Law 4 of 48 Laws of Power – Never Outshine the Master
Law 1 – Never Outshine the Master advises individuals to avoid appearing more successful, talented or powerful than those who hold superior status. This is key to avoiding challenging their authority and inspiring fear and insecurity in them.
Powerful people say less than necessary and keep their enemies in suspense by being cryptic and enigmatic. This also prevents them from giving away useful information that could be used against them.
1. Never Outshine the Master
If you outshine your superior, you can be certain you will inspire resentment and envy. People who feel insecure often act out, and masters are especially prone to do so. To avoid causing your master any discomfort, hide the extent of your talents.
As an example, Galileo made sure the Medicis felt more important than his discovery by describing it as “the brightness of a star.” This technique was also used by P.T. Barnum, who once donned a black suit before a performance and was mistaken for an infamous reverend recently acquitted of murder.
As the Peter Principle states, in hierarchical systems, people rise to their level of incompetence. If your boss is incompetent, you can slowly hasten her downfall by feigning ignorance. This is a classic way to outshine someone with power over you, but it can also be effective in smaller situations. If your superior is simply unappreciated, you can draw attention to yourself by showing off a bit, but only at key moments.
2. Be Subtle
A subtle power move can be more effective than a direct one. For instance, asking a subordinate to empty the dishwasher is more likely to get them moving than barking orders at them. But the power of subtlety is in its lightness; too much, and you’re easily spotted.
The adroit master of power is always searching for the most subtle route to his goal. In this sense, he’s like a cat stalking prey, seeking a way to catch them without being seen.
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3. Keep Your Cards Close to Your Chest
Keeping your cards close to your chest means concealing what you are capable of. This isn’t about deceiving others; it’s a way to maintain a sense of mystery that increases your power. It also prevents other people from sabotaging your plans or undermining your reputation.
For example, the police don’t tell anyone what evidence they have against a suspect. They are playing their cards close to their vest.
The lesson here is to be aware of the presence of negative influencers and avoid them. Associating with these individuals can spread their misery and bad luck to everyone they meet. Instead, surround yourself with those who spread happiness and good fortune. This will give you a stronger sense of protection from infection.
4. Say Less Than Necessary
Powerful people tend to say very little. This makes them seem impressive and intimidating. It also reduces the chance that they will say something foolish.
Powerless people often talk too much, which makes them look less powerful and in control. They also open themselves up to a variety of interpretations, which can be used against them.
Sometimes it’s smarter to play the court jester, who pretends to be harmless but knows he’s smarter than the king. This allows you to distract and misdirect your target without anyone suspecting that you have other plans in mind.
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