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Becoming a powerful person is often thought of in terms of Machiavellianism – like Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, traits that include manipulation, intimidation, deception, connections with political people, and so forth. But power isn’t about controlling other people. This kind of power is brittle and fragile, and almost never lasts. Fear is not the same as respect. Just because you seduced someone doesn’t mean they actually like you. Owning a lot of resources doesn’t make you a resourceful person. In this video, we explore the true elements of power, and what it means to be a genuinely powerful person, no matter what your station in life. We look at why Stoics like Epictetus have held power throughout the millenia despite starting as a slave. The 7 principles of power and self confidence are Responsibility; Courage; Determination; Discipline; Acceptance; Honesty; and Respect.
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Confidence could be said to be a sense of power. When I was watching Game of Thrones, I saw that there was a theme going through the background. And that is the idea of power, and how power – at least politically in the program – was what they call shadows on the wall. It wasn’t real, it was something that looks big from people who are actually very small, kind of an illusion. And the masses needed to believe in the illusion for the few elite to remain powerful. And if the illusion is broken, if the masses realize that they’re stronger than the few, then the elite lose all their power.
And most people think of power in this way. They think of it as a gift from others, based on fear, wealth, resources. But of course, these can and often are overthrown. Today, I want to look at real power, and how anyone can have it.
So I want to separate into two different categories here. There’s having power, which is others perceive you as having authority and strength over them, domination. Versus being powerful, which is about yourself, how you feel, how you control your behavior. It’s regardless of how other people respond to you. There are prisoners in political war camps who are more powerful as individuals than some of the highest ranking freest politicians, who are absolutely owned by their desire to control others and therefore aren’t really free or powerful at all.
Today, I want to talk about how you can be powerful no matter what your station in life, no matter what kind of wealth or resources are or are not available to you, how to be a powerful person. See having power over others requires good luck. It requires resources and connections. It requires a Machiavellian type manipulation skill-set and desire. And therefore it’s fragile. These are all things that can be taken away. These are all things that don’t last. These are all things that fall apart if they’re revealed. So it’s one way to be powerful, or one way to have power over others.
But the second one I’m talking about to be a powerful person, regardless of what’s happening with others. It requires long term inner work. It’s totally under your control, which means it’s strong. If you know how to do it, no one can stop you from doing it, nobody can take it away from you. And I believe that’s a much better pursuit than the first version.
Even if your goal is to have power over others, which to me undermines the actual pursuit of self confidence, but let’s say that is your goal, being a powerful person is in the long run going to be more effective, stable and sustainable, as a way of being powerful over others. In fact it will be an effortless power over others. They will follow you rather than obey you. They will respect you rather than fear you. They’ll want you to succeed, rather than be dominated by your success. And so that’s what I’m going to talk about today.
So it doesn’t matter if you’re just a parent, or an influential person in your community, a manager, or a politician, anybody, any type of leader, power over yourself is the better goal.
So I was thinking about this a bit. If you’re familiar with Game of Thrones, there’s lots of different characters, many of them are in power but I honestly believe the most powerful character in the show is an assassin named Jaqen H’Gar, which almost certainly is not his real name. He is one of what’s called the Faceless Men. If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s a group of assassins who can change their face sort of by magic by wearing the skinned faces of other people. And their kind of ethos, their philosophy is that you have to be no one at all in order to be anyone you want.
Now the reason this person is so powerful is because he’s owned by absolutely no one. Of all the people in the whole series, in all books or the video version, he’s the one with no one dominating him, not even his own self. Even some of the more powerful individual characters throughout it are still owned by their culture, their traditions, themselves, if not dominated completely by the political powers. He’s the only one who has nothing holding over him.
So what makes him really powerful is that he doesn’t need anything from anyone else. And that everything that happens is preordained, by his account. That it is exactly what should happen and he will react to it in the best way possible. That is what makes him so powerful, his non neediness and his ability to adapt to any situation. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
So being unattached to things outside of yourself, or should I say things you cannot control, while at the same time making the most of anything that happens to you, or any particular way that you are, genetics, personality, everything, making the most of that while not being attached to any of it in any way that you can’t control. That’s the ultimate power.
So what I’ve observed over time, observing, you know, some of the most confident people in the world, some of the most powerful people in the world, is there a set of characteristics and traits that they share. Responsibility, courage, integrity, resourcefulness, self respect, acceptance, determination, discipline. There may be others, but these ones particularly stand out.
And if you’ll notice, I haven’t listed anything that’s unavailable to anybody watching this video. Any one of you can develop and maintain any one of those traits and all of them. There’s nothing you need, in terms of advantages, in terms of your surroundings, resources, in terms of, you know, your genetics, anything. As long as you have the basic mental functioning needed to understand what I’m saying in this video, you also have the basic functioning needed to develop all of those traits and therefore become a powerful person.
That other kind of more fragile type of power usually requires wealth, popularity, good connections, cunning, manipulation, political allies, and so on. And these are all things, these are assets that almost anyone can go for. But only the winners get them. There’s high competition for these things. These are things not controlled by yourself, they’re controlled by others, and you’re competing with others for their control. So that is one way to be a powerful person, but you can still be very fragile on the inside, while attaining all these things. When you think of any politician, you know, who gets upset about an insult, that person is still not powerful, are they, inside. And of course, even if you were good at getting those things, it’s only a matter of time before someone even better at getting them overtakes you, right? Every dictator gets thrown down eventually.
So I want to make this video as simple and practical for you as possible. I’m gonna go through those traits of power, and give you a very simple guidance on how you can develop them.
So responsibility, ability to respond. Response. Ability. The ability to look at what has happened, and ask yourself, How can I control my reaction to this in the best way possible? It’s about focus on what you can control, which is your own behavior, and absolutely nothing else. And only ever focusing on that. Oddly, it’s about being reactive, not proactive. Proactive is trying to control reality, reactive is having a very good response to reality. And I don’t mean reactive in a defensive aggressive way, but reactive in a very, very practical, efficient, healthy way. So this isn’t about controlling other people, it isn’t about maintaining possession of things. This isn’t even about your thoughts and feelings. It’s just about making sure your behavior is the best reaction possible to the situation you’re in.
Courage. Courage isn’t so much about the kind of heroic bravery you see in the movies, there might be some of that, but mostly it’s about knowing how to choose the thing you’d rather not do because it’s actually the best thing for you to do. It’s about a kind of dominance of your own discomfort. At any given time, there’ll be at least two options available to you. And if you’re unsure which one to take, take the one you least feel like taking, the one that at the very least feels like a hassle, feels like inconvenient, or it feels scary, or it feels embarrassing, or anything that you’d rather not feel, becomes true north. You think of it like a goal, I’m going to face it until I can’t find anything that’s uncomfortable for me anymore. I’m going to bring the entire universe into my comfort zone. I’m going to make it so everything is so practiced that I’m comfortable with it, that I shy away from nothing, that I’m afraid of nothing, that nothing makes me uncomfortable or awkward or embarrassed. Now, of course, that’s impossible, but aiming towards it is the most courageous path. You do this for a few years, and you do become super resilient. You know, with no sense of bragging, I know it’s very hard to offend me, it’s very hard to upset me. It’s very hard to put me off my goals. I feel almost no embarrassment whatsoever anymore. I very rarely get anxious about anything. And that’s because for a decade now, every day I’ve been trying to find something uncomfortable to do instead of what most people do, which is trying to find the opposite. Trying to find the easy way out, the path of least resistance. Choose the path of most resistance just to train with resistance.
Resourcefulness is about looking at every situation through the lens of optimism, and going, There’s something good for me going on here. This isn’t about false positivity, but about making the most of the situation. So make it your mission to turn every situation into a win for yourself. At the very least, it could be a lesson in endurance, like if you’re stuck in a queue, or pain tolerance, like if you’re stuck out in the rain and it’s cold. If you can just frame everything as a lesson, as an opportunity, as growth, then you will actually see that that’s always available. Now, if you see it all as barriers and bad luck and unfairness, then that’s what it will be for you as well. It’s up to you. A resourceful person always can see the resources available. A poor person can’t see any. And yet, they’re looking at the same situation.
Integrity. Make no promises, tell no lies, just be it, do it, show it. Whatever it is you want other people to be, do that. Whatever it is you hope your children will grow up knowing, show them that. Don’t tell anybody anything like this, don’t tell people how to live, be it. Act in accordance with your principles, no matter what the cost. The ultimate goal:, becoming someone who has nothing to lose, somebody who is really willing to die for what is right. Now you may never get there, but your pursuit of getting there will give you the most integrity possible and make you the most powerful you could possibly be. You know, the image I keep in my head is the very end of the movie Braveheart, where just at the end as they’re torturing him to death and they say, Look, we can end this quickly if you just pledge allegiance to the king, you know, that’s all you have to do, is just say a couple of words you don’t even mean, and we can end this. And his final word is to scream out the word Freedom, just as he’s dying. You know, right up to the bitter end he stood for freedom. That action made him the most powerful person in that whole scene, despite the fact that he was the one tied to a torture rack and being killed. He had more power than the king in that moment. That’s power.
Self respect. All always be very clear about what you will and will not tolerate. And when something you must not tolerate comes up, you have to resist this or abandon it, but not allow it past your wall, not allow it in your life, to the limit of your your control, at least to the limit of your power over the situation. Never tolerate shit. At the same time, you’ve got to let others live their lives. Give them respect. Unless they are crossing your boundaries, let them do whatever they want. Don’t tell them what to do. Don’t give them unsolicited advice. Don’t try to manipulate them, encourage them or discourage them so that they live away that you prefer. Leave them the fuck alone unless they start trying to interfere with your life.
Acceptance. Once you’ve controlled what it is for you to control, then let everything play out. Let fate have her way, the gods or whatever it is you believe in that controls this shit, the logos. Once you’ve done what is your best possible reaction, sit back and allow the universe to react to you, and make the most of that situation rather than trying to control that response that you’re going to get. Okay? So if I say something to someone, I then shut up and let them speak. And they can say whatever they want in return, I’m just gonna have to deal with it. That’s acceptance. Let go of hopes and wishes and dreams and expectations. Always trying to make sure these things match reality, that every time they don’t you correct yourself rather than trying to correct reality.
Determination. Make life stop you rather than stopping yourself. If you’re at the gym doing push ups, keep going until your muscles cannot lift you up anymore, not just going until your mind says, That’s enough. If you’re scared of talking to a stranger, go and talk to them until they tell you to go away. Don’t imagine them telling you to go away and use that as an excuse not to talk to them at all. Let life hit you with a No, hit you with a rejection. Go to failure so that you know the limits of your power and your strength. And you’ll see that they’re far beyond what you think they are, like 1000s of percentage points beyond what you think they are. There’s so much more that you could be doing.
And finally discipline which is doing what’s best for your best long term interests, at the sacrifice of what feels good and comfortable right now. It’s about taking care of that future You. Doing what he will look back on and be thankful for. (Or she). Rather than doing what will make you feel slightly more comfortable right now, what’s convenient for you right now. You must constantly sacrifice yourself for yourself to be disciplined. Knowing that every time you’ve done that in the past, you’re glad for it now. If you want to be happy with yourself, you need to be happy with your past self. And your past self has to be someone who sacrificed for your current self. So you always got to be their person. It doesn’t mean life always has to suck. It’s just key moments when you have to choose. Do I exercise or not? Do I eat the healthy food or the shit food? Do I go talk to the interesting stranger or hang out on the wall? There’s all these moments where you have to choose the right thing over the easy thing. And every time you choose right, your future self becomes a more powerful person.
So you’re making the overall aim to become a person who can walk into a room and not need anything to happen other than what is happening. The person who doesn’t need to control others and control reality and hoard possessions and manipulate and dominate, because whatever’s happening is exactly what they need. They will make the most of that. They don’t need anything else to happen. That person is untouchable, they’re fucking unbreakable. They’re also the most likely to be admired and respected. They’re also the most likely in the long run to develop a loyal following of people who will die for them willingly, without any force, without any manipulation. They will inspire people rather than cause them to fear them.
If you want to become that person, at least you want it to take only a few months rather than years or decades, get in touch Dan@brojo.org and I’ll help you tap into it. Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next time.