The 4 Stages Of Self-Development To Become An Eagle

Your self-empowerment follows 4 predictable stages.

And while each step is better than the previous, your self-empowerment is only a total success once you reach the last stage.


Some recent events in the forum prompted me to publish this article as fast as possible.

Namely, I’ve seen too many power moves among members and TPM is not a place for pulling uncalled-for power moves on others.

TPM has been saying this since our inception:

Self-empowerment entails learning about power moves, manipulation, games, and Machiavellian thinking for effective life strategies.

However, that’s not the end goal.
The ultimate goal of self-empowerment is to know how to play the game, play it whenever it’s needed, and to develop higher trust circles and relationships that do not need those same power moves, manipulations, and games.

The first step is in the mindsets, and in the goals you have for yourself.
You cannot develop those circles and relationships unless you first think, behave, prefer, want, and admire game-free people, exchanges, relationships, and circles.

In this article, we will learn how to complete that self-empowerment process until you reach the ultimate and enlightened stage of “eagle-dom”.

Level 0: Naive – Power Blindness & Victimhood

Naive people are lonely and trusting lambs hoping there are no wolves

At this level, people are naive to the malicious and “dark” side of human nature, and blind to power dynamics -including manipulation-.

A common misunderstanding is to think that everyone at this level is “good”.
Well, yes, some “blind” people are indeed “too good”.
But not all: “naive” or “blind” doesn’t necessarily make one “good”. Power-unaware folks can be envious, self-loathing, and angry with the world.
It’s just that they don’t even realize why they’re losing.
They don’t know there’s a game.

Here’s who’s here:

  • Oblivious to the game of power: the majority of people reside here, at different levels.
    Some categories:
    • Submissive: hopes people will treat him well and suffers when they don’t. He feels the effects of the game of power, but somehow never considered that he’s losing because of the game of power.
      He fails to grasp that beyond the saying “people will treat you how you will let them treat you” lays the game of power that is the answer to many of his woes
    • Passive: “goes along” with the system thinking that’s what “good law-abiding citizens do”. Of course that ensures he stays at the bottom of that system.
      Can get an OK of even “good” life in rich and socialist countries if he learns an in-demand skill, but he’ll never come close to his true potential (and he’ll do quite badly in poorer and more disorganized countries).
    • Semi-blind, is aware in some realms of life, but has blind spots in others.
      It’s uncommon since awareness tends to carry over in any area of life, but it can happen in those who haven’t learned more systematically.
      For example, my father had a sense for social power dynamics and status among men, but zero to pick up on manipulation and judge power dynamics
  • Aspergers’ spectrum: they’re also unaware, but while the “simply unaware” can “wake up” by themselves and actively seek information -often even catching up and surpassing the “naturals” very quickly-, guys on the spectrum may need someone to awaken them and, lacking the natural social intuition, need to learn more systematically
  • Very low IQ: but it’s only a tiny tiny minority that’s too stupid to even qualify for at least some level of the game because the game of power is evolutionarily programmed than most other forms of intelligence.
    This is true for women even more so than men.
    For example, I’ve dated some very un-bright women, but most still had at least some sense for basic techniques on how to be the prize, refraining from chasing too much, seeking better information from more experienced girlfriends, etc. etc. And while they had no interest or no grasp for any higher-complexity topics, they always perked up when I mentioned they were playing games
  • “Too good for this world”: late Italian writer Ignazio Silone said that if one is “good”, it’s good. But if one is “good, good, good”, three times, then he’s stupid.
    When I first read it, I thought it was genius. It’s indeed somewhat hard to distinguish stupidity from “being too good”.
    But the main difference is that the “too good for this world” assumes the best in everyone, trusts others too much, and fails to realize that while this world has endless beauty and plenty of good people, life is also competition for scarce resources and competition for scarce high-value people to associate with

The “risks” for unaware folks is that you go through life as a lamb, hoping there are wolves (takers).

The problem with that isn’t even just the worst wolves.
The problem is that, as per basic laws of power dynamics, naive and blind people convert even normal people into takers because, as the Italian proverb says “it’s the opportunity that makes the man a thief” (see Power University for this one).
Note: “taking” isn’t just literal, it includes “taking status” by using you as a social peg, taking your time when you can’t say no, or use you as a social punching bag just to feel strong and good about themselves-.

Level 1: Power Awareness – Learning & Seeing The Game of Power

Unluckily, “seeing” isn’t as simple as lifting an eye patch

This first step is to see power dynamics.

This may seem not only obvious, but also so simple to achieve.

Yet, a good chunk of people, and probably the majority of people, never even reach an acceptable level of this stage.

Ask my father, who at 82 years hasn’t yet realized he spent 50+ years married to a manipulator -plus, albeit I was too young and unaware to be sure, I suspect his mother was as well-.
At this point, I decided it’s probably better I let him be in his (not so blissful) ignorance.

Or ask the majority of people who remain at the bottom of life’s pyramid.

Of course, for many of them, it’s a lack of assertiveness, lack of drive, or simply preferring a “simple” life -it’s often a self-lie anyway: the author here also prefers a simple life, but certainly not “simple” in the sense of low in options, freedom, and personal choice-.
But a good chunk of them just never realize that you need power skills to advance in life.

Also read:

Or better still, just skip the blog for a while and plunge into Power University,

Risk: Depressively Cynical

At this level you can really get gloomy and depressive.

You see turkeys everywhere and, if you’re a beginner, you barely see any eagles.
Because your frame of reference is so negative, you doubt everyone, even the good people.

It’s because you start seeing all the manipulations and games, present and past.
And damn: everyone’s playing it, and everyone played it against you.
The world sucks!

You think you’re the only good one on the planet and you think you must cut contact with… Everyone.

In truth, the issue is that:

  1. You’re coming from the naive stage where it was just too easy to take advantage of you: and as per basic laws of power dynamics, when it’s too easy to take advantage of someone, even normal people will -and even some good ones-. It’s simply a question of “too low barriers” so, in a way, in your reality, yes, you were surrounded by takers -albeit it was largely your fault-.
  2. You don’t yet know how to deal with others, and while many relationships can be “straightened out” into acceptable or even good relationships, you don’t yet know how
  3. You bundle together small-time everyday games with actual sociopaths: you’re still a beginner, after all, so you can’t yet tell which from which and everyone seems like a red-level power move to you.
    Plus, when you’re unable to check power moves and enforce boundaries, you also can’t assess people by the uber-important way they respond to your assertiveness. Because while the good people will respect, the truly bent ones will increase their aggression or pretend to accept it, and increase their manipulation

This is the “overly cynical phase”.
It’s understandable and, within certain limits, even healthy to experience it.

Some people also remain stuck here and never learn to play well because, they tell themselves, “it’s all rotten and disgusting anyway, what’s the point”.
They think that to win, you need to be an asshole.
So, again, they go out the easy way and prefer to feel superior then to do well in a non-perfect world.

Of course, it’s not true that “it’s all rotten”.
But to find out the gold, you gotta come down from that holier than though self-lie and get your hands dirty -for a while-.

Also read:

Level 2: Power Skills – Applying The Game of Power

You don’t even need to win big or often: just being in the game is empowering

This is where personal power starts.

Seeing by itself does little for you.
And, without skills, seeing alone may even be harmful.

But with the skills, you finally start playing the game, and:

  1. You start winning more and more often. You get more respect and consideration, maybe more dates or a more submissive and admiring partner, and you’re finally considered “promotion material” at work.
    You marvel at your power and your growing abilities to get things done, gain status, earn respect
  2. You avoid lose-wins because you check power moves, better vet business partners, negotiate harder, avoid takers, cover your ass, etc. etc.
  3. You start gaining some win-loses, and you may think that’s cool, that you’re winning. Or that you’re getting your payback on life

You may not always win, of course.
But now you’re in the game.
Not a punching bag anymore, but an actively fighting force.

And that, by itself, is empowering.
And it can feel good even when you lose here and there.

As for everything, you may overdo it as you learn to better calibrate.

But generally speaking, learning the game of power is a foundational, non-skippable part of self-development.
And it’s a foundational part of becoming a better and more effective human being.

Power skills are also a worthy goal: it’s great for you, and often also great for the world.

And that’s where the misunderstanding can start.
Yes, being able to play the game of power is essential and good.
But still… Everything is situational, and good things taken to an extreme often turn bad and ineffective -power skills is no exception: they can be misapplied, or over-applied-.

You want to learn the game, but not get lost in the game.

Risk: Scratching With Turkeys, You Become A Turkey Yourself

Ultimately, the issue is this:

Games, manipulations, and power moves are disempowering and value-taking to others.
And overdoing games, manipulation and power moves is inherently low quality.

If you lose sight that the end game is win-win, you end up with a string of lose-wins, win-loses and, as well, a lot of lose-lose.

If you stay stuck at the second level, at best, you’re just becoming a manipulator yourself.

Yes, you can still be (relatively) successful spending a life manipulating, scheming, and even conning and taking advantage of others.
But you tend to lose in quality of life.

And that’s the best-case scenario.

At worst, you don’t even win big for yourself, plus you won’t earn any great people in your life -or, if they do, they’ll only be there until they need you and leave once you once they don’t-.

And you’ll lose all the good people who were in your life.
Those people may have looked at you as a “naive” before but liked you enough to stay by your side.

But when you become a game player, then you go from “naive” to “asshole“, and great people have no space for assholes.

There are many ways to take the game of power too far:

  • Overplaying with good peoplegets you branded as an asshole-.
    Great people are for win-win, not for power games.
    When you overplay the game with power-aware but good people they will brand you “not good enough for them” -and they’d be right-.
  • Power moves when you’re in the wrong -get you branded as a slimy manipulator with a thin-skin-.
    Owning and apologizing when in the wrong is how high-quality men behave.
    Gaslighting and word-salading is how manipulators behave -and it’s the most annoying thing you can do with an eagle-.
  • Playing too hard the game of power -get you branded a dangerous sociopath who can’t do win-win and teamwork-.
    In groups, team assignments, or at work you’re also supposed to be a team player. When you make it too obvious that you’re only out for power and for yourself, you can easily get ostracized and kicked out.
    Remember: balance. You can win while also sharing the spoils.
    And the name of the game where both competition and teamwork are at play is subtlety.
  • Overplaying in petty situations -make you a low-level turkey-.
    If you overplay the game for petty and inconsequential stuff, you’re both low power, and a turkey.
  • Overplaying obvious power moves -a magnifier of low-IQ turkeyn-ess-.
    It sub-communicates low (social) intelligence and makes your turkey-ness more visible to anyone, even folks with low power-awareness
  • Bad and prolonged win-loses -make you an abuser-.
    When your win-loses over-extend in intensity and time, you have turned into an abuser. And, often, you also get a toxic relationship for yourself (not exactly a win, is it)

It’s (sadly) funny that some people learn power dynamics to defend against assholes, and then they stop at this stage and become one.

Stuck with turkeys, you miss the eagles

We have this saying on TPM:

You can’t fly with the eagles when you’re busy scratching with the rukeys

It’s an important reminder because it’s easy to get dragged down if you’re surrounded by turkeys.
John came up with a great name for the dynamics of being “dragged down” by power-moving turkeys: the turkey spirals.
Turkey spirals suck in the short-term. And sticking with the turkeys makes for a rather unsatisfactory life in the longer-term.

So scratch back whenever you need, get back to scratching any time life demands it… But keep your eyes up.
Eventually, you want to soar back up.

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.

– Nietsche

Level 3: Eagle – Selectively Applying & Transcending The Game For Win-Win

All game-playing turkeys look so beneath you when you look at them from the eagle’s vantage point

Let us be clear to avoid naive self-help:

You never stop the game of power completely.

Level 3 includes also level 2 and level 1.
And you also stay high-power and high-warmth, keep a strategic approach to life, generally behave high power, and of course, you defend and attack back whenever needed.


The final goal is to transcend the game in your best relationships and places, and with the best people.
And you generally approach others with your best foot forward and without games and power moves because it’s the only way to have even a chance at win-win.

Also read:

A Life Well-Lived Is A Life With Little Games & Manipulations

Yes, no power moves and manipulation is unrealistic.

But it’s certainly possible to have a life with little games and power moves.
And also a life that’s a lot less about power, and a lot more about warmth and connection, while still doing great.

It may not be easy: but it’s possible and a very realistic goal.

As a matter of fact, a life of win-win and little power moves is the natural consequence of being an eagle.
As you grow in your personal power, you can afford to avoid and cut out assholes. And as you get better at spotting, assessing and engaging with high-quality people, you naturally end up with a lot more of them.
And you don’t need to be nearly as guarded with them.

That may as well be the hallmark of a successful and well-lived life.
A successful life is to become an eagle, flying with the eagles.

Work On Yourself To Get Rid Of Your Own Game


Level 1 & 2 are more about the external world.

But level 3 may require some more “inner self-development”.

To reach this stage you may need some introspection, self-awareness, a growth mindset, and an antifragile ego.

It’s because you may have to look within you, and realize that you’re a manipulator yourself.
The second part of that famous Nietzsche’s quote becomes more relevant here:

And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you

– Nietsche

Yep, that abyss staring back at you is saying: you’re also a manipulator.
In the sense that you scheme to get what you want: you are. We all are, and that’s OK… As long as you don’t overdo it.

Many people overdo it.

Be it for personality, culture, or learned from our family, some of us have ingrained in us some power moves or annoying games we don’t even realize we have (social climbing, teacher frames, uncalled-for one-upping, etc. etc.).
Or that we don’t even realize are power moves.
So we may go around acting like turkeys without even realizing we are.

I know well because I had some of those nasty tendencies ingrained, and still have some.
In the countryside where I live that continues into adulthood: neighbors “joking” about bald heads, “alpha male” posturers trying to put other men down and, in my case, also a gossiping, backstabbing manipulator too close for comfort.
It’s not that uncommon. Most young boys live in a culture of one-upping.

I personally carried those behaviors for way too long.

And I’ve also seen them in several people that I’d generally consider “good people”.
So, no, it’s definitely not always a question of a bent personality: in many cases, it is possible to learn and get rid of our own sneakiness.

You have to do that inner work.
Because those ingrained nasty habits are the ballast that keeps you from soaring.

Notes on The Stages

The stages aren’t perfectly linear, and they overlap.

For example, as you become aware, you also often start practicing the skills -stage 1 and 2 together-.

Some people also naturally start stage 3 because to them it’s a natural consequence of their personality.
They may have strong ethics and morals and/or grew up in households of straight-talking parents.
TPM helps them with the knowledge and skills, but they don’t need TPM to remind them of “being an eagle”.

And of course, some people will never make it to the eagle stage because they’re inveterate assholes or are born sociopaths.

However, many people can and will make it all the way.
Or, at least, have the potential to -it’s a lifetime endeavor, after all-.
We encourage you to be that eagle.
And those are the people we want on TPM.

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