8 Things We Can Actually Learn From Machiavelli’s “The Prince”

1. You can’t please everyone. (The need to avoid contempt and hatred).

Machiavelli constantly noted that it is impossible for a Prince to satisfy both his subjects and his nobles at the same time. The prince would have to sacrifice the needs of one for the other.

Stating clear examples from history, Machiavelli also used the Romans as a case study. He stated that aside from the subjects and nobles, Roman emperors still had soldiers to deal with.

In a modern world view, people wrestle with the notion that they can try to make everyone happy. With some accepting that they would have to displease one in order to please the other, others still hang on to the illusion that they can satisfy everyone. As noted by Machiavelli, trying to please everyone ultimately leads to disaster.

2. Being generous all the time is being stupid all the time. (Generosity and Parsimony)

It’s no rare thing to find fundamentally good people. People who display extraordinary attributes of altruism that surpass even the likes of religious clerics, which is a good thing. But giving away more than you have can be self defeating.

According to Machiavelli, in people’s efforts to become generous, they lose the ability to do so. That simply means that you can only be generous until you lose everything you can be generous with.

He emphasized that the people considered extremely generous in history only did so with what didn’t belong to them in the first place. He cited figures such as Alexander the great, Cyrus and Julius Caesar who were more liberal with what wasn’t their own.

There’s nothing bad in being generous. If you have enough to give, then by all means, do so. But if don’t, do not risk your well-being and that of your family’s for someone else.

It is important to also note that Machiavelli noticed how quickly people can turn on you if you tell them “no”. You become either poor or despised, “seeking to escape poverty”.

3. People cannot be trusted (Cruelty and Compassion)

This is harsh but true. Machiavelli strongly objected to promises made with just words. They could be easily broken.

His words were: “Men are ungrateful, fickle, liars and deceiver. They shun danger and are greedy for profit. While you treat them well, they are yours… But when you are in danger, they turn you away” those words deeply and quite aggressively reflected his views on humanity. But his stance on trust was somewhat accurate.

You should not depend entirely on trust. If you do, be ready to get your heart broken.

4. Education is important (How a prince should organize his militia)

Machiavelli’s idea of education was taking military exercises in the art of war during and after wartime.

He stated how important it is for a prince to know more about war and historical events based on war.

Similarly, in our generation, education is equally important. Knowledge has become more powerful than ever. And what is the best way of acquiring knowledge than education?

You don’t need to know about the art of war, it’s execution and implementation. But learning how to read and write is of equal importance.

5. Always expect the unexpected. (How a prince should organize his militia)

Philopoemen, as cited by Machiavelli, was praised for thinking of war during peacetime. He casually engaged in conversations about military strategy amongst friends.

You have to expect an unexpected change in your life at an unexpected point, one you could not have foreseen. It is always wise to prepare for them.

Setting aside money for an unforeseeable financial problem in the future would be the modern day equivalent to expecting the unexpected. Just like Philopomen.

6. You cannot be all good (and it’s okay). (The things for which men, and especially princes are praised or blamed)

In an era where black is white and white is black and it’s near impossible to tell one from the other, we are often faced with moral ambiguity.

Should I do the “right” thing and hurt someone else in the process? What exactly is the right thing in the first place?. Well Machiavelli says it’s okay. No one is all good.

He enumerated qualities such as faithfulness, courageousness, frivolousness and religiousness. It is laudable for a prince to have them, but due to the “conditions of the world”, princes cannot have those qualities and observe them completely.

Real life is complex and it is not without his drawbacks.

7. Decisiveness and Conviction. (how a prince must win honour)

According to Machiavelli, there’s danger in neutrality and being completely at someone else’s mercy.

Delaying a problem doesn’t actually help you in any way. Indecision equals failure. That’s not ruling out patience completely which is instrumental in solving the problem. But there’s a fine line between patience and delay.

A problem is better solved when confronted.

8. Having a reputation for cruelty is hazardous (The need to avoid contempt and hatred)

Most people do not make it their life’s mission to be known as cruel. They might consider themselves as being strict or forward, but others might see them as bad, wicked and cruel.

Do It Now! (Fields Of Green Onions That Need Picking)

As we have weeds to pick out of a garden, so do we have realities to act on. With that said, I begin this article. At this writing I have dealt with a few minor “headache like” life situations that were so minor, yet they would make people in certain circumstances “give up the ghost” because they are so irritatingly minor. Let me put it like this, though: However many minor headaches come my way, I am not giving up on anything.

Recently, the deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade were announced as suicides, I am sad and mournful for them and their friends and families. Nevertheless, I felt I must write this realistic and honestly gut-wrenching article about “do it now” or do not do it at all because reality is gut-wrenching life whatever level you or anyone may be on. Whether the path is “easy” or “hard” or whatever, life is a do it now and do it to yourself or do not do it at all proposition. Indeed, we all have a choice to make.

I remember this Jimi Hendrix song called “Castles Made Of Sand”, and it taught me a great lesson about life and existence. Reality is ultimately what we earned for better or worse and if we learn the lesson, it is better. If we do not learn the lesson, it is worse. Right down to the little Indian brave who lost his life in the surprise attack and the little girl in the wheelchair in the song who wanted to commit suicide and something caught her eye and she got stopped in her tracks. We pay and benefit through our understanding, whether innocent or guilty right down to O.J. seeming to “get away with it” or all those many genuinely innocent black men in the Los Angeles County Jail system that are innocent, but “not getting away with it” and being unjustly beaten and arrested for that O.J. who “seemed to get away with it”. You know, “normal” justice is the castle made of sand that gets washed to the sea by the genuine facts when they come around ultimately in objective reality under genuine God.

But, back to the subject: We all have weeds in our garden and cobwebs in our head, thinking and spirit that need disposing of. We all have to face reality and work on it, not escape it.

Look, sometimes, I would like to escape responsibility like anyone who seems to, but for the most part, like the stereotype of virtue that is genuine, I do face reality. Sometimes I flinch, it gets so bad. But, I learn not to flinch. That is what this gut-wrenching article is really about as a whole. We all must grow and not avoid. After all, the ultimate weakness is to genuinely cheat yourself and others, and “get away with it”. Thinking you got off easy also, is the ultimate immaturity, too. So, I end with a question that will haunt you: When it is time, are you ready to pay?