Law 46: Never Appear Too Perfect
“Appearing better than others is always dangerous, but most dangerous of all is to appear to have no faults or weaknesses. Envy creates silent enemies. It is smart to occasionally display defects, and admit to harmless vices, in order to deflect envy and appear more human and approachable. Only gods and the dead can seem perfect with impunity.”
By appearing perfect — by appearing superfluous to mistakes and flaws, others may manifest envy.
“Only a minority can succeed at the game of life and that minority inevitably arouses the envy of those around them.”
“You will be a fool to think that there are not people who envy you because of your success, because of the things you have attained and I would be a fool to think so as well.”
Some people find it hard to believe that the people closest to them could plot to see their demise.
Understand: There is the potential for deception and malevolence within all of us — it would be a mistake to ignore this potential and feign ignorance for the assumption of good will.
There will be people that envy you and even some that will want to see you fall. Why? It’s multifaceted: From what I’ve come to understand about human behavior so far is that another persons success forces you to confront your own (subconsciously or consciously). We naturally compare ourselves to others so we can aim our goals with more accuracy. Though many get intimidated and insecure because observing success in another person is like a mirror that reflects one’s own shortcomings.
Understand: The light in your life can reveal people’s darkness in their own life.
“Understand: People may have the appearance of good intentions and good will. But appearances aren’t always as they seem.”
Observance Of The Law
“The Medici Family were famous for their prosperity and wealth in the 1400- 1500s Florence. However, they began with modest origins. They were typical middle class citizens, not until the late 14th century when Giovanni de’ Medici made a modest fortune in banking today that they emerged as a force to be reckoned with. Upon Giovanni’s death, his son Cosimo took over the family business and quickly demonstrated his talent for it.”
I’ve spoken about Cosimo quite a few times among all these laws, Cosimo is a great example of someone who understood the reality of the time and how to behave within it.
“The business prospered under Cosimo’s control, and the Medicis emerged one of the preeminent banking families of Europe, but they had a rival in Florence. Despite the city’s republican system, one family named the Albizzi had managed over the years to monopolize control of the government and forging alliances that allowed them to fill important offices with their own men. Now Cosimo did not fight this, in fact he gave the Albizzis his tacit support. When the Albizzis were beginning to flaunt their power, Cosimo made a point of staying in the background.”
“Eventually the Medici wealth could not be ignored and 1433, feeling threatened by the family, the Albizzis used their government muscle to have Cosimo arrested on charges of conspiring to overthrow the Republic. They exiled Cosimo from Florence, once again again, Cosimo did not fight this, he left quietly. Sometimes he knew it was wise to bide one’s time and to keep a low profile. Over the next year the Albizzis began to stir up fears that they were setting up a dictatorship. Meanwhile Cosimo using his wealth to his advantage continued to exert influence on Florence affairs even from exile. A civil war broke out and the Albizzis were toppled from power and sent into exile themselves.
Cosimo immediately returned to Florence, his position restored but he saw that he now faced a delicate situation. If he seemed ambitious as the Albizzis had, he would stir up opposition and envy that would ultimately threaten his business. If he stayed on the sidelines on the other hand, he would leave an opening for another faction to rise up. Cosimo solved this problem in two ways.”
Here are the lessons, now you can take from it:
“He secretly used his wealth to buy influence among key citizens and he placed his own allies all cleverly enlisted from the middle class to disguise their allegiance to him in top government positions. Those who complained of his growing political clout were taxed into submission or the properties were bought out under them by Cosimo’s banker allies. The republic survived in name only, Cosimo held the strings.
Cosimo worked behind the scenes to gain control however publicly, Cosimo presented another picture. When he walked through the streets of Florence he dressed modestly. He was attended by no more than one servant and bowed differentially to magistrates and elder citizens. He rode a mule instead of a horse. He never spoke at a matters of public import, even though he controlled Florence’s foreign affairs for over 30 years.
He gave money to charities and maintained his ties to Florence’s merchant class. He financed all kinds of public buildings that fed the Florentines pride in their city. When he built a palace for himself and his family, he turned down the ornate designs that Brunelleschi had drawn up for him. He instead chose a modest structure designed by Michelozzo, a man of humble Florentine origins. The palace was a symbol of Cosimo’s strategy, all simplicity on the outside, all elegance and opulence within.”
“When Cosimo died in 1464 after ruling for 30 years, the citizens of Florence wanted to build him a great tomb, celebrate his memory with an elaborate funeral ceremony, but on his death bed he asked to be buried without any pump or demonstration and some 60 years later, Machiavelli held Cosimo as one of the wisest princes of all.
“Cosimo de’ Medici perfected this game, he was a consummate con artist of appearances. No one could gauge the extent of his power. His modest exterior hid the truth.”
Flaunting your superiority rarely ever changes the reality of your power. However, the envy that is manifested as a result of careless braggadocios behaviour can heavily influence the potential power and influence you have in the long term.
Keys To Power
“Envy brings us neither comfort nor any closer to equality. Nor can we admit to feeling it, for it is frowned upon socially. To show envy is to admit feeling inferior.” Rarely do people admit feeling envies, especially in the presence of those they actually feel envious of. It forces you to bear a very deep vulnerable emotion that most aren’t courageous enough to face.
“To close friends we may confess our secret unrealized desires but we will never confess to feeling envy so it goes underground. We disguise it in many ways like finding grounds to criticize the person who make us feel it.”
‘He may be smarter than I am’ we say.
‘But he has no morals or conscience.’
‘He may have more power but that’s because he cheats.’
“If we do not slander him because we praise him excessively. Another of envy’s disguises.”
Here are some other one’s you may here often today,
‘He’s got a big strong body because he takes steroids.’
‘He’s just a really good athlete because he’s got good genetics.’
‘He’s only got a successful business because he’s family helped him start it.’
The world doesn’t reward those excuses. But we reward ourselves with them because it makes us feel better about our own weaknesses.
There are several strategies for dealing with insidious destructive emotion of envy:
Here’s a historic example that mirrors and reflects the many talented individuals within our music industry, sports industry, business and entrepreneurship.
“Sir Walter Raleigh was among the most brilliant men at the court of Queen Elizabeth of England. He had skills as a scientist, wrote beautiful poetry, he was an enterprising entrepreneur, a proven leader, a great sea captain and on top of all this, he was handsome.
“He was a dashing courtier who charmed his way into becoming one of the Queen’s favorites, wherever he went, however, people blocked his path. Eventually, suffered a fall from grace, leading to prison and eventually execution.”
“Raleigh did not understand the stubborn opposition he faced from the other courtiers. He did not see that he had not only made no attempt to disguise the degree of his skills and qualities, he had imposed them on one and all, making a show of his versatility, thinking it impressed people and won him friends. In fact, it made him silent enemies.
People who felt inferior to him and did all they could to ruin the moment he tripped up on made the slightest mistake. In the end, the reason he was executed was treason, but envy will use any cover it finds to mask its destructiveness.”
“The envy elected by Sir Walter Raleigh is the worst kind. It was inspired by his natural talent and Grace, which he felt was best displayed in its full flower. Money others can attain, power as well. But superior intelligence, good looks, charm, these are qualities no one can simply acquire. The naturally perfect have to work the most to disguise their brilliance, displaying a defect or two to deflect envy before it takes root.
Think about how many talented individuals within our society are making this mistake today.
Many love to share their successes, victories,and most proud highlights of their life to their favorite people. And their favorite people are usually on social media, which is where the attention of most of our society is. So if your consistently flaunting your unexpected victories and successes, expect that you may stir up envy in quite a few people. I myself am not a stranger to this and have made the effort to make it clear that I am only documenting ‘the highlights of my life’ in part to mitigate envy.
This is where Law 3 — Concealing Your Intentions, and Law 4 — Always Say Less Than Necessary, come into play. As much as our ego would love to flaunt all our successes, it may be more intelligent and strategic to implement the strategy I used above on Instagram, or simply display more of your faults and shortcomings.
“When Archbishop de Retz was promoted to the rank of cardinal in 1651, he knew full well that many of his former colleagues envied him. Understanding the foolishness of alienating those below him, de Retz did everything he could to downplay his merit and emphasized the role of luck in his success. To put people at ease, he acted humbly and differentially as if nothing had changed. In reality of course, he had much more power than before. He wrote that these wise policies produced a good effect by lessening the envy which was conceived against me, which is the greatest of all secrets.”
Clinical Psychologist Jordan B Peterson has come across a huge amount of fame in the last 1–2 years due to his commentary on certain controversial issues. He discusses how he still hasn’t adjusted to the incredible amount of impact and reach he is now getting. Peterson asked Joe Rogan who was interviewing him what it was like to wake up and know he’s going to get 1 billion downloads on his podcast this year, Rogan responded,
“I’m numb, I don’t think about it — I just think, I’m going to talk to Jordan Peterson what am I going to talk about?”
That’s the difference between someone whose learnt to handle massive success with humility and a level head compared to someone like Sir Walter Raleigh who couldn’t help but flaunt every good thing about him. Rogan and Peterson could easily let ego drive them to an almost god-like self image of themselves, but through extreme self awareness and intelligence they remain grounded.
How does this work? Well, fortune and luck comforts a lot of people because the idea of fortune and luck implies that, it’s largely out of our control. If something is out of our control, we’re generally more accepting of it. So if we too attribute the consequence of a positive action, to fortune than the amount of envy we stir up is mitigated.
“But be careful, do not affect a false modesty that people can easily see through. This will only make them more envious. The act has to be good, your humility, openness, to those you have left behind have to seem genuine. Any hint of insecurity will only make your new status more oppressive. Remember, despite your elevated position, it will do you no good to alienate your former peers. Power requires a wide and solid support base, which envy can silently destroy.”
According to the Elizabethan statesman and writer Sir Francis Bacon,
The act of giving can mitigate envy because everyone else around you benefits — it’s a symbiotic relationship, if everybody else is benefiting from your success, then why would people want to see that success diminish?
While this is only briefly mentioned in this law, I want to emphasize it’s importance. Displaying your weaknesses and going against Law 30 ‘Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless’ can create more humility within yourself.
“The reason for being careful with the envious is that they are so indirect and will find innumerable ways to undermine you, but treading carefully around them will often only make their envy worse. They sense that you are being cautious and that registers as yet another sign of your superiority. That is why you must act before envy even takes root. Once envy is there however, whether through your fault or not, it is sometimes best to affect the opposite approach. Display the utmost disdain for those who envy you. Instead of hiding your perfection, make it obvious. Make every new triumph an opportunity to make the envious squirm. Your good fortune and power become the living hell. If you attain a position of unimpeachable power, their envy will have no effect on you, and you will have the best revenge of all. They’re trapped in envy, while you are free in your power.”
“This is how Michelangelo triumphed over the venomous architect Bramante who turned Pope Julius against Michelangelo’s design for his tomb. Bramante envied Michelangelo’s godlike skills and to this one triumph — the aborted tomb project — he thought to add another, by pushing the pope to commission Michelangelo to paint the murals in the Sistine Chapel. The project would take years during which Michelangelo would accomplish no more of his brilliant sculptures. Furthermore, Bramante considered Michelangelo not nearly as skilled in painting as in sculpture.”
“The chapel would spoil his image as the perfect artist, so he thought. Michelangelo saw the trap and wanted to turn down the commission, but he could not refuse the pope. So he accepted it without complaint. Then however, he used Bramante’s envy to spur him to greater heights.”
Michelangelo used envy to push him to greatness, making his Sistine Chapel his most perfect work of all. Every time Bramante heard of it or saw it, he felt more oppressed by his own envy, the sweetest and most lasting revenge you can exact on the envious.