“Stupidity combined with arrogance and a huge ego will get you a long way.” – Chris Lowe
1.) The Building Blocks of Reinvention
2.) Of Ego & Humility
3.) Of Adaptability & Authenticity
4.) Of Learning
5.) In Closing
1.) The Building Blocks of Reinvention:
Whether they’re aware of it or not, everyone has an opinion on narcissism, and a value system based on a preference for its presence or absence. Some respect only the boldness of grandiosity, whereas others are repelled by the lack of grace exhibited by unadulterated id. As such, those looking to reinvent themselves are typically confused about the degree of ego they should aspire toward in the pursuit of their idealised self. Is ego good, or is it bad? This is a context dependent question, but in the grand scheme of things it is neither, rather it is a tool.
One’s mental visualisation of their ideal persona changes in accordance with their life experience. The arrogant self-aware intellectual can see where arrogance has cost him, and may as such aspire to a more stoic life. Should a man’s failure be associated with passivity on the other hand, he will view egotism as the answer.
It is a fallacy of instinct to believe embodiment of the egotistical opposite is a solution to the floundering personality of current. Balance is necessary in all things, and ego is no exception. To maximise one’s success, you must be plural rather than singular, not the stoic OR the narcissist, but rather the stoic AND the narcissist. Many, many people disagree with this premise out of distaste, but nonetheless, its utility is incontestable.
The egotistical should practice humility, as the humble should egotism. Each is necessary and neither is sufficient, for finesse requires the ability to wield both. The ability to exercise finesse is more a product of trial-and-error than it is an innate competency, and so the area you’re weak in is the one that requires the most focus. In short, do not pick a side, develop your weaker one.
2.) Of Ego & Humility:
Some scenarios require ego where others necessitate humility, finesse is an awareness of the ego-humility spectrum, and the ability to be as humble or egotistical as a given situation demands. Expressing anger or ingratitude when you win at something demonstrates hubris, which in turn detracts from the beauty of your accomplishment by infecting it with crudeness. Be humble in success and egotistical in struggle, for ego is attractive in struggle, but redundant in achievement. Context is of course key to this maxim, and a man of the nuanced competency necessary to practice finesse understands this.
In matters of women ego always pays, women admire dominance and thus reward ego irrespective of their protestations. In sales, whether or not ego pays is contingent on who you’re selling to. If you’re targeting the lower end of the market, it pays well. If you’re targeting the upper end, it will not. At the upper end you need passion devoid insolence and servility, a single-minded belief in the thing you’re pitching rather than an overt desire to persuade; the exact gradient of finesse you’re looking to embody here is one of passionate humility.
The influential are viscerally repulsed by the forceful crudeness with which a less accomplished egotist proclaims and dismisses. They want to see vision shining through struggle, enough ego to get the job done, but not so much you act like you’re better than they are. To understand the level of ego necessary to get what you want from a person and adjust your behaviour accordingly is ultimately to exercise finesse. Finesse is both diplomacy and narcissism, sophistication when diplomacy pays and arrogance when it doesn’t; an effective strategist puts neither off the table.
A man adept at wielding power is a man of finesse, he is neither stoic nor egotistical, but a compartmentalisation of each, a dual personality proficient in recognising the needs of a situation and unleashing or restraining his ego as necessary. To be able to summon egotism or humility at will rather than embody one or the other is an abnormal state. Most are confined to an identity rooted in one or the other, unable to adapt as required and thusly suffering because of it. As such, like most things the average person cannot do, learn this and you gain a distinct edge.
The contrast of ego and humility is incredibly attractive, and together blurs into a kind of “humble confidence” that makes you difficult to read. The difference between the confident man and the arrogant one is the arrogant lacks the civility to express humility. Confident people can make very narcissistic remarks, but their sporadic demonstrations of humility dissuade people from shunning them as egotists. People make value judgements based on your level of overt egocentrism, and so by switching between overt narcissism and thoughtful humility, your inconsistent complexity fascinates them.
3.) Of Adaptability & Authenticity:
Learning people and adapting to them is fundamental to the practice of effective Machiavellianism. In the pursuit of finesse, almost everything you do will come down to getting better at understanding people from scarce information. As you learn more about them, you adapt to them, conducting yourself in a manner they’ll appreciate.
You do not talk to the egotistical in the way you do the reserved, nor the intelligent in the way you do the dim. By being able to correctly identify personalities and their attendant traits (eg: egocentrism for narcissists, scepticism for rationals and simplicity for dumb people) you learn to talk to people in the way that makes them most receptive.
The foolish and uncontrollably vainglorious are big on the idea of authenticity, that a person should always behave in the way most natural to them irrespective of all else. Strategically speaking, this advice is complete hogwash. It implies artifice is quintessentially negative, unnecessary and that simply “being yourself” is enough to succeed.
This is a lie that everybody wants to believe, that they are innately enough, and that they don’t need to behave in ways that don’t suit them in order to succeed. Be yourself only if you’ve given up on life, or are already a highly developed person and thus “being you” entails a capacity for finesse. Otherwise, whatever you do, do not be yourself, this is the worst advice anyone could give you.
For those of you interested in logic, “be yourself” is a social personification of the naturalistic fallacy, the assumption that the artificial is bad and the natural is good. This assumption is amusing, considering we spent thousands of years developing the unnatural indoors in order to escape the perfectly natural outdoors, however, I digress.
If “being yourself” means the self can adapt to a multitude of various personalities, I’m all for it, but if it means “behave in the way that comes easiest rather than the way that’ll improve your chances of winning” then I am not. Mark my words, authenticity is an indulgence of the accomplished narcissist trying to build rapport by sharing his struggles. This inspires people, quells jealousy and ultimately, makes money. It’s a good strategy – for him, but for you, it’s misinformation. There is authenticity in dedication, but beyond that, everything is political.
Those who tout the horn of authenticity are often some of the smoothest social chameleons you’ll ever meet; they had to be to get where they are. They are playing the game, they are exercising finesse, and in buying into the romance of their struggle and taking their advice on authenticity to heart, you severely cripple yourself.
One does not grow and build relationships with diverse people without trying on styles unnatural to them. People are told to be themselves even when their selves are insufficient, because supposedly artifice is so undesirable it’s better to be a natural loser than an artificial winner. Yes, you should accept yourself, but no, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use social finesse. Most who convincingly endorse authenticity do so from a position of power, power is rarely obtained, and is never sustained in the absence of finesse.
If you talk to everybody in the same way, your inability to tailor your attitude and speech stylistic will leave many doors closed. This is not so much “being fake” as it is “being dynamic”, a person able to converse with a multitude of people rather than a mere subset is vastly more effective than one who cannot.
Caveat: if you cannot convincingly tailor your demeanour to a person and the stakes are high, do not emulate them at all. Your inability to convincingly complement them will be seen as an affront, and rather than be respected for being alike, you will be disrespected for appearing false. In this instance, your go to strategy should be to employ passionate humility. Flexibility is only falsity when its unsuccessful, falsity is no more than the failure of finesse, an inadequate attempt at mimicry that results in ostracisation.
4.) Of Learning:
If you are not very good at something and want to get better at it, ego is your worst enemy. It will render you impervious to constructive criticism, robbing you the introspection necessary to fix your flaws. If you want to develop your knowledge or refine a methodology, take the position you are clueless and seek feedback from observers to discover what you did wrong.
The key reason people don’t alter failing strategies is because they’re prone to personifying them. If you become too ego invested in how you do something rather than see your actions as tools, you won’t want to change method as it’ll hurt too much to acknowledge your failure. When you see your actions as a means to an end rather than as a value judgement against yourself, you’re able to do what must be done. By being humble in learning you not only become adaptive, but you escape your worst critic – yourself.
In short, when you’re trying to improve, humility is the path to competence and ego will cause you to suffer. Do not trust your ego when you’re struggling to get something right, it’ll deceive you; be rigorous and ask yourself “is this logical?” followed by “is it true?”
5.) In Closing:
Always use the least amount of power necessary to convince or destroy, never excess. Excessive use of power is sloppy, indicative of one who knows not how to wield it. An overuse of power can result in unforeseen consequences detrimental to the wielder, hence law 47’s “in victory, know when to stop.”
As a final note, heed this: the stoic is a bore and the narcissist but a fool, the wise man knows what he must be, and is what he must be when he must be it.
– Fine tune your ego to complement the person you’re dealing with.
– Use stereotypes to form a baseline assumption of a person’s expectations, and if they disprove the assumption (eg: you thought they’d respect a humble person, but they only respect the egotistical) then switch.
– Passionate humility is more effective than supplication or arrogance when they have the upper hand. Supplication is transparently manipulative, arrogance is grating and insolent.
– You can go all in with ego, bluff, and try to reverse value perceptions in negotiation, but ultimately if they’re the one taking on the risk, you need them more than they need you.
– Authenticity is how the accomplished build rapport with the unaccomplished, it does not mean they don’t play the game. All successful people are playing the game.
– Humility and ego are not binary, passionate humility aka “nice narcissism” is the mid-point.
– Passionate humility defined: you’re obsessed with what you do and you talk it up, but you credit others and defend with passion rather than attack with vitriol.
– Ego is a tool to be used when beneficial and put away when it is not. If you want to attract a woman, be egotistical. If you wish to learn a thing, be humble.
– “Be yourself” is an empty nonsensical platitude, be what you must be to maximise your chances of success.
– Sporadic demonstrations of humility and grandiosity make you appealing and difficult to morally judge.
– And ultimately: don’t identify with either ego or humility, both are tools, use them.