Do you every wonder why it seems like some people just always seem to get it right? Pick any avenue, from bodybuilding to business, there always seem to be a few outliers who are ahead of the class and working on their Doctorate because they’re already so far ahead of everyone else that they’ve Mastered the game. They’ve figured out a way to escape the crabs in a barrel mentality that holds so many of us back, and as a result they became the figures that transcend the sport itself – the ones who will inspire the next generation. But what is it that they’ve figured out, or been able to attain, that we’re all seemingly missing?
The answer is power. I’m not talking about power in the physical sense – Ronnie Coleman 800lb squat two weeks out from the Olympia power. I’m talking about the power to understand the unwritten rules of the business of bodybuilding that allow them to turn themselves into valuable commodities who build brands and establish empires. They’ve figured out how to bottle those same ingredients that the Weider’s, Schwarzenegger’s, Haney’s, Coleman’s, and Cutler’s have managed to combine together while they literally have reshaped the landscape of the bodybuilding and business worlds.
In his bestselling book The 48 Laws of Power, author Robert Greene details the unwritten rules of power that have been used successfully by the most prominent kings, warlords, businesses, and people to achieve mastery over their world. The world of bodybuilding, just like the outside world, is a constant power struggle between those looking to establish their own, and those looking to keep what little they have. In order to achieve mastery of power in the muscle game it’s critical to learn some of the unwritten laws understood by few, and practiced by even fewer. By understanding these laws, and learning how to play the game, not only will you be able to attain the power you seek, but you’ll understand how to leverage you position so that you can maintain power while you watch others repeatedly try and fail to understand what you have mastered. Learn these laws, use them to gain advantage, and establish your position while you rise above those who are foolish enough to believe they know better.
Conceal Your Intentions
What do LeBron James, Jay Cutler, and Apple CEO Tim Cook all have in common with battlefield generals and poker players? Aside from being successful in both their professional and business ventures, they’re all notoriously closely guarded about the details of what their next move will be. The master poker player and the four star general both understand the value of secrecy and deception, and how to use them as a means of leverage to position themselves ahead of their competitors. By keeping your competition in the dark and concealing your actions you prevent them from forming their own plan of attack to derail your success.
The business of bodybuilding is full of people who may publicly wish you well, but privately they lament your success and want nothing more than to see you fall well short of goals while they toast to your failures. Most people can’t wait to share every details of their lives with complete strangers on social media. They naively believe that others are looking to affectionately share in their successes when in reality they’re looking to draft off of your accomplishments, until they can find a way to circumvent you entirely and swoop in to reap the spoils of all your effort and hard work.
Understanding how to publicly camouflage your actions while privately maneuvering yourself into pole position is the ultimate art of deception on the battlefield and in the board room. What seems like a sudden attack is really the culmination of a careful plan put into action that will prevent enemies and fake well-wishers from pulling you down like crabs in barrel as you rise to the top. The best place to hide something is always somewhere in plain sight. Learn to mask your true intentions by showing others what they need to see publicly, while privately you strategically plan your next move. By keeping your true intentions hidden behind a carefully constructed wall you’ll be able to subtly maneuver yourself into position to make a power move in plain sight those who would wish to oppose you are too distracted by the elaborate rouse you’ve set up to distract them from the obvious.
Guard Your Reputation At All Costs
In March 2010 Barry Bonds, baseball’s all-time homerun leader, was put on trial where he faced eleven felony charges including perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from a 2003 grand jury indictment where he testified that he had never knowingly taken any performance enhancing drugs. Despite all of the allegations, rumors, and other evidence mounted by the prosecution, the one thing they were never able to obtain was any physical evidence – including any failed drug tests – to support their case. In 2011 Bonds was ultimately convicted of obstruction of justice and sentenced to two years’ probation and thirty days of house arrest despite the fact that prosecutors could never prove that he actually used anything illegal, or lied about it under oath.
Although he may not have been found guilty of using, or lying about his use of PED’s – he had long been tried, found guilty, and sentenced in the court of public opinion. His reputation was irreparably damaged by years of rumors, allegations, and ugly public proceedings that will more than likely prevent Bonds, one of the greatest players in the history of baseball, from ever entering the hall-of-fame and having an eternal asterisk placed next to his tarnished legacy.
The bodybuilding world is a small place, and bad news has a way of traveling, spreading, and infecting the population at epidemic proportions before anyone has a chance to even realize what’s happening. Our reputation, for better or worse, precedes us wherever we go. That’s why protecting your good name and preserving your reputation is of the utmost importance. One misstep, one false word or ill advised decision by you, or someone associated with you, can blast a hole through your sail that will prevent you from ever reaching your final destination. Use caution when you speak, be careful who you associate with, and be on the lookout for those would readily assassinate your character and tarnish your reputation for their own personal gain.
Learn To Keep People Dependent On You
One of the most fatal mistakes anyone seeking to gain power, or leverage their position, can make is to allow themselves to become a disposable asset. In order to gain and sustain power once it’s been established it’s necessary to make yourself so valuable – or at the very least appear to be so – that you’re viewed as an asset that’s vital to the lifeline of success, and not merely a replaceable cog in a large machine. Establishing deep roots that allow you to grow and spread your influence throughout a number of different branches will place you in a position of power that will make separating you from your host nearly fatal, and it will ensure your long term security.
In September 2008 the United States Treasury Department stepped in to bail out insurance giant AIG when they issued a staggering $85 billion sum to keep the company from collapsing and essentially hurling a US economy that was already on life support over the fiscal cliff where it may have detonated an economic bomb that would’ve collapsed the global economy. After hearing news of the $85 billion bailout during a time when most people were struggling to find jobs or feed their families the immediate backlash was overwhelmingly negative – with most wondering why the government didn’t allow AIG to collapse and redistribute the money to millions of people in desperate need. But they couldn’t, because AIG’s global branches were too deeply rooted to allow them to wither and die.
AIG is effectively an insurance company – an insurance company that backs mortgages by thousands of smaller banks across the globe. If AIG were allowed to collapse it would’ve resulted in thousands of individual banks losing tens of millions of dollars across the globe – a situation that would’ve resulted in a global economic dark age. AIG dug their roots in and entrenched themselves so deep that they became an in dispensable asset, and regardless of whatever transgressions they made that may have led them to the brink of disaster, they made themselves too valuable to be disposed of. Finding a way to make yourself indispensable by extending the reach of your branches as far as possible will simultaneously act to entrench your roots deep enough to make losing you as an asset an impossibility.
Understand The Value Of Absence And Presence
You are your own greatest commodity, and once you’ve managed to establish power, your focus should shift to maximizing your value and maintaining the position you’ve gained. In order for you to attain power it’s essential for you to establish your presence and garner the attention of the public. In economics the market determines the value of an asset. No matter how desirable something might be, if it’s constantly available for consumption people will eventually get tired of it and lose interest. Conversely when an asset becomes scare not only does it become more desirable, but it also becomes more valuable as well. Understanding how to maximize your power and value as an asset means understanding when to make your presence felt and when to use your intentional absence to increase your value and make you more desirable.
Over the fifteen year span of his professional career Ronnie Coleman competed forty-four times, won seventeen contests including a record eight Mr. Olympia’s, and established himself as the greatest bodybuilder of all time. History will remember Ronnie as perhaps the most genetically gifted athlete of all-time, and the most dominant force to ever set foot on an Olympia – but people have short memories, and most forget that before winning his first Sandow trophy in 1998 that Ronnie Coleman was anything but dominant on a bodybuilding stage.
Up until 1998 Ronnie had competed twenty-eight times as a professional in a span of just seven years, and although he’d been relatively successful, he’d only heard his name announced as the winner twice on an IFBB stage prior to winning his first Olympia title. However, from 1999-2006, when he was at the peak of his powers, we only saw the great one take the stage a total of fifteen times – and only seven of those appearances took place away from the Olympia stage. That means that as he continued to win titles and increase his value as an asset while establishing his legacy that would go onto become a brand, his actual presence in the public and onstage decreased. With each passing year, as he grew closer to matching Haney’s record, the anticipation of what package he was going to bring to the stage sent the pre-Olympia hype machine into fifth gear. By the date of the show thousands of rabid fans packed the Orleans Arena, all hoping to catch a glimpse of Ronnie. Eager fans lined up by the hundreds, and waited in long lines for hours at a time, just to take a picture or get an autograph from the elusive king who only appeared once each year before his people.
Ronnie established his legacy on the bodybuilding stage, but it was his absence from the public eye that fueled the growth of his legend. By making himself available in a limited capacity to the public, it exponentially increased the value of his appearances. Ronnie’s reign came during the era just before the YouTube explosion, and that meant that the only glimpses or insight we had into the life of the greatest bodybuilder on the planet came when he decided to give them to us by the way of small magazine articles and poorly shot DVD’s. It didn’t matter how small the crumb was, the fact that ravenous fans so rarely got a taste of his greatness meant that they would immediately devour anything and everything related King Coleman. Ronnie understood perfectly how to leverage his power as an asset by limiting his exposure, and knowing when to withdraw and inject his presence onto the scene.
Once your power has been established it’s critical to not to water down your value with overexposure. People are incredibly fascinated by the unknown, but they’re also easily bored and quickly lose interest when something is readily available. In both love and business just the right amount of absence makes the heart grow fonder. Too much absence and you’ll be forgotten. Too much presence and you’ll be ignored. Learn how to walk the tight rope between absence and presence, and you keep the attention of your adoring public constantly seeking a taste of any small crumb that you’re willing to give them.
Power Favors The Fearless
“Fate favors the fearless.” – James Russell Lowell
In your quest to attain power you’re going to encounter violent opposition from all sides. Those above you will see coming and do everything within their capacity to prevent you from gaining ground and infringing on their status as superior. Those who are currently your equals will feel a tremendous sense of pressure from the weight of your desires pushing them away as you make your ascent. The pressure they feel will turn into envy of your ambition, which will then turn into hatred of your successes as you attain more powerful and elevate yourself above them. Those below you are already envious. They don’t look to you as an inspiration, they view you as an obstacle that stands between them and the status they desire. They’ll go to extraordinary lengths to drag you down as they use you and the foundation you’ve laid as stepping stones to climb over and above you – regardless of what the cost may be to you, or to them personally. These are people are the most dangerous, and will stop at nothing once they’ve set their sights on derailing your advancement.
In 336 BC Alexander the Great became the king of Macedonia at just twenty-one years old after his father, Phillip II, was assassinated. Alexander’s throne was immediately challenged by other Greek city-states looking to take over Macedonia, forcing a young and inexperienced Alexander to lead his troops into battle, crush his opposition, and secure his seat on the throne. During a march through Asia, Alexander and his army of 40,000 soldiers became aware that they were headed into an ambush by the Persian army which is rumored to have had as many as 500,000 troops. Instead of turning and retreating in the face of fear at what looked to be insurmountable odds, Alexander skillfully commanded his army with surgical precision as they dissected the exponentially larger Persian force on their way victory – an event that would lay the foundation for one of the greatest empires that the world has ever seen.
Despite being faced with what on the surface seemed impossible – and a situation that lesser men would have fled from – Alexander didn’t succumb to fear or the mounting pressures that surrounded him. Alexander’s thirst for power was unquenchable, and he wouldn’t allow fear, an army, or a continent stand between him and the aqusition of an empire that he believed to be rightfully his.
Fear is a master craftsmen of men. It has the ability to transform some into hardened pieces of steel that were forged in the fire of chaos, while it also has the ability to turn others into charred remnants in those very same fires. Do not run from fear in your quest to attain power. Instead embrace the fear, allow it to mold you into a hardened battle tested warrior that has withstood the flames and emerged from it reborn like the Phoenix. Learn to love fear and the resistance that accompanies it. The greater the fear, and the more resistance that accompanies it, the greater the reward that awaits on the other side of the battle.
Attaining power in the bodybuilding world requires more than just titles, trophies, and a legion of Twitter followers. Those things are nothing more than a superficial means of inflating the ego. They will rise and fall as quickly as the tide, but will never truly amount to anything substantial. Real power can only be attained by understanding the unwritten laws of the muscle game, and by using them to your advantage to advance beyond those who fail to understand the way that the game is played. Attaining real power requires you to be a skilled tactician that maneuvers themselves into in a position of leverage – a position that allows you to dictate your own future and be the author of your own legacy. Follow these laws. Attain your power. Establish your legacy.