“At 70, I have come to realize that people are still people and they would play out who they are.” –Bishop Okonkwo, Founder, TREM Church.
Have you wondered, what stops a person as the only passenger in a spacious car, from giving a lift to strangers going their way? Sometimes I wonder if commuters see such drivers, who speed off in the same direction they are headed, as selfish while waiting in a crowded bus stop. It is possible thoughts of this nature don’t cross our minds in these situations because, by instinct, we sense the dangers of picking strangers in our cars or entering strange peoples cars.
There is a Sufi proverb that says “pick up a bee out of kindness and learn the limitations of kindness.” Forget jealousy, arrogance or wickedness, the reality is that to be unconditionally good and trusting in every situation without discretion may or may not get one to heaven, but it surely would get one killed faster than one is able to achieve something meaningful here on earth.
Our dreams are uniquely different but still we must interact and work with people to achieve them. Chasing our dreams and human relations requires a reflection on history and precedent to succeed and effectively manage our relationships with people. In this regard, 3 types of personalities exists: 1. The ‘Unfortunate’ type who seem to attract unfortunate events in their lives because they fail to learn from history. 2. The ‘Good’ type who understands but reject history on grounds of conventional morality or religious beliefs. History teaches us, by nature of these two personalities, the burden of aborted dreams and painful realities are a constant life companion.
Jesus lived and died for a great purpose. But the lesson we learn from people’s reaction to his ideals is that: irrespective of how great or beneficial any dream may be to mankind, because humans are more emotional than rational, there will be opposition as we pursue those dreams. True, Scriptures encourage good deeds, but in the face of a complex world created by centuries of evil behaviors, mastered and carried forward by men through the ages from the Medieval to the Renaissance to our Modern age, the evolution of a third personality became imperative. 3. The ‘Powerful’ type understands history and the deep, complex nature of humans thus they successfully thrive in the face of a challenging world today.
“I am sending you out as a sheep among wolves. Be gentle as a dove but shrewd as snakes.” This passage of Jesus in Matt 10: 16 illustrates the art of deception -the vital skill and foundation of power- necessary for survival in our man-eat-man world. In the 15th century, after exhaustive study of man, history and events, Niccolo Machiavelli submitted “he who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the majority who aren’t so good.” The continued relevance of both submissions over the years has made them a timeless principle for the art of living: the man that chooses naivety over shrewdness is bound to end up in the wolves belly.
Our tendency to abuse and take wrongful advantage of people known for being unconditionally good, loving or nice possibly inspired shrewd King Solomon’s writings in Ecclesiastes 3; 1-8: “to everything there is a right time… a time for war and a time for peace; a time to love another to hate; a time to hold on and another to let go…”
Let me be emphatically clear about this, doing ‘good’ is great, but we should also learn how ‘not to be good’ and use or abstain from using this knowledge as circumstances demand. To play strictly by the rules of being good is like picking up bees out of kindness; like playing with fire without knowing it’s properties: it can only end in hurt and we will always end up feeling depressed, helpless and without control over the affairs of our life. The feeling of powerlessness is painful and unbearable to us.
Human relationships can be compared to walking a landmine rigged with diverse emotions, majority of which are dark and potentially harmful –greed, envy, lust, hatred etc. If the world is a massive landmine, then survival and success depends less on tireless praying or luck, more on how firmly fixed our eyes are on reality, on the deep complex nature of man, and how well we can effectively navigate away from the harmful emotions to the more amiable ones.
Some people consider deception as immoral but if we really think about it, majority of relationships already consists of it. The sly cry of kids, the cunning student at school, the pretend agreement of friends, the stealth scheming of colleagues at work, the selfish spouse in relationships, the artificial friendliness at social functions, the holier than thou “spiritual” person, the ‘honest’ lying politician at campaign grounds… it may be unspoken, but human interactions has some form of deception and power play built-in to protect divergent self-Interests. The game of Power is such that we cannot wish away for ourselves: we cannot choose to be non-players. Unfortunate and wretched indeed are those who continue to play blindly, ignoring the rules.
Climbing from bottom to top in your field requires more than good intentions or big dreams. It also requires a power strategy for dealing with people’s insecurities -the wolves around you. Having the knowledge, passion and abundance of energy to succeed is one part of the game. The other part which people overlook is the role and strategy of deception. There is more peace in misleading your enemies than fighting them directly. The ability to mislead your enemies, which ironically are made up of more friends than unknown people, down the wrong path by concealing your intentions increases your chances for survival.
The success stories we read about didn’t ‘arrive’ by rubbing their ambition or plans in the faces of everyone as social media now enables us to. This is the first lesson politicians learn –ambition creates more ‘frienemies’ than friends. It is better to say less than necessary. If they cannot guess your plan they cannot prepare a defense or attack –they cannot feel envy or threatened. Put less trust in friends and keep your ‘big plans’ to yourself. Let the results speak and that way, you may inspire respect and admiration from your friends instead of hate.
When King Jehu of Israel desired to destroy the worshippers of Ba’al, he publicized a deceptive intention to worship and offer a great sacrifice unto the same idol. After all the idol worshippers in the land had gathered for the feast, the King, having made sure not a single worshipper of God was in the gathering, stationed 80 men around the venue to come in at his command and kill every single worshipper of Ba’al. Thus, Ba’al and its worshippers were annihilated from the face of the earth once and for all (2 Kings 10: 18-28).
The earlier we go beyond our bias of deception and recognize that it is foolish rather than good-natured to lay all our cards on the table, the sooner we get to the place of power where we stop hating the way life works and begin mastering it. In the game of power, the only rules to play by are the Ten Commandments which shall save the soul from evil extremism; everything else is subject to practicality and you should never take anything any player does personal.
This is the mindset of power: there are no fixed principles; there are only events. There is no good and bad; there are only circumstances. Those who rise to the top in their industry choose events and circumstances so as to guide them without being overwhelmed with their emotions. If there were principles and fixed laws, Nations would not change them as we change clothes and hardly can a man be adjudged wiser than an entire nation. Therefore, never get tangled up in internal judgment of people’s actions as good or bad –a big obstacle in developing the personality of power.
Once the soul and mindset is prepared, the first skill we must seek to acquire and power’s all important foundation is the ability to master our emotions. An emotional response to a situation is the biggest barrier to controlling the behavior of people and influencing the outcome of events. Chief among fatal emotional responses is Anger. Anger only worsens your enemies resolve to keep irritating you. Don’t try to hold back anger but be cautious in giving expression to it. Love, like anger, also clouds reason and if you cannot see situations clearly how do you respond objectively without overreacting? Be like King Jehu –calm waters may conceal sharks, never let anger or love influence your decisions and plans.
You can only hold so many grudges before their weight begin holding you back. Learning to forgive past hurts, no matter how painful, is crucial for emotion mastery and self-development. In the future, few things should catch you unawares. Adopt the Boys Scout motto: always be prepared. Spend your days planning ahead, not caught in a daydream fantasy about your plans fairytale ending. Think ahead and take into consideration every twist of fate that may occur in your plan and reverse your hard work. The more you plan ahead, the more powerful you appear when the moment arrives. Power is a game of appearances. Thus, in your bag of tricks, you should possess the ability to be many different people as the moment requires and not frown at wearing many different masks, no matter how ugly.
‘Deception’ and civilization are One and it is the only effective weapon in your survival kit. In a world where everything changes, patience is a must have shield. Patience prevents you from making irrational mistakes while providing you with necessary cover to move forward. Patience never kills; impatience does. Power is a gentleman’s game; you sit opposite your opponent and observe each other’s move with as much composure as you can muster, taking nothing personal and planning your moves not on ‘good’ intentions, only on the results of their actions –by reality, by what you can see and by what you can feel.
These skills are key to power which goes without saying they are essential for survival and Self mastery. Some of these skills take years to hone: the game hardly comes natural to anyone and today is the time to begin or continue practicing. To succeed, develop a keen eye for observing everything without judging any. Finally, everybody needs people to help them succeed in life at some point, so keep this in mind always: never discriminate as to whom you trust or study; study everyone and trust no one completely.