Started with this summary here.
Law 1: Never Outshine the Master: Ensure that those above you always feel superior. Go out of your way to make your bosses look better and feel smarter than anyone else. Everyone is insecure, but an insecure boss can retaliate more strongly than others can.
Law 2: Never Put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn How to Use Enemies: Keep a close eye on your friends — they get envious and will undermine you. If you co-opt an enemy, he’ll be more loyal than a friend because he’ll try harder to prove himself worthy of your trust.
Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions: Always hide your true intentions. Create a smokescreen. If you keep people off-balance and in the dark, they can’t counter your efforts.
Law 4: Always Say Less than Necessary: Say little and be ambiguous, leaving the meaning to others to interpret. The less you say, the more intimidating and powerful you are.
Law 5: So Much Depends on Reputation — Guard It with Your Life: Nurture and guard your reputation because reputation is integral to power. With a strong reputation, you can influence and intimidate others.
Law 6: Create an Air of Mystery: Be outrageous or create an aura of mystery. Any attention — positive or negative — is better than being ignored. Attention brings you wealth.
Law 7: Get Others to Do the Work for You, but Always Take the Credit: Get others to do your work for you. Use their skill, time, and energy to further your ambitions while taking full credit. You’ll be admired for your efficiency.
Law 8: Make Other People Come to You — Use Bait if Necessary: Make your opponent come to you. When you force others to act, you’re in control. Bait them, then attack.
Law 9: Win Through Your Actions, Never Through Argument: Demonstrate your point rather than arguing. Arguing rarely changes anyone’s mind, but people believe what they see. They’re also less likely to be offended.
Law 10: Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky: Avoid miserable people. The perpetually miserable spread misery like an infection, and they’ll drown you in it.
Law 11: Learn to Keep People Dependent on You: Make your superior dependent on you. The more she needs you, the more security and freedom you have to pursue your goals.
Law 12: Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm Your Victim: Use honesty and generosity to disarm and distract others from your schemes. Even the most suspicious people respond to acts of kindness, leaving them vulnerable to manipulation.
Law 13: When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest, Never to their Mercy or Gratitude: When you need help from someone in a position of power, appeal to their self-interest. They’ll be glad to help if they’ll get something in return, and you’ll get what you want without seeming desperate or irritating.
Law 14: Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy: Be friendly, sympathetic, and interested to get people to reveal their deepest thoughts and feelings. When you know your opponent’s secrets, you can predict his behavior and control him.
Law 15: Crush Your Enemy Totally: Crush your enemy completely. If you leave even one ember smoldering, it will eventually ignite. You can’t afford to be lenient.
Law 16: Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor: Once you’ve become well-known, don’t wear out your welcome. The more you’re seen and heard from, the more you cheapen your brand.
Law 17: Keep Others in Suspended Terror: Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability: Throw others off balance and unnerve them with random, unpredictable acts. You’ll gain the upper hand.
Law 18: Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself – Isolation is Dangerous: Never isolate yourself when under pressure. This cuts you off from information you need, and when real danger arises you won’t see it coming.
Law: 19: Know Who You’re Dealing With – Do Not Offend the Wrong Person: When attempting to deceive someone, know who you’re dealing with, so you don’t waste your time or stir up a hornets’ nest in reaction.
Law 20: Do Not Commit to Anyone: Don’t commit to any side or cause except yourself. By maintaining your independence, you remain in control — others will vie for your attention. You also have the ability to pit the sides against each other.
Law 21: Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker – Seem Dumber Than Your Mark: Make your intended victims feel as though they’re smarter than you are, and they won’t suspect you of having ulterior motives.
Law 22: Use the Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakness into Power: When you’re weaker, surrender rather than fighting for the sake of honor. This gives you time to build strength and undermine your victor. You’ll win in the end.
Law 23: Concentrate Your Forces: Focus your resources and energies where you’ll have the most impact or get the most benefit. Otherwise, you’ll waste limited time and energy.
Law 24: Play the Perfect Courtier: Learn the rules of the society you’re playing in, and follow them to avoid attracting unfavorable attention. This includes appearing like a team player and being careful about criticizing diplomatically.
Law 25: Re-Create Yourself: Create a powerful image that stands out, rather than letting others define you. Change your appearance and emotions to suit the occasion. People who seem larger than life attract admiration and power.
Law: 26: Keep Your Hands Clean: You’ll inevitably make mistakes or need to take care of unpleasant problems. But keep your hands clean by finding others to do the dirty work, and scapegoats to blame.
Law 27: Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cultlike Following: Offer people something to believe in and someone to follow. Promise the world but keep it vague; whip up enthusiasm. People will respond to a desperate need for belonging. Followers line your pockets, and your opponents are afraid to rile them.
Law 28: Enter Action with Boldness: When you act, do so boldly — and if you make mistakes, correct them with even greater boldness. Boldness brings admiration and power.
Law 29: Plan All the Way to the End: Make detailed plans with a clear ending. Take into account all possible developments. Then don’t be tempted from your path. Otherwise, you risk being surprised and forced to react without time to think.
Law 30: Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless: Make difficult feats seem effortless and you’ll inspire awe in others and seem powerful. By contrast, when you make too much of your efforts, your achievement will seem less impressive and you’ll lose respect.
Law 31: Control the Options: Get Others to Play with the Cards You Deal: To deceive people, seem to give them a meaningful choice. But sharply limit their options to a few that work in your favor regardless of which they choose. Your victims will feel in control, but you’ll pull the strings.
Law 32: Play to People’s Fantasies: Conjure up alluring fantasies in contrast to the gloomy realities of life, and people will flock to you. Spin the right tale and wealth and power will follow.
Law 33: Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew: Everyone has a weakness, a hole in his armor. Find it and it’s leverage that you can use to your advantage.
Law 34: Be Royal in Your Own Fashion: Act Like a King to Be Treated Like One: Act like royalty and people will treat you that way. Project dignity and supreme confidence that you’re destined for great things, and others will believe it.
Law 35: Master the Art of Timing: Anticipate the ebb and flow of power. Recognize when the time is right, and align yourself with the right side. Be patient and wait for your moment. Bad timing ends careers and ambitions.
Law 36: Disdain Things You Cannot Have: Ignoring Them Is the Best Revenge: Sometimes it’s better to ignore things because reacting can make small problems worse, make you look bad, and give your enemy attention.
Law 37: Create Compelling Spectacles: In addition to words, use visuals and symbols to underscore your power. What people see makes a greater impression on them than what they hear.
Law 38: Think as You Like But Behave Like Others: Don’t make a show of being different, or people will think you look down on them and will retaliate against you.
Law 39: Stir Up Waters to Catch Fish: Always stay calm and objective. When you get angry, you’ve lost control. But if you can make your enemies angry, you gain an advantage.
Law 40: Despise the Free Lunch: Use money and generosity strategically to achieve your goals. Use gifts to build a reputation of generosity, and also to obligate people to you.
Law 41: Avoid Stepping Into a Great Man’s Shoes: If you succeed a great leader or famous parent, find or create your own space to fill. Sharply separate from the past and set your own standards — or you’ll be deemed a failure for not being a clone of your predecessor.
Law 42: Strike the Shepherd and the Sheep Will Scatter: Trouble in a group often starts with a single individual who stirs the pot. Stop them before others succumb to their influence.
Law 43: Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others: Win others’ hearts and minds. Play on their emotions and weaknesses, and appeal to their self-interest. You’ll have them eating out of your hand, and they’ll be less likely to turn on you.
Law 44: Disarm and Infuriate with the Mirror Effect: Seduce people by mirroring their emotions and interests; create the illusion that you share their values. They’ll be so grateful to be understood that they won’t notice your ulterior motives.
Law 45: Preach the Need for Change, But Never Reform Too Much at Once: Talk change but move slowly. Evoke revered history and cloak your changes in familiar rituals. Too much change is unsettling and will spark backlash.
Law 46: Never Appear Too Perfect: To forestall or mitigate envy, admit to a flaw or weakness, emphasize the role of luck, or downplay your talents. If you don’t recognize and nip envy in the bud, it will grow and the envious will work insidiously against you.
Law 47: Do Not Go Past the Mark You Aimed For; In Victory, Learn When to Stop: When you’ve won, don’t let emotions push you past your goal. The moment of victory is dangerous because if you press your luck, you’ll blunder into something you haven’t planned for.
Law 48: Assume Formlessness: Be flexible, fluid, and unpredictable — formless — so your opponents can’t get a fix on you and can’t figure out how to respond.
Law 1: Never outshine the master
Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power
When it comes to power, outshining the master is perhaps the worst mistake of all.
Never take your position for granted and never let any favors you receive go to your head.
Law 2: Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies
But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove. In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them
Since honesty rarely strengthens friendship, you may never know how a friend truly feels. Friends will say that they love your poetry, adore your music, envy your taste in clothes— maybe they mean it, often they do not.
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.
Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions
Use decoyed objects and desires and red herrings to throw people off the scent
Hide your intentions not by closing up (with the risk of appearing secretive, and making people suspicious) but by talking endlessly about your desires and goals— just not your real ones. You will kill three birds with one stone: You appear friendly, open, and trusting; you conceal your intentions; and you send your rivals on time-consuming wild-goose chases.
Use smoke screens to disguise your actions. This derives from a simple truth: people can only focus on one thing at a time. It is really too difficult for them to imagine that the bland and harmless person they are dealing with is simultaneously setting up something else
As Kierkegaard wrote, “The world wants to be deceived.”
Law 4: Always say less than necessary
One oft-told tale about Kissinger… involved a report that Winston Lord had worked on for days. After giving it to Kissinger, he got it back with the notation, “Is this the best you can do?” Lord rewrote and polished and finally resubmitted it; back it came with the same curt question. After redrafting it one more time— and once again getting the same question from Kissinger-Lord snapped, “Damn it, yes, it’s the best I can do. ” To which Kissinger replied: “Fine, then I guess I’ll read it this time. ”
Persons who cannot control his words shows that he cannot control himself, and is unworthy of respect. 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.
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.
Learn the lesson: 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.
Law 5: So much depends on reputation, guard it with your life
Always be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen. Meanwhile, learn to destroy your enemies by opening holes in their own reputations. Then stand aside and let public opinion hang them.
Doubt is a powerful weapon: Once you let it out of the bag with insidious rumors, your opponents are in a horrible dilemma.
Once you have a solid base of respect, ridiculing your opponent both puts him on the defensive and draws more attention to you, enhancing your own reputation.
Law 6: Court attention at all costs
Surround your name with the sensational and the scandalous.
Better to be slandered and attacked than ignored.
Every crowd has a silver lining.
At the start of your career, you must attach your name and reputation to a quality, an image, that sets you apart from other people.
Create an air of mystery.
Remember: Most people are upfront, can be read like an open book, take little care to control their words or image, and are hopelessly predictable. By simply holding back, keeping silent, occasionally uttering ambiguous phrases, deliberately appearing inconsistent, and acting odd in the subtlest of ways, you will emanate an aura of mystery. The people around you will then magnify that aura by constantly trying to interpret you
Do something that cannot be easily explained or interpreted
Law 7: Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit
Law 8: Make other people come to you, use bait if necessary
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.
Law 9: Win through your actions, never through argument
Law 10: Infection: Avoid the unhappy or the unlucky
When you suspect you are in the presence of an infector, don’t argue, don’t try to help, don’t pass the person on to your friends, or you will become enmeshed. Flee the infector’s presence or suffer the consequences.
Law 11: Learn to keep people dependent on you
Law 12: Use selective honesty and generosity to disarm your victim
Law 13: When asking for help, appeal to people’s self interest, never their mercy or gratitude
Law 14: Pose as a friend, work as a spy
Law 15: Crush your enemy totally
Law 16: Use absence to increase strength and honor
The more you are seen and heard from, the more common you appear. If you are already established in a group, temporary withdrawal from it will make you more talked about, even more admired. You must learn when to leave. Create value through scarcity.
At the start of an affair, you need to heighten your presence in the eyes of the other. If you absent yourself too early, you may be forgotten. But once your lover’s emotions are engaged, and the feeling of love has crystallized, absence inflames and excites. Giving no reason for your absence excites even more.
Law 17: Keep others in suspended terror, cultivate an air of unpredictability
Too much unpredictability will be seen as a sign of indecisiveness, or even of some more serious psychic problem. Patterns are powerful, and you can terrify people by disrupting them. Such power should only be used judiciously.
Law 18: Do not build a fortress to protect yourself, isolation is dangerous
Law 19: Know who you’re dealing with, do not offend the wrong person
Law 20: Do not commit to anyone
Do not commit to anyone, but be courted by all.
When you hold yourself back, you incur not anger but a kind of respect. You instantly seem powerful because you make yourself ungraspable, rather than succumbing to the group, or to the relationship, as most people do.
People who rush to the support of others tend to gain little respect in the process, for their help is so easily obtained, while those who stand back find themselves besieged with supplicants.
Do not commit to anyone, stay above the fray.
Remember: You have only so much energy and so much time. Every moment wasted on the affairs of others subtracts from your strength.
Law 21: Play a sucker to catch a sucker, seem dumber than your mark
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.
Law 22: Use the surrender tactic: transform weakness into power
People trying to make a show of their authority are easily deceived by the surrender tactic.
It is always our first instinct to react, to meet aggression with some other kind of aggression. 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.
If you surrender instead, you have an opportunity to coil around your enemy and strike with your fangs from close up.
Law 23: Concentrate your forces
intensity defeats extensity every time.
Law 24: Play the perfect courtier
The laws of court politics:
Avoid ostentationPractice nonchalanceBe frugal with flatteryArrange to be noticedAlter your style and language according to the person ou are dealing withNever be the bearer of bad newsNever affect friendliness and intimacy with your masterNever criticize those above you directlyBe frugal in asking those above you for favorsNever joke about appearances of tastesDo not be the court cynicBe self observantMaster your emotionsFit the spirits of the timesBe the source of pleasure
Law 25: Re-Create Yourself
Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define it for you.
The world wants to assign you a role in life. And once you accept that role you are doomed.
Remake yourself into a character of power. Working on yourself like clay should be one of your greatest and most pleasurable life tasks.
The first step in the process of self-creation is self-consciousness— being aware of yourself as an actor and taking control of your appearance and emotions.
The second step in the process of self-creation is a variation on the George Sand strategy: the creation of a memorable character, one that compels attention, that stands out above the other players on the stage.
Law 26: Keep your hands clean
Conceal your mistakes, have a scapegoat around to blame.
Make use of the cats paw.
Law 27: Play on people’s need to believe to create a cult like following
Five rules of cult making
Keep it vague, keep it simpleEmphasize the visual and sensational over the intellectualBorrow the forms of organized religion to structure the groupDisguise your source of incomeSet up an us vs them dynamic
Law 28: Enter action with boldness
The bolder lie the better.
Lions circle the hesitant prey.
Boldness strikes fear, fear creates authority.
Going halfway with half a heart digs a deeper grave.
Hesitation creates gaps, boldness obliterates them.
Audacity separates you from the herd.
When you are as small and obscure as David was, you must find a Goliath to attack. The larger the target, the more attention you gain.
Law 29: Plan all the way to the end
Law 30: Make your accomplishments seem effortless
Law 31: Control the options, get others to play with the cards you deal
You give people a sense of how things will fall apart without you, and you offer them a “choice”: I stay away and you suffer the consequences, or I return under circumstances that I dictate.
Color the choices, propose three or four choices of action for each situation, and would present them in such a way that the one he preferred always seemed the best solution compared to the others.
Force the resister, Push them to “choose” what you want them to do by appearing to advocate the opposite.
Alter the playing field.
The shrinking options: A variation on this technique is to raise the price every time the buyer hesitates and another day goes by. This is an excellent negotiating ploy to use on the chronically indecisive, who will fall for the idea that they are getting a better deal today than if they wait till tomorrow.
The weak man on the precipice: This tactic is similar to “Color the Choices,” but with the weak you have to be more aggressive. Work on their emotions— use fear and terror to propel them into action. Try reason and they will always find a way to procrastinate.
Brothers in Crime: You attract your victims to some criminal scheme, creating a bond of blood and guilt between you.
The horns of a dilemma: The lawyer leads the witnesses to decide between two possible explanations of an event, both of which poke a hole in their story. They have to answer the lawyer’s questions, but whatever they say they hurt themselves. The key to this move is to strike quickly: Deny the victim the time to think of an escape. As they wriggle between the horns of the dilemma, they dig their own grave.
Law 32: Play to people’s fantasies
People rarely believe that their problems arise from their own misdeeds and stupidity. Someone or something out there is to blame— the other, the world, the gods— and so salvation comes from the outside as well.
Law 33: Discover each man’s thumbscrew
Everyone has a weakness, a gap in the castle wall. That weakness is usually an insecurity, an uncontrollable emotion or need; it can also be a small secret pleasure. Either way, once found, it is a thumbscrew you can turn to your advantage.
Finding the thumbscrews
Pay attention to gestures and unconscious signalsFind the helpless child, look to their childhoodLook for contrasts, an overt trait often reveals its oppositeFind the weak link,Fill their emotional voidFeed on their uncontrollable emotion
Always look for passions and obsessions that cannot be controlled. What people cannot control, you can control for them.
Law 34: Be royal in your own fashion. Act like a king to be treated like one
Law 35: Master the art of timing
Law 36: Disdain things you cannot have, ignoring them is the best revenge
Remember: You choose to let things bother you. You can just as easily choose not to notice the irritating offender, to consider the matter trivial and unworthy of your interest. That is the powerful move.
Desire often creates paradoxical effects: The more you want something, the more you chase after it, the more it eludes you. The more interest you show, the more you repel the object of your desire. This is because your interest is too strong— it makes people awkward, even fearful. Uncontrollable desire makes you seem weak, unworthy, pathetic.
Law 37: Create compelling spectacles
Law 38: Think as you like but behave like others
If Machiavelli had had a prince for disciple, the first thing he would have recommended him to do would have been to write a book against Machiavellism.
Law 39: Stir up waters to catch fish
Anger and emotion are strategically counterproductive. You must always stay calm and objective. But if you can make your enemies angry while staying calm yourself, you gain a decided advantage.
Law 40: Despise the free lunch
The worth of money is not in its possession, but in its use.
Law 41: Avoid stepping into a great man’s shoes
Law 42: Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter
Within any group, trouble can most often be traced to a single source, the unhappy, chronically dissatisfied one who will always stir up dissension and infect the group with his or her ill ease. Before you know what hit you the dissatisfaction spreads. Act before it becomes impossible to disentangle
Once you recognize who the stirrer is, pointing it out to other people will accomplish a great deal.
43: Work on the hearts and minds of others
Remember: The key to persuasion is softening people up and breaking them down, gently. Seduce them with a two-pronged approach: Work on their emotions and play on their intellectual weaknesses.
44: Disarm and infuriate with the mirror effect
When you mirror your enemies, doing exactly as they do, they cannot figure out your strategy. The Mirror Effect mocks and humiliates them, making them overreact. By holding up a mirror to their psyches, you seduce them with the illusion that you share their values; by holding up a mirror to their actions, you teach them a lesson.
45: Preach the need to change, but never reform too much at once
If change is necessary, make it feel like a gentle improvement on the past.
Even while people understand the need for change, knowing how important it is for institutions and individuals to be occasionally renewed, they are also irritated and upset by changes that affect them personally.
46: Never appear too perfect
Envy creates silent enemies. It is smart to occasionally display defects, and admit to harmless vices, in order to deflect envy and appear more human and approachable.
Do not try to help or do favors for those who envy you; they will think you are condescending to them.
47: Do not go past the mark you aimed for. In victory, know when to stop
48: Assume formlessness
By taking a shape, by having a visible plan, you open yourself to attack. Instead of taking a form for your enemy to grasp, keep yourself adaptable and on the move. Accept the fact that nothing is certain and no law is fixed. The best way to protect yourself is to be as fluid and formless as water; never bet on stability or lasting order. Everything changes.