This week, more details emerged about the degree of influence the increasingly infamous Gupta family has held over the government of South Africa. The story will no doubt unfold in increasingly messy ways. But what's their goal? 

In a book called 'Wealth Secrets of the One Per Cent,' Sam Wilkin enumerates the principles that created the uber-wealthy throughout the ages. The Guptas, it would seem, are trying to to tap into the idea of using government influence to win contracts and shut down competition. Eliminating competition through political deals, Wilkin points out, is one of the primary secrets of the top ten wealthiest people in all of human history. (Operating in emerging economies is another). 

For most of us, the idea of becoming Robber Barons, and manipulating an entire nation for our personal prosperity, is repugnant. Yet there are a few morally acceptable principles we can usefully take away from the wealth-tsars. 

The first one, this week, is the idea that politics is a major lever for growth. No, you don't have to become a local ward-councillor, and forget the shady business of bribing corrupt officials; simply understanding the vast system of interests that governs your industry is already a major competitive advantage. 

At the most cursory level, if you know and are known by all the key players in an industry, you will already be better off than those who don't. That is a political advantage. 

At the intermediate level, if you grasp the subtle interplay of rules, laws and movements, you will see more opportunities than those who do not. That's a political advantage too. 

At the highest levels, if you are a voice which, in part, guides the direction of an industry, you will naturally be a more prosperous part of it. You will see further and be able to make more out of opportunities.  

The ugliest interpretation of the political idea is: 'Buy off government officials and get your way.' The more honest version is: 'Understand the system, and see where all the levers and opportunities exist.' 

Next week, we will look at more wealth secrets of the top 1%, and consider honest and ethical ways to implement them to your advantage. For this week, the lesson is simple: Don't just learn the technical proficiency of your craft. Understand the entire system in which you operate. Know the environment, the interests and agendas, and you will see more. That changes a great many things. 

Discover the secrets, and you can own your industry.