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Law 29: Plan all the Way to the End (The 48 Laws of Power)

Law 29: Plan all the Way to the End

Walter Benjamin
Walter Benjamin

“Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering. Often enough, God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him.”

– The Histories, Herodotus

When planning, take everything into account. Since the ending is all that matters, you should think in advance about all the obstacles that you might encounter along the way. By doing so, you will not be overwhelmed.

The King. The Sufi. And The Surgeon

King Tartary was walking with some of his nobleman, and they encountered an abdal (a wandering Sufi), who told them, “Whoever will give me a hundred dinars, I will give him some good advice.”

The king stopped to listen. He replied: “Abdal, what is this good advice for a hundred dinars?” “Sir,” answered the abdal “order the sum to be given to me, and I will tell it you immediately.” The king did so and waited for the abdal to tell him something profound. The dervish said: “My advice is this: Never begin anything until you have reflected what will be the end of it.”

The noblemen and everyone else laughed at what was said and figured that the abdal was clever to demand his money before giving out his advice. But the king says: “You have no reason to laugh at the good advice this abdal has given me. No one is unaware of the fact that we should think well before doing anything. But we are daily guilty of not remembering, and the consequences are evil. I very much value this dervish’s advice.”

The king always kept this advice in mind. He even commanded it to be written (in gold) on the walls and on his silver plate. One day, a plotter planned to kill the king. He bribed the royal surgeon with the position of prime minister if he thrust a poisoned lancet into the king’s arm. When the time came to let out some of the king’s blood, a silver basin was used to collect the blood. Suddenly the surgeon noticed the words engraved upon it:  “Never begin anything until you have reflected what will be the end of it.”

At that moment, he realized that the plotter would likely kill him if he became king – and would not need to appoint him as prime minister. The king noticed that the surgeon was trembling and asked him what was wrong. The surgeon confessed the truth. The plotter was immediately seized and the king called the people who were present when they abdal gave his advice, and said: “Do you still laugh at the dervish? (Caravan of Dreams, Idries)

“He who asks fortune-tellers the future unwittingly forfeits an inner intimation of coming events that is a thousand times more exact than anything they may say.”

– Walter Benjamin

Against the Reed

The Greeks thought that the gods could see the future, but that the mortals couldn’t. Humans were doomed to be victims of fate and of their emotions. If you can replace the human tendency to live by reacting to events, with the ability to step back and plan well, you will be able to defy fate and emulate the gods in their ability to foresee the future. Ignoring present dangers and pleasures will lead you to power.

“Experience shows that, if one foresees from far away the designs to be undertaken, one can act with speed when the moment comes to execute them.”

– Cardinall Richelieu

There is no case when planning isn’t superior to not planning. Even in situations that require you to be flexible – capable of reacting to changing circumstances, you are required to acknowledge the importance of having such a mentality beforehand.

How much easier it is never to get in than to get yourself out! We should act contrary to the reed which, when it first appears, throws up a long straight stem but afterwards, as though it were exhausted … makes several dense knots, indicating that it no longer has its original vigor and drive. We must rather begin gently and coolly, saving our breath for the encounter and our vigorous thrusts for finishing off the job. In their beginnings it is we who guide affairs and hold them in our power; but so often once they are set in motion, it is they which guide us and sweep us along.

– Montaigne

Read The 48 Laws of Power

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

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