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Power Money Fame Sex: A Users Guide
Chapter One: Introduction To Power
What is power? You express your will, and someone else executes it.
To get power, first assert yourself over your own situation. Take charge and take responsibility for decisions within your ambit. Seize control of your time — it's a badge of powerlessness to punch a time card, to apologize for leaving early, to get docked for your absences.
After achieving power over yourself, extend your reach over more people, actions, and ideas, until finally you're shaping the future. One day you're pleased just to be able to send out a letter over your own signature; thirty years later, you're worried about whether you'll be able to prevent your beloved company from being sold to a competitor after you're dead.
Your circumstances, your competition, and most important, the peculiarities of your own character will determine the scope and style of your power. What method will work for you? The gregarious, gift-giving, high-energy model? The unassuming, analytical, behind-the-scenes model? The angry, impulsive, demanding model? No one way is most likely to succeed. It's up to you to decide your technique.
Power comes in two principal types: direct and indirect. Take this quiz to determine which type suits you better.
Pick the answer that describes you. Assume that both responses confer the same financial benefits.
1. You're a lawyer. Which career would you pursue?
A. Work to score victories on behalf of your own clients.
2. Which opportunity is more appealing?
A. You're asked to join the board of a promising start-up company.
3. Which accomplishment would give you greater satisfaction?
A. To walk past a building with the knowledge that without your contribution, it wouldn't have been built.
4. If you were outraged by a proposed change in municipal policy, how would you prefer to try to stop it?
A. Make it clear to the city council that you'll stop doing business in the city if the change goes through.
5. What is your attitude toward providing for your descendants?
A. I'd like to provide opportunity and guidance for the next generations — for example, by establishing trusts that would provide funds for my heirs, but in such a way that the money couldn't be squandered.
Tally your number of A and B answers.
If most of your answers are A, you crave direct power to shape the outcome of events — for example, as an executive, surgeon, or software developer. You want to be an obvious, indispensable force and to reap clear credit for the fruits of your actions.
Direct power is found in both the private and public sector. (Note that in either case, power generally traces back to wealth or control of wealth.)
Powerful private-sector jobs are more widely available, so you're more likely to achieve power there. However, if you're afraid you're stalling out in the private sector, move to Washington, D.C., or the state capital for a government job. If you've achieved significant power in one domain and crave a new challenge, jump from the private to the public, or from the public to the private.
At the extreme, your appetite for direct power provokes you to extend your reach into the future. You strain to preserve your legacy — an impulse that extends to great things and small. Celebrity developer Donald Trump always dreamed of putting his mark on the Manhattan skyline and has succeeded by branding his name on his buildings, in gold-colored letters several feet high. President Nixon's habit of sitting with his feet on his desktop had scarred its mahogany surface. Once, when he was out of the country, the desk was refinished. When he came back and saw the repairs, Nixon snapped, "Dammit, I didn't order that. I want to leave my mark on this place just like other presidents."
If most of your answers are B, you want the indirect power to shape people's thoughts. You may not be a necessary part of the action, but you influence what outcome emerges.
You work as a teacher, writer, or filmmaker in order to shape public opinion — by writing op-eds, arguing on TV as a news pundit, hyping this summer's books, leading the latest movement in the academy. You influence what people think. John Fairchild, as publisher of the influential magazines Women's Wear Daily and W, coined the phrase "hot pants" and his magazine identified "the beautiful people," "fashion victim," and "Nouvelle Society" — and by naming these things, invented the idea of them. To describe is to create. And when your ideas provoke others to act, your power is limitless. Obscure stock analyst Henry Blodget singlehandedly sent Internet stocks zooming when he raised his year-end price target for Amazon.com from $150 a share to $400. A week later, the stock was at $325. The impact of Blodget's words on the personal wealth of Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos may have been indirect, but it was quite tangible. And consider PR man Howard Rubenstein — although he wields indirect power, there's much he can accomplish. Why else would controversial figures like George Steinbrenner, Leona Helmsley, Mike Tyson, Naomi Campbell, Donald Trump, and Marv Albert have hired him?
Professors, management consultants, the clergy, TV commentators, artists, comedians, wield the force of thought. Though the scope of their direct power is quite narrow, they command attention and shape the world of ideas. The ability to direct others' perceptions is the very source, rather than a result, of their power.
Journalists wield enormous power because they set the terms in which the public perceives events; and in response to that power, the profession of "spin doctor" has arisen — another indirect-power profession — to package and create news for feeding to the media.
The cynosure effect — the fact that merely your presence in the spotlight makes you a captivating subject — is an important source of indirect power. Why? Because indirect power requires a platform, a bully pulpit of twenty students or thirty thousand readers or forty million viewers. The greater your visibility, the more potent your voice. Don't make the mistake of believing that because this power is indirect, it's less effective. Oprah Winfrey hosts a popular television talk show; the power of her recommendation turned a novel with a first printing of 6,800 into a best-seller with 750,000 in print. You may not have your own TV show, but if you publish a letter in your children's school newsletter that convinces other parents that the school should require the wearing of uniforms, you're exercising indirect power.
Of course, direct and indirect power aren't really so easily divisible — each type must partake of the other to succeed, and often a person's power is a blend of both. It's a rare person — and a person of tremendous power — who forcefully combines vigorous, effectual action with influential ideas. Think of Martha Stewart.
So...do you want to be the author of a book, or the editor who decides the book will be published? Would you rather be the teacher who explains evolution to students, or the school-board member who votes to keep evolution in the curriculum? Whether it's indirect or direct power you crave, exploit the power potential of as many sources as possible. To do so, draw upon the eight pillars of power.
Copyright © 2000 by Gretchen Craft Rubin
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