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It's important to be silly, to be serious, to be strong, to be frail...for what is life if we only shared a mask?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Power Play...Who Wins

Let’s just be candid here. Most of us are engaged in power plays. At home, at work, on the playground, where ever, what ever. As old as the holy book, as long as man has existed, the battle has not been about money. It has been about power. Who has it, who will lose it... Like Abe Lincoln said “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”.

As children we quickly learn that being popular has certain pre requisites. It is a parallel universe where what you learn outside the classroom is more interesting than within. Of course, you are now part of the in crowd and the internal struggle begins to retain the crown. From attire, to accessories, to your girlfriends and boyfriends, choices are made. Here is your first test. Power or naught.

As we grow, we watch our parents, observe other role models, peers, government/business leaders and as we are socialized, we will start responding to our issues with power. At home, power struggles between partners will either result in an outright victory, an acceptable compromise or an uneasy truce. Aggressive or passive aggressive, the power principle is addictive.

I remember my days as an intern at an advertising agency. I was out of college where we loved playing the rebel without a cause and jumped straight into the jaws of the mad ad world. It was tough to go from “Me World” to the lowest rung on the ladder. Running errands for the account executives, waiting for lofty creative directors, listening to whiny clients and pandering to the art director’s tantrums sucked the energy right out. So you promise yourself that you will climb that ladder and regain what you lost. Enter Ambition. Now Ambition commonly can take three routes to the top.

Elevator Approach
You just can’t wait to get to the top. You had a headstart. Your family pulled some strings. You were born devastatingly beautiful. You live in the penthouse. You crawled into the elevator and went straight up.

Escalator Approach
You had a game plan. You studied the field and figured how you could reach the top with as little effort as possible. You did learn some along the way but you worked on being singled out and started a rapid ascent.

Stairs Approach
You have no problems with hard work. You started as an intern or as someone’s assistant and rose to the top. You know more about the company than anyone else. You, my friend are patient and the most determined. You understand how the farmer tills the land, plants the seed, waters, protects, sprays for pests and reaps the harvest.

Ambition has helped you gain power. Now Power is a double edged sword. As we all know, if not wielded well, it burns the house down. Like the Ring that Frodo bears which corrupts him even as he limps to the Mount of Doom trying to evade the Eye of Mordor. Gandalf didn’t want it, Boromir dies for it and Gollum erodes from man to slimy beast.

So if you are caught in a power play at work or anywhere else, distance yourself. Power only feeds on willing victims. As Jung aptly puts it “Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.”



  1. Wonderful write-up

    Just loved reading your blog :)

  2. Thanks! I could go on writing about this subject :)