Last month, I purchased a Netflix subscription. I then certainly did what everyone else presumably did when they first had their Netflix account: Starting to watch “House of Cards”. In compensations for my late-night hours finishing all 5 seasons in one week, the show and the notion of power that it portrays has significantly inspired me.
In our current times and our generations, power is not spoken about often nor well enough. It’s almost like a dirty topic in any discussions, even dirtier than money and sex combined. Significant risks of being misunderstood or seen as manipulative are involved when discussing any power-related issues. I gathered the reason for this phenomenon is because people choose to be uneducated about the notion of power and therefore never want to, or actually, understand it. To bring us on the same page, “power” in this article means to influence or control another matter e.g. influence over someone else, or control over the outcome of a process or event.
It may be the case that the parents educated most people since their infantry that talking about or desiring power are predator behaviours, which is deemed “wrong” or “ill-mannered”. Children may be deluded to believe that seeking to acquire greater power or control among peers, means creating discord, disunion or disturbance to the order of the group of kids (a mini, small-scale version of society). With this belief, power is deemed immoral. Interestingly, while most people avoid talking or thinking about powers because of social norms, the notion of powers exist around us in everyday life. Just like gravity, you cannot avoid encountering the forces of powers because it simply exists. Even when you can’t feel it, it’s around you everywhere, at any time. As mentioned in this TEDtalk below, at any moment in life, you are either powerful or powerless. There is no middle ground. You either act or are acted upon.
My upbringing is rather different since where I was not told or taught of the social rules to despise power. I spent a lot of time by myself without my parents, TV nor the internet, preoccupied with mostly reading, drawing and writing. My childhood years was populated with the thoughts of world leaders and influential writers from Carl Marx, Leo Tolstoy to Victor Hugo. They demonstrate to me that their immortal greatness is prolonged and flourished through the influence they cultivate. Such eternal power can magnify their impact on other people’s lives beyond their physical existence. The belief in using power as an instrument for greater means remains in me ever since. I believe power is a tool, not an end in itself, to achieve greater means. Just like other tools such as knowledge, power creates leverage: the ability to scale up the impact exponentially from a finite amount of resources. I have studied the various biographies of people with tremendous success in many fields, none of whom get to where they are without significant influence on other people or events. I carry with me the belief that power is not bad, in fact, it is essential to any success. I also believe that power, similar to knowledge, does not just magically happen. I need to be conscious of actively understanding it, acquiring it and maintain it.
If power works as a tool, like anything in life, its consequence would depend on its intended use. For example, drugs can be used to cure or it can also be used to kill. Most of the time power, or in particular, the abuse of power, is portrayed in popular media as an act to kill, which is why people are inclined to hate it. Power used for the good causes are lesser known or publicised because real power is the most subtle. It is subtle like a glow, a flow of energy, or subtle like a lady. A few years ago, I started studying Margaret Thatcher and came across her saying “Power is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”. I could not agree more. Kindly recall the most influential person you know personally. When he / she walks in, his / her power spreads and felt by other people like a veil of hot air. Real power does not need to be told. Your power exists or felt by others without them even realising it.
One thing most people do not understand about power is that it is not a fixed pie – if one have more of it does not mean others have less of it. (I have mentioned in the past of similar a mindset of how many think wealth is a fixed pie. It is amazing to me how many think that they can only become richer at the expense of another). You can become powerful and empower others at the same time. You can even empower enemies. Take Tony Blair as an example. He was the British Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007, as well as an excellent conversationalist and negotiator. He describes in his autobiography “A Journey” the tactics that he uses to succeed in many complicated negotiations.
1- You must gather and dominate all the information available about the debate or the negotiation, including the personality of the persons who will be on the other side of the table.
2- If they get angry, you must control yourself and stay calm.
3- If they exaggerate, over-react and lose their temper, you must become the voice of the reason and objectivity.
4- If they insult you and attack you, you have won. Then without talking, you should stare at them very slowly, but without resentment and with a gentle smile on your face, while you take the time to analyse their reactions.
In these instances, Tony Blair is powerful not only because he usually got what he wanted, but because he always treated his opponent with respect, mercy and dignity. To be in the power of another’s mind, you’d need to be in perfect control of your own, and treated others with reasons and generosity of a winner. That is the real portrait of power; it is a state of mind, not a possession. It is as subtle as the art of being a lady, you don’t become it, you feel it and you be it.
If you want to apply power to your everyday life to get what you want, I recommend the best selling book: “48 laws of power” by Robert Greene. The book contains 48 concise laws which were deduced from studying the tactics, triumphs and failures of war strategists, monarchs and other great historical figures.
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