Home » Law 41: Avoid Stepping Into A Great Man’s Shoes

Law 41: Avoid Stepping Into A Great Man’s Shoes

In the image: Charles de Ganahl Koch is an American businessman and philanthropist. As of March 2019, he was ranked as the 11th-richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of $50.5 billion. Wikipedia

What happens first always appears better and more original than what comes after. If you succeed a great man or have a famous parent, you will have to accomplish double their achievements to outshine them. Do not get lost in their shadow, or stuck in a past not of your own making. Establish your own name and identity by changing course. Slay the overbearing father, disparage his legacy, and gain power by shining in your own way.

Buy The 48 Laws of Power or Listen to it for FREE on Audible

Keys To Power

  • The simplest way to escape the shadow of the past is simply to belittle it, playing on the timeless antagonism between the generations, stirring up the young against the old.
  • Never let yourself be seen as following your predecessors. If you do you will never surpass him. You must physically demonstrate your difference, by establishing a style and symbolism that sets you apart.
  • Hunt out the vacuums, the areas in culture that have been left vacant and in which you can become the first and principal figure to shine.
  • There is a kind of stubborn stupidity that recurs throughout history — the superstitious belief that if the person before you succeeded by doing A, B and C, you can re-create their success by doing the same thing. However, circumstances never repeat themselves exactly.
  • Remember: you are your own father. Do not let yourself spend years creating yourself only to let your guard down and allow the ghost of the past — father, habit, history — to sneak back in.
  • Be prepared to return to square one psychologically.


  • The shadow of a predecessor can be used to your advantage if it is chosen as a trick, a tactic that can be discarded once it has brought you power.
  • The past often has elements worth appropriating, qualities that would be foolish to reject out of a need to distinguish yourself.


In the image: Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great’s father had set the standard of achievement very high. Alexander wasn’t going to be content in his father’s shadow. He wasn’t going to rest on his father’s and later on his own laurels.

“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Now imagine if Alexander the Great had had a son who wanted to be a conqueror. That he would pale in comparison is an understatement. Not a soul would’ve attributed his success to him for he’d achieve everything on the shoulders of his father. Don’t make it your life’s task to be better at being someone else. Instead, go your own way. Unapologetically be your best self.

About The Book

The 48 Laws of Power (1998) is a non-fiction book by American author Robert Greene. The book is a bestseller, selling over 1.2 million copies in the United States.

Buy The 48 Laws of Power or Listen to it for FREE on Audible