“Use the wisdom, knowledge, and legwork of other people to further your own cause. Not only will such assistance save you valuable time and energy, it will give you a godlike aura of efficiency and speed. In the end your helpers will be forgotten and you will be remembered. Never do yourself what others can do for you.”
Transgression & Observance Of The Law
This story centers around a young Serbian scientist named Nicola Tesla and US inventor Thomas Edison. The significance of this story is contained within the lessons of how Nikola Tesla was taken advantage of and how he is the real inventor of many critical inventions to the technological advancement of our society, such as AC power system. This story illustrates how Edison observed this law and Tesla became the transgression.
When Tesla met Edison in New York, the famous inventor hired him immediately. Tesla worked 18 hour days finding ways to improve the primitive Edison dynamos. Finally, Edison offered him $50,000 to redesign them completely — a monumental task that could last years without success. Tesla finally did it, as he went to Edison to break the good news and claim his $50,000. Edison told Tesla, “you don’t understand our American humor!”, offering him a small raise instead.
Tesla continued to grind away at his passion to improve these technologies and inventions. Tesla’s obsession was to create the AC system of electricity (what we use today). Edison believed in the DC system and not only refused to support Tesla’s research but later did all he could to sabotage him.
Tesla turned to the great Pittsburgh magnate George Westinghouse, who had started his own electricity company. Westinghouse completely funded Tesla’s research and offered him a royalty agreement on future profits.
After patents (exclusive rights given by a government body to an inventor or company who are selling a product — E.G. Apple patterning the iPhone design)were filed in his name, other scientists came forward to take credit for the invention claiming that they had laid the groundwork for him. Obviously it would be much harder to get away with such fraudulent behavior today, but remember this was about 100–150 years ago. As a result, Tesla’s name was lost in the chaos and the public came to associate the invention with Westinghouse himself.
The name Guglielmo Marconi is forever linked with the invention of the radio. But few know that in producing his invention to develop this radio signal Marconi made use of a patent Tesla had filed in 1897. Marconi’s invention was based on Tesla’s own breakthrough. Yet Tesla was not credited or paid for it.
Tesla invented the induction motor and the AC power system, he is the real “father of radio.” Yet none of these discoveries bear his name. As an old man, he lived in poverty. Only now do we reflect on his life as lessons on failure and success. He had passion, but he did not have the cunning wit and social intelligence to avoid being taken advantage of.
Tesla believed science had nothing to do with politics and wasn’t a superficial man who cared about the fame or the riches. Many may admire him for his nobility, but his lack of care and ignorance to how the game of power and politics was played caused him to be taken advantage of many times. Tesla had all these great ideas and inventions, yet everybody else was stealing his patents and taking the glory for themselves. Tesla wanted to do everything on his own, but he exhausted himself in the process.
“Edison was Tesla’s polar opposite. He wasn’t actually much of a scientific thinker or inventor; he once said that he had no need to be a mathematician because he could always hire one. That was Edison’s main method. He was really a businessman and publicist, spotting the trends and the opportunities that were out there, then hiring the best in the field to do the work for him. If he had to he would steal from his competitors. Yet his name is much better known than Tesla’s, and is associated with more inventions.”
Edison understood what his strengths and weaknesses were. Instead of grinding away inventing he would intelligently outsource his work to those far more intellectually brilliant than him. Tim Ferriss discusses this idea of outsourcing others to perform the mundane time consuming tasks in the effort to improve time efficiency and effectiveness in the 4 Hour Work Week. Regardless of any moral judgement’s we have of Edison, it worked for him and he played this game very well. The fact that Thomas Edion’s name is talked about in history classes all over the world is proof of this, because how many are talking about Tesla?
There are always vultures circling over head, always. The nature of the human race dictates that there will always be people trying to take advantage of you and your success. Ignore this reality and you will be taken advantage of and used just like Tesla. There are hundreds of stories within this book testament to this idea. Greene sais, “keep your creation quiet” to help avoid others taking advantage of you which links back to Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions & Law 4: Always Say Less Than Necessary.
“Second, learn to take advantage of other people’s work to further your own cause. Time is precious and life is short. If you try to do it all on your own, you run yourself ragged, waste energy, and burn yourself out. It is far better to conserve your forces, pounce on the work others have done, and find a way to make it your own.”
Let’s dissect this statement by Greene,
“Take advantage of other people’s work to further your own cause”:
This could be a potential moral dilemma for many, which obviously depends on your character. But in the game of power it is better to be aware than ignorant. I’m not advocating to manipulate and deceive like Edison, but at least understand there will be attempting to manipulate and deceive you.
“Time is precious and life is short. If you try to do it all on your own, you run yourself ragged”
Many of us will reach a point where we have to outsource our work in order to maintain production, consistency and standards. For example, I could easily pay a transcribing service a fee to transcribe my videos into written form for a fee. I don’t at the moment, but if I did I could save myself many hours a week. Whether you outsource globally or hire staff internally, getting other’s to do the work for you gives you flexibility and time to focus your energy on the most critical tasks.
The following is a short fable titled ‘The Tortoise, The Elephant and the Hippopotamus’ that I believe is a very relevant intriguing story to the idea of this law.
One day the tortoise met the elephant, who trumpeted, “Out of my way, you weakling — I might step on you!” The tortoise was not afraid and stayed where he was, so the elephant stepped on him, but could not crush him.
“Do not boast, Mr Elephant, I am as strong as you are!” said the tortoise, but the elephant just laughed. So the tortoise asked him to come to his hill the next morning.
The next day, before sunrise, the tortoise ran down the hill to the river, where he met the hippopotamus, who was just on his way back into the water after his nocturnal feeding.
“Mr Hippo! Shall we have a tug-of-war? I bet I’m as strong as you are!” said the tortoise.
The hippopotamus laughed at this ridiculous idea, but agreed. The tortoise produced a long rope and told the hippo to hold it in his mouth until the tortoise shouted, “Hey!” Then the tortoise ran back up the hill where he found the elephant, who was getting impatient.
He gave the elephant the other end of the rope and said, “When I say ‘Hey!’ pull, and you’ll see which of us is the strongest.
Then he ran halfway back down the hill, to a place where he couldn’t be seen, and shouted, “Hey!” The elephant and the hippopotamus pulled and pulled, but neither could budge the other — they were of equal strength. They both agreed that the tortoise was as strong as they were.
Never do what others can do for you. The tortoise let others do the work for him while he got the credit.
What an a eye opening fable that exemplifies this law perfectly. The fable is really a metaphor for life, because that trick can be played in so many different contexts.
Keys To Power
“The world of power has the dynamics of the jungle: There are those who live by hunting and killing, and there are also vast numbers of creatures (hyenas, vultures) who live off the hunting of others. These latter, less imaginative types are often incapable of doing the work that is essential for the creation of power.”
“They understand early on, though, that if they wait long enough, they can always find another animal to do the work for them. Do not be naive: At this very moment, while you are slaving away on some project, there are vultures circling above trying to figure out a way to survive and even thrive off your creativity. It is useless to complain about this, or to wear yourself ragged with bitterness, as Tesla did. Better to protect yourself and join the game. Once you have established a power base, become a vulture yourself, and save yourself a lot of time and energy.”
People do this every single day, people will take a video or article, copy it onto their site, re-post it, and find ways to monetize it to make money from it. In certain situations, it could be perceived as immoral or even illegal. Regardless this reality is being lived every single day.
I myself even do it. Except I try and make money of it.
My old website was based around this idea of curating the best content and media that has helped me grow into who I am today over the past 4–5 years in one seamless easy to access place.
About 90% of of the content I curate on my website is not mine. That’s the purpose of it. The point is — I am the vulture Greene talks about, taking from the best most valuable information applicable to me. However, I am not exercising this practice with the harshness and potential immorality of Edison. Credit is given where credit is due — and credit is given at the end of every single piece that I re-post on my site. Additionally, I make zero money off my website. In fact, I spend hundreds of dollars to keep it up and running without any self sustaining revenue coming back from it.
There was a painter named Peter Paul Rubens who found himself inundated with requests for paintings. To alleviate this, he created a system. He employed dozens of extremely talented painters, one specializing in robes, another in backgrounds, and so on. He created a vast production line in which a large number of canvases would be worked on at the same time.
When an important client would visit he would ask all his painters to leave for the day. Rubens would work at an incredible pace, with unbelievable energy. The client would leave in awe of this prodigious man, who could paint so many masterpieces in so short a time.
This is the essence of the law; learn to get other’s to do work work for you and take the credit as you appear of of ‘God like strength and power’. If you think it is important to do all the work for yourself, you won’t go as far as you potentially could. Time is finite for us. We are human beings that require sleep for about a third of our lives. So it is impossible to do it all ourselves. It is the reason we hire people. It is the reason Uber is so popular — we’re paying for time.
Shakespeare is renowned among many as the the most incredible poet and writer of all time in the English language. People look up at Shakespeare in awe as one of the greatest. We’re taught to study his writing’s in high school, and write essay’s on him. Little do most know Shakespeare himself borrowed plots, characterizations and even dialogue from Plutarch, among other writers. How many later writers have in their turn borrowed from — plagiarized — Shakespeare?
They say ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’. We are all standing on shoulders of the greatest orators, writer’s, entrepreneurs, athletes and artists of the present and the past. They’re failures can be our lessons. They’re success’ can be our the trodden path’s to journey through.
You can slog through life, making endless mistakes, wasting time and energy trying to do things from your own experience. Or you can use the armies of the past. As Bismarck once said…
“There are times when taking the credit for work that others have done is not the wise course: If your power is not firmly enough established, you will seem to be pushing people out of the limelight. To be a brilliant exploiter of talent your position must be unshakable, or you will be accused of deception.”
President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to the People’s Republic of China originally came to fruition through the deft diplomacy of Henry Kissinger. However, Kissinger let Nixon take the lion’s share of the credit knowing that the truth would come out later. He was cautious not to jeopardize his standing in the long term by hogging the short term limelight. Kissinger played the game expertly: He took credit for the work of those below him while graciously giving credit for his own labors to those above. That is the way to play the game. Take credit for those who work below you, and graciously give credit for the labors of those above you.