Ancient Jedi Mind Tricks You Can Use
These Aren't The Droids You're Looking For
By Rich Tseng
Imagine you’re a stormtrooper in Star Wars on the desert planet Tatooine with one job: to apprehend two fugitive droids wanted throughout the galaxy. One day an old man rolls up in a sweet floating convertible, and in it are a kid and two robots that match the descriptions perfectly. But with a few soft-spoken words, the geezer convinces you that his two companions “aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” so you and your partner let them through. What happens when you later discover your mistake? If, like most of the galaxy, you’re a space atheist who doesn’t believe in the Jedi, the Force or any of those ‘ancient superstitions’, then you’ll probably chalk it up to a bad day or dumb luck. But if you understand how the galaxy and all the people in it actually work, then it should come as no surprise that a Jedi mind trick can hypnotize you into believing anything.
Our galaxy works in much the same way.
We may not have laser swords or telekinesis, but we do have something like “The Force”. To understand how our version works, we need to see it at its most effective. So put yourself in the minds of these incredible men—and one incredible woman—from long, long ago but not so far away. And try to figure out how they pulled off their Jedi mind tricks. Grasp these ideas, and you might even be able to change your own story.
The Queen Who Defied the Patriarchy By Becoming The Man
You’re the queen of a powerful empire and your husband has just died. Your stepson is too young to rule by himself, but nobody believes a woman can truly be the head of the kingdom. To make matters worse, other branches of the royal family are moving in to take over. You know that when a queen and young king lose their positions, there’s no such thing as retirement. In ancient politics, the severance package is almost always death. So what do you do?
Well, if you’re the legendary Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt, you give gender constructs the finger. Declare yourself Pharaoh and rule as a man, but confuse the hell out of your opponents by occasionally flaunting your femininity. Have official statues and paintings depict you as a man, with big muscles and even a beard. Then at other times have yourself portrayed in traditional female regalia. Keep everyone puzzled long enough to do the whole ruling thing better than anybody else. Build incredible monuments, crush foreign armies and fund trading expeditions that make the land more prosperous than it can remember. Don’t stop for 22 years. Do it so well that your jealous stepson will try to wipe out all evidence of your reign and take credit for your achievements long after you’re gone. And you thought Luke and Leia’s family dynamics were screwed up.
The Takeaway? If people give you some absurd reason why you can’t do something, try embracing the absurdity and make that weakness your greatest strength.
The Scholar Who Fought Off An Army With Music
You’re a legendary genius, renowned not only as a learned scholar but also as a brilliant military tactician. But on this day you may have committed a huge blunder. After sending the majority of your army off to attack the enemy, you discover that your nemesis somehow got around them. Now your enemy is leading 200,000 soldiers to destroy you and the tiny force you kept behind to defend the fort. How are you going to fight them off?
If you’re the renowned Zhuge Liang, you do it with the biggest bluff of the ancient world. You know there’s no way you can defend yourself. So instead you decide to open up. Literally. You throw open the gates and hide all the banners, then you have your soldiers dress like commoners and sweep the entrance. And if all that isn’t spooky enough, you get up on the walls and jam on your guqin (ancient Chinese keytar). When the enemy commander and his forces arrive, you look so damn confident that they think, there’s no way this isn’t a trap, and go home. Take that, Admiral Ackbar!
The Takeaway? Like all magic, deception takes work. But once you establish a solid reputation, don’t be afraid to do the unexpected when the stakes are highest.
The General Who Put Down a Mutiny with One Word
While away fighting enemies, you get word that the troops you’ve stationed at home are tired of waiting around. They’ve started demanding back pay, the bonus you promised, and to be discharged now that they’re not fighting. Problem is, you don’t have any money to pay them. Worse still, you’re in the middle of a civil war that’s far from over and you need them to reenlist or you can’t win. Some have even started looting the rich homes in the countryside, which leaves you no choice but to meet with them. As you walk up to the front you squint at the sun flashing off the armor and shields of tens of thousands of unhappy armed killers. What do you say?
When you’re Julius Caesar, you make sure to use the last word any soldier who has spent his entire life fighting as a professional warrior wants to hear. The one that completely undoes their identity and brings the reality of what getting paid and discharged means into stark relief. They’ll cease to be part of the greatest fighting force the world had ever known. Never again be in the company of men who’d fight and die for them. Instead they’ll have let down the greatest leader and boss they’ve ever served. And be alone. If you’re Caesar, you open your speech with a word that perfectly describes their post-discharge status. You call them “Citizens.” Then you tell them you’ll pay them with the loot from your next campaign, which you’ll win with other legions. Soon the ex-soldiers were begging to become soldiers again. And that’s how this galaxy’s original Emperor got his army to reenlist without spending a single sesterce*.
The Takeaway? Whether it’s an angry spouse or furious coworkers, you’ll often find that the reason they say they’re mad isn’t really why they’re mad. Caesar knew that his soldiers just felt neglected and wanted more action, so he used reverse psychology to bring them around.
What is “The Force”?
Like most of the Galactic Empire, we take assumptions like the idea that we live in a rational, mechanical world filled with logical people for granted. In reality, world records that limit human abilities are being shattered all the time, and our emotions are constantly overriding what is actually true.
When applied to people, we call it psychology, when applied to nature, we call it science, and when applied to aesthetics, we call it art. Whatever you call the way reality works, whether it’s the “Tao” or “natural law” or “Force”, you can’t deny that the better you understand it, the more effective you’ll be in this—and probably all other—galaxies. Just make sure you give the trilogy another watch should you ever feel the pull of the Dark Side.
*Ancient Roman unit of currency