Growing up, I had a neighbor who had a shiny Rolls Royce that he kept in his garage. He only drove the Rolls once per week: for church on Sunday. The rest of the week, he utilized a dusty pickup truck that he would constantly work under the hood of. That car, he kept parked outside in his driveway. We accidentally dinged it a few times with our footballs. He voiced his displeasure about that.
If you’d watched this guy Monday-Saturday, you’d see him as we did: dusty, bum ass, crotchety old man who didn’t like us playing football near his car. But the Rolls made you think. What else does he have in that house that we never see?
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I stumbled onto The 48 Laws Of Power in 1999 and the book just spoke to me. Power. That’s what I want. It’s still my favorite book to this day. I could tell you all 48 Laws in order without looking at the book (I think).
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Despite how many times I’ve read and re-read the book, I didn’t have as much control over my developing power as I thought I did. Back then, I was what we’ll call “immature power.”
I wouldn’t say hello to strangers. I had a very serious exterior, that I could tell was intimidating to some people – and I liked that feeling. I would push unimportant issues as far as I could take them because I felt I needed to, as away of exerting my power. I had really good people skill when I wanted to – but I rarely wanted to. To me, Power meant I never had to be nice or friendly. Essentially I was being an asshole, but calling myself “powerful.”
Fortunately, I’ve learned over the years what true power is. One mark of true power is in an ability I rarely exhibited back then. It’s a skill that is a dead giveaway of real power to the trained eye (there aren’t many of those around).
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In the hit HBO series The Wire, two middle aged European guys are supplying contraband to the biggest drug dealers in Baltimore, and making great money doing so. One of these Euros is known only as “The Greek.”
There comes a point, though, when the local police dive deep into investigating the Baltimore drug business, working their way up from street level dealers to the people in charge who make all the money but never actually touch the drugs.
In the finale of the season that follows the drug trade, The Greek voices to his partner that detectives seems to be snooping around their business associates and connections a bit too much for comfort. Which means, The Greek says, it’s time for the two of them leave Baltimore and head back to Europe – at least until things have cooled off a lot.
The Greek’s partner is not convinced of the plan. The pair have a lot of unpaid-for drugs on the streets of Baltimore, he reasoned. The dealers would be bringing money said drugs in due time. We’re not going to just leave all that money here, are we?
The Greek then dropped a philosophical line which, along with the fact that he was the boss, closed the conversation.
Sheep go to slaughter. A man, he knows when to walk away. We go. Sheep go to slaughter. A man, he knows when to walk away. Click To Tweet
They left Baltimore right before a police informant ID’d them to Baltimore detectives through photos.
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The ability to restrain oneself is especially essential for men. We have testicles, which produce testosterone, which is responsible for our musculature, aggression and drive to achieve. Summed up: Power. Every man wants power in some from.
What I know now about Power is much different from what I used to embody in my faux power stance.
- Power knows when to walk away. I don’t have to win every argument or always prove myself right just for the sport of it. Save that energy for when it’s actually needed. Power knows when to walk away. Click To Tweet
- Power disguises itself well. The most capable piece on a chessboard is the queen; it can move more spaces and more directions than any other piece. But the truly powerful piece is the King: once the King is trapped, the game is over. You can lose the queen and still win. Without the King, you’re done. Power disguises itself well. Click To Tweet
I heard a person say that Power is like Poker: the person doing the most showing off and posturing usually has the weakest hand, while the guy with the best hand is the most calm, quiet and deferential player at the table. Power doesn’t have to show off. It just is.
- Power speaks last, and the least. Next time you’re around a group of people, listen and pay attention. Note how much each person is speaking, from the most to the least. Not always, but often, the most powerful person is the most taciturn. The weakest, with the most to prove, says the most.
- Power can afford to be nice. I was driving in Boca Raton one day last month. I needed to get in the right lane to make an approaching turn, but a long line of cars were already over there, leaving no space for me to squeeze in. And time was running out. A driver stopped and allowed me to merge in front of him to make my turn. Powerful people can afford to be nice. Click To Tweet
I don’t know who that driver was, but I bet he’s secure enough in himself or herself that he doesn’t have to drive aggressively to make a show of his influence.
In conclusion, if you have power in your crosshairs, learn from me: it’s not all about brashness, verbal aggression and puffing out your chest.
Become powerful and use it like my neighbor’s Rolls Royce: available, but only put to use when he wanted to, as much as he wanted to, and never rushed.