The Will To Power

Life itself is will to power.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Every living thing has to exert power over its environment in order to survive. A deer is either overpowered and killed by a tiger or the leaves and shoots of trees are overpowered by the deer. Personal relationships and the relationships between countries all involve shifts in power.

Friedrich Nietzsche describes the ‘will to power’ as a ‘feeling of pleasure as the commander’ in addition to ‘the feelings of pleasure from the successful instruments that carry out the task’. In short, the superior human requires power which is derived from control and competence.

Control is important because a ‘free spirit’ can live life on their own terms. Defining how you want your life to be and living accordingly is powerful because you are bending reality to your own will. Nietzsche was critical of religion because it imposed limitations on people’s will. Rather than establishing knowledge of self through erudition and experience, religion does away with this by forcing its followers to behave and act in a certain way without questioning.

Control is not simply freedom to choose your beliefs, it also involves understanding uncertainty. Awareness of ourselves and the world around us both depend on the idea that our knowledge is limited. Control does not mean having absolute certainty all the time. Instead you know how to respond to uncertainty where there is always a possibility for things to go wrong.

Greater competency leads to more power. A master programmer is able to manipulate code to their will, resulting in successful projects. As a result, a master and a novice can both have a billion-dollar app idea but a master is more likely to transform the idea into a real business. A salesperson that brings in more revenue has more leverage to negotiate a better deal with their employer. Find out what determines competency for you and work towards attaining mastery.

Steve Jobs never studied Nietzsche but the concept of the ‘will to power’ came naturally to him. If reality did not agree with his will then he would ignore it as he had done with the birth of his first daughter and would do years later, when first diagnosed with cancer. Even in small everyday rebellions, such as not putting a license plate on his car and parking it in disabled spaces, he acted as if he was not subject to the restrictions around him. Most important of all, it enabled Jobs to inspire his team to change the course of computer history with a fraction of the resources of Xerox or IBM.


I am Dynamite!: A Life of Friedrich Nietzsche by Sue Prideaux

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

For the philosophers:

Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche

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