MEN in great place are thrice servants: servants of the sovereign or state; servants of fame; and servants of business. So as they have no freedom; neither in their persons, nor in their actions, nor in their times. It is a strange desire, to seek power and to lose liberty: or to seek power over others, and to lose power over a man’s self. The rising unto place is laborious; and by pains, men come to greater pains; and it is sometimes base; and by indignities, men come to dignities. The standing is slippery, and the regress is either a downfall, or at least an eclipse, which is a melancholy thing. Cum non sis qui fueris, non esse cur velis vivere. Nay, retire men cannot when they would, neither will they, when it were reason; but are impatient of privateness, even in age and sickness, which require the shadow; like old townsmen, that will be still sitting at their street door, though thereby they offer age to scom. Certainly great persons had need to borrow other men’s opinions, to think themselves happy; for if they judge by their own feeling, they cannot find it; but if they think with themselves, what other men think of them, and that other men would fain be, as they are, then they are happy, as it were, by report; when perhaps they find the contrary within. For they are the first, that find their own griefs, though they be the last, that find their own faults. Certainly men in great fortunes are strangers to themselves, and while they are in the puzzle of business, they have no time to tend their health, either of body or mind. Illi mors gravis incubat, qui notus nimis omnibus, ignotus moritur sibi. In place, there is license to do good, and evil; whereof the latter is a curse: for in evil, the best condition is not to win; the second, not to can. But power to do good, is the true and lawful end of aspiring. For good thoughts (though God accept them) yet, towards men, are little better than good dreams, except they be put in act; and that cannot be, without power and place, as the vantage, and commanding ground. Merit and good works, is the end of man’s motion; and conscience of the same is the accomplishment of man’s rest. For if a man can be partaker of God’s theatre, he shall likewise be partaker of God’s rest. Et conversus Deus, ut aspiceret opera quae fecerunt manus suae, vidit quod omnia essent bona nimis; and then the sabbath. In the discharge of thy place, set before thee the best examples; for imitation is a globe of precepts. And after a time, set before thee thine own example; and examine thyself strictly, whether thou didst not best at first. Neglect not also the examples, of those that have carried themselves ill, in the same place; not to set off thyself, by taxing their memory, but to direct thyself, what to avoid. Reform therefore, without bravery, or scandal of former times and persons; but yet set it down to thyself, as well to create good precedents, as to follow them. Reduce things to the first institution, and observe wherein, and how, they have degenerate; but yet ask counsel of both times; of the ancient time, what is best; and of the latter time, what is fittest. Seek to make thy course regular, that men may know beforehand, what they may expect; but be not too positive and peremptory; and express thyself well, when thou digressest from thy rule. Preserve the right of thy place; but stir not questions of jurisdiction; and rather assume thy right, in silence and de facto, than voice it with claims, and challenges. Preserve likewise the rights of inferior places; and think it more honor, to direct in chief, than to be busy in all. Embrace and invite helps, and advices, touching the execution of thy place; and do not drive away such, as bring thee information, as meddlers; but accept of them in good part. The vices of authority are chiefly four: delays, corruption, roughness, and facility. For delays: give easy access; keep times appointed; go through with that which is in hand, and interlace not business, but of necessity. For corruption: do not only bind thine own hands, or thy servants’ hands, from taking, but bind the hands of suitors also, from offering. For integrity used doth the one; but integrity professed, and with a manifest detestation of bribery, doth the other. And avoid not only the fault, but the suspicion. Whosoever is found variable, and changeth manifestly without manifest cause, giveth suspicion of corruption. Therefore always, when thou changest thine opinion or course, profess it plainly, and declare it, together with the reasons that move thee to change; and do not think to steal it. A servant or a favorite, if he be inward, and no other apparent cause of esteem, is commonly thought, but a by-way to close corruption. For roughness: it is a needless cause of discontent: severity breedeth fear, but roughness breedeth hate. Even reproofs from authority, ought to be grave, and not taunting. As for facility: it is worse than bribery. For bribes come but now and then; but if importunity, or idle respects, lead a man, he shall never be without. As Solomon saith, To respect persons is not good; for such a man will transgress for a piece of bread. It is most true, that was anciently spoken, A place showeth the man. And it showeth some to the better, and some to the worse. Omnium consensu capax imperii, nisi imperasset, saith Tacitus of Galba; but of Vespasian he saith, Solus imperantium, Vespasianus mutatus in melius; though the one was meant of sufficiency, the other of manners, and affection. It is an assured sign of a worthy and generous spirit, whom honor amends. For honor is, or should be, the place of virtue; and as in nature, things move violently to their place, and calmly in their place, so virtue in ambition is violent, in authority settled and calm. All rising to great place is by a winding star; and if there be factions, it is good to side a man’s self, whilst he is in the rising, and to balance himself when he is placed. Use the memory of thy predecessor, fairly and tenderly; for if thou dost not, it is a debt will sure be paid when thou art gone. If thou have colleagues, respect them, and rather call them, when they look not for it, than exclude them , when they have reason to look to be called. Be not too sensible, or too remembering, of thy place in conversation, and private answers to suitors; but let it rather be said, When he sits in place, he is another man.
And here are my lessons, taken from Bacon:
1. As Bob Dylan so correctly exclaimed, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.” As we achieve great stations in life, we appear to rise, but we also become beholden to our position, serving those above us (for there is always someone above us, whether in nominal position or influence), serving our institution, serving the requirements of our own exalted position, and serving the challenges of our enterprise.
2. We become slaves to our situations, even our situations of great accomplishment and accompanying wealth and greatness. As we rise to great position, we become fully absorbed in that position and don’t see to our own person.
3. With great power, comes great responsibility. (from the pens of Voltaire and Spider-Man). With responsibility, freedom of action is limited. Thus with power, we lose freedom.
4. We strive through challenges to achieve a position where we are blessed with new and greater challenges.
5. Our fault is we cannot be content and happy with our own thoughts and opinions. We desire affirmation by borrowing the opinions of others.
6. We rush to harp on what we dislike and loath about the world around us. We are slow to look inside and discover our own failings.
7. To think good thoughts, for ourselves and others, is but idle fancy, for these thoughts and intentions stay only within the mind. We must have place and position to turn those good dreams, thoughts of goodness and thoughts of good actions, into actual action. To do actual good, rather than to think or dream of it, is the goal of our good thoughts and desires.
8. Make a list: take the people you admire and the people you don’t. Make a list of their good traits and bad traits. Now, make a list of your own good traits and bad traits. What you do well, what you do poorly. What you have mastered and what you have to work on (some things seriously work on). The most important thing about these lists is to be brutally honest with yourself. Do you write well? Do you write poorly? Why? Do you speak well? Do you speak poorly? Why? Only with an honest assessment can you turn this list into a tool to drive improvement. And you use the list of others’ strengths/weaknesses as a guide for your own.
9. Be consistent. People should be able to expect good things from you, on a consistent basis.
10. Don’t be demanding.
11. Be honest when you err.
12. Assume and be confident in your rights, your rights to your position and your actions. Be confident in your right to be in your place, to be doing what you are doing. Assume your rights, do not demand them.
13. Welcome advice, support, and counsel from others. It is overconfident and arrogant to shun advisors.
14. Be punctual, be available to others, do what must be done in a timely fashion.
15. Do not only avoid corruption in yourself but shun bribery from others. Avoid not only corruption, but any actions that could lead to the suspicion of corruption. For what others think of your conduct may be as important as your conduct itself. Be honest and forthright when declaring your actions, do not hide your intentions or moves. For this leads to suspicion of corruption.
16. Be severe, but not rough.
17. Ambition produces aggression. Authority produces a settled, calm demeanor.
18. Respect and honor those who came before you, for if you do not, you will not be respected and honored by those who follow you.
19. Call upon your colleagues when they do not look to be called, rather than ignore them when they want to be called.