The 48 Laws of Power

I thought this was a silly book. The power tactics it describes seem to revolve around deception, backstabbing, and that kind of thing. It seems like most the examples it used were from kings and queens of the ancient or medieval world, or con artists. I’m sure the author’s takeaways from those historical events were plenty correct, they’re just irrelevant. The vast majority of people don’t live in an adversarial or competitive world.

What I’ve found in my observations of wealthy and powerful people is that most of them seem to have a strong desire to help other people. There are a number of occasions where I’ve been set up with a meeting with some rich and successful person. I’ve found that the most successful people often end the meeting with, “So Jason, how can I be helpful to you? What can I do for you?” Less successful people don’t tend to ask this question as much. The correlation has been very interesting.

I found The 48 Laws of Power interesting and entertaining but not very useful. In fact, some of the advice was downright wrong. “Never apologize” is one of the pieces of advice. Terrible advice. People who think an apology will only bring attention to their mistake where it might otherwise have escaped notice are being horribly naive. If you make a mistake that no one notices and then you apologize for it, the other person will probably either laugh and say there’s no need to apologize, or they will appreciate the fact that you went out of your way to bring a mistake of yours to their attention that they otherwise would not have known about, and they’ll respect you more for it. I’ve never lost respect for someone due to an apology of theirs, but I certainly have lost respect for someone due to a failure to apologize when they should have. Maybe “don’t apologize” is good advice for politicians or kings or whatever but not regular people.

I don’t think I even believe that the author believes much of what he wrote in the book. I think it was probably written to be shocking and over-the-top. The book isn’t totally without value but I wouldn’t really recommend it.

It’s also generally a bad idea to listen to advice that’s not based on either scientific evidence or someone’s personal success. This book isn’t based on either.

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