22 Apr How to become Really Powerful
Babies don’t have power. Not physical power at least, although being cute does command a lot of attention. When we are born we depend on our parents to feed and change us, protect us and keep us alive. We intuitively recognize that a power greater than ourselves exists and succumb to it. We don’t let our “egos” get in the way! (That comes later).
As we get older and become independent all this changes. We grow in physical stature and strength, develop our intelligence, get a degree, a job, maybe a fancy car and a three-piece suit and start to feel important. Significant. Powerful. Some of us feel invincible and this may even last for a while.
But then comes old age. Ahh, old age. Now our body doesn’t function so well. Our physical strength wanes and stamina diminishes. We lose our wits and our intelligence and eventually become totally dependent on other people again. We come full circle. And if we’ve learned anything from the journey it’s the fickleness of power and our own mortality. This, perhaps, is the beginning of wisdom.
In the Bible, God has a lot to say about the trappings of power. On no fewer than 26 occasions God instructs the people of Israel: ‘Never forget what it felt like to be strangers and aliens in a foreign land (and do not oppress the alien) for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.’ (Exodus 23:9 )
What does this mean? It means that when you become powerful and reach your “promised land” don’t forget about the little guys; the power-less, the have-nots, because that’s where you came from at some point in the cycle. That’s where everybody came from. Maybe you were born into wealth but your grandparents or great grandparents came from poverty, war and discrimination. Or maybe you made it in business but came from humble beginnings or were bullied in high school. At some point we all come from powerlessness — our infancy reminds us of that, and lest we forget, old age.
The problem with power is that it changes who you are. If you want to know someone’s character put him or her in a position of authority, give them money or status and see what happens. Will it make that person brash, insensitive, arrogant, a jerk? Or will he or she remain humble and grounded? A person’s relationship to power is a barometer of his or her character and values.
The fall of every great civilization from the ancient Egyptians, to the Romans, Greeks, the Japanese Empire all the way to the British arrived from the corrupting tendencies of power. The values and spirit that made these empires great eroded and gave way to much more destructive tendencies. They got cocky, overzealous, and thought they were invincible.
The same applies to companies and corporations whether it be IBM in the 1980s, GM more recently, or the folks on Wall Street who thought they could do no wrong. And you can say the same about political campaigns and candidates who think they’ve got the nomination or election all wrapped up in the bag. They seldom do.
The immigration debate in the United States is another classic example. Whether you are for or against, Republican or Democrat, you must remember that somewhere down the line you too (your ancestors certainly) were immigrants searching for a promised land. It’s therefore incumbent upon us to treat illegal aliens with decency and respect, even if we believe they should return to their countries of origin and get here the legal way.
Now here’s the crazy part:
Power is not “real.” It only exists in relation to other people and things. It is completely relational. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity got it right; what applies to physics applies to people. A high net worth business executive is more “powerful” than a plumber. But clog up the executive’s toilet or flood his home and the whole power dynamic shifts. Similarly a UFC fighter may be more powerful than say, a kick boxer, but put the two in front of a raging tiger and all that power fizzles away. They become completely powerless in relation to that animal.
Anything based on relationship is always relative and transient because relationships exist in time and constantly change. Your power will fluctuate based on the amount of money you earn, your status, physical appearance, where you live and most importantly, what society values and deems important in a particular moment in time.
As such, the power you wield is never really “yours.” That’s the illusion. You are just a vehicle, a vessel for something else. A higher power. And when you realize this truth and associate yourself not with all that changes and moves, but with the unchanging, eternal force that underlies all that moves (i.e. the Self, spirit, consciousness, God) then you don’t become powerful, you become the power itself.
This is what Buddha realized when he attained enlightenment, as well as Jesus, Moses and all the great prophets and divinities. They were never tempted or changed by wealth and physical circumstances but remained fixed on the eternal (in themselves). They avoided the power trap.
Now the question life poses, will you?