Practical Philosophy

Never outshine the master

“When the party began, Fouquet was at the top of the world. By the time it had ended, he was at the bottom.”

Voltaire, 1694-1778

In The 48 Laws of Power, author Robert Greene teaches us an important lesson from history: Be careful never to outshine the master. Or, for that matter, anybody.

The Story

When Nicholas Fouquet, France’s Finance Minister, threw the best party France had ever seen, King Louis XIV seethed with jealousy. The day after the party, King Louix XIV imprisoned Fouquet on false charges, executed him, and then replaced him with a new (much more boring) minister.

The Lesson

Fouquet outshined the master. He did not realise that by shining so bright, he was making the king appear dull and was becoming a threat.

He did not realise that even a King had deep insecurities about being seen as the brightest, smartest, and most socially connected person in France.

Whether in a workplace or personal setting, it’s important to remember to not make other people look inadequate. Remember, people are driven by their emotions.

Instead, Robert Greene says it is wise to downplay your successes. “Oh, it wasn’t all that easy.” Control what you say.

Give credit to other people. Thank them for their advice and continued support. Be humble.

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