We all like to hear that someone – in love or in business – is committed to us, but talk is cheap and value grows from scarcity. So when it comes to making our own moves, Law 20 teaches us to hold back, weigh our options, keep an air of mystery about ourselves… and only commit to people or to ideas at the last possible moment.

We cover a lot of ground for Law 20, from the way things (and identities) become true just by saying they are, why you should listen to others even when you don’t agree with them, how to get people bidding for your attention, and the importance of remaining vague as often as possible. We also ponder the shock millennials face when they enter a real workplace for the first time and discover that all the talk of everyone being equal was only propaganda…

As we begin to internalise the Laws of Power and enter a flow-state as we practise them, there’s still plenty of time to recall our fuck-ups. Jon gets blackmailed, Dre reflects on the complexities of love and sex, and both think back to them times they’ve been caught in the middle of other people’s fights. We end with a powerful discussion of how and when to make decisions, and the abiding wisdom that sometimes ‘I don’t want to’ is the only reason you need.


This Episode includes:

  • Make yourself someone’s lesser or equal, and they’ll treat you accordingly. You can’t keep authority if you try to be someone’s friend
  • Like all primates, people will test you and your authority
  • Why you should retain an air of mystery about your decision-making and your reactions to other people
  • How Apple trains its staff to meet their emotional needs
  • The importance of social proof: if some people treat you as important or cool, other people will assume you are
  • Recursive success: how things snowball in popularity due to positive feedback loops
  • Don’t rush to support someone: it automatically devalues what you’re offering
  • Sex, value, and power: how do we disentangle the Big Three? And what do Bonobos have to tell us about it?
  • The need to stay out of other people’s battles – don’t become the peacemaker between toxic people
  • What to do when someone tells you ‘that’s not how things are done
  • Avoid taking sides in a fight, or their agenda inevitably becomes yours
  • Why you should (almost) never be absolute
  • How and when to make decisions
  • Dre’s mantra: Try to be kind… and do what you want
  • Keeping your power and poise while not committing – don’t seem unprincipled, but deeply insightful

Mentioned in the Episode:

  • The finger-tip feel: Fingerspitzengefühl
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”081297381X” locale=”US” tag=”vointhda-20″]The Black Swan[/easyazon_link] by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • The wonderful song ‘Smoke Alarm’ by Carsie Blanton. Remember to enjoy the moment and not get caught up in the ‘Good Opinion of Other People’
  • The relationship compatibility test app: 36 Questions
  • As [easyazon_link identifier=”B0027UY8B8″ locale=”US” tag=”vointhda-20″]Battlestar Galactica[/easyazon_link]’s Admiral Adama reminds us – sometimes you have to roll the hard six
  • Chris Ryan’s always-thought-provoking and fun podcast, Tangentially Speaking


Join us as we continue our 48 Laws of Power review, exploring Robert Greene’s provocative and compelling book, in which he lays bare the history, practice, psychology, and philosophies of power that ultimately shape all human relations. Often seen as a handbook for the ‘modern Machiavelli’, we take a closer look, beyond the hyperbole, and discuss how understanding and implementing these Laws can actually enrich your life personally, professionally and spiritually.

Jon and Dre aim to get to the heart of each of the Laws, grapple with their sometimes disturbingly amoral nature, and discuss what the Laws mean in everyday life (often revealing their own experiences – good and bad – when they’ve either observed or transgressed them).


48 Laws of Power T-Shirts

Each of these original T-Shirts includes an elegantly presented quotation illustrating the Law.

Law 20: ‘Do not commit yourself to anybody or anything, for that is to be a slave’ – Baltasar Gracián (1601-1658)

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