Few individuals boast a reputation as controversial as that of Niccolo Machiavelli.
Born on May 3, 1469, in Florence, Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was an Italian diplomat, historian, philosopher, and author. Also known as the ‘father of modern political theory’, Machiavelli is most well-known for his book Il Principe (or ‘The Prince’), a sort of guidebook for those in power on how to acquire or maintain it using unscrupulous means.
Machiavelli’s encouragement of self-serving ruthlessness and cunning for self-gain in his works has caused him to garner quite a bit of notoriety. The term ‘Machiavellianism’, coined after his name, is characterized by a cynical disregard of morals and an unethical focus on self-gain. In modern psychology, Machiavellianism is considered to be one of the dark triad personalities – a set of three personality traits that, according to psychologists, a majority of malevolent (yet functional) individuals possess.
Lying, deception, manipulation – all was fair game for Machiavelli as long as it promoted personal ambitions. It is why the name Machiavelli is so often associated with the word ‘villain’. But there is also great wisdom to be found in the works of the Italian diplomat. Because, though Niccolò Machiavelli was many things, he was definitely not foolish.
So, here are a few select Machiavelli quotes that we can all learn from to lead a life primed for success.
15 Wily Niccolò Machiavelli Quotes That Will Inspire You To Be Better
1. “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.”
It doesn’t matter who you are on the inside. To other people, all that matters is what you appear as on the outside. So, do your best to portray an image that you want to be associated with. Even if you have to act a little bit.
2. “There is no other way to guard yourself against flattery than by making men understand that telling you the truth will not offend you.”
If you want people to start being real around you, you have to stop getting offended at things. Don’t take things personally. And if you can’t control the way you feel, don’t let it show at least. Other people’s honesty is always useful. It helps you get objective critique that you can use to improve yourself. It can also provide you with leverage and ammunition that can come in handy in the future.
3. “The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.”
You can easily tell what somebody is like by the kind of company they keep. For example, people who surround themselves with sycophants are usually the type who are incredibly vain and narcissistic. At the same time, people who have party animals as friends are very likely to be party animal themselves. Use this knowledge. It can often give you the edge you need when deciding on how to approach and deal with a person of interest.
4. “Bad company will lead a man to the gallows!”
It is also very important to be aware of the company you keep. Bad company will often lead you down a road that you do not want to go. If your friends are the type who are constantly making bad decisions and/or always trying to pressure you into doing things you know are wrong, it’s high time you cut ties with them.
5. “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”
Adoration maybe a wonderful thing to have but it can just as easily turn into hate. Adoration does not protect you from the ill-intent of others. And more often than not, it is our loved ones who hurt and disappoint us the most. On the other hand, fear protects you from betrayal. The people who fear you may fantasize about getting the better of you but they would not dare to put their fantasies into action.
Respect does not come from love. It comes from awe and authority – it comes from fear. Now it’s never okay to be a bully, but you should always do your best to project strength and authority and let it be known that you are no pushover.
6. “It is not titles that make men illustrious, but men who make titles illustrious.”
It is not difficult to find news about some celebrity acting like jerks because of the fact that they are famous. And most of us can agree that this sort of behavior is unacceptable, to say the least. Because on an instinctual level, we all understand that achievements, fame, and fortune do not make somebody worthy of respect. People deserve respect through their actions and attitude. It just so happens that these are the kind of people that often also find success in life.
7. “No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.”
Don’t ever put all your cards on the table. A lot of people seem to think that being an open book is a good thing when it really isn’t. It only makes you predictable and vulnerable. Try to keep your plans and your projects a mystery. You have to be unpredictable – because you never know who is planning on doing you harm.
8. “There’s no honey without bees.”
If you are not willing to go through the ‘beestings’ in life to get to your goals, you are not going to succeed. Life rarely gives handouts – and waiting around for one means you are wasting precious time you could be using to achieve what you want.
9. “Fear of evil is greater than the evil itself.”
Everybody is afraid of something. But that does not mean the fear is justified. Because often our fears are unfounded. Start doing things, in spite of your fears, and you will start realizing that you were afraid for absolutely no reason at all.
10. “Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please.”
It’s easy to start a fight with somebody. All it takes is a word or two to permanently scar a relationship you have. But once you mess up your relationship with someone else, it’s not so easily repaired. So, always be mindful of what you say and what you do. Putting one’s foot in one’s own mouth is never a good thing.
11. “Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.”
The road to any goal is full of obstacles and struggles. But if you are dead set on achieving them, nothing can stop you. The most important trait to have if you want success is a will that refuses to be broken despite the hardships and the setbacks. As long as you refuse to give up, you will never lose.
12. “He who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.”
PT Barnum once famously said that there’s a sucker born every day. And there will always be people who think like that. It is up to you to guard against these people. Always be alert to other people’s true intentions – no matter how trustworthy they appear. Because not everybody wants what is best for you.
13. “A man who never changes must come to ruin when the times, in changing, no longer are in harmony with his ways.”
Be flexible. The world is constantly changing and so are beliefs and attitudes. Old values and beliefs may have served us well in the past but they will not necessarily continue to do so forever. And if you refuse to move with the changing times, you will quickly find yourself left behind by the changing world.
14. “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.”
Conflict is an unavoidable part of human life. And there are going to be times when you have to stand up to others for your own sake, whether you like it or not. At these times, it is in your best interest to make an example out of your opponent. Of course, breaking the law is not something you should do. But your retaliation should still be as vicious as it can be. Prove to everyone that you are not somebody that should be messed with. Because if you show weakness in times where you are confronted by adversity, people will start believing that they can take shots at you and get away with it. And that is something you definitely don’t want.
15. “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.”
Look up to your role models and try to incorporate their attitude and actions into your own life. The successful have made it to where they are for a reason. So, following in their footsteps is rarely a bad idea. Learn from them, and imitate them when relevant. Approach problems with their mindset by asking yourself what they’d do in your position. Invoking the attitude of the successful might not bring you immediate success but it will definitely point you in the right direction.
SEE ALSO: Top 18 Most Inspiring Steve Jobs Quotes
There is something about the nefarious genius of Niccolò Machiavelli that still fascinates thinkers to this day. He was a man that saw the worst in human nature and advocated the use of immoral means, even murder, as long as it justified the end. And though it has been nearly 500 years since his death, his works and his ideas remain a subject of great debate.
An exceptionally insightful writer and philosopher, Machiavelli will no doubt remain an important figure of history and study for centuries more to come.
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