Law #5 – So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it with your Life

Law 5 - Reputation

Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win; once you slip, however, you are vulnerable, and will be attacked on all sides. Make your reputation unassailable. Always be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen. Meanwhile, learn to destroy your enemies by opening holes in their own reputations. Then stand aside and let public opinion hang them.

Contents of the 5th 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 5th Law of Power



Example #1)

During the War of the Three Kingdoms, a General called Liang managed to establish a fearsome reputation for himself, as being an almost invincible leader and master strategian. Having to face him in battle was an unthankful task for every commander, for it meant an almost certain defeat. One reason was Liang’s masterfully crafted battle plans but also the psychological effect of his fierce reputation, which could single-handedly win battles by demoralizing the enemy.

In one particular case, his reputation saved both his and his men’s lives. His enemy, Sima Yi led a huge army against a city Liang was defending, outnumbering his enemy by such a huge margin, that victory was certain. Liang knew that his army didn’t stand a chance, no matter how desperate and vicious they fought, so he had to revert to deception and reverse psychology.

He put on a Taoist robe and took a seat on the platform over the gates, playing a guqin (similar to a flute) with all the calmness in the world. When approaching the city, Sima Yi saw his arch enemy playing an instrument, mocking him and showing no signs of fear. Believing this to be a trap, he decided to abandon the attack and ordered his vast army to retreat. While it did cross his mind, that Liang was indeed outnumbered and defenseless, his opponent’s reputation got the better of him and put his army to flight.

This trick is also known as the Empty Fort Strategy. The 32nd Stratagem of the legendary 36 Stratagems.


Example #2)


During the invasion of Poland in 1939, Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, was assigned to protect Adolf Hitler, an ungrateful assignment that he loathed. Since he was known as a magnificent commander of troops – pushing deep into enemy territory and outflanking his enemies, easily dealing crushing blows to the treacherous Italians (who decided to turn on their German and Austrian friends, out of the fucking blue, because they were promised Austrian territory) – he managed to convince Hitler to put him in charge of one of the 10 panzer divisions and leading the tanks in Africa.

Building upon his reputation of a genius infantry commander, he now became known as the Desert Fox, for outmaneuvering his opponents and crushing his enemies on the battlefield. Even when British or French forces outnumbered his army, whole cities were abandoned when the news, Rommel ante Portas, reached the commanding general.

Not only did he have the reputation as the most fearsome general, but also as a very humane victor. He disobeyed the madman with the two-finger-mustache and never killed prisoners or jews, but spared their lives. Because of his reputation as a national war hero, he was ordered to commit suicide in private, after a plot to assassinate Hitler was uncovered, instead of being publically hanged.


Negative Example #1)

Doris Bures president of the Austrian National Council and puppy dog of the current chancellor Werner Failmann, tried to please her master by attacking the reputation of her former good friend Christian Kern, CEO of the biggest company, ÖBB, chairman of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), most powerful manager and best-connected person in the country, and hot candidate for the position of the chancellor.

A little back story, Doris Bures was the former minister of Infrastructure and hence had close ties to the railway company ÖBB. When the former loved Austrian National Council president died of cancer, she was promoted to take over, because she proved herself to be a loyal member of the SPÖ (Socialist Party), despite some bad tongues claiming her to be about as useful as a cock devoid of its glans. Never was she known for achieving results but this new promotion angered many people even more, because she was nothing but a quota woman, and everyone knew it.

You won’t find many individuals who hate achieving something worthwhile more than her. Maybe except for chancellor Werner Faymann, who hates results and change as much as the devil hates holy water.

The people resent the current chancellor, who is undoubtedly the worst chancellor in the history of the young republic, and many voices called for the election of a new chancellor and new elections. One of the preferred candidates being Mag. Christian Kern, an excellent speaker and Modern Machiavelli who studied communication studies and managed to turn around a mess of a company by 180° within 2 years. He did receive death threats and made a lot of enemies, by cleaning out house, with the biggest layoff the company has ever seen, but won even more friends and supporters by doing so.

During an interview, Doris Bures was asked, if Christian Kern (who actually was a politician in early years) would make a great politician and chancellor. She put on a sarcastic bitchface and her answer was: “Just like I would not make a great railway CEO, he would not make a good politician.(1/2)” A very unwise thing to say, because as the minister of infrastructure, you indeed should be able to also lead an infrastructure company. “Christian Kern would be smart enough to come to the same realization (2/2).”

The current chancellor is a former taxi driver, who didn’t even go to university and Doris told the interviewer, that both she and the chancellor would make better politicians than the most successful manager and former successful politician.

This was the stone that kicked off an avalanche. Thousands and thousands of people were pissed at her stupidity and saw right through the schemes of Werner Faymann and Doris Bures to guard and secure their position. Both of their polls took a massive hit, while Christian Kern’s popularity rose sharply and he now is indeed a possible candidate to clean up the pile of rubble, produced by Faymann’s reign.

People even commented that Doris Bures needs to read Niccoló Machiavelli, and since this incidence took place a few days before Christmas, I honestly hope that someone gave her a copy of The Prince as a present.


Guess who is who

The expression of not knowing what the hell you are actually being paid for


Negative Example #2)

Dumbo Pretendiavelli was the son of a business magnate, known by everyone is his city. Everybody admired his family and what they had accomplished. The reputation of his father carried over and was attributed to him. One day he met a couple of friends and made it known, that he was late because his mother made him clean up his room and told him to change his clothes, because he seemingly looked funny in her eyes. After giving an explanation for being late, in this case acting like an obedient dog, he sharply fell from grace.

He managed to taint his honor by saying too much and looking weak. This was not enough though, since he managed to hammer the last nail into the coffin that was his formerly outstanding reputation.

Being an avid follower of The Red Pill (a misogynist, sexist, racist, devil-worshipping, shitlording cult of bitter losers who have never been loved by their mothers and are 40-year-old neckbeard virgins; according to the general opinion) he wanted to look sly and regain his reputation as the cool rich kid. Thus he opened his mouth too wide, completely violating Law 4 and the biblical Proverb 13:3. “He that keepeth his mouth, keepeth his life. He that opens his lips too wide shall bring on his own destruction”. He let his seemingly sexist views about pick up and treating women be known in the presence of his friends and their friends, believing that he could regain their favor, but in the process, he brought destruction upon the pathetic chunk of what remained of his reputation. He got the reputation as a pro-rape xenophobe, was bullied by everyone inside and even outside his social circle and bullied into suicide, all because of his negative reputation. May god have mercy on his soul.



Spirit of the Law


Why Reputation is important

We judge others on their reputation, not only when we first meet them but also if we already know them, because many people are unfathomable to us. There is a reason that a psychoanalysis takes around 7 years, thus we have to not only rely on our instincts and the appearance of the other person, but we look towards others opinion of him (also known as reputation) since we are unable to read thoughts – only appearances.

Your reputation will always precede you, be it a good or a bad reputation. Either exaggerating your strengths or weaknesses. Hence, you need to ensure a strong, untarnished reputation.

You get through with things others could not, if you have an untainted reputation. Many a battle has been won, before it was even fought on the battlefield. Psychological warfare and intimidation are tools almost as powerful as meticulous analyzation of the enemy & planning.

A good example would be the infamous Casanova, who had the reputation for being a womanizer, despite looking as ugly as the night is dark. His reputation preceded him and many women were open to meet him, because of the adventurous feeling he aroused in them, solely based on his reputation.


Building up Reputation

The first act of business should be to decide for what particular trait you wish to build a reputation. Be it honesty, generosity, god faring ness, achieving results, being quick & reliable, being a master strategos or even minor but still beneficial traits like being punctual and always well groomed.

A good step is to sit down, brainstorm and write down every single trait you want to be associated with and subsequently working on establishing a reputation for those traits.

Make sure to work on building a solid foundation for the chosen traits and try to let it be known to as many people as possible, either via word of mouth or other subtle means. If you try to make it happen too quickly, acting too aggressive in the process, people will catch on and will believe you to be a try-hard. Humor is a rubber sword, it draws no blood when making a point.

One of the best book about personal branding is Career Warfare by a highly successful business man, who has written a couple of other books (Executive & Brand Warfare) who are decent but in no way as useful as Career Warfare for our purpose of learning to build a solid reputation.


Defending Reputation

An attack on one’s reputation is immensely effective and you need to know how to properly protect yourself against such. Often people who try to attack you, want to bait you into reacting. If you “feed the troll” and defend against his slander, many people are going to believe that the original accusations ring true, since you would otherwise have not bothered responding.

When faced with retarded accusations by an imbecile trying to bait you into reacting, it can often be a wise move to stay calm and let the storm subside.

A hostile attack is only one threat for your reputation, but the bigger threat are you yourself. I have witnessed countless people, companies and politicians, actively working towards destroying their own reputation. Always watch your tongue and abide to Law 3 & Law 4.

Another mistake often made is not being careful about who you are seen with or where you are seen. Try not attending a skinhead conferences when you want a reputation as a liberal thinker.

Turning around tarnished reputation is hard. It always is easier (not necessarily smarter though) to start all over again in a new social/business circle.

Other option: constant effort. Prove them wrong in their opinion of you. Will improve slowly. Some deeds can never be forgotten. Try to borrow credibility from a person of influence. His reputation is going to rub off onto you and soon you will be associated with the positive traits he possesses.

Another use for people whose opinion of you is positive, is to make them your loyal allies who are going to defend you and your reputation. Not only befriend the people with the most influence, but also those who are lower on the ladder of power. Even if they do not defend your reputation, your new found friends are unlikely to actively undermine your reputation either. Though remember Law 2.

A favored tactic of mine is attacking someone because of a trait that could be attributed to me, with the intention of disarming him preemptively. For example calling him a ruthless Machiavel. Even if the facts speak against that statement, many people are likely to accept it as the truth, since I made that claim first. If he now defends himself by saying: “No I am not, you are.” imagine how childish and implausible he sounds. This technique only makes sense, if you are not known as literally Hitler and try to impose that frame on Mother Theresa.


Attacking Reputation

A power play involving mutual attacks on reputations could be found during the Occupy Wallstreet movement. Both sides participated in forms of it, while one being much more successful than the other. The Occupy Wallstreet movement undertook an overt attack against the hated 1%, scratching their reputation in the course of the demonstration.

A good plan but it fades when compared to what the 1% did. Not surprisingly because there is a reason, like it or not, why the 1% is the 1%. And that is not luck, but superior Machiavellian qualities. They decided the best course of action was to attack the movement’s reputation by infiltrating it within and making a joke out of them. They hired hippies who turned the movement into a circus and soon after, everybody believed that the 99% are bums who want to relive Woodstock. Leading to the devastation of their credibility.

Though one thing they did right and that is to attack the reputation of big institutions. Everyone has a major interest in protecting his reputation, and an attack of his most valuable asset will bother him, forcing him to act and make mistakes. In this case, the enemy outsmarted the actually pretty big Occupy movement and showed their superiority once more.

To kill a man you need to kill his reputation. If you merely kill his physical hull, he is going down in history as a martyr. If your reputation is meagre and your enemy’s is strong but not untouchable, a slanderous attack on him is a good course of action, for he has much more to lose than you do.

Use subtle ways to attack your enemy, don’t go out guns blazing and hurt yourself more than you do your adversary. Keep the example of Doris Bures in mind, who tried to overtly attack the reputation of her former friend, but massively failed at disguising her seemingly subtle attack, hence arousing resentment.

An example of a subtle attack would be to sow doubt. Even if proven innocent, the doubt will remain. For example, if someone is accused of rape, but not convicted for it by a court, people will never look at the person in the same way.



Most Important Learnings

  • Your reputation will always precede you; always live up to it
  • Build a reputation for a positive or negative trait by constantly working on it
  • The biggest threat for your reputation is not the competition, but you yourself
  • Be careful where you are seen and whom you are seen with
  • Don’t put fire under the cattle of your reputation; wait for it to diminish
  • When slandering your enemy, don’t appear reckless, hurt or only out for revenge
  • Try to make as many allies as possible, who are willing to defend your reputation



I hope you enjoyed reading my interpretation of the law and 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.

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[…] 5. So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it with your Life […]


[…] You need to make sure that your reputation stays untainted from such mistakes. Guard your reputation with your life. […]


[…] Always keep frame, never lower your mask even for the fraction of a second, because if you lose your mask, the mask is lost forever. Keep in mind that you must guard your reputation with your life. […]

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