venture. It could be meeting the appropriate person. In any event, it depends on being at the right place at the right time and having the proper skills to take advantage of this propitious moment. We generally believe there are only a few such golden chances in life, and most of us are waiting for them to cross our path. This concept is extremely limited in scope. It makes us dependent on outside forces. It stems from a fearful, passive attitude towards life that is counterproductive. It constrains our minds to a small circle of possibility. The truth is that for the human mind, everything that crosses its path can be a potential tool for power and expansion.

  • Many of us have had the following experience: we find ourselves in an urgent, difficult situation. Perhaps we have to get something done in an impossibly short amount of time, or someone we had counted on for help does not come through, or we are in a foreign land and must suddenly fend for ourselves. In these situations, necessity crowds in on us. We have to get work done and figure out problems quickly or we suffer immediate consequences. What usually happens is that our minds snap to attention. We find the necessary energy because we have to. We pay attention to details that normally elude us, because they might spell the difference between success and failure, life and death. We are surprised at how inventive we become. It is at such moments that we get a glimpse of that potential mental power within us that generally lies untapped. If only we could have such a spirit and attitude in everyday life. This attitude is what we shall call “opportunism.” True opportunists do not require urgent, stressful circumstances to become alert and inventive. They operate this way on a daily basis. They channel their aggressive energy into hunting down possibilities for expansion in the most banal and insignificant events. Everything is an instrument in their hands, and with this enlarged notion of opportunity, they create more of it in their lives and gain great power.

  • Most people wait too long to go into action, generally out of fear. They want more money or better circumstances. You must go the opposite direction and move before you think you are ready. It is as if you are making it a little more difficult for yourself, deliberately creating obstacles in your path. But it is a law of power that your energy will always rise to the appropriate level. When you feel that you must work harder to get to your goal because you are not quite prepared, you are more alert and inventive. This venture has to succeed and so it will.

  • This has been the way of powerful people from ancient to modern times. When Julius Caesar was faced with the greatest decision of his life—whether to move against Pompey and initiate a civil war or wait for a better moment—he stood at the Rubicon River that separated Gaul from Italy, with only the smallest of forces. Although it seemed insanity to his lieutenants, he judged the moment right. He would compensate for the smallness of his troops with their heightened morale and his own strategic wits. He crossed the Rubicon, surprised the enemy, and never looked back. When Barack Obama was contemplating a run for president in 2006, almost everyone advised him to wait his turn. He was too young, too much of an unknown. Hillary Clinton loomed over the scene. He threw away all their conventional wisdom and entered the race. Because everything and everyone was against him, he had to compensate with energy, superior strategy, and organization. He rose to the occasion with a masterful campaign that turned all of its negatives into virtues—his inexperience represented change, etc. Remember: as Napoleon said, the moral is to the physical as three to one—meaning the motivation and energy levels you or your army bring to the encounter have three times as much weight as your physical resources. With energy and high morale, a human can overcome almost any obstacle and create opportunity out of nothing.

  • 50 CENT IS A PERSON I CREATED. SOON IT WILL BE TIME TO DESTROY HIM AND BECOME SOMEBODY ELSE — 50 Cent.

  • Momentum in life comes from increased fluidity, a willingness to try more, to move in a less constricted fashion. On many levels it remains something hard to put into words, but by understanding the process, becoming more conscious of the elements involved, you can place your mind in a readied position, better able to exploit any positive movement in your life. Call this calculated momentum. For this purpose you must practice and master the following four types of flow.

  • You should provide the framework, based on your knowledge and expertise, but you allow room for this project to be shaped by those involved in it. They are motivated and creative, helping to give the project more flow and force. You are not going too far in this process; you set the overall direction and tone. You are simply letting go of that fearful need to make people do exactly as you desire. In the long run, you will find that your ability to gently divert people’s energy in your direction gives you a wider range of control over the shape and result of the project.

  • You exist in a particular cultural moment, with its own flow and style. When you are young you are more sensitive to these fluctuations in taste and so you generally keep up with the present. But as you get older the tendency is for you to become locked in a style that is dead, one that you associate with your youth and its excitement. If enough time passes, your style-lock can become quite ludicrous; you look like a museum piece. Your momentum will grind to a halt as people come to categorize you in a narrow period of time.

  • Instead you must find a way to periodically reinvent yourself. You are not trying to mimic the latest trend—that will make you look equally ludicrous. You are simply rediscovering that youthful attentiveness to what is happening around you and incorporating what you like into a newer spirit. You are taking pleasure in shaping your personality, wearing a new mask. The only thing you really have to fear is becoming a social and cultural relic.

  • YOU WILL ALWAYS FIND YOURSELF AMONG THE AGGRESSIVE AND THE PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE WHO SEEK TO HARM YOU IN SOME WAY. YOU MUST GET OVER ANY GENERAL FEARS YOU HAVE OF CONFRONTING PEOPLE OR YOU WILL FIND IT EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO ASSERT YOURSELF IN THE FACE OF THOSE WHO ARE MORE CUNNING AND RUTHLESS. BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE YOU MUST MASTER THE ART OF KNOWING WHEN AND HOW TO BE BAD—USING DECEPTION, MANIPULATION, AND OUTRIGHT FORCE AT THE APPROPRIATE MOMENTS. EVERYONE OPERATES WITH A FLEXIBLE MORALITY WHEN IT COMES TO THEIR SELF-INTEREST—YOU ARE SIMPLY MAKING THIS MORE CONSCIOUS AND EFFECTIVE.

  • As Fifty had learned, talent and good intentions are never enough in this world; you need to be fearless and strategic. When you face people’s indifference or outright hostility you have to get aggressive and push them out of your way by any means necessary, and not worry about some people disliking you. In this case he looked for any opportunity to make such a bold move, and one evening a chance encounter provided this for him.

  • THE WAY I LEARNED IT, THE KID IN THE SCHOOL YARD WHO DOESN’T WANT TO FIGHT ALWAYS LEAVES WITH A BLACK EYE. IF YOU INDICATE YOU’LL DO ANYTHING TO AVOID TROUBLE, THAT’S WHEN YOU GET TROUBLE — 50 Cent.

  • Life involves constant battle and confrontation. This comes on two levels. On one level, we have desires and needs, our own interests that we wish to advance. In a highly competitive world, this means we must assert ourselves and even occasionally push people out of position to get our way. On the other level, there are always people who are more aggressive than we are. At some point they cross our path and try to block or harm us. On both levels, playing offense and defense, we have to manage people’s resistance and hostility. This has been the human drama since the beginning of history and no amount of progress will alter this dynamic. The only thing that has changed is how we handle these inevitable moments of friction in our lives.

  • When it comes to the offensive side of power, in which we are required to take forceful and necessary action to advance our interests, we are often hesitant and uncertain. When dealing with the aggressors and passive aggressors around us we can be quite naive; we want to believe that people are basically peaceful and desire the same things as ourselves. We often learn too late that this is not the case. This inability to deal with what is inevitable in life is the cause of so many problems. We work to postpone or avoid conflicts, and when they reach a point where we can no longer play such a passive game, we lack the experience and the habit of meeting them head on. The first step in overcoming this is to realize that the ability to deal with conflict is a function of inner strength versus fear, and that it has nothing to do with goodness or badness. When you feel weak and afraid, you have the sense that you cannot handle any kind of confrontation. You might fall apart or lose control or get hurt. Better to keep everything smooth and even. Your main goal then is to be liked, which becomes a kind of defensive shield. (So much of what passes for good and nice behavior is really a reflection of deep fears.) What you want instead is to feel secure and strong from within. You are willing to occasionally displease people and you are comfortable in taking on those who stand against your interests. From such a position of strength, you are able to handle friction in an effective manner, being bad when it is appropriate. This inner strength, however, does not come naturally. What is required is some experience. This means that in your daily life you must assert yourself more than usual—you take on an aggressor instead of avoiding him; you strategize and push for something you want instead of waiting for someone to give it to you. You will generally notice that your fears have exaggerated the consequences of this kind of behavior. You are sending signals to others that you have limits they cannot cross, that you have interests you are willing to defend or advance. You will find yourself getting rid of this constant anxiety about confronting people. You are no longer tied to this false niceness that wears on your nerves. The next battle will be easier. Your confidence in handling such moments of friction will grow with each encounter. In the hood, people don’t have the luxury of worrying about whether people like them. Resources are limited; everyone is angling for power and trying to get what they can. It is a rough game and there is no room for being naive or waiting for good things to happen. You learn to take what you need and feel no guilt about it. If you have dreams and ambitions, you know that to realize them you have to get active, make some noise, bruise a few people in your path. And you expect others to do the same to you. It is human nature, and instead of complaining you simply must get better at protecting yourself.

  • When you submit in spirit to aggressors or to an unjust and impossible situation, you do not buy yourself any real peace. You encourage people to go further, to take more from you, to use you for their own purposes. They sense your lack of self-respect and they feel justified in mistreating you. When you are humble, you reap the wages of humility. You must develop the opposite—a fighting stance that comes from deep within and cannot be shaken. You force some respect. This is how it is in life for everyone: people will take from you what they can. If they sense that you are the type of person who accepts and submits, they will push and push until they have established an exploitative relationship with you. Some will do this overtly; others are more slippery and passive aggressive. You must demonstrate to them that there are lines that cannot be crossed; they will pay a price for trying to push you around. This comes from your attitude—fearless and always prepared to fight. It radiates outward and can be read in your manner without you having to speak a word. By a paradoxical law of human nature, trying to please people less will make them more likely in the long run to respect and treat you better.

  • A prince or leader must first and foremost be effective in his actions and to do so he must master the art of knowing when and how to be bad. This requires some fearlessness and flexibility. When the situation calls for it, he must be the lion—aggressive and direct in protecting his state, or grabbing something to secure its interests. At other times, he has to be the fox—getting his way through crafty maneuvers that disguise his aggression. And often he must play the lamb—the meek, deferential, and good creature exalted in culture. He is bad in the right way, calibrated to the situation, and careful to make his actions look justified to the public, reserving his nastier tactics for behind the scenes. If he masters the art of being bad, he uses it sparingly and he creates more peace and power for his citizens than the awkward prince who tries to be too good.

  • Catherine was a classic fearless type. She understood that with passive aggressors you must not get emotional and drawn into their endless intrigues. If you respond indirectly, with a kind of passive aggression yourself, you play into their hands—they are better at this game than you are. Being underhanded and tricky only spurs on their insecurities and intensifies their vindictive nature. The only way to treat these types is to take bold, uncompromising action that either discourages further nonsense or sends them running away. They respond only to power and leverage. Having allies higher up the chain can serve as a means of blocking them. You are playing the lion to their fox, making them afraid of you. They see there will be real consequences if they continue their behavior in any form. To recognize such types, look for extremes in behavior that are not natural—too kind, too ingratiating, too moral. These are most likely disguises that are worn to deflect attention from their true nature. Better to be proactive and take precautionary measures the moment you feel they are trying to get into your life.

  • FDR had understood the basic principle in squaring off against aggressors who are direct and relentless. If you meet them head on, you are forced to fight on their terms. Unless you happen to be an aggressive type, you are generally at a disadvantage against those who have simple ideas and fierce energy. It is best to fight them in an indirect manner, concealing your intentions and doing what you can behind the scenes—hidden from the public—to create obstacles and sow confusion. Instead of reacting, you must give aggressors some space to go further with their attacks, getting them to expose themselves in the process and provide you plenty of juicy targets to hit. If you become too active and forceful in response, you look defensive. You are playing the fox to their lion—remaining cool and calculating, doing whatever you can to make them more emotional and baiting them to fall apart through their own reckless energy.

  • Sometimes in life you find yourself in a negative situation that cannot be improved no matter what you do. You might find yourself working for people who are irrational. Their actions seem to serve no purpose apart from imposing their power and making you miserable. Everything you do is wrong. Or it could be a relationship in which you are constantly forced to rescue a person. This usually involves types who present themselves as weak victims in need of attention and assistance. They stir up a lot of drama around them. No matter what you do, the need to be rescued keeps recurring. You can recognize this dynamic by your emotional need to somehow solve the problem, mixed with your complete frustration in finding any kind of reasonable answer. In truth the only viable solution is to terminate the relationship—no arguing, no bargaining, no compromising. You leave the job (there are always others); you leave the person who is tormenting you with as much finality as possible. Resist the temptation to feel any guilt. You need to create as much distance as possible, so they cannot inveigle these emotions into you. They must become dead to you so you can go on with your life.

  • IN ANY GROUP, THE PERSON ON TOP CONSCIOUSLY OR UNCONSCIOUSLY SETS THE TONE. IF LEADERS ARE FEARFUL, HESITANT TO TAKE ANY RISKS, OR OVERLY CONCERNED FOR THEIR EGO AND REPUTATION, THEN THIS INVARIABLY FILTERS ITS WAY THROUGH THE ENTIRE GROUP AND MAKES EFFECTIVE ACTION IMPOSSIBLE. COMPLAINING AND HARANGUING PEOPLE TO WORK HARDER HAS A COUNTERPRODUCTIVE EFFECT. YOU MUST ADOPT THE OPPOSITE STYLE: IMBUE YOUR TROOPS WITH THE PROPER SPIRIT THROUGH YOUR ACTIONS, NOT WORDS. THEY SEE YOU WORKING HARDER THAN ANYONE, HOLDING YOURSELF TO THE HIGHEST STANDARDS, TAKING RISKS WITH CONFIDENCE, AND MAKING TOUGH DECISION. THIS INSPIRES AND BINDS THE GROUP TOGETHER. IN THESE DEMOCRATIC TIMES, YOU MUST PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH.

  • To be a leader often requires making tough choices, getting people to do things against their will. If you have chosen the soft, pleasing, compliant style of leadership, out of fear of being disliked, you will find yourself with less and less room to compel people to work harder or make sacrifices. If you suddenly try to be tough, they often feel wounded and personally upset. They can move from love to hate. The opposite approach yields the opposite result. If you build a reputation for toughness and getting results, people might resent you, but you will establish a foundation of respect. You are demonstrating genuine qualities of leadership that speak to everyone. Now with time and a well-founded authority, you have room to back off and reward people, even to be nice. When you do so, it will be seen as a genuine gesture, not an attempt to get people to like you, and it will have double the effect.

  • A group of any size must have goals and long-term objectives to function properly. But human nature serves as a great impediment to this. We are naturally consumed by immediate battles and problems; we find it very difficult, if not unnatural, to focus with any depth on the future. Thinking ahead requires a particular thought process that comes with practice. It means seeing something practical and achievable several years down the road, and mapping out how this goal can be achieved. It means thinking in branches, coming up with several paths to get there, depending on circumstances. It means being emotionally attached to this idea, so that when a thousand distractions and interruptions seem to push you off course, you have the strength and purpose to keep at it. Without one person on top who charts the way to this larger goal, the group will wander here and there, grasping at schemes for quick money, or be moved by the narrow political aspirations of one member or another. It will never accomplish anything great. You as the leader are the only bulwark against this endless wandering. You must have the strength to stamp the group with your own personality and vision, giving it a core and an identity. If you lose sight of the larger picture, then only bad things will ensue. You must play this visionary role with some dramatic flair, like Edison who was a consummate performer and promoter. He would give dazzling presentations of his ideas, and stage events to get on the front page of newspapers. Like Moses describing the Promised Land, he could paint an alluring picture of the future that his inventions would help create. This drew in money from investors and inspired his researchers to work even harder. Your own level of excitement and self-belief will convince people that you know where you are going and should be followed.

  • The natural dynamic of any group is to splinter into factions. People want to protect and promote their narrow interests, so they form political alliances from within. If you force them to unite under your leadership, stamping out their factions, you may take control but it will come with great resentment—they will naturally suspect you are increasing your power at their expense. If you do nothing, you will find yourself surrounded by lords and dukes who will make your job impossible. A group needs a centripetal force to give it unity and cohesion but it is not enough to have that be you and the force of your personality. Instead it should be a cause that you fearlessly embody. This could be political, ethical, or progressive—you are working to improve the lives of people in your community, for instance. This cause elevates your group above others. It has a quasi-religious aura to it, a kind of cult feeling. Now, to fight or doubt you from within is to stand against this cause and seem selfish. The group, infused with this belief system, will tend to police itself and root out troublemakers. To play this role effectively, you must be a living example of this cause, much as Louis exemplified the civilizing power of France in his own carefully crafted behavior.

  • You cannot control a large group on your own. You will turn into a micromanager or dictator, making yourself exhausted and hated. You need to develop a team of lieutenants who are infused with your ideas, your spirit, and your values. Once you have such a team, you can give them latitude to operate on their own, learning for themselves and bringing their own creativity to the cause. This is the system that Napoleon Bonaparte initiated and has since been imitated by the greatest generals of the modern era. He would give his field marshals a clear sense of the goals for a particular campaign or battle, what has become known as the “mission statement.” They were then empowered to reach those goals on their own, in their own way. All that mattered were the results. The idea behind it is that those who are fighting on the ground often have a better sense of what needs to be done in the here and now; they have more information at their fingertips than the leader. With a degree of trust in their decisions, they can operate fast and feel more engaged in the execution of the war. This revolutionary system allowed Napoleon’s army to move with greater speed and to cultivate a team of highly experienced and brilliant field marshals. And it took great courage on his part to trust in them and not try to control everything on the battlefield. Operating with a mission statement is an effective way of softening your image and disguising the extent of your power. You are seen as more than just a leader; you are a role model, instructing, energizing, and inspiring your lieutenants. In crafting this team, look for people who share your values and are open to learning. Do not be seduced by a glittering résumé. You want them near you, to absorb your spirit and ways of doing things. Once you feel they have the proper training, you must not be afraid to let go of the reins and give them more independence. In the end, this will save you much energy and allow you to continue focusing on the greater strategic picture.

  • Every group has a kind of collective energy, and on its own this will tend towards inertia. This comes from people’s powerful desires to keep things comfortable, easy, and familiar. Over time, in any group, conventions and protocol will assume greater importance and govern people’s behavior. The larger the group, the more conservative it will tend to become, and the greater this force of inertia. The paradox is that this defensive, passive posture has a depressing effect on morale, much like sitting in one place for too long will lower your spirits.

  • More than likely you rose to the top by virtue of your boldness and desperate desire to get ahead. You took risks that made you rise to the occasion with all of your energy and creativity, and this fearless spirit attracted positive attention. The group inertia will naturally tend to tamp all of that down and neutralize the source of your power. Since you are the leader, you are the one who can alter this and set a pace that is more alive and active. You remain the bold and enterprising knight. You force yourself to initiate new projects and domains to conquer; you take proactive measures against possible dangers on the horizon; you seize the initiative against your rivals. You keep your group marching and on the offensive. This will excite them and give them a feeling of movement. You are not taking unnecessary risks, but simply adding a dash of aggression to your normally staid group. They become used to seeing you out in front and grow addicted to the excitement you bring with each new campaign.

  • When you enter a group as part of a job or a career, there are all kinds of rules that govern behavior—values of good and bad, power networks that must be respected, patterns to be followed for successful action. If you do not patiently observe and learn them well, you will make all kinds of mistakes without knowing why or how. Think of social and political skills as a craft that you must master as well as any other. In the initial phase of your apprenticeship you must do as Marshall did and mute your colors. Your goal here is not to impress people with your brilliance but to learn these conventions from the inside. Watch for telling mistakes that others have made in the group and for which they have paid a price—that will reveal particular taboos within the culture. With a deepening knowledge of these rules you can begin to maneuver them for your purpose. If you find yourself confronting an unjust and corrupt system, it is much more effective to learn its codes from the inside and discover its vulnerabilities. Knowing how it works, you can take it apart—for good.

  • People will constantly attack you in life. One of their main weapons will be to instill in you doubts about yourself—your worth, your abilities, your potential. They will often disguise this as their objective opinion, but invariably it has a political purpose—they want to keep you down. You are continually prone to believe these opinions, particularly if your self-image is fragile. In every moment of life you can defy and deny people this power. You do so by maintaining a sense of purpose, a high destiny you are fulfilling. From such a position, people’s attacks do not harm you; they only make you angry and more determined. The higher you raise this self-image, the fewer judgments and manipulations you will tolerate. This will translate into fewer obstacles in your path. If someone like Douglass could forge this attitude amid the most unfree of circumstances, then we should surely be able to find our own way to such inner strength.

  • People judge you by appearances, the image you project through your actions, words, and style. If you do not take control of this process, then people will see and define you the way they want to, often to your detriment. You might think that being consistent with this image will make others respect and trust you, but in fact it is the opposite—over time you seem predictable and weak. Consistency is an illusion anyway—each passing day brings changes within you. You must not be afraid to express these evolutions. The powerful learn early in life that they have the freedom to mold their image, fitting the needs and moods of the moment. In this way, they keep others off balance and maintain an air of mystery. You must follow this path and find great pleasure in reinventing yourself, as if you were the author writing your own drama.

  • The story of Jeanne d’Arc demonstrates a simple principle: the higher your self-belief, the more your power to transform reality. Having supreme confidence makes you fearless and persistent, allowing you to overcome obstacles that stop most people in their tracks. It makes others believe in you as well. And the most intense form of self-belief is to feel a sense of destiny impelling you forward. This destiny can come from otherworldly sources or it can come from yourself. Think of it in these terms: you have a set of skills and experiences that make you unique. They point towards some life task that you were meant to accomplish. You see signs of this in the predilections of your youth, certain tasks you were naturally drawn to. When you are involved in this task, everything seems to flow more naturally. Believing you are destined to accomplish something does not make you passive or unfree, but the opposite. You are liberated of the normal doubts and confusions that plague us. You have a sense of purpose that guides you but does not chain you to one way of doing things. And when your willpower is so deeply engaged, it will push you past any limits or dangers.

  • To keep death out, we bathe our minds in banality and routines; we create the illusion that it is not around us in any form. This gives us a momentary peace, but we lose all sense of connection to something larger, to life itself. We are not really living until we come to terms with our mortality. Becoming aware of the Sublime around us is a way to convert our fears into something meaningful and active, to counter the repressions of our culture. The Sublime in any form tends to evoke feelings of awe and power. Through awareness of what it is, we can open our minds to the experience and actively search it out. The following are the four sensations of a sublime moment and how to conjure them.

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