Saturday, March 9, 2013



Here is an apocryphal story I had read long back about Emperor Alexander the Great and his encounter with the Greek Philosopher Diogenes.

Alexander the Great, the Emperor of the World, who had conquered all lands and seas and considered himself the “son of a God” and before whom all knelt in veneration and reverence, one day early in the morning, was riding with his army through Greece. 

Suddenly he saw a man lying naked in the sand by the side of a river basking in the early morning sunlight. 

Curious, Alexander rode towards the naked man and sat imposingly astride his horse towering over the emaciated prostrate man.

The Emperor Alexander was shocked to observe that the naked man seemed to be totally indifferent to the distinguished visitor and appeared nonchalantly oblivious of the bountiful entourage and captivating presence and charisma of the great Emperor. 

The stranger remained prostrate and made no attempt to get up and pay obeisance to the Emperor.

In fact the prostrate naked man continued lying down and totally ignored Alexander the Great sitting majestically on his horse. 

An angry soldier shouted at the naked man, “You there – do you know in whose presence you are…?” 

“Who is he…?” the prostrate man answered lazily, without the stir, making no move to get up. 

The astonished soldier proclaimed, “Wretched man, you are in the presence of His Exalted Highness Alexander the Great – Emperor of the World.”

“Oh,” the naked sunbather said impassively, continuing to lie down. He casually looked up at Alexander the Great mounted imposingly on his horse and said, “I am Diogenes.”  

“Ah, so you are the eccentric philosopher Diogenes…!” Alexander exclaimed, “I have always wanted to meet you – I have heard so many stories about you. Diogenes, I am impressed. I will grant you anything you wish. What do you desire…? Tell me Diogenes, what do you want...? Ask me for anything in the world and it will be yours…” 

Still lying prostrate on the sand, Diogenes looked Emperor Alexander in the eye and said to him, “Please could you move a little to the side and get out of the sunlight, because you are blocking the sun and spoiling my sunbath. That is all I want from you…” 


This story illustrates that POWER is inversely proportional to DESIRE

You cannot have power over someone who desires nothing from you. 

Till such time you desire something from a person, that person has power over you. 

The day you desire nothing from a person, that person has no power over you.


1. Your Desires can be tangible (like money, food, sex and other material things)


2. your Desires can be intangible (like love, security, recognition, respect, ego massage etc).

If you desire nothing from someone, he has no power of you

Conversely if you want to have power over someone you must be in a position to satisfy his desires

But the irony is that once you satisfy his desires permanently you may cease to have power over him

At your workplace, if you want a promotion (a good appraisal report) your boss has power over you.

Once you get the promotion, he may no longer be your boss (or the person writing your appraisal report) and power equations change.

In some organizations promotions are strictly by seniority and time-scale.

There is Assured Career Progression (ACP).

Appraisal Reports do not exist or, even if they do exist, they do not have any significance for promotion. 

In such cases where the boss has no say in the career progression of his juniors, the boss will not have much power on their subordinates.

This power-desire equation is true of an intangible desire like love too

Suppose a man is in love with a woman and wants to marry her. 

Till such time she does not reciprocate his love the woman has power over the man and can make him dance around her since his desire for her love remains unsatisfied. 

Suppose she reciprocates his love and marries him then the power equations may change since now, not only are the man's desires satisfied, but in fact the equations may even be reversed and now wife may start desiring things from her husband like money, security etc.  

In later life the husband may desire care from his wife so she once again has power over him. 

So the power versus desire relationship is a dynamic one.

For example, take the case of marriage

In earlier days, the husband was the breadwinner. 

The man used to earn the money and provide for his family. 

That is why a man had power over his wife and family. 

Today, women have become financially independent. 

Wives can now provide for their families and do not desire money from their husbands. 

The power equations in marriage relationships have therefore changed and wives are more assertive and independent.

That is why they say that POWER IS THE RECIPROCAL OF DESIRE

The less you desire the more powerful you are. 

And this sense of power and independence will create a sense of happiness and self esteem in you.

So, if you want to become powerful, just control your desires.

Think about it. 

And do make it a point to observe the dynamics of desire-power equations in your workplace and personal relationships as well.

It will be quite an enjoyable and illuminating pastime from which you can learn a lot.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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