Notes Psychology

Law 40: Despise the Free Lunch (The 48 Laws of Power)

Law 40: Despise the Free Lunch

El Dorado
El Dorado

Don’t fall for “free” gifts. There is a saying in business, “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.” Things that are offered for free have hidden strings attached that might be much more valuable that the product. When people play free games, or log into free social media platforms, they are exchanging their personal information and time. If you had the ability to pay the full price for something, do so and rest assured.

Buried Treasure

In the Maghrib, there were Berber “students” who couldn’t make a living, so they swindled well-to-do investors by promising to find buried treasures. They approached their targets with torn pieces of paper and claim to know the translations of these papers.

Occasionally, one of these treasure hunters displays strange information or some remarkable trick of magic with which he fools people into believing his other claims, although, in fact, he knows nothing of magic and its procedures…. The things that have been said about [treasure hunting] have no scientific basis, nor are they based upon [factual] information. It should be realized that although treasures are found, this happens rarely and by chance, not by systematic search…. Those who are deluded or afflicted by these things must take refuge in God from their inability to make a living and their laziness in this respect. They should not occupy themselves with absurdities and untrue stories.


Feelings of obligation and compromises in quality are results of things that come for “free” or for very cheap. Independence is more important than finding a good deal, and having peace of mind and the room to maneuver by paying the full price of something is more valuable than saving a little money.

And there is such a thing as strategic generosity, it is giving when you expect to receive something in return. Greene offers this as a strategy to use with wealthy people, but this is also the tactic being used against you when you are offered something for free.

Types to avoid

Greedy fish only care about money and not about people. But with time, no one wants to work with them. They become isolated and are, in fact, the con artist’s favorite target. They are easy to deceive because they spend so much time dealing with numbers, not people. They become blind to human psychology – including their own. Avoid the greedy fish before they exploit you.

The Bargain Demons are the hagglers. They spend valuable time hunting for bargains, and this kind of behavior not only harms themselves, but others around them. They will infect others with insecurity – with the feeling that they should look harder for better deals.

The Indiscriminate Givers are extremely generous, but they do so because of their unfulfilled emotional needs. Generosity can be used strategically, to attract people and soften them up, but this type does so out of personal shortcomings. Avoid the Indiscriminate Giver because you will become burdened by their insatiable emotional needs.

A miser, to make sure of his property, sold all that he had and converted it into a great lump of gold, which he hid in a hole in the ground, and went continually to visit and inspect it. This roused the curiosity of one of his workmen, who, suspecting that there was a treasure, when his master’s back was turned, went to the spot, and stole it away. When the miser returned and found the place empty, he wept and tore his hair. But a neighbor who saw him in this extravagant grief, and learned the cause of it, said: “Fret thyself no longer, but take a stone and put it in the same place, and think that it is your lump of gold; for, as you never meant to use it. the one will do you as much good as the other.”

The worth of money is not in its possession, but in its use. FABLES, AFSOP, SIXTH CENTURY B.C

El Dorado

Francisco Pizzaro conquered Peru in 1532 and gold from the Incan Empire was taken back to Spain. Many Spaniards dreamed of the wealth they would accrue.

El Dorado was a myth that propagated among the Spaniards. At first, it was about an Indian Chief who ritualistically covered himself in gold dust and dive into a lake. Eventually, the story of El Dorado became about an empire where everything was made of gold. The Spaniards, delighted by these tales, searched for El Dorado all over South America.

Pizarro’s brother, Gonzalo, led the largest expedition in this venture in 1541. But he encountered torrential rain and the expedition’s gear and food were spoiled. He, along with 340 Spaniards and 4,000 Indians headed east. The Indians were used as slaves to carry supplies and point the way. Along the journey, Gonzalo encountered Indians. He asked them where El Dorado was, and when they seemed like they were withholding information, he tortured them. Word spread about the murderous Spaniards.

The Indians realized that the only way to avoid the wrath of Gonzalo was to make up stories about El Dorado and point them further astray. Gonzalo and his men were taken into a deep jungle. They grew tired and their spirits sagged and their Indian slaves had either died or deserted them. The expedition eventually fell apart.

The Spaniards just wanted to go back to Quito. For a year and a half, they chased after an illusion,  and all the money that was invested into the expedition yielded nothing. There was no sign of El Dorado, and no sign of gold.

Despite this, the fantasy endured. Spain became obsessed with gold. Whenever they found any, it was reinvested into finding more gold. Entire towns in Spain were depopulated to send more men to the expedition.

The prospect of easy, sudden wealth blinds a person’s emotions. The greedy neglect the true keys to power: self-control and the goodwill of others. Sudden wealth rarely lasts. Make power your goal and money will find its way to you. Leave the chase of El Dorado to the fools.

I took money only from those who could afford it and were willing to go in with me in schemes they fancied would fleece others. They wanted money for its own sake. I wanted it for the luxuries and pleasures it would afford me. They were seldom concerned with human nature. They knew little-and cared less-about their fellow men. If they had been keener students of human nature, if they had given more time to companionship with their fellows and less to the chase of the almighty dollar, they wouldn’t have been such easy marks.

“YELLOW KID” WEIL. 1875-1976

Read The 48 Laws of Power

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

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