5 Lessons of Life Success From Machiavelli's "The Prince"

Machiavelli portrait

Machiavelli would probably scare the pants off of most people today, with his cutthroat political strategy and dead-eyed, ice-cold leadership principles.

Machiavellian is a word we now use for any clever, scheming, knife-in-the-back sort of tactics that get us ahead in life — but here's a few lessons of success that any one of us can get used to. You don't have to be a power-mongering sociopath to get inspired by these lessons from Machiavelli. 

1. Find a Mentor

Success follows knowledge, and knowledge can be learned from people who have been successful in the things you want to see success in. About mentorship, Machiavelli writes that "a wise man ought always to follow the paths beaten by great men, and to imitate those who have been supreme, so that if his ability does not equal theirs, at least it will savor of it." You don't always need a face-to-face sort of mentor. Read books written by the most successful in your field; listen to their podcasts, watch their YouTube videos, glean from their experience via email or commenting on their personal blog.

2. Choose Your Friends Carefully

The adage "You are what you eat" should be replaced by "You are who you see" — if you've ever noticed yourself starting to laugh like a close friend, or beginning to use similar words and humor, you've noticed only a scratch on the tip of the iceberg. No man is an island and as such we're greatly influenced by the people we spend the most time with. This is very similar to the advice given above, with the main difference being the relationship. Mentors exist in your life soley to teach, and friendships require far more time and effort and often turn out to be even more influential than the mentors you respect most. So be careful who you choose to be friends with!

3. Dress to Impress

There's a lot of people who think differently, but the clothes really do make the man. They make the woman just as equally. If you don't think so, consider the evidence — jot down a top 10 list of the most successful people you can think of. How do they dress? Machiavelli's advised to take care of appearances because "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.”

“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result." What he's saying is this. Perception is reality. What people see is what they believe, so let them believe you're a man or woman of success — true success after all, is a mindset that leads to actions that result in triumph. When people share your mindset and positive self impression, it is strengthened. 

4. Devour the Best of Literature

It's no great secret that intelligent people read. This sharpens the mind and keeps us aware of change, trends, and strategies of success; "to exercise the intellect the prince should read histories, and study there the actions of illustrious men..." In a different voice but the same principles Dr. Suess wisely states;

The more that you read, the more things you will know.

The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.

Take a few minutes to look into the lives of the people you admire most. You may be surprised to see how many of them are avid readers.

5. Never Rest on Your Laurels

When Machiavelli talks about taking advantage of opportunity, he says, "a wise prince ought to observe some such rules, and never in peaceful times stand idle..." You know how hard it can be to make strides forward when the world in crashing down around you — it's impossible to not work hard in these times of chaos because you're giving everything you've got to keep your head above the water.

And when the time of peace comes, it's easy to take a well-deserved break. But well-deserved or not, a time of peace is the best time to take ground for the success of your life goals. Push forward with resolve and watch the world change before you. Remember that you create your own reality, and the responsibility rests entirely on you — follow these lessons with integrity and courage and enjoy the feeling of invincibility that Machiavelli's writing instills.



Photo from Wikipedia Commons: Image Source

Machiavelli quotes from The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli

Dr Suess quotes from I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!" by Dr Suess