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Learning Memory & Learning

Focused and Diffused Thinking

by Barbra Oakley -

by Dr.Barbara Oakley –

When we’re learning and thinking, there are 2 modes available to us; focused and diffused.

We’re more familiar with focused thinking, it’s what is drilled into us at school and what seems to be valued in the workforce. Focused thinking is when the brain actively zeros in on trying to come up with a solution to a problem or an idea. It’s resource intensive, tiring and eventually stressful.

Focused thinking tends to fall into the same mental paths and patterns that you always use, so using focused thinking to learn about new concepts or find solutions to problems you’ve never encountered before is not very effective.

This is where diffused thinking comes into play.

Diffused thinking is where your brain is in a more relaxed state, often your pre frontal cortex is occupied, such as when we’re running or exercising. The rest of your brain is then free to think openly, unrestricted by your existing thought patterns. This is why so many great ideas tend to occur while you’re in the shower or cleaning the house, you’re not focusing on trying to solve a problem, but your brain is working away in the background to pull all of your knowledge and experiences together for you.

We dream using diffused mode thinking and waking during dreams or day dreams can help you pull the ideas from diffused thinking into focused thinking.

Focused thinking is important and you need deliberate thought and practice to solve most problems, however there come a point where you need to let your brain relax and approach the solution from a different angle.

Unfortunately, you can’t use both simultaneously, but you want to be able to switch between the two. Stopping work for 10 minutes while you read a funny story or play a game online can give your brain enough respite to switch into diffused mode and start churning away.

To learn more about focused and diffuse thinking, check out Barbara Oakley incredible book – Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) and course on Learning How to Learn.

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Logic & Reasoning Smart Thinking

Think Clearly With Logic

Unless you’re a mathematician or a programmer, you’ll most likely hear the term logic used to describe something sensible.

We usually refer to being logical as taking emotion out of the picture and looking at something objectively – this is partially right, but there’s a lot more to logic than that.

Logic is the formal study of what follows what. They form the principles of correct reasoning.

Our use of logic will be to ascertain the cause of a result or what result might follow from certain events.

It’s important to note that logic doesn’t deal with the content of an argument or situation, only the form and process by which you analyse it.

The facts of your argument can be incorrect, but still provide a logical outcome.

We are emotional creatures and following a logical process requires separating ourselves from the experiences and emotions that have formed our understanding and belief.

This is not an easy thing to do and it takes time and effort to think logically. This is why we don’t often use logic unless we’re incredibly emotionally invested in proving the validity or invalidity of argument.

In this way, we most often employ logic when we’re trying to be persuasive and encouraging others to let go of their emotionally fuelled opinions in favour of our  more sensible option.

Logical reasoning is the process of using arguments, premises, statements and axioms to define the truth or falsity of a statement.

Reasoning can be formal or informal.

Formal reasoning deals with the form of the argument, it’s irrelevant if the premises are true are not, so long as the proper form is followed

For example:

  1. All whales are big.
  2. All big things are slow.

Therefore all whales are slow.

The truth of the first 2 statements is irrelevant. If you assume they are true, then the last statement must be true. The proper form as been observed.

Informal reasoning is concerned not with the form of reasoning, but with content of it. Informal reasoning deals with the probability that the premises and conclusions are true. Every-day reasoning is informal.

Logic provides a great foundation for clear and focused thinking.

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Behaviour and Psychology Leadership and Power

The 8 Sources of Power

(Originally Published: 07/08/2015, Updated: 29/10/2016)

Power is the outward expression of inward strength and confidence in a situation.

Power comes from many places, what I like to call the 8 Sources of Power:

Power of position comes from a position you hold. Positions of power can be either appointed, elected or created by oneself.

An appointed position generally means that others are contractually or procedurally obliged to carry out your instructions and follow your lead. The easiest example for this would be a CEO or other manager. While these positions tend to be earned through a combination of the other 7 sources, there are many individuals in positions of power who lack the qualities that would normally earn them such a place. This undermines power as many people will only show deference to the position, not the person holding it. True power would be demonstrated by the former manager or leader who still holds influence without wielding any official authority.

Elected positions have a sturdier power base and aren’t as vulnerable to lack of deservedness. It’s difficult for people to argue when they were the ones that gave you the position. Being elected means you were chosen to have authority, whether that’s the leader of a country, company board or a committee. Regardless of politics and other structures, if you were elected into power, it’s usually because you deserved it.

Lastly, power can come from a position you have created yourself. Identifying a niche within your company or department and owning that discipline or skill e.g. a deep knowledge of the companies policies, an understanding of company politics or even being the best with Microsoft Excel. If you create a demand for a skill you have, you have slightly more influence than before.

Power of personality comes from your strength of character, often labelled as charisma. Your personality draws people to you and the way you conduct yourself inspires.

Charisma is a difficult quality to define, similarly to how it’s hard to emulate being cool. There are things that charismatic people have in common however.

The first is that they often radiate joy and excitement. They are passionate about what they believe in and it triggers strong emotions in the people around them. There passion is rooted in a sense of confidence – they understand their world and their place in it. Charismatic people know their strengths are confident in their abilities and they inspire other to have that same confidence in themselves.

This passion and confidence becomes something altogether different – conviction. They have strong beliefs and they are consistent in their actions and are commitment to their cause. This commitment is felt by others who yearn to follow.

A key part of charisma, is the ability to tell a storyteller. They can get to the emotional core of almost any subject and make it deeply relate to their audience and the actions they want to inspire. This is made up by their tone of voice, their rhythm and the way they make eye contact.

Lastly, they can connect with you on an emotional level. A charismatic person can be in a room of hundreds, but when they address an individual, they make them feel special, valued and interesting. Someone giving us this level of personal attention can be addicting in a world of me, me, me.

More than anything the power of personality is the holy grail for politicians – if people like and respect you, you can inspire loyalty and lead a group of people in a direction of your choosing.

Power of ideas is evident in silicone valley and in creative agencies. Your creativity can inspire solutions to problems that baffle others. Coming up with ideas is actually a pretty straightforward process and we all have the ability to generate some pretty cracking ones. In this scenario, lateral thinking is key.

The term lateral thinking was introduced by Edward De Bono in 1967 and refers to taking an indirect approach to solving problems by side-stepping standard logic. When job descriptions say that the ideal candidate can “think outside the box”, it’s lateral thinking ability there referring to.

Solutions produced by lateral thinking tend to seem fairly obvious in hindsight, but aren’t visible when thinking about the problem. Because of the nature approach, lateral thinking tends to highlight other problems which might be unnoticed otherwise.

To think laterally, you’ll have to look at the problem from a different viewpoint. It’s all too easy to think rigidly when your inside a situation and ignore patterns and evidence which would lead to a certain cause or solution.

Einstein summarised this very well when he said “problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework within which the problems were created.” You have to go outside to do so. The massively overused term, thinking outside the box applies well to lateral thinking.

However, it doesn’t stop there. Ideas without action are useless things and for your ideas to have value, you have to be very skilled at implementing them. No matter your arena, if you can come up with creative solutions to problems and then carry them out you’ll have your colleagues and often your superiors coming to you to help make things happen.

Power of intellect is the expression of your analytical ability and your capacity to grasp facts and put them in order. Analysis is simply being able to take a look at a situation or set of facts and using common sense, logic and your existing knowledge, come up with a detailed explanation of the situation – usually with suggestions on how to improve.

This is luckily something which can be learned. You can become a skilled analyst by learning about logic and the processes logicians follow to come to conclusions. But if you really want to take it to the next level and stand out, you’ll want to learn a variety of models, which serve the dual purpose of helping you to organise and process the information, but present it in a recognisable and easy to follow format. Using such models also inspire trust in your results and your methods.

Combined with the power of ideas, you could carve yourself out a niche as consigliere.

Power to communicate is your ability to get across an idea or message in a way that resonates with people, both individually and in groups. The ability to communicate well is a precursor to being able to influence and persuade. This skill ties in very much with charisma and the power of personality, but they’re not always linked.

Imagine you have 2 politicians, one who is charismatic and likeable, but not great at sharing his beliefs, policies and messages. The second politician, while not as charismatic or instantly likeable, is a great communicator and is able to share his message with millions of people in a way that they can understand. This person stands a much better chance at being elected.

Communication in this way relies very much on knowing your audience, knowing what is important to them and knowing exactly how they like to communicate. There’s no use sending an email to a person that prefers face to face interaction or calling someone who’d just prefer you sent an email. This understanding of people can come from a knowledge of a person’s history, body language and personality – all of which can be learned.

Power to invest either money or resources is another form of actual power. It’s also a very visible form of power something that can be measured in numbers i.e. the Forbes rich list. In the context we’re likely to be looking at, it deals with the ability to invest money or resources into an idea, person or department.

Money or resources can be used to solve problems that influence alone couldn’t manage. Investing in a person’s ideas, projects or even development can not only gain you loyal friends and supporters, but can provide you with better resources (skilled people).

Investing in ideas or companies, especially if successful can bring profit and therefore increase your ability to invest, and thus your power.

Power to reward people financially or through recognition. Part of this power is also the freedom to remove people from situations where they are not succeeding. Most managers, if they have authority over their own staff, have this power. They are able to hire and fire, award bonuses or pay rises or even discipline through suspensions and other means.

Unfortunately, in most workplaces, the respect and authority we assign to people is usually thanks to that person’s ability to discipline or fire us. In this respect, the power the manager has is based on fear.

Conversely, a manager has the power to reward people who show the behaviours and results that the manager values. This is linked to the power to invest as managers are able to choose which projects to invest the budget in.

Power to manipulate is the most well-known form of power as it’s depicted in TV shows such as A House of Cards and Game of Thrones constantly. Manipulation is powered by a person’s ability to communicate their ideas well, though they may be fabrications or twisting of the truth. At it’s heart, manipulation plays on fear – fear that someone else is trying to damage your position, fear of failure, fear of physical attack, fear of losing a job etc. Blackmail, threats and other psychological manipulation are also powered by fear.

The most common form of manipulation in the workplace is through positive and negative reinforcement, usually through rewarding or punishment of certain behaviours. Manipulation relies on a number of the qualities listed above such as the power to communicate and often the power to invest/reward.

As we’ve established power can come from many places and if you take a look at some of your favourite or least favourite leaders, they’ll all some combination of the above qualities. The lucky thing is that the majority of them can be learned. If you’re interesting in reading more about power and influence take a look at The 48 Laws Of Power and Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

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Behaviour and Psychology Office Politics Smart Thinking Strategic Thinking

Political Manoeuvring – Game of Thrones Style

Let’s explore this type of manoeuvring by looking at an example from the Game of Thrones world – if you want to avoid spoilers, then I’d suggest skipping the next seconds of this video and I’ll provide another example later.

Petyr Baelish is the only son of a very minor lord with only a few acres of land. In comparison to the key players in Westeros, Baelish starts with nothing. All he has is his sharp mind.

He does however get one gift – thanks to Petyr’s father making friends with his liege lord Hoster Tully. Petyr is fostered (raised) at Riverrun, by one of the 7 most powerful men in the country. Hoster Tully has 2 daughters and a son and unfortunately for Petyr, he falls in love with Catelyn Tully, eldest daughter. The feelings are reciprocated, not by Catelyn, but her younger sister Lysa.

It’s hinted that Petyr takes Lysa’s virginity and gets her pregnant, however her father forces her to abort the baby. Oddly he doesn’t show any animosity towards Petyr, so he may not know it’s Petyr’s child.

To forge a strong union with the North, Catelyn is promised to Brandon Stark, heir to Winterfell and future Warden of the North.

Brandon represents everything that Petyr isn’t – tall, strong and heir to a powerful title.

Petyr, in love with Catelyn, challenges Brandon to a duel in an effort to win Catelyn’s affections and hand in marriage. He is easily defeated and utterly humiliated when Catelyn has to beg with Brandon not to kill Petyr.

He’s then sent away by Hoster Tully and this is when Petyr’s scheming begins.

His goal, winning Catelyn and gaining power. His strategy and the tactics he uses to achieve this evolve over time and after each successive event another layer is revealed which makes his plans so much more impressive.

The next time we see him, he’s taken his father’s place as Lord Baelish used his intelligence to gain various promotions into the position of Master of Coin. His childhood sweetheart is married to the Warden of the North and Lysa is married to Hand of the King and Protector of the Vale.

He uses his influence over Lysa, who still lives him, to poison her husband which serves 2 purposes; it makes the King believe he is under that and therefore suspicious of his court and makes Lysa, Lady of the Vale, a widow.

Source: HBOs Game of Thrones

Source: HBOs Game of Thrones

The King travels North to his trusted friend Ned Stark to appoint him Hand of the King.

Lysa, under Petyr’s instructions, sends a letter to her sister Catelyn explaining her fear that the Lannisters were behind the death of Jon Arryn. The Starks are now worried for the safety of the king as his Kingsguard and his wife are both Lannisters.

This develops as a genuine threat as when Bran Stark discovers the Queen and her brother Jaime Lannister’s incestuous relationship, Jaime pushes Bran out of a window. Ned leaves with the king and while he’s gone, an assassin attempts to kill Bran. Luckily for Bran, Catelyn is able to stop the attack and the assassin is overpowered. The dagger used by the assassin is very distinctive and Catelyn resolves to travel to the capitol and learn more.

She reaches the capitol before Ned and is greeted by Petyr who offers her a place to hide and informs her that the dagger was actually his, but lost in a bet to Tyrion Lannister – inspiring further distrust of the Lannisters.

Ned reaches the capitol and Petyr poses as a friend and ally, using his former friendship with Catelyn and his assistance to Catelyn as proof of his good intention.

On her way back to Winterfell, Catelyn bumps into Tyrion Lannister and takes him into her custody, taking him to the Eyrie to be judged by her sister Lysa Arryn. This wasn’t planned by Petyr but worked in his favour.


Source: HBOs Game of Thrones

He “assists” Ned in his quest to uncover Jon Arryn’s murderer and guides him toward a culprit and motivation. Ned discovers, through Petyr’s
guidance that the kings children are actually the product of incest between the Queen and her brother. Petyr hints that the Lannisters killed Jon Arryn because he discovered this when in fact they had no clue that Jon Arryn was investigating the possibility. Ned’s trust of the Lannister’s is pretty much none existent at this point.

This act inspires Jaime Lannister to attack Ned Stark in the street, killing a number of his guard and demanding Tyrion’s release.

Ned resolved to tell the king of his son’s true parentage. Petyr councils Ned to keep the fact to himself but Ned, knowing what the king would do to the children, warns the Queen of his plan to uncover the truth about her children to Robert and instructs her to leave the capitol as he doesn’t want their blood on his hands. Petyr gambled that Ned would never condone the murder of children regardless of his advice – we know this because earlier Ned refused to order the death of Daenerys Targaryan.

Before Ned can reveal the truth, Robert goes out hunting and is injured in an accident planned by Queen Cersei.

Shortly before Robert’s death, Ned is named Regent to rule until the Queen’s children come of age. Ned plans to support the King’s brother as true heir to the throne.

Source: HBOs Game of Thrones

Source: HBOs Game of Thrones

Petyr agrees to help Ned, but secretly informs the Queen of Ned’s plans, knowing that it would likely result in Ned’s death. Petyr betrays Ned when he tries to enforce the king’s last order. Leading to Ned’s arrest and death.

Upon his father’s death, Robb Stark calls his banners and declares war on the Lannisters.

In a few months, Petyr single-handedly sparked a civil war with 4 claimants to the throne. This is just the first step in Petyr’s larger strategy.

Petyr brokers and alliance between the Lannisters and the Tyrells, culminating of the marriage between King Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell.  For his role in this, he is rewarded by being made Lord of Harrenhal, elevating him from minor noble to important Lord in one stroke.

The marriage breaks off Sansa’s betrothal to Joffrey leaving her partially relieved until she is forced to marry Tyrion Lannister.

During this time she is befriended by Ser Dontos Hollard (an agent of Littlefingers) whose life she saved earlier and becomes close to Margaery Tyrell, who through the guise of friendship, obtains information about her future husband. Upon learning that Joffrey is a psychopath, Littlefinger and the Tyrell’s conspire to murder the King.

Ser Dontas gives Sansa a necklace to wear at Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding. This necklace was provided by Olenna Tyrell and contains a poisoned stone.

For the wedding, Littlefinger hires a group of performing dwarves, who are sure to anger Tyrion, whom Petry knows well enough to understand that his reaction will provoke visible tension and animosity between him and Joffrey.

When Joffrey insists that Tyrion pour his wine, the poisoned stone from the necklace is knocked into his cup, poisoning him. Due to the timing, Joffrey believes his uncle Tyrion is responsible and points him out at the culprit before he dies. Ser Dontas is on hand to quickly whisk Sansa away from the wedding, furthering suspicion on her husband Tyrion’s role.

With his new-found status, he is able to hand over his position as Master of Coin and marry Lysa Arryn, Lady Regent of the Vale. This gives him the perfect cover to both leave King’s Landing and enables his to smuggle Sansa away.

Not long after arriving at the Eyrie and marrying Lysa, Petry murders his new wife making his Lord Regent of the Vale and Lord Robert’s (Robin in the TV show) carer. Here the TV series and books split.

In the TV series, Petyr arranges a marriage between Sansa and Ramsey Bolton, thus cementing the Bolton’s position in the North. However, in the books, Petry is manipulating Sansa into a marriage with Harry Swift, future Lord of the Vale if Robin dies (which Littlefinger is sure to arrange). In both scenarios Littlefinger has Sansa’s confidence and is somewhat trusted by her.

Not bad for a minor lord with only a few acres of land. At the end of Season 5, Littlefinger is Lord of Harrenhal, Lord of Baelish Castle and acting Lord of the Vale and Warden of the East.

In the TV show, thanks to his role in Joffrey’s murder, he has an alliance with the Tryell’s and also an understanding with Warden of the North, Roose Bolton for brokering Sansa’s marriage. He also has the confidence of Queen-Regent Cersei Lannister by giving her information regarding Sansa and the Boltons. He offers to lead an army of Vale knights to retake Winterfell from the Boltons for their betrayal regarding Sansa. He also offers to kill Stannis Baratheon. Cersei promises to make him Warden of the North once Winterfell is taken and both the Boltons and Stannis are defeated.

Each alliance provides him with a contingency for the failure of another.

Littlefinger knows that the Boltons will likely defeat Stannis and then he can either wage war on them as promised, or through more political manoeuvring, achieve victory some other way. This frees him to marry Sansa (his ultimate goal) and with her beside him as a Stark and Lady of Winterfell, his position would be solidified.

Now THAT is a great example of strategy and political manoeuvring.

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Strategic Thinking Think Like

Think Like Frank Underwood

(Originally Published: 07/05/2015, Updated: 15/05/2016)

Frank Underwood is a fascinating character and represents the confidence, power, decisiveness and strategic mind that a lot of us, including me, wish we could emulate. Frank Underwood is a perfect example of the modern Machiavellian. For those unfamiliar with the term, it Machiavellian became popular in 1512, after Italian diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli, wrote a political treatise called The Prince (Il Principe).

The Prince details a somewhat cut-throat approach to gaining and maintaining power and a Machiavellian values political expediency over morals. They are more than willing to use deceit and fear maintain their authority and carry out their policies. It takes only a few moments observing Frank to see that his behaviour follows Machiavelli’s philosophy. Frank is willing to use any method to achieve his goals, this usually comes down to political manoeuvring bribery, blackmail, intimidation and even murder. Frank is not a nice guy, but he gets things done.

Whether you want to emulate Frank Underwood’s Machiavellian approach, or just achieve the results he does, then you need an understanding of political strategy and of how power works.

For most of us, the brand of politics that most directly affects you is the type that you experience in your social circles and the politics that affect you at work. It’s unlikely that you’re involved in national politics, the so this article will focus on adapting the approach, principles and strategies of Frank Underwood to the rest of us regular folks.

Office politics is particularly unavoidable and affects everyone, whether you get involved or not. You can either be an affected bystander or you can play the game and maybe influence your situation for the better. Most people like to “stay out” of office politics, either for moral or practical reasons, however, this doesn’t prevent you from being included in the games and if you don’t join in, you’ll have no influence over the outcomes.

If you wish to stay out of office politics, you have two choices:

  • Stay out of the “pettiness” but accept that you have little control over your environment and accept the consequences.
  • Understand how politics works and use that knowledge to minimise the negative effects from other’s involvement.

The first step to becoming active in politics is to fully understand your environment and the people in it.

Networks and Hierarchy

Every organisation has a hierarchy and every organisation has a person whose influence and power is much greater than their place on the totem pole. People with great influence also tend to attract followers and form cliques.

If you’re trying to get ahead at work, it’s a good idea to make a map of your office – what are the cliques and who really wields the influence. Just because the employee that’s been there 15 years has the same salary and title as you, don’t think that means they might not be the most important person in the office. There are official and unofficial authorities in the same way that there are official and unofficial job responsibilities.

It’s key to find out who these gatekeepers and influencers are. These are the people who you need to study. Find out who these influencers listen to and who they tend to favour. Next comes the difficult part, no matter how much you hate the action or dislike the person, you have to find a way to get in their good books. Study their behaviour and you’ll soon see the patterns that highlight what is important to that person. Tip: It’s usually feeling important and respected.

You probably have it a little easier than Frank, your office likely holds around 20-50 people. Frank has to deal with hundreds of congressmen and unfortunately, understanding the person is only part of the equation. Given that he must follow the rules of congress (and law), Frank needs a deep understanding of the policies and procedures that govern it. It’s also incredibly important to pay attention to the smallest details such as rules and policies – knowledge or lack of knowledge  can tie you up or it can free you.

Building Your Own Network

It’s clear that while having simple roots, that Frank is well-educated and has a deep knowledge of political and military history and strategy. It’s important to note however that while Frank is intelligent, formidable and a great strategist, he isn’t always the one to put in the legwork.

Cue 2 very important figures; Doug Stamper, Frank’s Director of Strategy and Claire Underwood, his wife and confidante –  at least in season 1 of the show.

Doug is a font of knowledge and seems to know something about everyone in congress and if he doesn’t already know it, you can be sure he’ll find out. Doug isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and he does some pretty sketchy things to support Frank’s bid for power. Why does he do this? Loyalty.


It’s clear that aside from his wife Claire, Doug’s is the only opinion Frank will consider. Which teaches us our first lesson. You can’t do it alone. Do not think that getting support is a weakness. While we glorify lone wolves who achieve great things alone, it’s rarely the case. Steve Jobs wasn’t a genius that built Apple on his own, neither is Bill Gates solely responsible for Microsoft’s huge success. They both had a lot of help from incredibly loyal partners, who worked out of the limelight.

If you can earn the loyalty of your team or colleagues, half the battle has already been won.

Loyalty should be encouraged and cultivated and stems from showing people respect, being consistent in your behaviour, showing trust and ALWAYS having the person’s back. Humans are wired to reciprocate and if you’ve always got someone’s back, even someone you really don’t like, it’s difficult for someone not to return that behaviour, even if it is begrudging.

This leads nicely onto how Frank builds loyalty. Key to Frank’s results is his ability to predict how people will behave and react to particular statements, actions or situations. His knowledge of this enables him to plan a chain of events which culminates in him achieving the results he wants. This doesn’t just come from thin air however. Frank and his team, mostly Doug, do their research and spend hours combing through a person’s history to get an idea of their character, analysing past behaviours and decisions to find patterns that can be used to predict future behaviours.

This works to his advantage with his staff and his adversaries, as a Machiavellian Frank often uses lies, bribery, blackmail and threats to get someone on his side. He knows exactly what buttons to press and when to press them. If used properly, you can anticipate your team’s needs and desires and support them in their endeavours. If not used properly…well, let’s leave that to Frank.

Loyalty, however, doesn’t just work for you, it can work against you and herein lies the heart of politics; influence and alliance.

With that in mind, it’s the time to learn of strategy.

Planning and Strategy

With Frank’s understanding of a person, awareness of political alliances and deep knowledge of policies and procedures, Frank is able to form plans and strategies. There are 2 elements to Frank’s strategies; prior planning and improvisation. In the very first episode, Frank explains:

We’ll have a lot of nights like this, making plans, very little sleep.

Each night Frank is diligently researching and mapping out his options and how each path might play out. He puts a lot of time and effort into trying to anticipate every way his strategy could fail and has backups in each situation. We only see the results on screen, not the days spent researching his opponents and mapping out hundreds of different options. His wife Claire also has a good grasp on strategy and is great at asking the questions which stimulate Frank’s thinking. What we see on screen, makes it seem as though Frank is all-knowing, but, in reality, he spends hour researching, consulting and pulling together an intricate web of actions designed to provoke a reaction and lead a person or group of people right where Frank wants them to go.

It sounds easy, but in his position, with access to the same information, would we be able to form the same successful strategies as Frank? Probably not, but there a wide array of resources that can build your ability to think strategically. Why plan to be one step ahead when you can be five?

The greatest modern book on political manoeuvring and Machiavellian strategy is The 48 Laws Of Power by Robert Greene. This best-seller  delves into strategy with a number of brilliant famous and lesser-known historical examples. With the success of his first book, Greene penned another manual focusing purely on military strategy, The 33 Strategies Of War which is definitely a must-read.

Image and Reputation

While it may seem materialistic and only surface-deep, appearance and demeanour plays a huge role in how people view us and behave towards us. The tie we wear and the way we stand can be the difference between respect and ridicule.

Frank has honed his body language, tone of voice and speech patterns over the years and created a persona of strength, leadership and respect. He pays attention to his physical appearance to always appear polished and in control He knows that he needs to behave in a way that projects strength and confidence, especially when dealing with people who, like him, are constantly on the lookout for weakness and opportunities.

All of the above contribute to Frank Underwood’s power. He exudes power and even those that don’t know him can sense it. (I’ve written about the sources of power in more detail if you’re interested.) Frank Underwood is a masterful politician, with a great understanding of people, policy and strategy who is willing to do anything to get what he wants. Now you know Frank’s methods, what’s stopping you from becoming the next President (or Marketing Manager)?

Recommended Reading:

  • The Ellipsis Manual: Analysis and Engineering of Human Behaviour – Written by Chase Hughes (profiling, interrogation and psychological intelligence trainer) this book is an amazing resource and his Behavioural Table of Elements is genius.
  • Peoplewatching: The Desmond Morris Guide to Body Language – Desmond Morriss is a highly-respected zoologist and his work on body language helped build the foundations for the entire discipline.
  • The Definitive Book of Body Language: How to Read Others’ Attitudes by Their Gestures – Allan Pease has written a series of best-selling books on both body language and human interaction.
  • Good Strategy/Bad Strategy – While geared toward business situations, this is the greatest (non-textbook) book on strategy I’ve ever read – it looks at what strategy is and how to form them using a myriad of relevant examples.
  • Predatory Thinking – This book by adman Dave Trott teaches strategy through anecdotes and examples allowing you to see real world applications of strategy.
  • The 48 Laws Of Power –  A wonderful combination of political and military strategy, this best-seller by Robert Greene delves into strategy with a number of brilliant famous and lesser-known historical examples.
  • The 33 Strategies Of War – With the success of his first book, Greene penned another manual focusing purely on military strategy. He studied and observed as many facets of the discipline as he could find and grouped them together into 33 strategies.
  • Strategy: A History – At 767  pages, This book is the bible of strategy and gives a brilliant overview of the most prominent strategic theories in history, from David’s use of deception against Goliath – to the modern use of game theory in economics.
  • The Right Way to Play Chess – This 240-page book is one of the best-selling chess strategy books and if you can apply it to real-world, is great for teaching you to think 5, 6 and 7 steps ahead.
  • It might also be an idea to do some reading up on office politics as the subject tends to explore how to deal with different types of people to get the results you want.

If you’ve got any insights or opinions on how to use the skills used by Frank Underwood to further your career or success, please share them below – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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