I won’t lie and say that I don’t struggle trying to interpret the seventh maxim. This maxim is the second one that feels manipulative and less than ethical in the modern sense of the word. I am not a person who is willing to sell myself short in order to gain advancement in life. I adopt the belief that we need to embrace who we are and live life as that person.
At this point actually stating what the seventh maxim is might be helpful.
Avoid Victories over Superiors. All victories breed hate, and that over your superior is foolish or fatal. Superiority is always detested, à fortiori superiority over superiority. Caution can gloss over common advantages; for example, good looks may be cloaked by careless attire. There be some that will grant you precedence in good luck or good temper, but none in good sense, least of all a prince; for good sense is a royal prerogative, any claim to that is a case of lèse majesté. They are princes, and wish to be so in that most princely of qualities. They will allow a man to help them but not to surpass them, and will have any advice tendered them appear like a recollection of something they have forgotten rather than as a guide to something they cannot find. The stars teach us this finesse with happy tact; though they are his children and brilliant like him, they never rival the brilliancy of the sun.
This is a good point to highlight; this was written at a time of immutable class structure and the concept of a superior is much different than today. Yet the essence of the class structure does flow down through time to our lives today. You have a boss, unless you are one of the few self-employed people. I have a boss, at least, and I will speak from my personal experience with all the people who have held a position of power over me.
First, just to appease my immense ego, I have to recognize that I accept and allow others to have positions of authority over me. This goes to a whole other political belief system based on the idea that all governments rule through the tacit or explicit agreement of the people. This will be a subject of another long winded post, but when I enter into a contractual agreement of employment, I am agreeing that there will be people who can make decisions that affect my day to day life.
Beyond that asterisk to this maxim, I really believe this is telling us that our superiors, our bosses aren’t people who are our rivals. We are not in competition with our superiors. My personal belief is when my boss succeeds, I succeed. My actions, my victories reflect upon my boss.
This maxim is most effective when there is a healthy relationship with one’s superior. The superior in question cannot see subordinates in terms of people to use and turn into refuse. It must be seen as a mutually beneficial healthy relationship. There is no point in toiling under a tyrant who will never appreciate one’s labor and contribution. On the contrary, in today’s world there is no such thing as a ‘superior’ since the winds of fate blow freely. Today’s superior is tomorrow’s peer.
To me, this maxim is more about reminding one that a superior is not a rival and in the proper course of life, the proper course of business, it is part of one’s job to assist one’s boss, to apply one’s intellect and strength to strengthening the superior’s position.