Law #2 – Never put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn how to use Enemies

Vincenzo Camuccini, "Morte di Cesare", 1798,

Be wary of friends – they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy. They also become spoiled and tyrannical. But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove. In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.


Contents of the 2nd Summary of the 48 Laws of Power (by Robert Greene)

Part 1: Video Summary

Part 2: Examples

Part 3: Negative Examples

Part 4: Spirit of the Law

Part 5: Most Important Learnings



Video Summary of the Law



Examples on how to apply the 48 Laws of Power


Example #1)

Michael III emperor of the Byzantine Empire (840-867) is a prime example of naive trust leading to one’s downfall. One day he visited a steed where a horse went loose and threatened the physical integrity of the king. Basil I came to his aid, pacifying the horse and thus saving the king. This was the beginning of a bond between the king and the peasant, that lasted a lifetime, Michael’s lifetime to be excact.

Michael showed limitless gratitude and took young Basil under his wings, providing him with the finest education and showering him with gifts. The emperor trusted his new mentee so much that he promoted him to the highest ranks of power, thinking that Basil was his loyal friend. He had to, because of all the opportunities the emperor opened for him, didn’t he? Unfortunately Basil, just like most people, developed feelings of grandeur and soon believed that everything he had achieved was his own doing. That he didn’t owe his success to anyone.

The former peasant tricked the emperor into killing his most loyal servant, Bardas, effectively cutting off his support. As soon as Basil was strong enough and held the majority of support in the empire, he decided to ursulp the title of emperor from Michael, by murdering his former mentor, friend and benefactor in his bed, cutting off both of his hands before thrusting a sword through his heart.

After this coup d’etat, Basil rose to become one of the most powerful and highly regarded emperors of the glorious Byzantine empire and helped her foritfy her power in the 9th century. In the aftermath, one could say that everyone benefited from Michael’s disobeyance of the law to never put too much into his friends. Except for Michael of course.


Example #2)

Ancient China, also known as the Wild Wild East, managed to establish one of the most treacherous environment history has ever seen, after the fall of the Han Dynasty in the year 220, which was referred to as the golden age of China. What followed was a reign by the Three Kingdoms which can be summed up as the “Eat and be Eaten Empire” because every soul that ascended the Dragon Throne was guaranteed to meet his demise by fellow generals or politicians. A toxic environment that claimed the life of many a naive wanna-be emperor.

A viscious cycle that repeated itself until general Zhao Kuangyin took his unrightful seat on the Dragon Throne and changed the modus operandi of dealing with the numerous enemies.

Instead of doing tabula rasa, killing his fellow generals and slaughtering their families; he instead decided to gain the support of his enemies by showering them with lavish gifts, sending them into a retirement in luxury. The plan worked out in his favour and his Song Dynasty managed to keep the Dragon Throne in family property for hundreds of years.

Maybe his enemies were weak or the times changed and the people had seen enough blood, we do not know. Arguably he could have achieved the same by killing everyone who had ambitions on his throne, burn their mansions and sprinkle salt on their lands so that for the next thousand years not even a single lizard could survive. Undertaking research in this area would probably contradict Greene’s claim, that you should make enemies your friends, hence you won’t find any details in the book.


Example #3)

In modern politics, you will find a couple of good examples for making enemies your friends, since we live in a god-less society where everyone is a mercenary for the right price, and it is much harder to murder important personalities (unless you are the Russian government of course).

Abraham Lincoln did so in his cabinet, outlined in Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

John F. Kennedy chose his former bitter rival Lyndon Johnson for the position of vice-president, despite the Kennedy and Johnson clans having a huge faud, leaving no ill word unspoken.

Barack Obama did the same with Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump hired college professor Sam Colvins, who insulted him, his strategy and viewpoints a mere 35 days before his promotion, and is now praising his new master, like a good puppy does.

Their main reasons for doing so was to remove their enemies from their former position, which made it almost mandatory for the enemies to work against them, and thus eliminiting the threat emitting from them. People close to you, working for you, can be grasped by a firmer grip and hence you are able to better control them and their actions. A seemingly positive promotion can actually serve your interests much more than theirs.

Usually, enemies of a high quality and caliber also bring a lot of experience as well as expertise to the table. The friends of your new friend, are probably your friends as well (That’s why Hillary is talking about “the legacy of Barack Obama must be saved” etc.)

Always keep in mind that most of these arrangements were benificial to both parties, otherwise it would have never worked. It is not easy to create such a situation, where you are able to use your enemies as your pawns.

  •  Ally yourself with former enemies, if the arrangement is beneficial to both of you


Negative Example)

Once upon a time, Dumbo Pretendiavelli had a friend called Brutus. Brutus was a pothead without drive and with a very dark and unpromising future ahead of him. What was the deciding factor that led to form this bond of friendship between them? Maybe it was because of their relatively small social circles and a friendship for the friendships’ sake and nothing more.

Brutus and Dumbo Pretendiavelli shared a lot together and whenever Brutus found himself in financial trouble, Dumbo was there to help. They even sold drugs together, with Dumbo being the main culprint, but trusting Brutus.

One day Dumbo told Brutus that he was out of town to visit his dying grandmother for 2 days. When he came back, someone had broken into his house and robbed him of everything of value.

Of course, Dumbo Pretendiavelli didn’t dare to suspect Brutus and continued to be his friend. He even decided to pay for his education, since he wanted his best friend to become a success; completly failing to notice, that Brutus didn’t feel alike and only had his own interests in mind.

Their lifes changed, Dumbo accepted a job and started working, while Brutus was still sitting on his lazy butt, dealing drugs. Despite the now obvious differences in their belief-system and environment, it didn’t hurt their friendship one bit, and Dumbo continued to trust him.

One day when Pretendiavelli came back home to his girlfriend, he caught his best friend with his girlfriend in flagranti. He felt shocked, betrayed and didn’t understand one bit how the most important people in his life could act in such a manner, despite his other friends and family warning him of the obvious warning signals.

While still being in shock and disbelief, thinking about where he had gone wrong and imagining that it could not get any worse, Brutus & Dumbos’ girlfriend stabbed him 23 times.

  •  Drop dead weight, pay attention to warning signals



Spirit of the Law


On Friends

Friends tend to expect favour and prefered treatment while enemies or strangers are more inclined to prove something and work harder. This law is not set into stone, and you need to be extra careful when dealing with former enemies.

Friends can easily be aroused by envy and greed and act against you as soon as you are vulnerable.

They won’t hesitate to play you for a fool and not have a single negative objection against doing so, for they will demonize you and rationalize their betrayal.

One rule rings true for both trust and gambling. Never put in more than you can afford to lose. It is good to trust friends, but not doing so, is much, much better!

On Enemies

The proverb tells us to keep our friends close but out enemies even closer. De facto one of the worst advices you can adhere to. If you keep your enemies too close, they will crush you and subtely undermine you at every opporunity that presents itself.

You only want to turn enemies into friends, if they would otherwise work against your on a bigger scale than the to-be-expected backstabbing during their false friendship.

Only make enemies into your friends as long as you are 100% certain, that they are dependend on you. As soon as you lose that power, the birds are going to try to break free and fly away, dropping a pile of bird shit onto your plans in the course.

On the other hand, what is there to lose? If the enemy is actively working against you, he might be able to cause more harm than subtely working against you as your friend. Always decide on a case-to-case basis.

Enemies are much more predictable than friends, and from time to time it makes sense to ally yourself with them. The enemy of your enemy, despite being you enemy as well, is sometimes your friend for a limited time. A good example would be “Eisern Wien” [Iron Vienna], a temporary alliance between the arch rivals of the football clubs “SK Rapid Wien” and “FK Austria Wien”, seen on rare occasions where a football club or a nation, hated by both clubs, comes to Vienna. For a day, the hooligans of both clubs join up and face the common enemy shoulder-to-shoulder and instantly revert back to being rivals the day after.

In a business setting, you want to use enemies and make them your subordinates in order to stop them dead in their tracks on the way to power. That’s why big companies buy smaller companies and people hover their ambitious adversaries into positions of seeming power, where they actually become a marionette in the big scheme of things.

While it might go against common sense to employ and utilize your enemies, as a Modern Machiavelli you need to analyze the most beneficial way to disarm and use your enemies. I have to repeat myself and say once again, that you must have something very beneficial to offer to your former enemy.


Using enemies to sporn you

Use enemies to sporn you, to push you forward by funneling your hate. They do an excellent job at keeping you at the top of your game. Mao Zedong, as well as others, did an excellent job at using their enemies to strengthen and refine his armys’ battle skills. Despite losing a few men, the gather experience outweighted his losses by a huge margin.

Find nay sayers who are vocal about your „unattainable goal“, then prove them wrong. Anger is one of the most powerful motivators. Some atheletes have been known to be extra rude to journalists, who then wrote articles attacking the athelete. Remember that hate & anger are among the best motivators one can have. Living means being angry, if you stop being angry, you start becoming lethargic.

Another great way to use enemies is to abuse them for great PR. You have heard the saying that bad news is better than no news, and it rings true in most cases.

Back in the day, when you had an enemy, he would attack you by burning down your estate and bashing your skull in with a branch. Or he would take out his silk glove, slap you in the face and challenge you to a duel, where he would put a bullet through your heart. Which would leave you pretty dead.

In our modern world, attacks are often carried out via subtle behind-the-back talk and attacks via the press or internet. Many people fear bad press and critics, but such attacks are antifragile by nature. They don’t harm you, but strengthen you and lead to support. This can be seen over and over again. An example would be twitter removing the verified badge from Milo Yiannopoulos, resulting in the mobilization of a huge supporter base under the twitter hashtag #JeSuisMilo

Most Important Learnings

  • It is good to trust others, but not doing so is much better
  • Never think that if you turn enemies into friends, that they cease being your enemies.
  • Never employ friends or family and do business with them
  • Use enemies as practice dummies & let them motivate you
  • Always keep a close eye on both your friends and enemies
  • Be quick to abandon dead weight & pay attention to warning signals



I congratulate you on taking action to improve your power base and life, and hope you enjoyed reading my interpretation of the law. If you have more examples of the possible applications or questions of any kind or wish to share your thoughts and experiences, please feel free to do so. Grab the book here and support the author if you don’t already own it and don’t forget to sign up on the homepage to continue learning about the power dynamics.

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[…] 2. Never put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn how to use Enemies […]


[…] Never sweat the small stuff. Trusting someone’s word is good, but rereading the contract or checking the car for small damages is better. Remember what Il Duce said: It is good to trust people, but not doing so is much better. […]

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