The 48, One By One: Never Outshine The Master

The 48 Laws Of Power is universally cited as one of the greatest tomes of insight and information ever compiled.  I use its contents to great effect.  It helps me maintain consistent success in several areas of my life, personally and professionally.  I haven’t, and won’t be writing a comprehensive breakdown or review of the book.  Instead, I’m giving you the fine print.  I’m going to share specific examples of how I put Robert Greene’s lessons to work in my everyday life, through Dissection and Application.

Law #1

Never Outshine The Master

Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please or impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite—inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.

 Dissection:

“Always make those above you feel comfortably superior.”

I have always worked with Fortune 100 companies.  Places that often attract the most cunning, successful, and brilliant men in the workforce.  Unfortunately, due to the law of Unintended Consequences, if poorly managed these companies can become shark tanks.  Places where the Klingon Promotion is the coin of the realm. Greene seeks to avoid our making the same mistake by making it clear that we go farther in our careers by making sure our Senior Officers/Managers/Bosses don’t see us as a threat.  Men in powerful positions are starved for professional loyalty.  We all understand that everyone wants to advance, but when you can demonstrate that you aren’t trying to do it by stabbing those above you in the back you become a rare, valued commodity.

“In your desire to please or impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite—inspire fear and insecurity.”

 We often only see a small, limited view of the responsibilities that the people with high-level accountability and control have.  The aspect we do see is usually the area directly related to out everyday tasks.  Once someone has moved up the corporate ladder and has more duties to fulfil they may “get rusty” and not be able to perform the everyday tasks the once did as well as they did.  This is NOT an invitation to take over as much of their job as you can in an effort to help them, by showing how many balls you can juggle and hats you can wear while you do your own job.  The “fear and insecurity” Greene talks about is often stems from watching someone who is trying so hard to show how many things he can do, that they seem to overshadow their superiors.

“Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.”

“Master” is loosely defined as anyone who is directly responsible for your training and/or professional advancement.  All too often, we see Students of the Master eager to take credit for something that the Master quite recently painstakingly took time to explain and teach.  A Student who has only recently become competent at something should take compliments well and graciously, but with an added caveat or hat tip to the Master who helped him get through the learning stages in order to become so good at it that others complimented him on his ability.

Application:

I was walking from my office to the front desk to pick up a letter when I saw my boss talking with someone I didn’t know.  As I walked towards them I noticed that they were both looking at me, I smiled.  As it turns out, the stranger was a Very Important Person from my company who was in our office to broker a meeting.  He walked up to me, put his hand on my shoulder, and said “So your Wateef, I’ve heard your name a few times.”  I smiled as we engaged in a firm handshake and said “All good things I hope!”

I pulled one of my cards out of my folder and handed it to him, saying “Next time you hear anything, let me know.  I’m usually too busy to keep up with the paparazzi.”  We laughed with me and handed me his card. He told me what he thought of my latest few clients and business deals with  just enough detail to let me know that he’d been reading up on me.  He closed out with “I’m glad to see how well you’re performing.”

At that moment, without any hesitation and the timing of an expert statesman, I said “That’s mainly because I have a great coach.  The Boss here has taken all the time necessary to make sure I have the tools and support I need to get the job done.  Listen, I know you two have a lot to take care of.  If you have time while you’re here I’d love to have breakfast with you and talk to you about how you got where you are in the company.” Then I turned, and went to back to my office.

Tactic:

I know he didn’t need my card.  Clearly, he knows who everyone in my office is.  I needed his card so that I knew his full name and title.  When I am unsure about anyone I am talking to, I hand him or her my card so that they reciprocate.  It lets me off the hook for not knowing or remembering who they are if I have forgotten, as well as telling me what they do and an address I can reach them at.  I am notorious for sending people and businesses letters. See: Hawai’I Hustle.

Result:

My Boss asked me to come into his office a few days later, after all the dust had settled from the VIP visit.  As soon as he closed the door, he smiled and gave me a knowing nod. He said   “Thanks a lot for that.” He and I work together every day. He knows how I operate, and that I don’t ever take words lightly, said or heard.

That was the starting point of a mutually beneficial relationship between he and I that would position me quite well with him.  He began to trust me with more and more responsibility and privilege after that. With every success I had, I made it a point to Kick-Up a few glowing references and give credit to my boss and his highly effective management style.

To put it plainly, he helped me to make more money!

In the front office, in another place, in another time, another manager was relaying information to me about how a project that we were working on was progressing.  In the middle of the other team, a colleague from another department barged into the conversation and passive-aggressively accused my Boss of making an error because he was lazy.  He may have, I don’t know.  What I do know is that he tastefully and tactfully tried to correct her and explain why what she was accusing him of doing would have undermined his own goals.  Undeterred she looked at me, and with a few short words put me in a position to either validate her reasoning, or show her that I knew more about the project that my Boss did by explaining to her what may have actually happened.  Either of those would serve her purpose of undermining my Boss.

I chose neither.

I blatantly sided with my Boss and recited what he told her nearly word for word.  She was livid!  The anger coming from her was palpable and so thick you could cut it with a knife.  I made it a point to show her a unified front.  She knew it, I knew it, and most importantly, my boss knew it.

When she walked away, I looked at my boss and purposely didn’t ask what was gong on, or if he had done what she accused him of.  That’s not my place or concern.  I looked at him and said “Listen, I don’t know what the situation is, but I won’t side against you or even open my mouth about something I don’t know.  What do I do when she corners me and tries to interrogate me when you aren’t there?”

Result: What he told me, and what happened next are better off in a writing of their own.  The point I am driving home is that from then on, he consistently trusted me with more and bigger projects.  He also gives me a lot of in-depth, behind-the-scenes knowledge and practice.  Knowing that he can trust me as an ally at best, and never see me as a liability at worst, puts me on the short list of men he can trust.

I’ve shared these stories with friends, co-workers, and people I’ve trained.  Most of them have used it to advance their careers and have thanked me for it.  I also give my friends copies of The 48 Laws of Power.  I strongly suggest you pick up a copy and add it to your personal arsenal of literature.

~Watt

YusefWateef (AT) Gmail.com

Hat Tip, there is a post at http://illimitablemen.com/2013/12/10/law-01-never-outshine-the-master-exemplified-and-explained/ that explores the same subject in a completely different direction.  It’s definitely worth taking a look at.

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4 comments

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