The 48 Laws of Power
The 48 Laws of Power

The 48 Laws of Power

As the great Renaissance diplomat and courtier Niccolò Machiavelli wrote, “Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good.” (Location 336)

The most important of these skills, and power’s crucial foundation, is the ability to master your emotions. An emotional response to a situation is the single greatest barrier to power, a mistake that will cost you a lot more than any temporary satisfaction you might gain by expressing your feelings. (Location 393)

Like Janus, the double-faced Roman deity and guardian of all gates and doorways, you must be able to look in both directions at once, the better to handle danger from wherever it comes. (Location 407)

Such is the face you must create for yourself—one face looking continuously to the future and the other to the past. (Location 408)

If deception is the most potent weapon in your arsenal, then patience in all things is your crucial shield. (Location 435)

Patience will protect you from making moronic blunders. Like mastering your emotions, patience is a skill—it does not come naturally. (Location 435)

Power is a game—this cannot be repeated too often—and in games you do not judge your opponents by their intentions but by the effect of their actions. (Location 440)

Never waste valuable time, or mental peace of mind, on the affairs of others—that is too high a price to pay. (Location 455)

Tags: favorite

Note: Don’t waste time worrying about the affairs of others

Finally, you must learn always to take the indirect route to power. Disguise your cunning. (Location 463)

Consider The 48 Laws of Power a kind of handbook on the arts of indirection. (Location 466)

The laws have a simple premise: Certain actions almost always increase one’s power (the observance of the law), while others decrease it and even ruin us (the transgression of the law). These transgressions and observances are illustrated by historical examples. The laws are timeless and definitive. (Location 472)

Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires. (Location 488)


Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. (Location 493)

Everyone has insecurities. When you show yourself in the world and display your talents, you naturally stir up all kinds of resentment, envy, and other manifestations of insecurity. (Location 559)

First, you can inadvertently outshine a master simply by being yourself. (Location 568)

Second, never imagine that because the master loves you, you can do anything you want. (Location 579)

Never take your position for granted and never let any favors you receive go to your head. (Location 588)

Image: The Stars in the Sky. There can be only one sun at a time. Never obscure the sunlight, or rival the sun’s brilliance; rather, fade into the sky and find ways to heighten the master star’s intensity. (Location 604)

All working situations require a kind of distance between people. You are trying to work, not make friends; friendliness (real or false) only obscures that fact. The key to power, then, is the ability to judge who is best able to further your interests in all situations. Keep friends for friendship, but work with the skilled and competent. (Location 764)


When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control. (Location 1146)

person who cannot control his words shows that he cannot control himself, and is unworthy of respect. (Location 1204)

But the human tongue is a beast that few can master. It strains constantly to break out of its cage, and if it is not tamed, it will run wild and cause you grief. Power cannot accrue to those who squander their treasure of words. (Location 1207)

Tags: silence

Power is in many ways a game of appearances, and when you say less than necessary, you inevitably appear greater and more powerful than you are. Your silence will make other people uncomfortable. Humans are machines of interpretation and explanation; they have to know what you are thinking. When you carefully control what you reveal, they cannot pierce your intentions or your meaning. (Location 1240)

Tags: power, silence

Once the words are out, you cannot take them back. Keep them under control. Be particularly careful with sarcasm: The momentary satisfaction you gain with your biting words will be outweighed by the price you pay. (Location 1266)

Tags: silence

In the beginning, you must work to establish a reputation for one outstanding quality, whether generosity or honesty or cunning. This quality sets you apart and gets other people to talk about you. You then make your reputation known to as many people as possible (subtly, though; take care to build slowly, and with a firm foundation), and watch as it spreads like wildfire. (Location 1394)

Tags: reputation

A solid reputation increases your presence and exaggerates your strengths without your having to spend much energy. (Location 1397)

As they say, your reputation inevitably precedes you, and if it inspires respect, a lot of your work is done for you before you arrive on the scene, or utter a single word. (Location 1401)

Tags: reputation

“Every crowd has a silver lining.” (Location 1516)

In a world growing increasingly banal and familiar, what seems enigmatic instantly draws attention. Never make it too clear what you are doing or about to do. Do not show all your cards. An air of mystery heightens your presence; it also creates anticipation—everyone will be watching you to see what happens next. Use mystery to beguile, seduce, even frighten. (Location 1574)

Note: Create an air of mystery

That is the power of the mysterious: It invites layers of interpretation, excites our imagination, seduces us into believing that it conceals something marvelous. (Location 1620)

Use the past, a vast storehouse of knowledge and wisdom. Isaac Newton called this “standing on the shoulders of giants.” He meant that in making his discoveries he had built on the achievements of others. (Location 1799)

Tags: wisdom

Learn to use the knowledge of the past and you will look like a genius, even when you are really just a clever borrower. (Location 1806)

You yourself must learn to master your emotions, and never to be influenced by anger; meanwhile, however, you must play on people’s natural tendency to react angrily when pushed and baited. In the long run, the ability to make others come to you is a weapon far more powerful than any tool of aggression. (Location 1882)

For negotiations or meetings, it is always wise to lure others into your territory, or the territory of your choice. You have your bearings, while they see nothing familiar and are subtly placed on the defensive. (Location 1904)

Authority: Good warriors make others come to them, and do not go to others. This is the principle of emptiness and fullness of others and self. When you induce opponents to come to you, then their force is always empty; as long as you do not go to them, your force is always full. Attacking emptiness with fullness is like throwing stones on eggs. (Location 1935)

Any momentary triumph you think you have gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory: The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. (Location 1950)

Such is the double power of winning through actions rather than argument: No one is offended, and your point is proven. (Location 2035)

Words are a dime a dozen. Everyone knows that in the heat of an argument, we will all say anything to support our cause. (Location 2042)

Image: The Seesaw. Up and down and up and down go the arguers, getting nowhere fast. Get off the seesaw and show them your meaning without kick ing or pushing. Leave them at the top and let gravity bring them gently to the ground. (Location 2086)

Authority: Never argue. In society nothing must be discussed; give only results. (Benjamin Disraeli, 1804–1881) (Location 2089)

You can die from someone else’s misery—emotional states are as infectious as diseases. (Location 2113)

Those misfortunates among us who have been brought down by circumstances beyond their control deserve all the help and sympathy we can give them. But there are others who are not born to misfortune or unhappiness, but who draw it upon themselves by their destructive actions and unsettling effect on others. (Location 2210)

humans are extremely susceptible to the moods, emotions, and even the ways of thinking of those with whom they spend their time. (Location 2213)

If, for example, you are miserly by nature, you will never go beyond a certain limit; only generous souls attain greatness. (Location 2244)

Be the only one who can do what you do, and make the fate of those who hire you so entwined with yours that they cannot possibly get rid of you. Otherwise you will someday be forced to cross your own Bridge of Sighs. (Location 2285)

To make others dependent on you, one route to take is the secret-intelligence tactic. By knowing other people’s secrets, by holding information that they wouldn’t want broadcast, you seal your fate with theirs. You are untouchable. (Location 2391)

Image: Vines with Many Thorns. Below, the roots grow deep and wide. Above, the vines push through bushes, entwine themselves around trees and poles and window ledges. To get rid of them would cost such toil and blood, it is easier to let them climb. (Location 2399)

Learn to give before you take. It softens the ground, takes the bite out of a future request, or simply creates a distraction. (Location 2471)

Once this reputation is established, as with first impressions, it is hard to shake. (Location 2488)

If you need to turn to an ally for help, do not bother to remind him of your past assistance and good deeds. He will find a way to ignore you. Instead, uncover something in your request, or in your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emphasize it out of all proportion. He will respond enthusiastically when he sees something to be gained for himself. (Location 2546)

Most men are so thoroughly subjective that nothing really interests them but themselves. They always think of their own case as soon as ever any remark is made, and their whole attention is engrossed and absorbed by the merest chance reference to anything which affects them personally, be it never so remote. (Location 2583)

When people choose between talk about the past and talk about the future, a pragmatic person will always opt for the future and forget the past. (Location 2615)

A man as ambitious and competitive as Joseph Duveen left nothing to chance. What’s the point of winging it, of just hoping you may be able to charm this or that client? It’s like shooting ducks blindfolded. Arm yourself with a little knowledge and your aim improves. (Location 2695)

Rulers see through spies, as cows through smell, Brahmins through scriptures and the rest of the people through their normal eyes. (Location 2705)

Throughout Talleyrand’s life, people said he was a superb conversationalist—yet he actually said very little. He never talked about his own ideas; he got others to reveal theirs. (Location 2721)

During social gatherings and innocuous encounters, pay attention. This is when people’s guards are down. By suppressing your own personality, you can make them reveal things. (Location 2735)

All great leaders since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed completely. (Sometimes they have learned this the hard way.) If one ember is left alight, no matter how dimly it smolders, a fire will eventually break out. More is lost through stopping halfway than through total annihilation: The enemy will recover, and will seek revenge. Crush him, not only in body but in spirit. (Location 2779)

“To let him go would be like rearing a tiger—it will devour you later,” (Location 2838)

Your enemies wish you ill. There is nothing they want more than to eliminate you. If, in your struggles with them, you stop halfway or even three quarters of the way, out of mercy or hope of reconciliation, you only make them more determined, more embittered, and they will someday take revenge. They may act friendly for the time being, but this is only because you have defeated them. They have no choice but to bide their time. (Location 2897)

Negotiation is the insidious viper that will eat away at your victory, so give your enemies nothing to negotiate, no hope, no room to maneuver. They are crushed and that is that. (Location 2921)

A Viper crushed beneath your foot but left alive, will rear up and bite you with a double dose of venom. An enemy that is left around is like a half-dead viper that you nurse back to health. Time makes the venom grow stronger. (Location 2932)

Create value through scarcity. (Location 2951)

What withdraws, what becomes scarce, suddenly seems to deserve our respect and honor. What stays too long, inundating us with its presence, makes us disdain it. (Location 3011)

Tags: scarcity

Absence diminishes minor passions and inflames great ones, as the wind douses a candle and fans a fire. (Location 3015)

Image: The Sun. It can only be appreciated by its absence. The longer the days of rain, the more the sun is craved. But too many hot days and the sun overwhelms. Learn to keep yourself obscure and make people demand your return. (Location 3084)

Remember: In the beginning, make yourself not scarce but omnipresent. Only what is seen, appreciated, and loved will be missed in its absence. (Location 3108)

Humans are creatures of habit with an insatiable need to see familiarity in other people’s actions. Your predictability gives them a sense of control. Turn the tables: Be deliberately unpredictable. (Location 3112)

People are always trying to read the motives behind your actions and to use your predictability against you. Throw in a completely inexplicable move and you put them on the defensive. Because they do not understand you, they are unnerved, and in such a state you can easily intimidate them. (Location 3201)


Better to circulate among people, find allies, mingle. You are shielded from your enemies by the crowd. (Location 3243)

Never enclose yourself so far from the streets that you cannot hear what is happening around you, including the plots against you. (Location 3300)

Finally, since power is a human creation, it is inevitably increased by contact with other people. (Location 3380)

About the only thing that constant human contact cannot facilitate is thought. (Location 3393)

Also, the more isolated you are, the harder it is to break out of your isolation when you choose to—it sinks you deep into its quicksand without your noticing. (Location 3398)

victim. The highest form of the art of power is the ability to distinguish the wolves from the lambs, the foxes from the hares, the hawks from the vultures. (Location 3408)

When you meet a swordsman, draw your sword: Do not recite poetry to one who is not a poet. (Location 3413)

Some men are slow to take offense, which may make you misjudge the thickness of their skin, and fail to worry about insulting them. (Location 3477)

Since power depends greatly on appearances, you must learn the tricks that will enhance your image. Refusing to commit to a person or group is one of these. When you hold yourself back, you incur not anger but a kind of respect. (Location 3625)

Do not let people drag you into their petty fights and squabbles. Seem interested and supportive, but find a way to remain neutral; let others do the fighting while you stand back, watch and wait. (Location 3673)

Note: Dont get dragged into others' fights

“The weak benefit by the quarrels of the mighty.” INDIAN (Location 3689)

Most people operate in a whirlpool of emotions, constantly reacting, churning up squabbles and conflicts. (Location 3762)

Slowness to pick up your weapons can be a weapon itself, especially if you let other people exhaust themselves fighting, then take advantage of their exhaustion. (Location 3787)

Moreover, the merit of supporting a state in danger is not as great as the virtue of reviving a ruined one.” (Location 3791)

That is what holding back from the fray allows you: time to position yourself to take advantage of the situation once one side starts to lose. (Location 3794)

Remember: You have only so much energy and so much time. Every moment wasted on the affairs of others subtracts from your strength. (Location 3821)

No one likes feeling stupider than the next person. The trick, then, is to make your victims feel smart—and not just smart, but smarter than you are. (Location 3838)

The feeling that someone else is more intelligent than we are is almost intolerable. (Location 3915)

Given how important the idea of intelligence is to most people’s vanity, it is critical never inadvertently to insult or impugn a person’s brain power. (Location 3919)

When you are weaker, never fight for honor’s sake; choose surrender instead. Surrender gives you time to recover, time to torment and irritate your conqueror, time to wait for his power to wane. Do not give him the satisfaction of fighting and defeating you—surrender first. (Location 3976)

When you are weaker, there is nothing to be gained by fighting a useless fight. No one comes to help the weak—by doing so they would only put themselves in jeopardy. (Location 4011)

People trying to make a show of their authority are easily deceived by the surrender tactic. (Location 4068)

But the next time someone pushes you and you find yourself starting to react, try this: Do not resist or fight back, but yield, turn the other cheek, bend. (Location 4076)

By yielding, you in fact control the situation, because your surrender is part of a larger plan to lull them into believing they have defeated you. (Location 4078)

point. You gain more by finding a rich mine and mining it deeper, than by flitting from one shallow mine to another—intensity defeats extensity every time. (Location 4134)

The mind must not wander from goal to goal, or be distracted by success from its sense of purpose and proportion. What is concentrated, coherent, and connected to its past has power. What is dissipated, divided, and distended rots and falls to the ground. The bigger it bloats, the harder it falls. (Location 4172)

Beware of dissipating your powers; strive constantly to concentrate them. Genius thinks it can do whatever it sees others doing, but it is sure to repent of every ill-judged outlay. (Location 4188)

Prize intensity more than extensity. Perfection resides in quality, not quantity. Extent alone never rises above mediocrity, (Location 4251)

Never Be the Bearer of Bad News. The king kills the messenger who brings bad news: This is a cliché but there is truth to it. You must struggle and if necessary lie and cheat to be sure that the lot of the bearer of bad news falls on a colleague, never on you. Bring only good news and your approach will gladden your master. (Location 4337)

Never Criticize Those Above You Directly. This may seem obvious, but there are often times when some sort of criticism is necessary—to say nothing, or to give no advice, would open you to risks of another (Location 4343)

Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define it for you. (Location 4568)

Note: Create your own image

The character you seem to have been born with is not necessarily who you are; beyond the characteristics you have inherited, your parents, your friends, and your peers have helped to shape your personality. The Promethean task of the powerful is to take control of the process, to stop allowing others that ability to limit and mold them. Remake yourself into a character of power. (Location 4665)

Working on yourself like clay should be one of your greatest and most pleasurable life tasks. (Location 4668)

Tags: favorite

Note: Enjoy working on yourself like clay

If there is something unpleasant or unpopular that needs to be done, it is far too risky for you to do the work yourself. You need a cat’s-paw—someone who does the dirty, dangerous work for you. (Location 4865)

Let someone else be the executioner, or the bearer of bad news, while you bring only joy and glad tidings. (Location 4867)