It is easier to cope with a bad conscience than a bad reputation

Friedrich Nietzsche

During the War of Three Kingdoms in ancient China, a fearsome general by the name of Chuko Liang made a terrible tactical blunder. He had sent his massive army to a small town while he relaxed in another small town, with a mere handful of soldiers. News soon reached Liang that enemies forces under general Sima Yi—over 150,000 strong—were headed to the town he was staying in. He surely would be captured if he tried to feebly resist the enemy, so he tried an unconventional approach that relied entirely on his reputation.

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Chuko Liang

Liang—for himself—was known as the “Sleeping Dragon” and feared throughout China. He was renowned for his tact, perceptiveness, and cunning. He had many legendary tales and exploits that were well-known through kingdoms. He had once sown rumors about a powerful general who was allied with one his enemies—he managed to convince the enemy the general was a traitor and forced the general to join forces with Liang. He had turned would-be traitors into double agents, he had stolen military seals and forged documents that sent enemies forces to random, distant locations. All these exploits lead Liang to be seen as the most clever man in all of China.

In this instance, Yi had an extensive history with Liang, as he had battled him on multiple occasions. So, when he approached the city that Liang was holed up in, he wasn’t shocked to see what he saw. Liang had thrown the gates of the city open, and he alone sat above the gate, clad in Taoist robes, strumming his lute and chanting Taoist rhymes. Yi knew that Liang was taunting him, forcing him to make a decision as to whether Liang was bluffing or luring Yi into a trap.

Yi looked at Liang for some time, hoping to get a read on Liang. He either falsely read Liang or dared not risk the downside of entering the city, as he ordered his troops to retreat.

This tale shows the supreme power of reputation. A general with barely 100 men was able to turn away over a hundred thousand soldiers solely because of his reputation for being supremely devious and crafty. Yi—most likely—was more worried about being yet another victim of Liang’s clever machinations than an easy capture of an enemy general. Liang’s reputation was so strong that he could bluff his way out of a sure capture at the hands of his enemies.

Reputation is essential to any man’s success in society. Our success and advancement in society necessarily hinges on other’s estimations of us. Only a fool or a rube would ignore his reputation; it is one of the most important intangible resources. As seen with Chuko Liang, sheer reliance on his reputation saved him from certain capture at the hands of his enemies.

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Greene counsels that a man should, first, seek to a reputation for one personal quality, say honesty or seductiveness, and build a sterling, rock-solid reputation on that quality. A man who has too many irons in the fire is most likely to burn himself, but by focusing on one personal quality, a man can set himself apart from the crowd and get noticed by others. Further, he advises that a man should be as subtle as possible in cultivating his reputation so not as to bring too much attention on his ambition.

Once a reputation is established, it becomes a sort of passive income, as your reputation precedes you and you need to exert less effort building it. It can create an atmosphere around you that can inspire—for example—fear or devotion. It opens doors, heads confrontations off at the pass and brings nothing but benefits, at least when it is positive.

Reputation can prove to be an inescapable albatross if you cultivate a negative reputation. For example, consider Roosh’s forum. The forum has attracted all manner of liars, deceivers and dishonest miscreants. Just like in real life, a foul stench quickly attaches to men who engage in negative behaviors such as fabrication and lying. People can respect men who start from the bottom and work to better their life. What people can’t respect is those who lie about their life or personality, such as lies about the quality of women they are bedding or lying about personal accomplishments and success.

Positive or negative, reputation is absolutely crucial to a man’s success. As seen with Chuko Liang, his reputation may have very well saved his life. For the average man, reputation doesn’t so much save his life so much as it helps build it—or tear it down. But focusing on developing at least one obvious and demonstrable positive personal quality, man can establish a reputation that precedes. So long as a man avoids curating a negative reputation, he can benefit from attention that comes from being known for positive personal qualities.

Read More: Never Break Bread With The Ungrateful