More Power To You

It was quite a relief that the world didn’t end on December 21. Firstly I wasn’t prepared.  All I had in the house was a 24 pack of bottled Ozarka, a couple of cans of evaporated milk and a few boxes of cereal.  I had remembered to buy batteries for the flashlight but hadn’t remembered to get down and dirty like many of the preppers I had seen on the History channel. Secondly, we were supposed to drive to Colorado the next day so the whole world ending thing would not have worked for us.  Thirdly, I had promised my beautiful panda dog Lanie that we would be back soon.

Now that I have provided you with context, I will continue to the main reason for this post.  While I was freezing every body part on the mountains of Colorado, I was reflecting between the clacking of my teeth and the vibration in my bones.  I thought of the way 2012 ended amidst the violence in Newtown, the assault in Delhi and came to the conclusion that perhaps 2013 should be about how we relate to each other and how we reclaim power back in our lives.

Too often power is equated with aggression and force.  Equated with money and position.  Equated with who has more leverage. But real power is not about any of the above.  Bringing power back to our lives is quite simple.  It happens when you stop allowing yourself to become a puppet to anyone’s agenda.  True power hinges on four principles.

1. Belief.  This is the vessel that grounds you and holds you in good stead when the world turns against you.  Think of belief as the foundation.

Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.  — Tony Robbins

2. Voice. Never lend your voice to a cause that you are not committed to fully.  Your voice is your fingerprint.  Nobody else has the exact experiences and convictions that you have assimilated. Your voice can be expressed in your art, in your vocation, in your communication, in your passion. Power is carried to the world through your voice. Think of voice as the windows and doors in your house.

It is a paradox that every dictator has climbed to power on the ladder of free speech. Immediately on attaining power each dictator has suppressed all free speech except his own.
—Herbert Hoover

3. Empathy. Just like the plug needs to be connected into the socket for anything to work, the strength of your connection will determine if you are learning and evolving or just simply counting the days till death do you part.  Being able to listen, relate and understand develops empathy. Think of empathy as the wiring of your house.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
—Leo Buscaglia

The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy. —Meryl Streep

4. Courage. Taken from the root word “coeur”, power is recharged by the pure courage that can only reside in the heart. Think of courage as the fuel that heats the entire house.

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power. –Alan Cohen

Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power. —Lao Tzu

So when in doubt about what kind of power is at play, ask of it this simple question.

Do you mean to suppress, repress, depress? Or do you mean to elevate, bolster, uplift?

Chess. Picture courtesy
Picture courtesy

On power and corrosion

Let’s just be candid here. Most of us are engaged in power plays. At home, at work, on the playground, where ever, what ever. As old as the holy book, as long as man has existed, the battle has not been about money. It has been about power. Who has it, who will lose it…

Like Abe Lincoln said “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”.

As children we quickly learn that being popular has certain pre requisites. It is a parallel universe where what you learn outside the classroom is more interesting than within. Of course, you are now part of the in crowd and the internal struggle begins to retain the crown. From attire, to accessories, to your girlfriends and boyfriends, choices are made. Here is your first test. Power or naught.

As we grow, we watch our parents, observe other role models, peers, government/business leaders and as we are socialized, we will start responding to our issues with power. At home, power struggles between partners will either result in an outright victory, an acceptable compromise or an uneasy truce. Aggressive or passive aggressive, the power principle is addictive.

I remember my days as an intern at an advertising agency. I was out of college where we loved playing the rebel without a cause and jumped straight into the jaws of the mad ad world. It was tough to go from “Me World” to the lowest rung on the ladder. Running errands for the account executives, waiting for lofty creative directors, listening to whiny clients and pandering to the art director’s tantrums sucked the energy right out. So you promise yourself that you will climb that ladder and regain what you lost. Enter Ambition. Now Ambition commonly can take three routes to the top.

Elevator  You just can’t wait to get to the top. You had a headstart. Your family pulled some strings. You were born devastatingly beautiful. You live in the penthouse. You crawled into the elevator and went straight up.

Escalator You had a game plan. You studied the surroundings and figured how you could reach the top with as little effort as possible. You did learn some along the way but you worked on being singled out and started a rapid ascent.

 Stairs You have no problems with hard work. You started as an intern or as someone’s assistant and rose to the top. You know more about the company than anyone else. You, my friend are patient and the most determined. You understand how the farmer tills the land, plants the seed, waters, protects, sprays for pests and reaps the harvest.

Ambition has helped you gain power. Now Power is a double edged sword. As we all know, if not wielded well, it burns the house down. Like the Ring that Frodo bears which corrupts him even as he limps to the Mount of Doom trying to evade the Eye of Mordor. Gandalf didn’t want it, Boromir dies for it and Gollum erodes from man to slimy beast.

So if you are caught in a power play at work or anywhere else, distance yourself. Power only feeds on willing victims.

As Jung aptly puts it

“Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking.

The one is the shadow of the other.”


Picture courtesy