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Law 19: Know Who You’re Dealing With – Do Not Offend the Wrong Person (The 48 Laws of Power)

Law 19: Know Who You’re Dealing With – Do Not Offend the Wrong Person

Some people are wolves in lambs’ clothing, don’t assume that everyone will react the same way to your strategies.

When you meet a swordsman, draw your sword: Do not recite poetry to one who is not a poet.

FROM A CH’AN BUDDHIST CLASSIC, QUOTED IN THUNDER IN THE SKY, TRANSLATED BY THOMAS CLEARY, 1993

In the thirteenth century, Muhammad, the shah of Khwarem, created an empire that extended from Turkey to Afghanistan. He did so by waging countless of wars, and his powerful, well-trained army outmatched their opponents.

In 1219, he received a delegation from Genghis Khan, a tribal leader from the east. The delegation gave Muhammad many gifts and fine goods. Genghis Khan wanted to reopen the Silk Road to Europe and offered to share it with Muhammad, guaranteeing peace between the two empires.

But Muhammad did not know who this man was, and thought he was very arrogant to think he could address him in this way. He ignored the offer. Khan tried again, and this time he sent a caravan of a hundred camels with rare Chinese goods that were stolen. But the caravan was intercepted by inalchik, the governor of a region bordering on Samarkand. Inalchik killed the leaders of the caravan and kept the goods for himself.

Genghis Khan was sure this was a mistake, that Muhammad did not give these orders to Inalchik. He sent another mission, repeating the offer and requesting the punishment of the governor. But Muhammad himself beheaded one of the ambassadors and sent two back with their heads shaven.

Genghis Khan replied to the Shah: “You have chosen war. What will happen will happen, and what it is to be we know not; only God knows.”

In 1220, Khan attacked Inalchik’s province. He seized the capital and had him executed by having his soldiers pour molten silver into the governor’s eyes and ears.  Khan led many battles against the shah’s much larger army over the next year, but he used guerrilla tactics. His soldiers could move on horseback, this was unprecedented at the time. And they mastered the art of firing with bow and arrow while mounted. Genghis Khan eventually destroyed Muhammad’s empire, and the latter fled his home, and died a year later.

Genghis Khan was now the sole ruler of Samarkand, the Silk Route, and most of norther Asia. Don’t assume that your opponent is weaker than you, you may be dealing with Genghis Khan.

Be convinced, that there are no persons so insignificant and inconsiderable, but may, some time or other, have it in their power to be of use to you; which they certainly will not, if you have once shown them contempt. Wrongs are often forgiven, but contempt never is. Our pride remembers it for ever.

Lord Chesterfield

Read The 48 Laws of Power

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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