Law 22: Use The Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakens Into Power


“When you are weaker, never fight for honors 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 the fighting and defeating you — surrender first. By turning the other cheek you infuriate and unsettle him. Make surrender a tool of power.”

The concept of this law may prove challenging for many ‘Type A personalities’ who identify heavily the ‘masculine energy’. Especially because surrender is typically associated as a sign of weakness so it’s often hard to see how surrendering can be used as an intelligent tactic. The following story exemplifies how one can fall due to honor and pride getting in the way of a tactful surrender.

Transgression Of The Law

In classical times, the city of Athens dominated the sea and coastal areas around Greece. The island of Melos was situated in the heart of the Mediterranean which the Athenians wanted to conquer. The Melians refused to ally themselves with Athens and remained loyal to their original colonizer, Sparta. In 416 B.C. the Athenians sent an expedition against Melos. Before launching an all-out attack, however, they dispatched a delegation to pursued the Melians to surrender and become an ally rather than suffer defeat.

The Melians argued how authority belonged to the gods, not to mortals and exclaimed their assurances that Sparta would come to their defense. The Athenians insisted Sparta would not come to their defense. The Athenians countered that the Spartans were a conservative, practical people, and would not help Melos because they had nothing to gain and a lot to lose by doing so. Finally the Melians began to talk of honor and the principle of resisting brute force. “Do not be led astray by a false sense of honor”, said the Athenians. “Honor often brings men to ruin when they are faced with an obvious danger that somehow affects their pride.” (For context: think about the how the deaths occurring in the popular television show ‘Game Of Thrones’ link to this idea) The debate ended. The Melians discussed the issue among themselves, and decided to trust in the aid of the Spartans, the will of the gods and the rightness of their cause. They politely declined the Athenians offer.

A few days later the Athenians invaded Melos. The Melians fought nobly, even without the Spartans, who did not come to their rescue. After many attempts at besieging the main city the Melians finally surrendered. The Athenians put to death all the men of military age that they could capture, they sold the women and children as slaves, and they repopulated the island with their own colonists. Only a handful of Melians survived.


The Melians let their honor, pride and principle blind them to the rationality and tact behind surrendering.

A clear example of how surrendering can be extremely useful. This is how and why Sparta protected themselves.

“Had the Melians surrendered in the first place, they would have been able to sabotage the Athenians in subtle ways, or might have gotten what they could have out of the alliance and then left it when the Athenians themselves were weakened, as in fact happened several years later.”

Keys To Power

The more volatile one’s character the more they tend to meet fire with fire, aggression with aggression. Doing the opposite of what you’re conditioned to may prove extremely useful. [See Josh Waitzkin on Tim Ferriss’ podcast at 53:43 for an example of how he used this principle to defeat dirty fighters at the World Championships]

“If you find yourself temporarily weakened, the surrender tactic is perfect for raising yourself up again — it disguises your ambition; it teaches you patience and self control, key skills in the game; and it puts you in the best possible position for taking advantage of your oppressors sudden slide. ”



“For every famous martyr there are thousands more who have inspired neither religion nor a rebellion, so that if martyrdom does sometimes grant a certain power, it does so unpredictably. When power deserts you, it is best to ignore this laws reversal. Leave martyrdom alone: the pendulum will swing back your way eventually, and you should stay alive to see it.”

Originally Posted

Self reflective writings & book summaries on philosophy, psychology and human behaviour.

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