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It was Napoleon Bonaparte who said, place your iron hand inside a velvet glove. This is the same Napoleon who fought over 60 battles and lost seven. Napoleon recognised that while powerlessness makes us a target, so too does power. In his eyes, sustained power involved pleasing all parties at the same time. This meant there was no room for truth. Different people wanted different things, so Napoleon learned to deceive all in order to please all.

But how do we master power without being overly deceitful?

First, we must recognise that the game of power is inescapable, and it is better to be an artist than a denier. Then we must reframe our understanding of deception. Deception isn’t all bad. We all deceive. Some deceive others. Others deceive themselves.

Next we must recognise power is a social game we all play. Within this game each of us has motives, and majority of these motives are hidden. Whether we are aware of it or not, we all deceive one another to favour these hidden motives. Sometimes we flash a smile when we’re not in the mood. Sometimes we humour an enemy to keep peace. Other times we tell a lie to bury the truth.

We all deceive, so study everyone. Isolate what they want. Give them what you can. And use deception to give them what you can’t. That might mean providing a false compliment to build their strength. Providing false reassurance to give them peace. Or agreeing with them when you don’t to develop trust.

This type of deception is not corruption. If the intention is pure, deception is valid. After all, our mind is a prison. Every one of us is confined to the world we see. If deception helps others see a better world, we should deceive.

Finally, study triggers. Learn what sets an individual off and avoid these at all costs. That may mean avoiding certain topics of conversation. Avoiding certain advice. Or altogether avoiding the individual at certain times.

Remember, when we leave deception to chance, we are more likely to harm others than when we take the time to strategise our next move. Embrace deception with pure intentions and opportunity will fall in your favour.

The Art of War, Sun Tzu

War is founded on deception. Movement is determined by advantage. Division and unity are its elements of change. The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak. When we are able to attack, we must appear unable. When we are unable to attack, we must appear able. When using our forces, we must appear inactive. When not using our forces, we must appear active.