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.

Green Eyed-Monsters

Only a minority can succeed at the game of life, and that minority inevitably arouses the envy of those around them.
· Once success happens your way, however, the people to fear the most are those in your own circle, the friends and acquaintances you have left behind.
· Feelings of inferiority gnaw at them; the thought of your success only heightens their feelings of stagnation.
· Envy, which the philosopher Kierkegaard calls "unhappy admiration," takes hold.
· You may not see it but you will feel it someday—unless, that is, you learn strategies of deflection, little sacrifices to the gods of success.
· Either cloud your brilliance occasionally, purposefully revealing a defect, weakness, or anxiety, or attributing your success to luck; or simply find yourself new friends.
· Never underestimate the power of envy.

The Power Envy

1. The insidious envy of the masses can actually be deflected quite easily: Appear as one of them in style and values.
2. Make alliances with those below you, and elevate them to positions of power to secure their support in times of need.
3. Never flaunt your wealth, and carefully conceal the degree to which it has bought influence.
4. Make a display of deferring to others, as if they were more powerful than you.
5. Never be so foolish as to believe that you are stirring up admiration by flaunting the qualities that raise you above others.
· By making others aware of their inferior position, you are only stirring up "unhappy admiration," or envy, which will gnaw away at them until they undermine you in ways you cannot foresee.
6. The master of power understands that the appearance of superiority over others is inconsequential next to the reality of it.

“Envy is a weed that should not be watered." Cosimo de Medici.

Strategies for Dealing with Emotions of Envy

1. Accept the fact that there will be people who will surpass you in some way, and also tile fact that you may envy them.
2. Make that feeling a way of pushing yourself to equal or surpass them some-day.
3. Let envy turn inward and it poisons the soul; expel it outward and it can move you to greater heights.
4. Understand that as you gain power, those below you will feel envious of you. They may not show it but it is inevitable. Do not naively accept the facade they show you—read between the lines of their criticisms, their little sarcastic remarks, the signs of backstabbing, the excessive praise that is preparing you for a fall, the resentful look in the eye. Half the problem with envy comes when we do not recognize it until it is too late.
5. Since it is far easier to avoid creating envy in the first place than to get rid of it once it is there, you should strategize to forestall it before it grows.
6. It is often your own actions that stir up envy, your own unawareness.
7. By becoming conscious of those actions and qualities that create envy, you can take the teeth out of it before it nibbles you to death.
· Expect that when people envy you they will work against you insidiously. They will put obstacles in your path that you will not foresee, or that you cannot trace to their source. It is hard to defend yourself against this kind of attack. And by the time you realize that envy is at the root of a person's feelings about you, it is often too late: Your excuses, your false humility, your defensive actions, only exacerbate the problem.

Three Dangers of Power

1. The sudden improvement in fortune.
2. An unexpected promotion.
3. A victory or success that seems to come out of nowhere.
· Power requires a wide and solid support base, which envy can silently destroy.

Reasons Not to Stir Up Envy

1. Be careful not to affect a false modesty that people can easily see through.
2. Your humility, and your openness to those you have left behind, has to seem genuine
3. Any hint of insincerity will only make your new status more oppressive.
4. Do not alienate your former peers.
5. Emphasize how lucky you have been.
6. Make your happiness seem more attainable to other people, and the need for envy less acute.
7. Display a weakness, a minor social indiscretion, a harmless vice.
8. Give those who envy you something to feed on, distracting them from your more important sins.
9. You may have to play games with appearances, but in the end you will have what counts: true power.
10. Do not try to help or do favors for those who envy you; they will think you are condescending to them.
11. Consider showing your wealth only on the inside of your house.
12. Apply this wisdom to your own character.


· Beware of some of envy's disguises.
· Excessive praise is an almost sure sign that the person praising you envies you.
· They are either setting you up for a fall.
· It will be impossible for you to live up to their praise.
· They are sharpening their blades behind your back.
· Those who are hypercritical of you, or who slander you publicly, probably envy you as well.
· Recognize their behavior as disguised envy and you keep out of the trap of mutual mud-slinging, or of taking their criticisms to heart.
· Win your revenge by ignoring their measly presence.
· Once envy reveals itself for what it is, the only solution is often to flee the presence of the enviers, leave your enviers to stew in a hell of their own creation.

Finally, be aware that some environments are more conducive to envy than others. The effects of envy are more serious among colleagues and peers, where there is a veneer of equality. Envy is also destructive in democratic environments where overt displays of power are looked down upon. Be extra sensitive in such environments. It is almost impossible to avoid envy in such cases, and there is little you can do but accept it graciously and take none of it personally.

As Thoreau once said, "Envy is the tax which all distinction must pay."