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If you are new to this series, please read the introduction.


Avoid Stepping into a Great Man’s Shoes

What happens first always appears better and more original than what comes after. If you succeed a great man or have a famous parent, you will have to accomplish double their achievements to outshine them. Do not get lost in their shadow, or stuck in a past not of your own making: Establish your own name and identity by changing course. Slay the overbearing father, disparage his legacy, and gain power by shining in your own way.

In many ancient kingdoms, for example Bengal and Sumatra, after the king had ruled for several years, his subjects would execute him. This was done partly as a ritual of renewal, but it also prevented any king from becoming too powerful. He was then woshipped as a god, for he could no longer allow honors to get to his head. Meanwhile, the field had been cleared for a new and youthful order.

Many would have shone like the very phoenix in their occupation, if others had not preceeded them. Being first is a great advantage; with eminence twice as good. Deal the first hand and you will win the upper ground.
Those, who go first, win fame and right of birth, and those, who follow, are like second sons, contenting themselves with meager portions.
Solomon opted wisely for pacifism, yielding warlike things to his father. By changing course, he found it easier to become a hero.
And our great Phillip ll governed the entire world from his throne of prudence, astonishing the ages. If his unconquered father was a model of energy, Phillip was a paradigm of prudence.
This sort of novelty has helped the well-advised win a place in the roll of the great.

The ambivalent, hostile attitude towards the king or father figure also finds expression in legends of heroes, who do not know their father. Moses, the archetypal man of power, was found abandoned and never knew his parents; without a father to compete with him, he could attain the heights of power. Later in his life, Alexander the Great spread the story that the god Jupiter Ammon had sired him, not Philli^p of Macedon. Legends and rituals like these eliminate the human father because he symbolizes the destructive power of the past.

The past prevents the young hero from creating his own world - he must do as his father did, even after the father is dead and powerless. The hero must bow and scrape before his predecessor and yield to tradition.

Power depends on the ability to fill a void, to occupy a field, which has been cleared of the dead weight of the past. Only after the father-figure has been properly eliminated will one have the necessary space to create and establish a new order. You can adopt several strategies to accomplish this.

Perhaps the easiest way to escape the shadow of the past is simply to belittle it, playing on the timeless antagonism between the generations, inciting the young aginst the old. For this, you need a convenient older figure to pillory.

The distance you establish from your predecessor often demands some symbolism, a manner of advertising itself publicly. Louis XlV, for example, created such symbolism, when he rejected the traditional palace of the French kings and had his own palace of Versailles. Follow his example: never allow yourself to be seen as following your predecessor's path. If you do, you will never surpass him. You must physically demonstrate your difference by establishing a style and symbolism of your own.

Imagine the Father. He casts a giant shadow over his children, keeping them in thrall long after he is gone by tying them to the past, squashing their youthful spirit, and forcing them down the same tired path he followed. His tricks are many. At every crossroad, you must slay the father and step out of his shadow.

There is a stubborn stupidity, which recurs throughout history, and is a strong impediment to power: the superstitious beleif that if the person before you succeeded by doing A, B, and C, you can recreate their success by doing exactly the same things. This cookie cutter approach will seduce the uncreative, for it is easy and it appeals to their timidity and laziness. But, circumstances never repeat exactly. You must adopt a ruthless strategy toward the past - burn all the books of your predecessors and train yourself to react to circumstances, as they happen.

Plentitude and prosperity tend to make us lazy and inactive: when our power is secure, we have no need to act. This is a serious danger. Always be psychologically prepared to return to the beginning, rather than grow fat and lazy with prosperity. Do not allow early triumphs turn you into a caricature of yourself. Powerful people recognize these traps; they struggle constantly to recreate themselves. The father must not be allowed to return; he must be slain at evry step of the way.

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