Most super-successful TV shows appear to have a well-loved character whose primary assets are intelligence, strategic thinking and usually sarcastic wit. James “Ghost” St. Patrick is the latest in a long line of characters who embody the above qualities:
- Game of Throne – Tyrion Lannister / Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish
- House of Cards – Frank Underwood
- Sherlock / Elementary – Sherlock Holmes
- House – Dr. Gregory House
- Suits – Harvey Specter
- Limitless – Eddie Morra/Brian Finch
As he holds a similar skillset, Ghost naturally follows a similar thought process and patterns to his fictional counterparts. He particularly has a lot in common with Frank Underwood and Harvey Specter, largely due to their use of posturing, bluffing and domination. To save repeating myself, I’d suggest reading the articles I’ve written about the 2 to get a good grounding in the techniques they use.
This article will try to focus on the rules that Ghost follows, which align wonderfully with the The 48 Laws of Power.
If there was ever a manual on thinking like James St. Patrick, The 48 Laws of Power is it. I recommend the book in almost all my articles as it was the book that truly had an impact on my own thought processes. I’ll try to highlight the most obvious laws that Ghost follows.
Law 1: Never Outshine the Master
Before becoming Lobos’s sole New York distributor and while working under Kanan, Ghost stayed in the background, observing and learning what he could. In fact, it’s this ability to appear and disappear without anyone noticing that earned him the nickname Ghost. He concealed his intentions (Law 3) from everyone, even from his best friend, keeping his ambitions to himself, until the time came to usurp his mentor’s position.
He waited until Kanan was exposed (driving armed with drugs in the car) to weaken him and remove him from the equation. Ghost unscrewed Kansan’s brake light and called in an anonymous tip on the car. Kanan was pulled over by the police and the gun and drugs were discovered.
Once Kanan was behind bars, Ghost swooped in and took over with Tommy as his right-hand man.
Law 5: So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it with your Life
Being a drug-dealer, Ghost recognises the need to be feared and respected. Much of how he operates is to create an aura of mystery and fear; people always fear what they don’t know.
He uses multiple approaches to achieve this, generally only appearing personally when absolutely necessary. This helps to maintain the mystery around him as few people have ever met the elusive Ghost.
Creating distance also gives him more protection from the law as it makes it harder to connect him to crimes. Though unlike what Law 26 advises, Ghost isn’t scared to get his hands dirty when he needs to, but when he does get involved, he operates with ruthlessness and precision.
His effectiveness at what he does further reinforces his status and the fear that his position inspires.
Law 14: Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy
Double-crossings seem to happen every other episode in Power and it’s hard to keep up, but they’re so common because it’s effective. Us, the viewers, can sometimes figure out who isn’t genuine and are surprised at how gullible and trusting the characters can be. However, that’s because we’re watching a TV show and are expecting drama. In every day life, we rarely get betrayed, which is why it hurts so much when it happens. We don’t expect betrayal and we do our utmost to avoid it so in our own lives, we’d be hard pushed to spot these betrayals before they happen.
In Season 1, Kanan uses Ghost’s trust to manipulate Ghost into weakening his own position by killing Rolla, a good friend and loyal supporter. Kanan is actively working against Ghost and Tommy, but posing as a friend to both avoid suspicion and influence their actions to his benefit.
Both Angela and Ghost use their relationship to try and further they goals, each never trusting the other and manipulating but always pretending to be lovers. In Season 2, Shawn pretends to be loyal to Ghost, but is in fact following Kanan’s directions, feeding him information about Ghost’s activities.
Dre is then used by Ghost as a “double-agent” against Kanan; it turns out the drug-dealing world is one big backstabbing party.
Crossing over briefly to another TV show, Game of Thrones, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish share a great technique for identifying those who might betray you:
Sometimes when I try to understand a person’s motives, I play a little game. I assume the worst. What’s the worst reason they could possibly have for saying what they say and doing what they do. Then I ask myself: how well does that reason explain what they say and what they do?
In order to be prepared for betrayal, which fails him in the end, he always assumes that everyone is plotting against him:
Fight every battle everywhere, always in your mind. Everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend. Every possible series of events is happening all at once. Live that way and nothing will surprise you. Everything that happens will be something that you’ve seen before.
Law 29: Plan All the Way to the End
What appears to mark Ghost as different to all his rivals, is his preference for long-term planning. Ghost himself says
See, short-term thinking creates short-term results.
When Ghosts wants a particular result, he will gather all the information he can find and create a mental “map” of the environment and the key players in it.
He anticipates how each will react to certain events and uses that to enact his plan. He then formulates the next stage and the one after that) based on those reactions. By simply following their normal behavioural patterns, his targets trap themselves in his schemes. He is always calm and carries out his plans with cold ruthlessness.
As mentioned before, a good chunk of The 48 Laws of Power appear to be inspiring Ghost, in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he had a copy lying around. I’d highly recommend reading it yourself, you’ll quickly find yourself spotting the strategies highlighted in the book used by every super intelligent character in your favourite shows and films.