Notes politics Psychology

Law 30: Make your Accomplishments Seem Effortless (The 48 Laws of Power)

Law 30: Make your Accomplishments Seem Effortless

To become a master at anything, you need to invest considerable time and effort. But don’t tell others about your tricks, and how hard you had to toil – create an air of nonchalance and effortlessness. Be careful of teaching others too many of your secrets for they can be used against you.

Sprezzatura is studied carelessness, and it is important for all form of power. To become powerful you must understand the art of appearances. You should not allow people to read you easily, you must try to create spectacles.

What you do in public is an artistic product, it should be visually captivating, it must emotionally draw in your audience, and entertain them. When you reveal the secrets of this product, you will be viewed as an ordinary mortal. When you know the secrets behind anything, it is not longer awe-inspiring. Do not be so eager to impress others of your intelligence, it is much smarter to conceal the inner-workings of your brilliance.

The French diplomat Talleyrand used this idea to enhance his aura of power. He hated working hard, so he delegated this work to others. He paid for spying, research, and detailed analyses. With so many people helping him, his actions seemed effortless. Some thought he was clairvoyant because he would reveal to them his ‘feelings’ that were actually reports from his spies.

His concise witty statements seemed to perfectly summarize a situation, but they were the results of many hours of thought and research. People thought he was powerful because he seemed to be highly capable, but never looked like he strained and suffered.

It is wise to hide your tricks and shortcuts. There is no good reason to share information that can be used against you. Silence offers us many advantages, but often our laziness, vanity, and insecurity push us to reveal much more than we ought to. We want everyone to know just how clever we are, and what we have managed to accomplish. We may even want some sympathy for all the hard work we’ve done. Control your tendency to be loose with your secrets, blabbing can hurt you much more than it can help you.

When others see mystery in your behavior, they will believe that you are unique in your abilities. They will see you as being more powerful than you are. And since you have managed to accomplish a lot with very little effort, people will think you are capable of much more if only you tried harder. This will make others admire you, but also fear you, for no one understands the limits of your power.

For whatever action [nonchalance] accompanies, no matter how trivial it is, it not only reveals the skill of the person doing it but also very often causes it to be considered far greater than it really is. This is because it makes the onlookers believe that a man who performs well with so much facility must possess even greater skill than he does.

Baldassare Castiglione

Taken to an extreme, secrecy can work against you. You must seem light-hearted and not too serious. If you are too zealous about hiding your work, people will think you’re paranoid. Don’t take the game too seriously. Don’t show your work until it’s finished, but if you make this too much of a priority, you may suffer the fate of Pontormo.

The painter Pontormo spent the last years of his life hiding his works from the world and drove himself mad. Never lose your sense of humor.

Sometimes, showing your work can be highly rewarding. It depends on timing and who your audience is. P.T Barnum knew that his customers wanted to feel involved in his shows. He decided to reveal his tricks in an astonishingly honest way, and he was appreciated for it. He wrote a highly popular autobiography at the height of his career. If you carefully reveal your tricks, and so partially and with clear objectives, then it is the ultimate example of cleverness. It gives people the illusion of being superior and part of the trick, but there is still much that they do not know.

Read The 48 Laws of Power

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

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