Plan all the way to the end as law of power


In 1510 a ship set out from the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the
Dominican Republic) for Venezuela, where it was to rescue a besieged
Spanish colony. Several miles out of port, a stowaway climbed out of a
provision ehest: Vasco Nufiez de Balboa, a noble Spaniard who had come
to the New World in search of gold but had fallen into debt and had eseaped his creditors by hiding in the ehest.
Balboa had been obsessed with gold ever since Columbus had returned to Spain from his voyages with tales of a fabulous but as yet undiseovered kingdom called EI Dorado. Balboa was one of the first
adventurers to come in search of Columbus's land of gold, and he had deeided from the beginning that he would be the one to find it, through
sheer audacity and single-mindedness. Now that he was free of his creditors, nothing would stop hirn.
Unfortunately the ship's owner, a wealthy jurist named Francisco Fernändez de Enciso, was furious when told of the stowaway, and he ordered
that Balboa be left on the first island they came across. Before they found
any island, however, Enciso received news that the colony he was to reseue had been abandoned. This was Balboa's chance. He told the sailors of
his previous voyages to Panama, and of the rumors he had heard of gold
in the area. The excited sailors convinced Enciso to spare Balboa's life,
and to establish a colony in Panama. Weeks later they named their new
settlement "Darien."

 Darien's first governor was Enciso, but Balboa was not a man to let
others steal the initiative. He campaigned against Enciso among the
sailors, who eventually made it clear that they preferred hirn as governor.
Enciso fled to Spain, fearing for his life. Months later, when a representative of the Spanish crown arrived to establish hirnself as the new, official
governor of Darien, he was turned away. On his return voyage to Spain,
this man drowned; the drowning was accidental, but under Spanish law,
Balboa had murdered the governor and usurped his position.
Balboa's bravado had got hirn out of scrapes before, but now his
hopes of wealth and glory seemed doomed. To lay claim to EI Dorado,
should he discover it, he would need the approval of the Spanish kingwhich,

 as an outlaw, he would never receive. There was only one solution.
Panamanian Indians had told Balboa of a vast ocean on the other side of
the Central American isthmus, and had said that by traveling south upon
this western coast, he would reach a fabulous land of gold, called by a
name that to his ears sounded like "Biru." Balboa decided he would cross
the treacherous jungles of Panama and become the first European to bathe
his feet in this new ocean. From there he would march on EI Dorado. If he
did this on Spain's behalf, he would obtain the eternal gratitude of the
king, and would seeure his own reprieve-only he had to act before Spanish authorities came to arrest hirn. 

In 1513, then, Balboa set out, with 190 soldiers. Halfway across the
isthmus (some ninety miles wide at that point), only sixty soldiers reThere are very few
men-and they are the
exceptions-who are
able to think and feel
beyond the present
Two frogs dwelt in the
same pool. The pool
being dried up under
the summer's heat, they
left it, and set out
together to seek
another home. As they
went along they
chanced to pass a deep
weil, amply supplied
wifh water, on seeing
which one of the frogs
said to the other: 

us descend and make
our abode in this weil,
it will furnish us IVith
shelter and foad. " The
other replied with
greater caution:
"But suppose the water
should fail us, how can
we get out again from
so great a depth?"
Do nothing without a
regard to the consequences.
LAW 29 237
Look to the end, no
matter what it is you
are considerinl(. 0ften
enough, God I(ives a
man a glimpse of
happiness, and then
utterly ruins hirn.
1'1 1 1,: KI'iC. '1'1 1 1': SI F!.
Al\1l '1'111,: SI'I{CEO,\
In ancient tim es a king
of Tartary was out
walking with some of
his noblemen. At the
roadside was an abdal
(a wandering Sufi),
who cried out:
"Whoever will give me
a hundred dinars, 1 will
give hirn some
good advice. "
The king stopped, and
said: "Abdal, what is
this good advice for a
hundred dinars?"
"Sir, " answered the
abdal, "order the sum
to be given to me, and 1
will tell it you immediately. " The king did so,
expecting to hear something extraordinary.
The dervish said to
hirn: "My advic<' is this:
Never bel(in anything
until you have reflected
what will be the end of
it. " At this the nobles
and everyone else
present laughed, saying
that the abdal had been
wise to ask jor his
money in advance. BU!
the king said: " You
have no reason to
laugh at the good
advice this abdal has
given me. No one is
238 LAW 29
mained, many having succumbed to the harsh conditions-the bloodsucking insects, the torrential rainfall, fever. Finally, from a mountaintop, 

Balboa became the first European to lay eyes on the Pacific Ocean. Days
later he marched in his armor into its waters, bearing the banner of Castile
and claiming all its seas, lands, and islands in the name of the Spanish
Indians from the area greeted Balboa with gold, jewels, and precious
pearls, the like of which he had never seen. When he asked where these
had come from, the Indians pointed south, to the land of the Incas. But
Balboa had only a few soldiers left. For the moment, he decided, he
should return to Darien, send the jewels and gold to Spain as a token
of good will, and ask for a large army to aid hirn in the conquest of EI
When news reached Spain of Balboa's bold crossing of the isthmus,
his discovery of the western ocean, and his planned conquest of EI Dorado, the former criminal became a hero, He was instantly proclaimed
governor of the new land. But before the king and queen received word of
his discovery, they had already sent a dozen ships, under the command of
a man named Pedro Arias Davila, "Pedrarias," with orders to arrest Balboa for murder and to take command of the colony.

 By the time Pedrarias
arrived in Panama, he had learned that Balboa had been pardoned, and
that he was to share the governorship with the former outlaw.
All the same, Balboa felt uneasy, Gold was his dream, EI Dorado his
only desire. In pursuit of this goal he had nearly died many times over,
and to share the wealth and glory with a newcomer would be intolerable,
He also soon discovered that Pedrarias was a jealous, bitter man, and
equally unhappy with the situation. Once again, the only solution for Balboa was to seize the initiative by proposing to cross the jungle with a
larger army, carrying ship-building materials and tools. Once on the Pacific coast, he would create an armada with which to conquer the Incas.
Surprisingly enough, Pedrarias agreed to the plan-perhaps sensing it
would never work. Hundreds died in this second march through the jungle, and the timber they carried rotted in the torrential rains. Balboa, as
usual, was undaunted-no power in the world could thwart his plan-and
on arriving at the Pacific he began to cut down trees for new lumb er. But
the men remaining to hirn were to� few and too weak to mount an invasion, and once again Balboa had to return to Darien,
Pedrarias had in any case invited Balboa back to discuss a new plan,
and on the outskirts of the settlement, the explorer was met by Francisco
Pizarro, an old friend who had accompanied him on his first crossing of
the isthmus. But this was a trap: Leading one hundred soldiers, Pizarro
surrounded his former friend, arrested hirn, and returned hirn to Pedrarias, who tried him on charges of rebellion. A few days later Balboa's
head fell into a basket, along with those of his most trusted followers,
Years later Pizarro hirnself reached Peru, and Balboa's deeds were forgotten.
Most men are ruled by the heart, not the head. Their plans are vague, and
when they meet obstacles they improvise. But improvisation will only
bring you as far as the next crisis, and is never a substitute for thinking
several steps ahead and planning to the end.
Balboa had a dream of glory and wealth, and a vague plan to reach it.
Yet his bold deeds, and his discovery of the Pacific, are largely forgotten,
for he committed what in the world of power is the ultimate sin: He went
part way, leaving the door open for others to take over. A real man of
power would have had the prudence to see the dangers in the distancethe rivals who would want to share in the conquests, the vultures that
would hover once they heard the word "gold." Balboa should have kept
his knowledge of the Incas secret until after he had conquered Peru. Only
then would his wealth, and his head, have been secure. Once Pedrarias arrived on the scene, a man of power and prudence would have schemed to
kill or imprison hirn, and to take over the army he had brought for the
conquest of Peru. But Balboa was locked in the moment, always reacting
emotionally, never thinking ahead.
What good is it to have the greatest dream in the world if others reap
the benefits and the glory? Never lose your head over a vague, openended dream-plan to the end.
In 1863 the Prussian premier Otto von Bismarck surveyed the chessboard
of European power as it then stood. The main players were England,
France, and Austria. Prussia itself was one of several states in the loosely
allied German Federation. Austria, dominant member of the Federation,
made sure that the other German states remained weak, divided and submissive. Bismarck believed that Prussia was destined for something far
greater than servant boy to Austria.
This is how Bismarck played the game. His first move was to start a
war with lowly Denmark, in order to recover the former Prussian lands of
Schieswig-Hoistein. He knew that these rumblings of Prussian independence might worry France and England, so he enlisted Austria in the war,
claiming that he was recovering Schleswig-Hoistein for their benefit. In a
few months, after the war was decided, Bismarck demanded that the
newly conquered lands be made part of Prussia. The Austrians of course
were furious, but they compromised: First they agreed to give the Prussians Schleswig, and a year later they sold them Holstein. The world
began to see that Austria was weakening and that Prussia was on the rise.
Bismarck's next move was his boldest: In 1866 he convinced King
William of Prussia to withdraw from the German Federation, and in doing
so to go to war with Austria itself. King William's wife, his son the crown
prince, and the princes of the other German kingdoms vehemently opposed such a war. But Bismarck, undaunted, succeeded in forcing the conflict, and Prussia's superior army defeated the Austrians in the brutally
unaware of the fact that
we should think weil
before doing anything.
But we are daily guilty
ofnot remembering,
and the eonsequenees
are evil. I very much
value this dervish 's
advice. "
The king decided to
bear the adviee always
in his mind, and commanded it to be written
in gold on the walls
and even engraved on
his silver plate.
Not long afterward a
plotter desired to kill
the king. He bribed the
royal surgeon with a
promise of the prime
ministership if he thrust
a poisoned laneet into
the king's arm. When
the time came to let
some ofthe king's
blood, a silver basin
was placed to catch the
blood. Suddenly the
surgeon became aware
ofthe words engraved
upon it: "Never begin
anything until you have
rejteeted what will be
the end of it. " It was
only then that he realized that if the plotter
became king he eould
have the surgeon killed
instantly, and would
not need to fulfill his
The king, seeing that
the surgeon was now
trembling, asked him
what was wrimg with
him. And so he
eonfessed the truth, at
that very moment.
The plotter was seized;
and the king sent for all
the people who had
been present when the
abdal gave his adviee,
and said to them: "Do
you stili laugh at the
dervish? "
LAW 29 239
He who asks fortunetellers the future
unwittingly forfeits an
inner intimation of
coming events that is a
thousand times more
exact than anything
they may say.
1 892�1 940
240 LAW 29
short Seven Weeks War. The king and the Prussian generals then wanted
to march on Vienna, taking as much land from Austria as possible. But
Bismarck stopped them-now he presented himself as on the side of
peace. The result was that he was able to conclude a treaty with Austria
that granted Prussia and the other German states total autonomy. Bismarck could now position Prussia as the dominant power in Germany and
the head of a newly formed North German Confederation.
The French and the English began to compare Bismarck to Attila the
Hun, and to fear that he had designs on all of Europe. Once he had started
on the path to conquest, there was no telling where he would stop. And,
indeed, three years later Bismarck provoked a war with France. First he
appeared to give his permission to France's annexation of Belgium, then
at the last moment he changed his mind. Playing a cat-and-mouse garne,
he infuriated the French emperor, Napoleon III, and stirred up his own
king against the French. To no one's surprise, war broke out in 1870. The
newly formed German federation enthusiastically joined in the war
on France, and once again the Prussian military machine and its allies
destroyed the enemy army in a matter of months. Although Bismarck
opposed taking any French land, the generals convinced him that AlsaceLorraine would become part of the federation.
Now all of Europe feared the next move of the Prussian monster, led
by Bismarck, the "lron Chancellor." And in fact a year later Bismarck
founded the German Empire, with the Prussian king as the newly
crowned emperor and Bismarck himself a prince. But then something
strange happened: Bismarck instigated no more wars. And while the other
European powers grabbed up land for colonies in other continents,

 he severely limited Germany's colonial acquisitions. He did not want more
land for Germany, but more security. For the rest of his life he struggled to
maintain peace in Europe and to prevent further wars. Everybody assumed he had changed, mellowing with the years. They had failed to understand: This was the final move of his original plan.
There is a simple reason why most men never know when to come off the
attack: They form no concrete idea of their goal. Once they achieve victory they only hunger for more. To stop-to aim for a goal and then keep
to it-seems almost inhuman, in fact; yet nothing is more critical to the
maintenance of power. The person who goes too far in his triumphs creates a reaction that inevitably leads to a decline. The only solution is to
plan for the long run. Foresee the future with as much clarity as the gods
on Mount Olympus,

 who look through the clouds and see the ends of all
From the beginning of his career in politics, Bismarck had one goal:
to form an independent German state led by Prussia. He instigated the
war with Denmark not to conquer territory but to stir up Prussian nationalism and unite the country. He incited the war with Austria only to gain
Prussian independence. (This was why he refused to grab Austrian territory.) And he fomented the war with France to unite the German kingdoms against a common enemy, and thus to prepare for the formation of a
united Germany.
Once this was achieved, Bismarck stopped. He never let triumph go
to his head, was never tempted by the siren call of more. He held the reins
tightly, and whenever the generals, or the king, or the Prussian people demanded new conquests, he held them back. Nothing would spoil the
beauty of his creation, certainly not a false euphoria that pushed those
around hirn to attempt to go past the end that he had so carefully planned.
Expenence shows that, if one foresees from far away the designs to be
undertaken, one can act with speed when the moment comes to execute them.
Cardinal Richelieu, 1585-1 642
According to the cosmology of the ancient Greeks, the gods were thought
to have complete vision into the future. They saw everything to come,
right down to the intricate details. Men, on the other hand, were seen as
victims of fate, trapped in the moment and their emotions, unable to see
beyond immediate dangers. Those heroes, such as Odysseus, who were
able to look beyond the present and plan several steps ahead, seemed to
defy fate, to approximate the gods in their ability to determine the future.
The comparison is still valid-those among us who think further ahead
and patiently bring their plans to fruition seem to have a godlike power.
Because most people are too imprisoned in the moment to plan with
this kind of foresight, the ability to ignore immediate dangers and pleasures translates into power. It is the power of being able to overcome the
natural human tendency to react to things as they happen, and instead to
train oneself to step back, imagining the larger things taking shape beyond
one's immediate vision. Most people believe that they are in fact aware of
the future, that they are planning and thinking ahead. They are usually deluded:

 What they are really doing is succumbing to their desires, to what
they want the future to be. Their plans are vague, based on their imaginations rather than their reality. They may believe they are thinking all the
way to the end, but they are really only focusing on the happy ending, and
deluding themselves by the strength of their desire.
In 415 B.C., the ancient Athenians attacked Sicily, believing their expedition would bring them riches, power, and a glorious ending to the sixteen-year Peloponnesian War. They did not consider the dangers of an
invasion so far from horne;

 they did not foresee that the Sicilians would
fight all the harder since the battles were in their own homeland, or that
all of Athens's enemies would band together against them, or that war
would break out on several fronts, stretching their forces way too thin.
The Sicilian expedition was a complete dis aster, leading to the destruction
LAW 29 241
242 LAW 29
of one of the greatest civilizations of all time. The Athenians were led into
this disaster by their hearts, not their minds. They saw only the chance of
glory, not the dangers that loomed in the distance.
Cardinal de Retz, the seventeenth-century Frenchman who prided
himself on his insights into human schemes and why they mostly fail, analyzed this phenomenon. In the course of a rebellion he spearheaded
against the French monarchy in 1651, the young king, Louis XIV, and his
court had suddenly left Paris and established themselves in a palace outside the capital. The presence of the king so dose to the heart of the revolution had been a tremendous burden on the revolutionaries, and they
breathed a sigh of relief. This later proved their downfall, however, since
the court's absence from Paris gave it much more room to maneuver.
"The most ordinary cause of people's mistakes," Cardinal de Retz later
wrote, "is their being too much frightened at the present danger, and not
enough so at that which is remote."
The dangers that are remote, that 100m in the distance-if we can see
them as they take shape, how many mistakes we avoid. How many plans
we would instantly abort if we realized we were avoiding a small danger
only to step into a larger one. So much of power is not what you do but
what you do not do-the rash and foolish actions that you refrain from before they get you into trouble. Plan in detail be fore you act-do not let
vague plans lead you into trouble. Will this have unintended consequences? Will I stir up new enemies? Will someone else take advantage of
my labors? Unhappy endings are much more common than happy
ones-do not be swayed by the happy ending in your mind.
The French elections of 1848 came down to a struggle between LouisAdolphe Thiers, the man of order, and General Louis Eugene Cavaignac,
the rabble-rouser of the right. When Thiers realized he was hopelessly behind in this high-stakes race, he searched desperately for a solution. His
eye fell on Louis Bonaparte, grand-nephew of the great general Napoleon,
and a lowly deputy in the parliament. This Bonaparte seemed a bit of an
imbecile, but his name alone could get him elected in a country yearning
for a strong ruler.

 He would be Thiers's puppet and eventually would be
pushed offstage. The first part of the plan worked to perfection, and
Napoleon was elected by a large margin. The problem was that Thiers
had not foreseen one simple fact: This "imbecile" was in fact a man of
enormous ambition. Three years later he dissolved parliament, dedared
himself emperor, and ruled France for another eighteen years, much to
the horror of Thiers and his party.
The ending is everything. It is the end of the action that determines
who gets the glory, the money, the prize. Your condusion must be crystal
clear, and you must keep it constantly in mind. You must also figure out
how to ward off the vultures circling overhead, trying to live off the carcass of your creation. And you must anticipate the many possible crises
that will tempt you to improvise. Bismarck overcame these dangers because he planned to the end, kept on course through every crisis, and
never let others steal the glory. Once he had reached his stated goal, he
withdrew into his shell like a turtle. This kind of self-control is godlike.
When you see several steps ahead, and plan your moves all the way
to the end, you will no longer be tempted by emotion or by the desire to
improvise. Your elarity will rid you of the anxiety and vagueness that are
the primary reasons why so many fail to conelude their actions successfully. You see the ending and you tolerate no deviation

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