The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Main lesson of the book: How to govern and deal with people.

In a world where power is the magical unseen chord that binds most of us, it would be wise to try and improve your understanding of how power works. Machiavelli in his effort to gain better standing in the world of politics and power wrote this book to illustrate his understanding on the topic. He wrote it in the hopes that he could help whomever reads it gain knowledge on how the world works. The Prince is filled with an extreme amount of amazing quotes and lines that would baffle even the most seasoned veteran in the game of power. Of course his point of view regarding power is based on the viewpoint of a prince and how a prince should behave. Or as he would state it “just as those who draw landscapes place themselves below in the plain to contemplate the nature of the mountains and of lofty places, and in order to contemplate the plains place themselves upon high mountains, even so to understand the nature of the people it needs to be a prince, and to understand that if princes it needs to be of the people.”

This book covers a lot of great points but I will discuss but the few that really struck a chord with me. The first one is the concept of how others view their input in your success. The Prince clearly states that people are driven by several needs and wants. And it is up to the reader or in this case the Prince to discern how to use this to their advantage. But also keep in mind that it isn’t possible to please everyone. Instead of focusing on making sure everyone is happy, instead focus on whose happiness will benefit you the most. If you were to take over a company or country there are a lot of elements that need to be kept in check for you to keep your new asset. The people who helped you get a hold of the new asset will expect benefits in return but what they expect and what they actually gain is often mismatched as reality tends to do. It is at this point that resentment is born. The book clearly states that even good deeds can lead to hatred. “it should be noted that hatred is acquired as much by good works as by bad ones.” This is because people tend to resent power if it doesn’t give them what they crave. So make sure you understand who you’re dealing with and how you can keep their loyalty in check.

A point the books makes is that if you don’t have any enemies you should make one. Because your value or reputation is only as great as the obstacles you overcome. So by creating your own obstacles and toppling them you can further enhance your position in the peoples mind. Another use of enemies is by using the fear said opponents can instill in the hearts of your subjects. By making sure your subjects understand how scary the possible invaders can be you can show them your valor and grace by showing them or promising them that you will protect them. If you instill enough fear, you will be able to make the people think they need the state for their own security and thus they will never hate you. What is beautiful about the Prince is that it clearly states that a Prince should be for the people. But not because it’s a good thing, but because the people are often the more powerful force when it comes to ruling. Even more so than an army.

My favorite chapter in the book is the part about lady Fortune. “She is, therefore, always, woman-like, a lover of young men, because they are less cautious, more violent, and with more audacity command her.” Luck favors the bold seems to be born from this very statement. It is very true that those who act are more likely to gain the favorable touch of lady luck because they pursue her with more passion than others. However, Machiavelli made it very clear that he believes that luck is a very big component in the fate of men. And that situation intertwined with ability and opportunity can give birth to legends. But only if fortune would allow it. And the best way to tame fortune or luck is by making sure you move with the times. Being aggressive works only if the world allows you to do so. Forcing a situation in a time where everyone wants peace will only work against you as they will all fight to stop you. “ I believe also that he will be successful who directs his actions according to the spirit of the times, and that he whose actions do not accord with the times will not be successful.” Reading the world and finding the flaws in it is a part of wisdom that few try to fully grasp.

Machiavelli truly understands that perception and reality do not or rather should not align if one is to play the game of power correctly. “men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, because it belongs to everybody to see you, to few to come in touch with you. Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are.” And in that lies what I believe to be the true essence of power. Understanding how peoples perception of you and their own surroundings can be used to your advantage is what power is all about. If people love you for your generosity, but what you bestow upon is loot your pillaged, then for some you are magnanimous while to others you are vile. And as long as those who find you vile are scattered and poor, they will never pose a threat to you. Keep your image as effective as possible for the goal you have in mind. Men will follow you or hate you regardless of what you do, so make sure your goal is set and let your image follow that goal.

If you ever do find yourself in a new position where power was given to you rather than obtained, you have to make sure you lay down a solid foundation of power. So that if those who gave it to you perish or betray you. Your new found power won’t easily be taken away from you. ”Nothing can be so uncertain or unstable as fame or power not founded on its own strength.” This by itself should explain of the value being able to achieve your goals through your own power. Because something gained through effort and knowledge can only be achieved through hard work, but keeping it will be relatively easy. Whereas something given can be taken away with ease and lost forever.

This was a great book to read. I feel like this was the inspiration to the book 48 laws of power. And I am not sure which one is more powerful, but this book in combination with The Art or War by Sun Tsu and the 48 laws of power will help anyone willing to try, understand the concept of power and how to govern. Being a boss is more about how people feel about you then most would give it credit for. Loyalty is a reflection of your actions and how they are perceived, so try to control them and understand why you should and shouldn’t do certain things. Great book.