MACHIAVELLI: 16 Lessons From The Master Manipulator


Florentine renaissance man Niccolo Machiavelli has made quite a name for himself in the 500 years since he laid out his ideas.
A poet, philosopher, musician, and playwrite, Machiavelli wrote The Prince, considered the first work of political science, in 1531.
What follows is some of what Machiavelli says you should do to get ahead--in politics, business, and life.
(And a fun fact before we start. The line for which Machiavelli is best known--"The ends justify the means"--never appears in The Prince or elsewhere. Scholars can only point to passages that speak to thespirit of the phrase.)

Either treat people well... or completely destroy them.

Either treat people well... or completely destroy them.
Men ought either to be well-treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.

If you suspect someone could pose a future threat, deal with them now.

The Romans never allowed a trouble spot to remain simply to avoid going to war over it, because they knew that wars don't just go away, they are only postponed to someone else's advantage.

Carry a big stick.

Carry a big stick.
Image: Wikimedia
Hence it comes that all armed prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed prophets have been destroyed.

Study the greats. That way, even if you fall short, you'll end up good.

A prudent man should always follow in the path trodden by great men and imitate those who are most excellent, so that if he does not attain to their greatness, at any rate he will get some tinge of it.

Another reason to carry a big stick: No one respects weak people.

Among other evils which being unarmed brings you, it causes you to be despised.

It's safer to be feared than loved.

It's safer to be feared than loved.
Image: Flickr
From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both: but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.

But don't go overboard with the fear thing.

A prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred.

Along as you don't insult people, steal their stuff, or threaten their livelihood, you'll be fine.

When neither their property nor honour is touched, the majority of men live content.

Perception is reality.

Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are.

It's okay to screw people over -- if you can kick the crap out of them.

A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.

Again, perception is reality.

The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.

Make it seem like you're a nice guy -- but if you need to screw people over, go right ahead.

Therefore it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them. ... appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright, and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to be so, you may be able and know how to change to the opposite.

Make sure some people don't hate you -- especially some powerful people.

Make sure some people don't hate you -- especially some powerful people.
Image: wiki commons
As princes cannot help being hated by someone, they ought, in the first place, to avoid being hated by every one, and when they can not compass this, they ought to endeavor with the utmost diligence to avoid the hatred of the most powerful.

Smart people hire other smart people.

The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.

Make sure some people can be honest with you. But only some people.

There is no other way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking the truth; but when everyone can tell you the truth, you lose their respect.

Just do it.

It is better to be rash than timid, for Fortune is a woman, and the man who wants to hold her down must beat and bully her. We see that she yields more often to men of this stripe than to those who come coldly toward her.