A while ago I found myself on an adventure in Kuala Lumpur with no where to stay. By that time my well worn ruck sack was lighter than ever as I’d been giving away items I no longer needed. This included my sleeping bag, it had been hot that summer so I didn’t want to carry anything I wasn’t using. KL is a big city and with no more jungles or beaches I really wanted a bed.
I wandered the streets looking for a hostel that looked interesting and most of all had clean bedding I could sink into. I found a place completely covered in plants (almost), there was green foliage all the way to the roof top. At the entrance were people playing chess, reading, chatting and drinking wine straight from bottles, my kind of place.
I walked past the chess drinkathon and made my way upstairs to what I figured must be reception (a lot of people around a small lady who was shouting ‘no room, no room!’)
As I approached the group a girl turned around and smiled at me ‘no spare beds’. She had a strange American accent, not one I’d heard before.
‘American?’ I asked.
‘Ha! Me? No I’m Swedish, I think I picked up my accent from too many Friends marathons’
It turned out she had no where to stay either. ‘Let’s go search together, they prefer couples over singles here, so you can be my boyfriend’
That was the start of what became one of my most memorable and life changing months in Asia.
Cathrine was on a break from law school, we spent time together in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, where among other things she taught me to think more purposefully (something I hadn’t mastered at the time), as well as how to better recognise a person who wasn’t being genuine (a skill we can never stop learning). I was an engineer and was able to return the favour by teaching her how to repair anything (like the rusty bikes we’d purchased from a random street seller).
Looking back, I was still fairly immature before that time, my new travel buddy definitely had a hand in turning my child mind into an adult mind.
She introduced me to the 48 Laws of Power, an incredible book by Richard Greene. I had never seen anything like it, every page full of history and examples of how others achieved results. Mastering the 48 laws was something that became a fascination for me. Apparently after its release, it was common for law students on the west coast of America to treat it as some kind kind of bible. I didn’t want to be a lawyer but I was keen to learn from history, so it didn’t take me long to realise this book was going to help me figure out how to have a greater impact across my life.
From exposing men posing as people without homes (we caught 2 men at separate times getting into fancy sports cars a few streets away from their begging plot – there were rewards from the police at the time), riding bikes through the lush inner city parks, to helping guide new back packers to the best hostels, we had a blast. By the time we parted in Singapore, her back to San Francisco, me staying for longer to continue reading and exploring, I had been upgraded with a more open mind and a new found thirst for learning.
It was at least 5 years later and the consistent messaging from a friend at EA (who disliked the immoral aspects of the book) before I realised that with great power comes great responsibility. Some of the 48 laws are morally questionable, if not downright manipulative. This is what Cathrine had been teaching me. During our reading of the laws, Cathrine helped me understand that people I meet throughout my life will be using them for or against me, either consciously or unconsciously. Learning and being aware would help me see those trying to hurt me before they could. Seeing those trying to manipulate and take advantage of my kindness (and at times naivety) before it impacted me created huge change in my life, one that I think will last forever, helping me succeed where I’d previously failed.
I could of course use the laws for my own advantage and I did, not something I’m proud of (they work as long as you master them). I do still use my concise copy as a constant reminder, helping me judge a situation, though nowadays I’m simply my true authentic self with everyone. I’ve found it’s the most satisfying and rewarding way to live my life.
End note: A summary of the 48 laws can be found here, it’s worth a read if you’re not familiar: https://www.tke.org/files/file/The_48_Laws_of_Power.pdf
I must have left my mark on Singapore, they named a street after me!