Law 40: Despise The Free Lunch

The 48 Laws Of Power Summary Series


“What is offered for free is dangerous — it usually involves either a trick or a hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit. It is also often wise to pay the full price — there are no cutting corners with excellence. Be lavish with your money and keep it circulating, for generosity is a sign and a magnet for power.”

Often paying full price for something increases the intrinsic value you get from it. Generally, when people pay more for something, they value it more. But not only that — if you are providing a service, they take this service a lot more seriously and value it more. And, your highest paying customers are often your most loyal. They often complain the least, they request the least, they have the least headache. Whereas your lowest paying customers, the ones who are trying to get the bottom of the barrel and always bargain, are often complaining the most, they demand the most, and they question the most. They end up in turn taking up your most valuable asset, time and energy.

“People work hard for their money. If they’re going to pay a high price for something, they’re going to expect excellence. And in turn, you will deliver excellence. But, because they’ve paid such a high price for your good or service, they will really try to take full advantage of it.”

It is said Tony Robbins charges around the sum of a million dollars for a one-on-one consultations. By charging a million dollars Tony want’s to almost guarantee success. By charging a million, he guarantees adherence in the changes that he prescribes of the other person. So really, they’re buying into themselves as much as they’re buying into him with that sum.

The Miser

“A miser, to make sure of his property, sold all that he had, and converted it into a great lump of gold, which he had hid in a hole in the ground, and went continually to visit and inspect it.

This roused the curiosity of one of his workmen who, suspecting that there was treasure, when his master’s back was turned, went to the spot and stole it away. When the miser returned and found the place empty, he wept and tore his hair. But, a neighbor who saw him in this extravagant grief and learned the cause of it said, “Fret thyself no longer, but take a stone and put it in the same place, and think that is your lump of gold, for as you never meant to use it, the one will do you as much good as the other.”

Here are four categories that summate the more self-destructive approaches to money.

“The greedy fish takes the human side out of money. Cold and ruthless, they see only the lifeless balance sheet, viewing others solely as either pawns or obstructions in their pursuit of wealth. They trample on people’s sentiments and alienate valuable allies. Greedy fish are the con artist’s bread and butter, lured by the bait of easy money, they swallow the ruse hook line and sinker. Either avoid them before they exploit you, or play on their greed to your gain.”

“Powerful people judge everything by what it costs. Not just in money, but in time, dignity, and peace of mind. And this is exactly what bargain demons cannot do. Wasting valuable time digging for bargains, they worry endlessly about what they could have gotten elsewhere for a little less.”

These are the people I was referring to at the beginning, the people who are scraping the bottom of the barrel, who are wanting to pay less, but complain the most. I’m not going to lie, I have probably done this many times in the past. But now, I’m seeing the value in the other perspective. I know I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to find deals and bargains, when trying to save a negligible amount of money. I used all this time and energy to save $5 — $100. Usually the price you pay in time is not worth the price you save in currency. Is your day really worth cutting coupons out to save a dollar every time you go buy some food? Is that really worth your time? For most, no, time’s usually worth a lot more than that. Don’t sell yourself short.

The costs of these pursuits are not always in money. The price of this bargain we pay is often deceptive. We pay in time and peace of mind instead. These types might seem to harm only themselves, but their attitudes are contagious. Their attitudes are contagious. Unless you resist them, they will infect you with their insecure feelings, that you should have looked harder to find a cheaper price. Don’t argue with them, or try and change them. Just mentally add up the cost in time and inner peace, if not hidden in financial expense of the irrational pursuit of a bargain.”

“Financial sadists play vicious power games with money as a way of asserting their power. They might for example make you wait for money that is owed to you. Sadists seem to think that paying for something gives them the right to torture and abuse the seller. They have no sense of the courtier element in money. If you are unlucky enough to get involved with this type, accepting a financial loss may be better in the long run than getting entangled in their destructive power games.”

“Indiscriminate givers are generous because they want to be loved and admired by all, and their generosity is so indiscriminate and needy that it may not have the desired effect. If they give to one and all, why should the recipient feel special? In any involvement with this type, you will often feel burdened by their insatiable emotional needs. Be wary.”

There are many transgressions and observances of this law. I cannot go through all of them. Purchase this book if you haven’t already, it is well worth it.

Transgression Of The Law

“In around the 1500’s, the stories spread of an Indian chief to the east of Peru, who once each year would ritually cover himself in gold dust and dive into a lake. He became known as El Dorado, or the golden man, and as a result, rumors spread of an empire called El Dorado, wealthier than the whole Incan nation. People fantasized and dreamed that the streets were paved and the buildings inlaid with gold. This elaborate story didn’t seem implausible, for a chief who could afford to waste gold in a lake must rule a golden empire.

Soon, the Spanish were searching for El Dorado all over South America. In 1541, the largest expedition left Ecuador. Hundreds of Spaniards, thousands of Indians carrying supplies, many scouts, thousands of swines, llamas, and close to a thousand dogs. But, this expedition was soon hit by torrential rain, which had rotted their gear and spoiled their food.

The leader of this expedition’s name was Gonzalo, and he believed the Indians were withholding information from him about El Dorado, and word spread of his murderous tendencies and his tyrannous nature, so they made up stories to him so they could get as far away from his as possible. They told him everything and anything he wanted to hear.

So, Gonzalo followed the leads that the Indians gave him, but they were only led farther and deeper into the jungle. The explorer’s spirits sagged, their uniforms had shredded away, their armor rusted, their shoes were no more, forcing them to walk barefoot. The Indian slaves they had set out with had either died or deserted them. They lived on roots and fruit. They traveled for a very long time without ends, but they realized that they had only wanted to return back to their home city. Over a hundred men from the expedition originally numbering in the thousands managed to find their way back. They had seemed to emerge from hell itself, wrapped in tatters and skins, their bodies covered in sores and so emaciated as to be unrecognizable. For over a year and a half, they had marched in an enormous circle, 2000 miles by foot. The vast sums of money invested in the expedition had yielded nothing. No sign of El Dorado, and no sign of gold.”


“The Spanish didn’t stop after that, they ended up launching expedition after expedition in search of El Dorado. It ended up costing millions of lives, and actually helped bring the Spanish Empire to ruin. Gold became Spanish’s obsession.”

Here is the following lesson, as you obviously value your time as much as your knowledge of understanding.

“Power requires self-discipline. The prospect of wealth, particularly easy, sudden wealth, plays havoc with emotions. The suddenly rich believe that more is always possible. The free lunch, the money that will fall into your lap, is just around the corner. In this delusion, the greedy neglect everything. Power really depends on self-control, the goodwill of others, and so on.”

Every single day, people are trying to find their own ‘El Dorado’. This is what gambling is based on. This is what the lottery is based on. There are hundreds of thousands of people around the world every single day buying tickets to win the lottery. Many are caught up in addictions of trying to win money, and find their El Dorado — their gold — their riches, from this illusion that our society and these corporations have created. You may want to win all this money, a lot of people want it. It would be nice in theory, you could buy everything you wanted. But, you really didn’t earn it. You lucked at it. The money you will have won, will have been built on nothing solid. It will not have been built on a foundation of hard work, integrity, sweat, blood and tears.

Your story, your legacy is all the more greater if people know you earned what you got, instead of just being given it. People don’t look up to those who are just given everything. I don’t. I don’t look up to people who are given everything in life, and who have inherited wealth, stature and fame. I don’t think much of those people. I think, “Cool. Good job. You were born. Now what?”

This is all just one man’s perspective. I don’t have all the answers, I’ve just got my answers. My truth. And I know I want to earn that, because when I’m dead, I’ll hopefully be able to inspire and empower others to earn it themselves. And maybe, my grandson or grandchild is reading to this one day, and maybe they’ll feel the same.

Originally Posted

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

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