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Upon its release at the height of the 1990s Wall Street boom, it was described as a “Machiavellian Bible” and a modern version of The Prince. For good reason: Much like Machiavelli’s treatise, 48 Laws of Power was designed, by and large, to help men navigate their way to the top of the corporate ladder; and much like The Prince, it offers a set of vague rules, strategies and manipulation techniques to attain it. The 48 Laws of Power became a sensation, championed by everyone from Warren Buffett to American Apparel founder Dov Charney. Kanye West (Only book I ever read I could have wrote ; 48 Laws of Power) and Jay-Z (At 42, be better than 24s; I carry the 4–5, mastered 48 Laws) have referenced the work in song lyrics.

Chances are you don’t plan to usurp a dynasty anytime soon, so the more diabolical laws — such as law 14, which encourages you to “Pose as a friend, but work as a spy” might not be that relevant. A handful of Mr. Greene’s laws offer helpful counsel to forthright entrepreneurs.

Note: the following italics text is extracted from Robert Greene’s book.

Law 5 – So much depends on reputation — guard it with your life

“Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win; once it slips, 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.”

Your company’s reputation is one of your most valuable asset. In the digital age, reputations are easily blackened and difficult to rehabilitate. Protect your personal and corporate brands by always doing what you should do, rather than what you could do.

Law 9 – Win Through Your Actions, Never Through Argument

“Any momentary triumph you think you have gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory. The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.”

Instead of endlessly pitching yourself, your product, or results you’ve never actually accomplished yourself… walk your talk instead. Let your actions convey your capabilities.

Law 10 – Avoid the unhappy And unlucky

“You can die from someone else’s misery — emotional states are as infectious as diseases. You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are precipitating your own disaster. The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you.”

Unhappy people are toxic to your culture and will poison their coworkers with their persecution complex. Startups simply cannot afford useless drama. Get rid off of anyone who bad mouths a former employer, boss or colleague and does not accept responsibility.

Law 11 – Learn to keep people dependent on you

“To maintain your independence you must always be needed and wanted. The more you are relied on, the more freedom you have. Make people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity and you have nothing to fear. Never teach them enough so that they can do without you.”

Customers should remain dependent on your solution(s) because of its compelling value proposition and not only artificial controls.

Law 13 – Appeal to people’s self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude

“If you need to turn to an alley for help, do not bother to remind him of your past assistance and good deeds. He will find a way to ignore you. Instead, uncover something in your request, or in your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emphasise it out of all proportion. He will respond enthusiastically when he sees something to be gained for himself.”

As you develop content, a product, or an offer, always be asking yourself “Why would someone care about this?”

Law 23 – Concentrate your forces

“Conserve your forces and energies by keeping them concentrated at their strongest point. You gain more by finding a rich mine and mining it deeper, than by flitting from one shallow mine to another — intensity defeats extensity every time. When looking for sources of power to elevate you, find one key patron, the fat cow who will give you milk for a long time to come.”

A lack of focus has killed off millions of brilliant business ideas over the years. Ensure that your efforts actually move you closer to your goals.

Law 25 – Re-Create Yourself

“Do not accept the roles that society foists on you. Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define it for you.”

Ignore conventional wisdom and don’t let the market define your venture, its culture or its go-to-market strategy. Be different and you’ll win the day.

Law 27 – Play On People’s Need To Believe To Create A Cult like Following

“People have an overwhelming desire to believe in something. Become the focal point of such desire by offering them a cause, a new faith to follow. Keep your words vague but full of promise”

Instill a strong belief among your stakeholders all along the way. Better in the long term if you can uphold your promises.

Law 28 – Enter Action With Boldness

“If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it. Your doubt and hesitations will infect your execution. Timidity is dangerous: Better to enter with boldness. Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.”

In the land of startups, hesitancy is not very often rewarded.

The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. 

Bible. Proverbs 28:1


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