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Want Less, Gain More: The Power of Disdain

Ever wonder how some people seem to effortlessly navigate the complexities of life, achieving their goals and commanding respect? Maybe it’s that they’ve unlocked a secret rulebook. Well, there isn’t exactly a magic rulebook, but there is a collection of principles known as the 48 Laws of Power. Written by Robert Greene, these laws offer guidance on navigating social situations, gaining influence, and ultimately, achieving success.

Law 36, titled “Disdain Things You Cannot Have: Ignoring Them Is the Best Revenge,” might seem counterintuitive at first. After all, shouldn’t we chase our dreams and fight for what we want? This law, however, takes a different approach. It argues that sometimes, the most powerful move is to let go of desires that are out of reach and focus your energy elsewhere.

Main Point: There’s power in letting go. Obsessing over unattainable desires weakens you.

The Trap of Desire

Have you ever set your sights on something you just had to have, only to come up short? Maybe it was the coolest sneakers everyone wanted, or a spot on the varsity team with limited openings. It’s natural to want things, but when those desires turn into obsessions, they can become a real drag. Here’s why:

  • Tunnel Vision: When you fixate on something you can’t have, it blinds you to other opportunities. You miss out on exploring new options or even better things that might come along.
  • Energy Drain: Wanting something badly takes up a lot of mental space. It zaps your energy and focus, making it harder to excel in other areas of your life.
  • Frustration Frenzy: The more you dwell on what you can’t control, the more frustrated you’ll get. This negativity can bring you down and make you less likely to succeed in anything.

Think of desire like a fire. A small, controlled flame can provide warmth and light. But a raging inferno can consume everything in its path. Letting go of what you can’t have isn’t giving up, it’s about channeling your energy into things you can achieve. This, in turn, projects confidence and makes you a stronger, more powerful force.

The Art of Disdain

Imagine this: someone throws shade your way, maybe a nasty rumor or a backhanded compliment. It’s tempting to fire back, right? But hold on. Law 36 teaches a different tactic: disdain. Disdain basically means acting indifferent, like you’re above it all.

So, how does this give you power?

  • Confidence Boost: When you don’t react to negativity, it shows you’re not easily bothered. This projects confidence and makes you seem unfazed by petty attacks.
  • Disarms Your Opponent: Reacting to negativity fuels the fire. By feigning indifference, you take away the satisfaction your opponent craves. It’s like throwing a punch in the air – there’s no impact.
  • Focus on Yourself: Dwelling on negativity is a waste of time and energy. Disdain allows you to redirect that focus on things that matter – your goals, your passions, and the people who support you.

Think of disdain like a shield. It deflects negativity without getting you bogged down. It shows others you’re secure in yourself and don’t need to stoop to their level. Now, that’s real power.

Choosing Your Battles

So, when exactly should you put on your disdain shield? Law 36 isn’t about ignoring everything. Here’s how to choose your battles wisely:

  • Is it Worth It? Not every situation deserves your energy. Ask yourself if the issue truly matters in the long run. Is it worth getting stressed over, or can you let it slide?
  • Pick Your Fights: There will be times when standing your ground is important. If something truly violates your principles or threatens your well-being, then speak up!
  • Know When to Walk Away: Sometimes, the most powerful move is to walk away from negativity. If someone is constantly bringing you down, distance yourself from them.

Think of it like this: life throws a lot of curveballs. Disdain helps you decide which ones to swing at and which ones to let sail by. By strategically choosing your battles, you conserve your energy and focus on the things that truly matter. This selective approach makes you a more powerful player in the game of life.

The Power of Silence

Ever heard the saying “silence speaks volumes”? Well, Law 36 takes that concept and flips it on its head. Here, silence isn’t just about listening; it’s about using the absence of words as a powerful tool.

Imagine someone’s constantly trying to get a rise out of you with snide remarks or gossip. The natural instinct is to fire back. But according to Law 36, silence is the ultimate weapon. Why?

  • Disarms Troublemakers: People who thrive on negativity want a reaction. By staying silent, you take away the satisfaction they crave. It’s like playing chess and refusing to make a move – they’re left confused and frustrated.
  • Maintains Control: Reacting to negativity shows you’re bothered. Silence, on the other hand, projects control and composure. It shows you’re not easily rattled and have more important things on your mind.
  • Focus on What Matters: When you’re busy fuming over someone’s words, you lose focus on what truly matters – your goals and the people who support you. Silence allows you to keep your eyes on the prize.

Think of silence as a force field. It repels negativity and keeps you centered. It shows others you’re mature enough not to be baited into pointless arguments. Now that’s some serious power.

Case Studies: Masters of Disdain

History is filled with people who mastered the art of disdain. Here are two quick examples:

  • King Henry VIII: Remember him? The English king with six wives (and a not-so-great reputation). When the Pope refused to annul his first marriage, Henry simply ignored him. He created his own Church of England, proving that focusing on his own power was more important than getting the Pope’s approval.
  • Nelson Mandela: This iconic leader spent 27 years in prison fighting for racial equality in South Africa. While imprisoned, he refused to be broken by his captors. He maintained his dignity and used his silence to highlight their injustice. This unwavering stance ultimately helped him win freedom for himself and his people.

These are just a couple of examples. The key takeaway? Disdain, when used strategically, can be a powerful tool for anyone. It allows you to focus on your goals, avoid negativity, and project confidence. So, the next time you’re faced with something you can’t have or someone trying to bring you down, remember: sometimes, the most powerful move is to walk away and focus on what truly matters.


The 48 Laws of Power aren’t a guaranteed path to world domination. They’re more like battle strategies for the game of life. They teach you how to read people, navigate social situations, and ultimately, achieve your goals. Law 36, however, takes a more nuanced approach. It reminds us that sometimes, the most powerful move is to walk away. By letting go of desires we can’t control and ignoring negativity, we can conserve our energy, focus on what truly matters, and project an aura of confidence and control. So, the next time you’re faced with something you can’t have or someone trying to get a reaction, remember: disdain can be a secret weapon in your arsenal.

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