LAW # 7 : GET OTHERS TO DO THE WORK FOR YOU, BUT ALWAYS TAKE THE CREDIT
the wisdom, knowledge, and legwork of other people to further your
own cause. Not only will such assistance save you valuable time and
energy, it will give you a godlike aura of efficiency and speed. In
the end your helpers will be forgotten and you will be remembered.
Never do yourself what others can do for you.
OBSERVANCE OF THE LAW
1883 a young Serbian scientist named Nikola Tesla was working for the
European division of the Continental Edison Company. He was a
brilliant inventor, and Charles Batchelor, a plant manager and a
personal friend of Thomas Edison, persuaded him he should seek his
fortune in America, giving him a letter of introduction to Edison
himself. So began a life of woe and tribulation that lasted until
THE TORTOISE, THE ELEPHANT AND THE
day the tortoise met the elephant, who trumpeted, “Out of my way,
you weakling—I might step on you!” The tortoise was not afraid
and stayed where he was, so the elephant stepped on him, but could
not crush him. “Do not boast, Mr. Elephant, I am as strong as you
are!” said the tortoise, but the elephant just laughed. So the
tortoise asked him to come to his hill the next morning. The next
day, before sunrise, the tortoise ran down the hill to the river,
where he met the hippopotamus, who was just on his way back into the
water after his nocturnal feeding. “Mr Hippo! Shall we have a
tug-of-war? I bet I’m as strong as you are!” said the tortoise.
The hippopotamus laughed at this ridiculous idea, but agreed. The
tortoise produced a long rope and told the hippo to hold it in his
mouth until the tortoise shouted “Hey!” Then the tortoise ran
back up the hill where he found the elephant, who was getting
impatient. He gave the elephant the other end of the rope and said,
“When I say ‘Hey!’ pull, and you’ll.see which of us is the
strongest. ”Then he ran halfway back down the hill, to a place
where he couldn’t be seen, and shouted, “Hey!” The elephant and
the hippopotamus pulled and pulled, but neither could budge the
other-they were of equal strength. They both agreed that the tortoise
was as strong as they were. Never do what others can do for you. The
tortoise let others do the work for him while he got the credit.
Tesla met Edison in New York, the famous inventor hired him on the
spot. Tesla worked eighteen-hour days, finding ways to improve the
primitive Edison dynamos. Finally he offered to redesign them
completely. To Edison this seemed a monumental task that could last
years without paying off, but he told Tesla, “There’s fifty
thousand dollars in it for you—if you can do it.” Tesla
labored day and night on the project and after only a year he
produced a greatly improved version of the dynamo, complete with
automatic controls. He went to Edison to break the good news and
receive his $50,000. Edison was pleased with the improvement, for
which he and his company would take credit, but when it came to the
issue of the money he told the young Serb, “Tesla, you don’t
understand our American humor!,” and offered a small raise instead.
obsession was to create an alternating-current system (AC) of
electricity. Edison believed in the direct-current system (DC), and
not only refused to support Tesla’s research but later did all he
could to sabotage him. Tesla turned to the great Pittsburgh magnate
George Westinghouse, who had started his own electricity company.
Westinghouse completely funded Tesla’s research and offered him a
generous royalty agreement on future profits. The AC system Tesla
developed is still the standard today—but after patents were filed
in his name, other scientists came forward to take credit for the
invention, claiming that they had laid the groundwork for him. His
name was lost in the shuffle, and the public came to associate the
invention with Westinghouse himself.
year later, Westinghouse was caught in a takeover bid from J.
Pierpont Morgan, who made him rescind the generous royalty contract
he had signed with Tesla. Westinghouse explained to the scientist
that his company would not survive if it had to pay him his full
royalties; he persuaded Tesla to accept a buyout of his patents for
$216,000—a large sum, no doubt, but far less than the $12 million
they were worth at the time. The financiers had divested Tesla of the
riches, the patents, and essentially the credit for the greatest
invention of his career.
name of Guglielmo Marconi is forever linked with the invention of
radio. But few know that in producing his invention—he broadcast a
signal across the English Channel in 1899—Marconi made use of a
patent Tesla had filed in 1897, and that his work depended on Tesla’s
research. Once again Tesla received no money and no credit. Tesla
invented an induction motor as well as the AC power system, and he is
the real “father of radio.” Yet none of these discoveries bear
his name. As an old man, he lived in poverty.
1917, during his later impoverished years, Tesla was told he was to
receive the Edison Medal of the American Institute of Electrical
Engineers. He turned the medal down. “You propose,” he said, “to
honor me with a medal which I could pin upon my coat and strut for a
vain hour before the members of your Institute. You would decorate my
body and continue to let starve, for failure to supply recognition,
my mind and its creative products, which have supplied the foundation
upon which the major portion of your Institute exists.”
harbor the illusion that science, dealing with facts as it does, is
beyond the petty rivalries that trouble the rest of the world. Nikola
Tesla was one of those. He believed science had nothing to do with
politics, and claimed not to care for fame and riches. As he grew
older, though, this ruined his scientific work. Not associated with
any particular discovery, he could attract no investors to his many
ideas. While he pondered great inventions for the future, others
stole the patents he had already developed and got the glory for
wanted to do everything on his own, but merely exhausted and
impoverished himself in the process.
was Tesla’s polar opposite. He wasn’t actually much of a
scientific thinker or inventor; he once said that he had no need to
be a mathematician because he could always hire one. That was
Edison’s main method. He was really a businessman and publicist,
spotting the trends and the opportunities that were out there, then
hiring the best in the field to do the work for him. If he had to he
would steal from his competitors. Yet his name is much better known
than Tesla’s, and is associated with more inventions.
be sure, if the hunter relies on the security of the carriage,
utilizes the legs of the six horses, and makes Wang Liang hold their
reins, then he will not tire himself and will find it easy to
overtake swift animals. Now supposing he discarded the advantage of
the carriage, gave up the useful legs of the horses and the skill of
Wang Liang, and alighted to run after the animals, then even though
his legs were as quick as Lou Chi’s, he would not be in time to
overtake the animals. In fact, if good horses and strong carriages
are taken into use, then mere bond-men and bondwomen will be good
enough to catch the animals.
CHINESE PHILOSOPHER, THIRD CENTURY B.C.
lesson is twofold: First, the credit for an invention or creation is
as important, if not more important, than the invention itself. You
must secure the credit for yourself and keep others from stealing it
away, or from piggy-backing on your hard work. To accomplish this you
must always be vigilant and ruthless, keeping your creation quiet
until you can be sure there are no vultures circling overhead.
Second, learn to take advantage of other people’s work to further
your own cause. Time is precious and life is short. If you try to do
it all on your own, you run yourself ragged, waste energy, and burn
yourself out. It is far better to conserve your forces, pounce on the
work others have done, and find a way to make it your own.
Everybody steals in commerce and industry.
I’ve stolen a
But I know how to steal.
KEYS TO POWER
world of power has the dynamics of the jungle: There are those who
live by hunting and killing, and there are also vast numbers of
creatures (hyenas, vultures) who live off the hunting of others.
These latter, less imaginative types are often incapable of doing the
work that is essential for the creation of power. They understand
early on, though, that if they wait long enough, they can always find
another animal to do the work for them. Do not be naive: At this very
moment, while you are slaving away on some project, there are
vultures circling above trying to figure out a way to survive and
even thrive off your creativity. It is useless to complain about
this, or to wear yourself ragged with bitterness, as Tesla did.
Better to protect yourself and join the game. Once you have
established a power base, become a vulture yourself, and save
yourself a lot of time and energy.
hen who had lost her sight, and was accustomed to scratching up the
earth in search of food, although blind, still continued to scratch
away most diligently. Of what use was it to the industrious fool?
Another sharp-sighted hen who spared her tender feet never moved from
her side, and enjoyed, without scratching, the fruit of the other’s
labor. For as often as the blind hen scratched up a barley-corn, her
watchful companion devoured it.
GOITCHOLD LESSING, 1729-1781
the two poles of this game, one can be illustrated by the example of
the explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa. Balboa had an obsession—the
discovery of El Dorado, a legendary city of vast riches.
in the sixteenth century, after countless hardships and brushes with
death, he found evidence of a great and wealthy empire to the south
of Mexico, in present-day Peru. By conquering this empire, the Incan,
and seizing its gold, he would make himself the next Cortés. The
problem was that even as he made this discovery, word of it spread
among hundreds of other conquistadors. He did not understand that
half the game was keeping it quiet, and carefully watching those
around him. A few years after he discovered the location of the Incan
empire, a soldier in his own army, Francisco Pizarro, helped to get
him beheaded for treason. Pizarro went on to take what Balboa had
spent so many years trying to find.
other pole is that of the artist Peter Paul Rubens, who, late in his
career, found himself deluged with requests for paintings. He created
a system: In his large studio he employed dozens of outstanding
painters, one specializing in robes, another in backgrounds, and so
on. He created a vast production line in which a large number of
canvases would be worked on at the same time. When an important
client visited the studio, Rubens would shoo his hired painters out
for the day. While the client watched from a balcony, Rubens would
work at an incredible pace, with unbelievable energy. The client
would leave in awe of this prodigious man, who could paint so many
masterpieces in so short a time.
is the essence of the Law: Learn to get others to do the work for you
while you take the credit, and you appear to be of godlike strength
and power. If you think it important to do all the work yourself, you
will never get far, and you will suffer the fate of the Balboas and
Teslas of the world. Find people with the skills and creativity you
lack. Either hire them, while putting your own name on top of theirs,
or find a way to take their work and make it your own. Their
creativity thus becomes yours, and you seem a genius to the world.
is another application of this law that does not require the
parasitic use of your contemporaries’ labor: Use the past, a vast
storehouse of knowledge and wisdom. Isaac Newton called this
“standing on the shoulders of giants.” He meant that in making
his discoveries he had built on the achievements of others. A great
part of his aura of genius, he knew, was attributable to his shrewd
ability to make the most of the insights of ancient, medieval, and
Renaissance scientists. Shakespeare borrowed plots,
characterizations, and even dialogue from Plutarch, among other
writers, for he knew that nobody surpassed Plutarch in the writing of
subtle psychology and witty quotes. How many later writers have in
their turn borrowed from—plagiarized—Shakespeare ?
all know how few of today’s politicians write their own speeches.
Their own words would not win them a single vote; their eloquence and
wit, whatever there is of it, they owe to a speech writer. Other
people do the work, they take the credit. The upside of this is that
it is a kind of power that is available to everyone. Learn to use the
knowledge of the past and you will look like a genius, even when you
are really just a clever borrower.
who have delved into human nature, ancient masters of strategy,
historians of human stupidity and folly, kings and queens who have
learned the hard way how to handle the burdens of power—their
knowledge is gathering dust, waiting for you to come and stand on
their shoulders. Their wit can be your wit, their skill can be your
skill, and they will never come around to tell people how unoriginal
you really are. You can slog through life, making endless mistakes,
wasting time and energy trying to do things from your own experience.
Or you can use the armies of the past. As Bismarck once said, “Fools
say that they learn by experience. I prefer to profit by others’
The Vulture. Of all the creatures in
the jungle, he has it the
hard work of others becomes his work;
failure to survive becomes his
nourishment. Keep an eye on
Vulture—while you are
hard at work, he is cir
above. Do not
fight him, join
There is much to be known, life is short, and life is not life
without knowledge. It is therefore an excellent device to acquire
knowledge from everybody. Thus, by the sweat of another’s brow, you
win the reputation of being an oracle. (Baltasar Gracián, 1601-1658)
are times when taking the credit for work that others have done is
not the wise course: If your power is not firmly enough established,
you will seem to be pushing people out of the limelight. To be a
brilliant ex ploiter of talent your position must be unshakeable, or
you will be accused of deception.
sure you know when letting other people share the credit serves your
purpose. It is especially important to not be greedy when you have a
master above you. President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to the
People’s Republic of China was originally his idea, but it might
never have come off but for the deft diplomacy of Henry Kissinger.
Nor would it have been as successful without Kissinger’s skills.
Still, when the time came to take credit, Kissinger adroitly let
Nixon take the lion’s share. Knowing that the truth would come out
later, he was careful not to jeopardize his standing in the short
term by hogging the limelight. Kissinger played the game expertly: He
took credit for the work of those below him while graciously giving
credit for his own labors to those above. That is the way to play the
It’s the birthday of Nikola Tesla (Никола Тесла), who was born in 1856 in Smiljan, Croatia. Tesla’s first technical job was at the Budapest Telephone Exchange, where he made several improvements to the equipment and rose to become chief electrician. His next job, in 1882, was for Continental Edison Co in France. Two years later, he was at the company’s Manhattan office, working to redesign and improve Thomas Edison’s DC generators and associated equipment. With financial backing, Tesla set up his own company, which developed a revolutionary AC induction motor and transformer. Those inventions and others, licensed by George Westinghouse, helped AC defeat DC in the so-called War of the Currents, which was all but over by the early 1890s. Tesla’s research interests shifted focus to the generation and uses of wireless electrical power. Thanks to the royalties he earned from his 300 patents, Tesla could finance extensive research projects at labs in Colorado and New York. Those high-voltage, high-frequency experiments did not result in profitable devices – at least not in Tesla’s lifetime. He died alone of coronary thrombosis on 7 January 1943 in room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel.