Never outshine your master

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This is the first rule anyone is expected to respect if s/he needs to stay in power, according to Robert Greene. This author who is nicknamed the contemporary Machiavelli, wrote in his famous book, the 48 Laws of Power that “always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please or impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite – inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are, and you will attain the heights of power”.
Similarly, if you outshine your bosses or if your boss feels that you are better than s/he is, it is really dangerous for you. Outshining the master is the worst mistake of all. If you go to many governmental or non-governmental offices, you witness that things are like what Robert Greene says. Most of the individuals assigned as bosses at government offices can be taken as interpretation of this law of Robert Greene. As these bosses take the position not through academic achievements, but for the mere reasons of their party loyalty, they are not comfortable with subordinates who are educated and always with best ideas. The fate of these educated individuals who always confront the party-assigned bosses is not good. They may be sacked or assigned in other places which is well below their academic capacity.
Outshining the master is the worst mistakes, says Robert Greene. “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. This is to be expected. You cannot spend your life worrying about the petty feelings of others. With those above you, however, you must take a different approach: when it comes to power, outshining the master is perhaps the worst mistake of all.”
Some 45 university lecturers who were feared by the government of our country once sacked from their respective faculties and departments. These intellectuals were hated by the then premier for their political outlook which could be accepted by the majority of the people. They disparaged the ruling party by their better political stand and there was a fear that the entire nation would follow them. This was their mistake. No one wants to be defeated. Particularly those who are suffering from inferior complexity regard the ones who are better than them as threats. Thus, the big boss was not comfortable with those university scholars who might cause protest against his dictatorial leadership. As Baltasar Gracian said, “being defeated is hateful, and besting one’s boss is either foolish or fatal”. The then premier was defeated by the ideas of the university professors whom were taken as threat. So, he had to take a ‘fatal’ measure of riding himself of these scholars.
Most of our bosses in this country got their higher positions through nepotism or cronyism. If a big man from the ruling party asks or shows desire for a senior position of an organization to be taken by his kith and kin, the responsible individual from that organization will not hesitate to give the position. Though the newly appointed individuals have not any experience of management skills, there is no problem. They can have the places without any proper professional know-how or expertise. The moment they seize the seat, they start stirring up the employees. These people think that the educated employees are the threats for their positions. If they feel their capacity is being mocked or rather if they happen to notice they are being exposed by these individuals, they never think twice before pulling the trigger against the educated ones. That’s why Greene says, “when it comes to power, outshining the master, is perhaps the worst mistake of all”.
These people (the weakest in power) like to amass around them the ones who are unassertive or those who lack confidence. This way of collecting the submissive subordinates will strengthen their position or den of power. “Most people do not mid being surpassed in good fortune, character, or temperament, but no one, especially not a sovereign, likes to be surpassed in intelligence,” said Baltasar Gracian.
Never outshine your master. Let’s read an example taken from the book, the 48 Laws of Power. It is a story happened in the 16oo’s about Nicolas Fouquet, finance minister for Louis XIV of France. Fouquet wanted to take the position of premiership which was unfortunately abolished by the king following the death of the prime minister. This made Fouquet suspect that he was falling out of favor with the king. So, he decided to throw a lavish party, the best the world had never seen to commemorate the completion of his Chateau Vaux Le Vicomte and pay tribute to the king who was the guest of honor.
The most brilliant nobility of Europe and some of the greatest minds of the time like La Fontaine attended the party. Moliere wrote a play for the occasion, in which he himself was to perform at the evening’s conclusion. The next day Fouquet was arrested by the King’s head musketeer and three months later he went on trial for stealing the country’s treasury. Eventually he was sent to solitary confinement for 20 years.
What Fouquet did not realize was that the king was a proud and arrogant man who wanted to be the center of attention of all times. He did not want to be outdone by anyone, and certainly not his finance minister. The lavish party was regarded by the king as outshining or threat or disrespect. Louis XIV was heavily outshined by his finance minister. That’s why he was forced to take fatal measure against him.
Fouquet presented spectacle on spectacle to Louis, each more magnificent than the one before, he imagined the affair as demonstrating his loyalty and devotion to the king. Not only did he think the part would put him back in the king’s favor, he thought it would show his good taste, his connections, and his popularity, making him indispensable to the king and demonstrating that he would make an excellent prime minister. Instead, however, each new spectacle, each appreciative smile bestowed by the guests on Fouquet, made it seem to Louis that his own friends and subjects were more charmed by the finance minister than by the king himself, and that Fouquet was actually flaunting his wealth and power. Rather than flattering Louis XIV, Fouquet’s elaborate party offended the king’s vanity. Louis would not admit this to anyone, of course – instead, he found a convenient excuse to rid himself of a man who had inadvertently made him feel insecure.
Robert Greene says in his book that such is the fate, in some form or other, of all those who unbalance the master’s sense of self, poke holes in his vanity, or make him doubt his preeminence.
At last a few words about Robert Greene. He is an America; born in 1959 to Jewish parents. Greene grew up in Los Angeles and attended the University of California, Berkeley before finishing his degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in classical studies. Before becoming the author, Greene estimates that he worked 80 jobs, including as a construction worker, translator, magazine editor, and Hollywood movie writer.
Robert Greene is known for his books on strategy, power and seduction. He has written six international best sellers: The 48 laws of Power, the Art of Seduction, the 33 Strategies of War, the 50th Law (with rapper 50 Cent), Mastery, and the Laws of Human Nature. By the way, I would like to remind my readers that many of Green’s books are available locally.
Greene’s first book, the 48 Laws of Power, was first published in 1998. It is a practical guide for anyone who wants power, observes power, or wants to arm themselves against power. The laws are distillation of 3,000 years in the history of power, drawing on the lives of strategists and historical figures like Nicolo Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, Haile-Selassie I, Carl Von Clausewitz, Queen Elizabeth I, Henry Kissinger, P.T. Barnum.
Over 1.2 million copies of the 48 Laws of Power have reportedly been sold. This book is popular with well-known rappers, entrepreneurs, celebrities, athletes and actors including 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, DJ Premier, Drake, Dov Charney, Brian Grazer, Andrew Bynum, Chris Bosh, Michael Jackson, Courtney Love and Will Smith.

The writer of this piece can be reached at gizaw.haile@yahoo.com