Possession of controlling influence
“The development of power”
by Mr A. Powerful Man
I never knew I was going to be so powerful! I had no plans or designs on power – it just kind of happened. I grew up in what you might call a lower middle class family. My father was a carpenter, and my mother looked after my sister and I, and the house which we owned – well, the bank owned most of it.
We never had a lot of money, but I wouldn’t say we were uncomfortable. There was always plenty to eat, and although my parents couldn’t afford much, they always made sure I had new shoes and clothes.
I didn’t like school that much, but my dad said that if I didn’t stick in, then I would always be struggling for money like he was, so I passed my exams and went to university. I studied business and finance for three years, and when I finished my degree, I set my heart on one day owning my own company. But first I had to learn the ropes!
I always liked the building trade, and I got a job in a local construction firm my dad knew, as an assistant in the finance office. I learned as much as I could about the job, stuck in and was always working when the rest of the office staff went home. My boss liked me and said that if I committed myself to the job, I was going to quickly progress through the ranks. I liked the sound of that!
So, in my spare time, I studied more and more, and as each year passed I found myself being promoted higher and higher. I was now running the finance department, and was responsible for a large budget and a small team of people, but as it was just a subsidiary of a larger company I didn’t have anywhere else to go. My boss suggested I try to get a job in head office and that he would give me an excellent reference although he’d be sorry to see me go.
After about a year, and several interviews, I got the job. I was now finance manager for the group. I had a multi-million pound budget I controlled, and a large team of people beneath me.
I didn’t consider myself a powerful man, I wasn’t, I was just doing my job – although I was starting to enjoy the perks that came with a more responsible position. I had a company expense account, car, and business class travel, and I enjoyed going to meet the people who worked for me at the local offices. I liked the way I was always shown respect. I was starting to feel as if I was getting somewhere in life. My dad would be very proud.
As time went on, I started to feel as if I was stagnating; the job wasn’t exciting anymore. I decided to leave, and although the company tried to persuade me to stay with offers of more responsibility and more salary, I took a job that was to change my life, although I didn’t know it yet. I would still be working in construction, but now I would be a financial director!
I was on the board. I was making decisions that could affect the lives of others. When we needed to cut back, we made people redundant, and when business was booming, we hired.
I was in charge of millions of dollars, and it felt good. I had a large team of people in my finance division, and I liked holding meetings with them in my large office on the top floor. I listened to them with great interest, then I would discuss other strategies with them, but the greatest thing was, I made the ultimate decisions, except when I had to discuss things with the management board and get their approval. But that was ok, I was on top. If only my dad could see me now.
The money was rolling in. I had got married, and we had two beautiful children. We still had the “modest” house we had bought several years before when I was just a finance manager, but now I thought the time had come when I moved up in the world and showed people how successful I was. The price stretched my budget a little, but it was worth it. A beautiful eighteenth century house in the country, with several acres of land. We bought the girls a pony each and we bought ourselves a couple of black labradors!
It was all beginning to fit into place. The job, the money, the family, the status. I felt pretty good about it all.
As the years rolled on, I began to wonder how far I could go with this company. It was all very well being a finance director, but it wasn’t like running the business. For that, you needed to be even higher. By a stroke of good fortune, three months later the managing director handed in his notice, and I eagerly applied for the job. He had to work out a year’s contract, but then I was handed the job.
On my first day I felt like the king of the world. One of the board members welcomed me as their new managing director and the small team applauded me. Applause, for me? Why? But I thought no more about it. I just relished the moment. Now at just 50 years old, I was at the top. I had a staff of three thousand beneath me. Imagine that!
My father said to me: “There’s an old saying son, with power comes great responsibility.”
“I know dad. Do you not think I’m responsible?” I replied. “I have three thousand people working for me, they wouldn’t give the job to someone who wasn’t responsible!”
But my first taste of real power was just something really trivial. You see, an old friend from university I had always kept in touch with throughout my business career had a son who had just finished at university, and was looking for a job, and he was after a personal favour.
“If there’s anything that you could do to help, I’d really appreciate it”
“Sure,” I replied, confidently sitting back in my chair. “I’m sure we can find something for the young lad here, I’ll make a couple of calls and I’ll get back to you.”
“Thanks, I really appreciate it!”
So I called someone I knew from one of the subsidiaries. “Hi john. Look, I’ve got a bright young university graduate that’s looking for a job, have you got anything going at the moment?”
“I’ll keep my eyes open,” he replied.
“Thanks, you’d be doing me a real personal favour.”
As I replaced the handset onto the receiver and I sat back for a moment. At that moment I knew I had made it. I could ask for favours and people would try to help me out. I could never have made this happen if I was still a junior assistant back in the finance office. No one would have listened to me, but now, now I can make things happen!
People do what I want them to do.
Several months later we had some problems on a large new city development we were attempting to build. There was some opposition to having more skyscrapers built in the area by the environmental lot, and our building permit was taking too much time to come through. It was costing us serious money being delayed. The land had already been purchased, the machinery was in place, and the personnel were being paid. Something needed to be done. So I called up a friend of mine who worked as a city councillor.
“Joe, we’ve got a real problem here. You guys are costing us a lot of money with all these hold ups.”
“I’m sorry,” he replied, “once the environmental lot get on the case, everything comes to a standstill, there’s nothing I can do. I’d like to help, but my hands are tied.”
“But you and the other councillors still decide what goes through and what doesn’t, right?”
“That’s true, but some of the councillors agree with the green lot.”
“Well, if you could ‘use your influence,’ there’d be something in it for you. They listen to you, they respect you, see what you can do to convince them.”
“I’ll see what I can do” he replied, “but I can’t guarantee I can help.”
“Just see what you can do, I won’t forget this.”
Several weeks later, I got a call.
“Hi, it’s joe, it looks like everything is going to come through, but I had to call in a favour from an old friend of mine at the environmental and planning authority, he’s agreed to speak favourably on your behalf.”
“Joe, you’re a great friend. I won’t forget this. Oh, how is the new car?”
“Drives like a dream, drives like a dream,” he replied, and the conversation ended.
How was I, the son of a carpenter able to get this planning permit passed? Because, as I now realised, I had power; I could influence people.
This was not just about being at the top in business, this was much more than that. This was pure power.
“With power comes great responsibility” I heard my father’s voice echo in my head. And I was being responsible. I needed to get those apartments finished and sold so my workers and suppliers could get paid. So I did what anyone would, I used my influence. After all, what’s the point of having influence if you don’t use it?
After that, we had no more problems with building permits. If someone came up against us, we would just use our contacts to lean on them a bit. And if that didn’t work, we’d put them on the payroll – as consultants you understand. These were great times. There was plenty of money for everybody, and business was booming. There was nothing that could stop our business expanding wherever we wanted it to. We just made a few calls and got someone to do us a “personal favour” and we were in business. And that’s all it was. Business. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I needed something done, so I just asked a friend to help me out. After all, that’s what friends do.
All was perfect for several years, until a new government came into power, and that’s where it all started to go wrong.
Without my knowledge, there had been a government task force set up on corruption in the construction industry. Corrupt? Me? I was an important leader in the business community. I was providing thousands of jobs for my employees and my suppliers. I was creating new homes and offices for thousands of people. How could they charge me with corruption (lack of integrity or honesty (especially susceptibility to bribery); use of a position of trust for dishonest gain) I had done nothing wrong. All I was doing, was making sure the shareholders got their dividends on time, and people got paid. I was shocked.
I was sacked from my job, and found myself in court. How could they try me for just doing my job? I was fined several thousand pounds and sentenced to eighteen months in jail as a warning to others who tried to bribe officials. My status was gone. My “friends” deserted me. My family was embarrassed by the whole affair, and had to move house because they couldn’t stand the shame I had brought on them.
But I was still in denial. I was angry I had been found guilty of what I thought was all just part of the game once you were in power. I ask you for a “favour” and give you a little bonus for helping me, you ask someone else for a “favour” and so on. But during my time in prison, I started to reflect. First, on how I could become successful and powerful again, but later on how much I had been affected by power.
I realised that power is like a silent poison creeping into our veins, until it has corrupted all that we are. I didn’t even realise it was affecting me, and although I came to the conclusion I wanted none of it anymore, there was a small voice in the back of my mind, reminding me of all the good times we had when we were in power.
But as I became more aware of how it had corrupted me, I began to see that it was an entity on its own, feeding on my desires, and offering solutions on how to fulfil them, manipulating me and manipulating others to get what it wanted (which was what I wanted). I wanted to control, to dominate, to get respect. I realise now it was all in the mind.
Sitting in a small prison cell changes you. As you sit in the same clothes every day, eating slop, and mixing with people who have murdered, beaten or stolen from the elderly, you realise you were missing out on real life. All the boardroom was, was a place to exercise your ego. But it wasn’t reality. I wanted to dedicate my life to helping other people, and decided that when I got out, I would go into politics!
I hope you enjoyed the story! As you can see, power is something that people with ambition are always susceptible to. But when we remove the ambition, there is nowhere left for power to accumulate. The man who is content with his life will never seek power, because he is not trying to gain anything. But are we really content? Are we happy with the life we have and all that we are, or do we want more? When we finally become aware that wanting more is just psychological desire, it will fall away, but until that time, we must be vigilant.
I cannot resist telling you one more story I read in a newspaper whilst travelling in asia. It went something like this:
Today, the minister for agriculture was arrested on suspicion of corruption. It appears he was using the government’s agricultural program of giving free cows to poor farmers for his own and others benefit. He bought the cows from a business his sister owned and paid her an already inflated price of 300 for each cow. He then got his sister to invoice the government 500 for each cow, pocketed the difference and then gave away the cows to his friends.
Unbelievable, but true!
Watch your mind. Watch where it grasps for power. And never go into politics!
by alan macmillan orr
‘the natural mind – waking up’