Overview of Law #30: Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless
Make difficult feats seem effortless and you’ll inspire awe in others and seem powerful. Conceal the work behind your accomplishments — if you brag about it, you’ll ruin the effect.
Principles of Law 30
Natural phenomena such as volcanoes and tornadoes, which are demonstrations of power, seem effortless and leave people awestruck.
According to Law 30 of the 48 Laws of Power, if you make your accomplishments seem effortless, you can generate awe in others and seem powerful. People admire those who perform seemingly impossible feats, especially when they make it look easy.
The best courtiers prided themselves in their ability to make the difficult seem easy. Great Renaissance artists kept their studios closed and their works in progress under wraps, revealing only the final masterpiece. No one knew the effort that went into it, which would have ruined the magical effect. By contrast, performers who try too hard make us uncomfortable; graceful performers create a pleasing illusion by making their labor look natural.
Law 30 of the 48 Laws of Power says power works the same way; your public performances should be appealing, entertaining, and create a sense of anticipation — but most of all, they should be awe-inspiring. They can’t be if you reveal the work behind them; people will tell themselves they could have done just as well or better. For the same reason, don’t try to show how clever you are by revealing your tricks.
The French minister Talleyrand created an aura of power by never seeming to work very hard — while others did the legwork, he alluded to great things to come, which made him seem prescient. He carefully planned each public comment, but gave the impression that his remarks were off the cuff manifestations of his wit and intelligence. Talleyrand knew to make your accomplishments seem effortless.
Most people tend to brag about their hard work and cleverness in an effort to win admiration, or sympathy for their sacrifices for the sake of art. But they generate contempt instead.
Remember, the more mysterious your actions seem the more powerful you are. And when they seem effortless, you appear to have untapped ability and power.
Putting Law 30 to Work
When you show the effort that went into producing an effect, the effect is spoiled. Here are some examples of how to apply (and how not to apply) Law 30 of the 48 Laws of Power:
In the 16th century, Japanese tea ceremonies were elaborate and sometimes costly affairs that were supposed to achieve effortless perfection. The country’s most famous practitioner was known for leaving a ceremony if it looked like the host was trying too hard.
The escape artist Harry Houdini made his escapes seem effortless. But he succeeded because of endless research, study, practice, and physical training. He learned sleight-of-hand tricks, studied the mechanics of many types of locks, and learned to make his body flexible and control his muscles and breathing. He learned how to swallow things, hold them in his throat, and bring them back up.
Be like Houdini. Research and practice diligently before appearing in public, but never reveal the labor behind your efforts. Make your accomplishments seem effortless.
Exceptions to Law 30
Are there any exceptions to Law 30 of the 48 Laws of Power? Should you ever not make your accomplishments seem effortless? While making things seem effortless, don’t be overzealous about hiding the machinations or you’ll come across as paranoid. Houdini made concealing his tricks seem like part of the fun.
Occasionally, you may want to reveal the inner workings, to make your audience feel involved and in the know (although you should never reveal everything). P.T. Barnum found that revealing his tricks amused his audiences, made them feel superior, and had the added benefit of making them suspicious of competitors who kept their tricks secret.
Your revelations, however, must be carefully planned, rather than impulsively and thoughtlessly blurted out. In general, it’s best to follow Law 30 of the 48 Laws of Power: Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless.
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