Strip up the water to hunt the fishes


In January of 1809, an agitated and anxious Napoleon hurried back to
Paris from his Spanish wars. His spies and confidants had confirmed a
rumor that his foreign minister Talleyrand had conspired against hirn with
Fouche, the minister of police. Immediately on arriving in the capital the
shocked emperor summoned his ministers to the palace. Following them
into the meeting right after their arrival, he began pacing up and down,
and started rambling vaguely about plotters working against hirn, speculators bringing down the stock market, legislators delaying his policies-and
his own ministers undermining hirn,
As Napoleon talked, Talleyrand leaned on the mantelpiece, looking
completely indifferent. Facing Talleyrand directly, Napoleon announced,
"For these ministers, treason has begun when they permit themselves to
doubt." At the word "treason" the ruler expected his minister to be afraid,
But Talleyrand only smiled, calm and bored.
The sight of a subordinate apparently serene in the face of charges that
could get hirn hanged pushed Napoleon to the edge. There were ministers,
he said,

 who wanted hirn dead, and he took a step doser to Talleyrandwho stared back at hirn unfazed. Finally Napoleon exploded. "You are a
coward," he screamed in Talleyrand's face, "a man of no faith. Nothing is
sacred to you. You would sell your own father. 1 have showered you with
riches and yet there is nothing you would not do to hurt me." The other
ministers looked at each other in disbelief-they had never seen this fearless general, the conqueror of most of Europe, so unhinged.
"You deserve to be broken like glass," Napoleon continued, stamping, 

"I have the power to do it, but 1 have too much contempt for you to bother.
Why didn't 1 have you hanged from the gates of the Tuileries? But there is
still time for that." Yelling, almost out of breath, his face red, his eyes
bulging, he went on, "You, by the way, are nothing but shit in a silk stocking .. , . What about your wife? You never told me that San Carlos was yOUf
wife's lover?" "Indeed, sire, it did not occur to me that this information had
any bearing on Your Majesty's glory or my own," said Talleyrand calmly,
completely unflustered. Mter a few more insults, Napoleon walked away.
Talleyrand slowly crossed the room, moving with his characteristic limp.
As an attendant helped hirn with his doak, he tumed to his fellow ministers
(all afraid they would never see hirn again), and said, "What a pity, gentlemen, that so great a man should have such bad manners.

Despite his anger, Napoleori id not arrest his foreign minister. He
merely relieved hirn of his duties d banished hirn from the court, believing that for this man humiliation would be punishment enough, He did not
realize that word had quickly spread of his tirade-of how the emperor had
completely lost control of hirnself, and how Talleyrand had essentially humiliated hirn by maintaining his composure and dignity. A page had been
tumed: For the first time people had seen the great emperor lose his cool
under fire. A feeling spread that he was on the way down. As Talleyrand
later said, "This is the beginning of the end."
This was indeed the beginning of the end. Waterloo was still six years
ahead, but Napoleon was on a slow descent to defeat, crystallizing in 1812
with his disastrous invasion of Russia. Talleyrand was the first to see the
signs of his decline, especially in the irrational war with Spain. Sometime in
1808, the minister decided that for the future peace of Europe, Napoleon
had to go. And so he conspired with Fouche.
It is possible that the conspiracy was never anything more than a
ploy-a device to push Napoleon over the edge. For it is hard to believe
that two of the most practical men in history would only go halfway in their
plotting. They may have been only stirring the waters, trying to goad
Napoleon into a misstep. And indeed, what they got was the tantrum that
laid out his loss of control for all to see. In fact, Napoleon's soon-famous
blowup that afternoon had a profoundly negative effect on his public

This is the problem with the angry response. At first it may strike fear
and terror, but only in some, and as the days pass and the storm clears,
other responses emerge-embarrassment and uneasiness about the
shouter's capacity for going out of control, and resentrnent of what has
been said. Losing your temper, you always make unfair and exaggerated
accusations. A few such tirades and people are counting the days until you
are gone.
In the face of a conspiracy against hirn, a conspiracy between his two
most important ministers, Napoleon certainly had a right to feel angry and
anxious. Eut by responding so angrily, and so publicly, he only demonstrated his frustration. To show your frustration is to show that you have
lost your power to shape events; it is the helpless action of the child who resorts to a hysterical fit to get his way. The powerful never reveal this kind of
There were a number of things Napoleon could have done in this situation. He could have thought about the fact that two eminently sensible
men had had reason to turn against hirn, and could have listened and
learned from them. He could have tried to win them back to hirn. He could
even have gotten rid of them, making their imprisonment or death an ominous display of his power. No tirades, no childish fits, no embarrassing
after-effects-just a quiet and definitive severing of ties.
Remember: Tantrums neither intimidate nor inspire loyalty. They
only create doubts and uneasiness about your power. Exposing your weakness, these stormy eruptions often herald a fall.
By the late 1920s, Haile Selassie had nearly achieved his goal of assuming
total control over Ethiopia, a country he feIt needed strong and unified
leadership. As regent to the empress Zauditu (stepdaughter of the late
queen) and heir to the throne, Selas sie had spent several years weakening
the power of Ethiopia's various warlords. Now only one real obstacle stood
easily see whelher his
composure was ruff/ed
or nol by looking al lhe
lea. which would nol
fall evenly ground 10
Ihe proper consistency
if he got excited. And
so justice was done
impartially and people
wenl away from his
courl satisfied.
1 962
1f possible, no animosity should be feit for
anyone .... To speak
angrily to a person, to
show your hatred by
what you say or by the
way you look, is an
unnecessary proceeding-dangerous, foolish, ridiculous, and
Anger or halred should
never be shown otherwise than in what you
do; and feelings will be
all the more effective in
action, in so far as you
avoid the exhibition of
them in any other way.
1t is only the coldblooded animals whose
bite is poisonous.
1 788-1860
LAW 39 327
THE \l ()�KEY A�D
TlIE \\A SI'
A monkey, whilst
munching a ripe pear,
was pestered by the
bare-faced importunities of a wasp, who,
nolens volens, would
have a part. After
threatening the monkey
with his anger if he
further hesitated to
submit to his demand,
he settled on the fruit;
but was as soon
knocked off by the
The irritable wasp now
had recourse to invective-and, ajier using
the most insulting
language, which the
other calmly listened
to, he so worked
himself up into violent
passion that, losing all
consideration ofthe
penalty, he flew to the
face of the monkey,
and stung him with
such rage that he was
unable to extricate his
weapon, and was
compelled to tear
himself away, leaving it
in the wound-thus
entailing on himself a
linge ring death, accompanied by pa ins much
greater than those he
had inflicted.
1 783-1847
328 LAW 39
in his way: the empress and her husband, Ras Gugsa. Selassie knew the
royal couple hated hirn and wanted to get rid of hirn, so to cut short their
plotting he made Gugsa the governor of the northern province of
Begemeder, forcing hirn to leave the capital, where the empress lived.
For several years Gugsa played the loyal administrator_ But Selassie
did not trust hirn: He knew that Gugsa and the empress were plotting revenge_ As time passed and Gugsa made no move, the chances of a plot
only increased. Selassie knew what he had to do: draw Gugsa out, get
under his skin, and push hirn into action before he was ready.
For several years, a northern tribe, the Azebu Gallas, had been in virtual rebellion against the throne, robbing and pillaging local villages and
refusing to pay taxes. Selassie had done nothing to stop them, letting them
grow stronger. Finally, in 1929, he ordered Ras Gugsa to lead an army
against these disobedient tribesmen. Gugsa agreed, but inwardly he
seethed-he had no grudge against the Azebu Gallas, and the demand that
he fight them hurt his pride.

 He could not disobey the order, but as he
worked to put together an army, he began to spread an ugly rumor-that
Selas sie was in cahoots with the pope, and planned to convert the country
to Roman Catholicism and make it a colony of Italy_ Gugsa's army swelled,
and some of the tribes from which its soldiers came secretly agreed to fight
Selas sie. In March of 1930 an enormous force of 35,000 men began to
march, not on the Azebu Gallas but south, toward the capital of Addis
Ababa. Made confident by his growing strength, Gugsa now openly led a
holy war to depose Selas sie and put the country back in the hands of true
He did not see the trap that had been laid for hirn. Before Selassie had
ordered Gugsa to fight the Azebu Gallas, he had secured the support of the
Ethiopian church. And before the revolt got underway, he had bribed several of Gugsa's key allies not to show up for battle. As the rebel army
marched south, airplanes flew overhead dropping leaflets announcing that
the highest church officials had recognized Selassie as the true Christian
leader of Ethiopia, and that they had excommunicated Gugsa for fomenting a civil war. These leaflets severely blunted the emotions behind the
holy crusade. And as battle loomed and the support that Gugsa's allies had
promised hirn failed to show up, soldiers began to flee or defect.
When the battle came, the rebel army quicky collapsed. Refusing to
surrender, Ras Gugsa was killed in the fighting. The empress, distraught
over her husband's death, died a few days later. On April 30, Selassie issued a formal proclarnation announcing his new title: Emperor of Ethiopia.
Haile Selassie always saw several moves ahead. He knew that if he let Ras
Gugsa decide the time and place of the revolt, the danger would be much
greater than ifhe forced Gugsa to act on Selassie's terms. So he goaded hirn
into rebellion by offending his manly pride, asking hirn to fight people he
had no quarrel with on behalf of a man he hated.

 Thinking everything out
ahead, Selassie made sure that Gugsa's rebellion would come to nothing,
and that he could use it to do away with his last two enemies.
This is the essence of the Law: When the waters are still, your opponents have the time and space to plot actions that they will initiate and control. So stir the waters, force the fish to the surface, get them to act before
they are ready, steal the initiative. The best way to do this is to play on uncontrollable emotions-pride, vanity, love, hate. Once the water is stirred
up, the little fish cannot help but rise to the bait

. The angrier they become,
the less control they have, and finally they are caught in the whirlpool you
have made, and they drown.
A sovereign should never launch an army out 01 anger,
a leader should never start a war out olwrath.
Sun-tzu, fourth century B. c.
Angry people usually end up looking ridiculous, for their response seems
out of proportion to what occasioned it. They have taken things too seriously, exaggerating the hurt or insult that has been done to them. They are
so sensitive to slight that it becomes comical how much they take personally. More comical still is their belief that their outbursts signify power. The
truth is the opposite: Petulance is not power, it is a sign of helplessness.
People may temporarily be cowed by your tantrums, hut in the end they
lose respect for you. They also realize they can easily undermine a person
with so little self-control.
The answer, however, is not to repress our angry or emotional responses. For repression drains us of energy and pushes us into strange behavior. Instead we have to change our perspective: We have to realize that
nothing in the sodal realm, and in the game of power, is personal.
Everyone is caught up in a chain of events that long predates the present moment. Our anger often sterns from problems in our childhood,
from the problems of our parents which stern from their own childhood, on
and on. Our anger also has roots in the many interactions with others, the
accumulated disappointments and heartaches that we have suffered. An individual will often appear as the instigator of our anger but it is much more
complicated, goes far beyond what that individual did to uso If a person explodes with anger at you (and it seems out of proportion to what you did to
them), you must remind yourself that it is not exclusively directed at youdo not be so vain. The cause is much larger, goes way back in time, involves dozens of prior hurts, and is actually not worth the bother to
understand. Instead of seeing it as a personal grudge, look at the emotional
outburst as a disguised power move, an attempt to control or punish you
cloaked in the form of hurt feelings and anger.
This shift of perspective will let you play the game of power with more
clarity and energy. Instead of overreacting, and becoming ensnared in peoO ITC!{ HI(;II PRIEST
Kin'yo, an officer of the
second rank, had a
brother called the High
Priest Ryogaku, an
extremely badtempered man. Next to
his monastery grew a
large nettle-tree which
occasioned the nickname peopte gave him,
the Nettle-tree High
Priest. " That name is
outrageous, " said the
high priest, and cut
down the tree. The
stump still being left,
people referred to him
now as the Stump High
Priest. More furious
than ever,

 Ryogaku had
the stump dug up and
thrown away, but this
teft a big ditch. People
now called him the
Ditch High Priest.
LAW 39 329
330 LAW 39
ple's emotions, you will turn their loss of control to your advantage: You
keep your head while they are losing theirs.
During an important batde in the War of the Three Kingdoms, in the
third century A.D., advisers to the commander Ts'ao Ts'ao discovered documents showing that certain of his generals had conspired with the enemy,
and urged hirn to arrest and execute them. Instead he ordered the documents bumed and the matter forgotten. 

At this critical moment in the batde, to get upset or demand justice would have reverberated against hirn:
An angry action would have called attention to the generals' disloyalty,
which would have harmed the troops' morale. Justice could wait-he
would deal with the generals in time. Ts'ao Ts'ao kept his head and made
the right decision.
Compare this to Napoleon's response to Talleyrand: Instead of taking
the conspiracy personally, the emperor should have played the game like
Ts'ao Ts'ao, carefully weighing the consequences of any action he took.
The more powerful response in the end would have been to ignore Talleyrand, or to bring the minister gradually back to his side and punish him
Anger only cuts off our options, and the powerful cannot thrive without options. Once you train yourself not to take matters personally, and to
control your emotional responses, you will have placed yourself in a position of tremendous power: Now you can play with the emotional responses
of other people. Stir the insecure into action by impugning their manhood,
and by dangling the prospect of an easy victory before their faces. Do as
Houdini did when challenged by the less successful escape artist Kleppini:
Reveal an apparent weakness (Houdini let Kleppini steal the combination
for a pair of cuffs) to lure your opponent into action. Then you can beat
hirn with ease. With the arrogant too you can appear weaker than you are,
taunting them into a rash action.
Sun Pin, commander of the armies of Ch'i and loyal disciple of Suntzu, once led his troops against the armies of Wei, which outnumbered hirn
two to one. "Let us light a hundred thousand fires when our army enters
Wei," suggested Sun Pin, "fifty thousand on the next day, and only thirty
thousand on the third." On the third day the Wei general exclaimed, "I
knew the men of Ch'i were cowards, and after only three days more than
half of them have deserted!" So, leaving behind his slow-moving heavy infantry, the general decided to seize the moment and move swiftly on the
Ch'i camp with a lighdy armed force. Sun Pin's troops retreated, luring
Wei's army into a narrow pass, where they ambushed and destroyed them.
With the Wei general dead and his forces decimated, Sun Pin now easily
defeated the rest of his army.
In the face of a hot-headed enemy, finally, an excellent response is no
response. Follow the Talleyrand tactic: Nothing is as infuriating as a man
who keeps his cool while others are losing theirs. If it will work to your advantage to unsettle people, affect the aristocratic, bored pose, neither
mocking nor triumphant but simply indifferent. This will light their fuse.
When they embarrass themselves with a temper tantrum, you will have
gained several victories, one of these being that in the face of their childishness you have maintained your dignity and composure.

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