A chance encounter and the 48 Laws of Power

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!

5 Share – Friday 9 Feb 2018

1. Quote I’ve been pondering this week“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.” – John Lennon

2. A colleague at work shared this buzzfeed link. Take a look at the straw holder you never knew existed, along with the correct way to get Tic Tacs out of their box, genius!

3. What I’m reading: Food Rules by Michael Pollen – The New York Times bestseller containing lots of great reminders and principles to follow when it comes to food. Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does is one of them.

4. It’s nearly Valentines day, that day people send cards anonymously to the one they like. I’m not entirely sure anonymous achieves the desired result? Anyhow, do you know the real history of valentines day? It was pretty wild..in this write up of The Dark Origins Of Valentine’s Day it’s clear we’ve got it easier. So unless you like that sort of thing, thank the card shops and present makers you don’t have to go through what the Romans did.

5. Slippers…No longer the footwear reserved for pensioners or the untrendy. We’ve only got carpets upstairs in Purvis mansions, so it’s essential to have good slippers throughout the winter. Finding Giesswein slippers has been amazing. Now I’ve got a pair I’ll never go back. Forget all those adverts for Mahabis on facebook… Giesswein are the perfect, No.1 slipper out there, they do footwear for both men and women. You’ll thank me once you try them.

Find adventure, find meaning

“What is the meaning of life? That was all- a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.”― Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

One morning, I found myself at the bottom of a small mountain. In front of me, pointing upwards was a sign that read ‘temple’ in Thai and English. I was in a remote part of Thailand, close to the Malaysian border. What had taken me to that spot I don’t remember, what I do remember is seeing monks making there way up the steep path in front of me. I followed them, wondering if they’d turn and ask me to stop, they didn’t.

We all have triggers in our lives, ones that change our course. People, experiences, books, thoughts. I’ve had my share and I bet you have too. This mountain and temple was one of my more pertinent, a small miracle that in retrospect was larger than I’d realised.

It took a while to get to the top, the monk athletes in front of me were clearly in better shape. When I eventually got there, gasping for air and sweating like a backpacker who’d been drinking the night before…oh wait, hang on… it was breathtaking, imagine a remote Buddhist temple at the top of a small mountain in Thailand and chances are you’re picturing what I saw for real.

I stayed up there for most of the day, and although the monks didn’t talk to me, they smiled often, offering me bowls of tea and water, not once ushering me to leave.

I remember sitting with my legs crossed by a stone buddha, reading Marcus Aurelius’ meditations. I remember because after a while my legs began to ache and my back hurt. So I stood up to stretch and admire the lush Thai countryside, feeling truly alive for what I think was the first time. So many things came flooding into my mind. What had I been doing all my life? Why did I exist? How did I exist? It was in that moment I realised my education wasn’t about getting a job and making money, it was an opportunity for moral and intellectual growth, I’d got it all wrong. Society, my family, the people I had been learning and working with, we’d all got it wrong.

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows” – Sydney Harris

In that moment I realised I needed to find out how I could lead a meaningful life. Clarity had appeared like a beam of sunlight across my face, it felt warm and nice. Tension lifted, I was beginning to smile like I’d never smiled before, perhaps I was enlightened? Maybe my hangover had subsided? Either way, I was on a new path.

Not long after that, I found myself in Kuala Lumpur, on an adventure with a new found friend. Someone who introduced me to the notion of recreating myself and understanding a number of laws that others would use for and against me, I’ll tell that story next time.

5 share Friday – 2 February 2018

5 Share Friday, where you get 5 life upgrades / hacks for free, tested by myself, where I only share the best.

1. Quote I’ve been pondering this week “The point is not to pay back kindness but to pass it on”Julia Alvrarez

2. Every year, I watch Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford University. I watch it multiple times a year as it’s so powerful, inspiring and true and I made time for it again this week. If you’ve never watched it or haven’t seen it in a while, why not check it out? Just click on the picture below. Stay hungry, stay foolish.

3. I’ve been using my new carry on bag for travelling and it’s changed my life. If you’re after a practical carry on the Osprey Farpoint 40 is the best one I’ve ever owned. It turns into a rucksack or carrys like a bag. It’s lightweight and means no more waiting for bags at the other end (approved for cabin carry on), it’s a no brainer.

4. What I’m listening to: 10% Happier podcast. This week the guest was Tim Ferriss and it was awesome. Dan has a book that was my inspiration for trying meditation, I’ve not looked back since and it’s something I do every day.

5. This week I stayed in a hotel at Heathrow airport for a few nights (for Unity meetings). So I packed my trusty earplugs in case of aircraft and road noise. I don’t stay anywhere without these babies as they don’t fall out or feel like you have earplugs in your ears, yet they block almost all noise. It turns out the hotel had great soundproofing from the outside, just not the inside, where my neighbour liked to wake up to loud television at 5:30am, these plugs helped me dream of my future Land Rover and all the fun I’m going to have.