Law 45: Preach the Need for Change But Never Reform Too Much at Once


Everyone understands the need for change in the abstract, but on the day-to-day level people are creatures of habit. Too much innovation is traumatic, and will lead to revolt. If you are new to a position of power, or an outsider trying to build a power base, make a show of respecting the old way of doing things. If change is necessary, make it feel like a gentle improvement on the past.

Consequences of Change

1. The man who initiates strong reforms often becomes the scapegoat for any kind of dissatisfaction.
2. Eventually the reaction to your reforms may consume you, for change is upsetting to the human animal, even when it is for the good.
· The world is and always has been full of insecurity and threat.
· We latch on to familiar faces and create habits and rituals to make the world more comfortable.
3. Change can be pleasant and even sometimes desirable in the abstract, but too much of it creates an anxiety that will stir and boil beneath the surface and then eventually erupt.

You are Not a Psychic but Anticipation is a Good Thing

1. Never underestimate the hidden conservatism of those around you. It is powerful and entrenched.
2. Never let the seductive charms of an idea cloud your reason:
3. You cannot make people see the world your way.
4. You cannot wrench them into the future with painful changes. They will rebel.
5. If reform is necessary, anticipate the reaction against it and find ways to disguise the change and sweeten the poison.

The Powerful Past

1. What has happened before seems greater; habit and history give any act weight.
· Use this to your advantage.
2. When you destroy the familiar you create a void or vacuum.
· People fear the chaos that will flood in to fill it.
3. You must avoid stirring up such fears at all cost.
4. Borrow the weight and legitimacy from the past, however remote, to create a comforting and familiar presence.
· This will give your actions romantic associations, add to your presence, and cloak the nature of the changes you are attempting.
5. The fact that the past is dead and buried gives you the freedom to reinterpret it. To support your cause, tinker with the facts.
6. The past is a text in which you can safely insert your own lines.

The Solutions

1. A simple gesture like using an old title or keeping the same number for a group will tie you to the past and support you with the authority of history.
2. Make a loud and public display of support for the values of the past.
3. Seem to be a zealot for tradition and few will notice how unconventional you really are.
4. Quietly enact a radical change, while appearing to safeguard tradition.
5. The changes you make must seem less innovative than they are.
· If your reform is too far ahead of its time, few will understand it, and it will stir up anxiety and be hopelessly misinterpreted.
6. If you work in a tumultuous time, there is power to be gained by preaching a return to the past, to comfort, tradition, and ritual.
7. During a period of stagnation, on the other hand, play the card of reform and revolution—but beware of what you stir up.
· Those who finish a revolution are rarely those who start it. You will not succeed at this dangerous game unless you are willing to forestall the inevitable reaction against it by playing with appearances and building on the past.


· The past is a corpse to be used as you see fit.
· If what happened in the recent past was painful and harsh, it is self-destructive to associate yourself with it.
· Even an ugly recent history will seem preferable to an empty space.
· Fill that space immediately with new rituals and forms.
· Soothing and growing familiar, these will secure your position among the masses.

Finally, the arts, fashion, and technology would seem to be areas in which power would come from creating a radical rupture with the past and appearing cutting edge. Indeed, such a strategy can bring great power, but it has many dangers. It is inevitable that your innovations will be outdone by someone else. You have little control—someone younger and fresher moves in a sudden new direction, making your bold innovation of yesterday seem tiresome and tame today.