5 Life Lessons You Can Learn From Machiavelli Without Reading The Prince

If you’re curious about the straightforward and enlightening wisdom The Prince offers, the next list of lessons can satisfy your curiosity.

Have you ever been called Machiavellian? The word is generally used as a synonym for evil, but if you think about it, there’s plenty of wisdom in this way of thinking and viewing life. This attitude might not be rosy and ideal, but it’s realistic about human behavior. If you haven’t read Machiavelli’s hugely famous work, The Prince, you don’t have to, not because it’s not a recommendable read (because it is!), but because you don’t have to read anything specific (don’t let snobs tell you otherwise), and there are tons of brilliant books out there. But if you’re still curious about the book and the straightforward and enlightening wisdom it offers about politics and the best way to rule, the next list of lessons about life and relationships can satisfy your curiosity. The book was written in 1513 and it is still relevant today, even if you want to use its advice for your own life.

Focus on your real life instead of your ideal life.


Machiavelli was a pretty confident writer. Just take a look at this quote:

“There is such a gap between how one lives and how one should live that he who neglects what is being done for what should be done will learn his destruction rather than his preservation.”

Clearly, he wasn’t fooling around. He was absolutely sure about the fact that an overexcited fantasy life distracts you from what is happening right in front of you, and the only logical result, if you live that way, is a series of screw-ups and mistakes.

Being cunning is not about being evil. It’s about being effective.


What’s wrong with being ambitious, wanting to achieve your goals, and working hard to do so? Calculating your actions carefully and studying other people’s reactions to them doesn’t make you manipulative. And if it does, who cares? Aren’t we all essentially manipulative? Everything we do, we do it with a desired outcome in mind. Machiavelli only wants your scheming to be more effective.

Never rely on your good luck.


“I hold that it could be true that fortune is the arbiter of half of actions, but that she still leaves the other half, or close to it, to be governed by us.”

Here, Machiavelli admits that we cannot control everything, but he still believes that we should try. He describes fortune as a violent river that wrecks everything, as a force of nature that you simply cannot predict. But that doesn’t mean you should give up. It means that you should always be prepared for the moment when the storm comes.

Be here now.


If you read The Prince, you’ll notice that Machiavelli frequently advices leaders to prepare for the future. In order to do that, good leaders do not just imagine the future all the time. They pay close attention to the present, because it all springs from what is happening right here:

“... If one is on the spot, disorders are seen as they spring up, and one can quickly remedy them; but if one is not at hand, they are heard of only when they are great, and then one can no longer remedy them.”

Don’t trust excessive compliments.


Do you want friends or fans? Especially now, when positive thinking, self-care, and affirmations are so popular, it’s necessary to think of Machiavelli’s warnings about compliments:

"…there is no other way of guarding oneself from flatterers except letting men understand that to tell you the truth does not offend you.”

If people around you are always flattering you, you run the risk of becoming self-complacent. Of course, excessive criticism helps no one, but we need our friends to reflect who we really are so we can learn more about ourselves and grow from there.



More than a few fragments of The Prince are pretty cynical. But having a clear mind about human endeavors and about our personal motivations can help us much more than idealizations that frequently lead to disappointment.

Here are other articles you might enjoy:

7 Gut-Wrenching Books About Everyday Life Under Totalitarian Regimes

The Myth of Sisyphus: The Book That Explains Why Life Is Pointless And We Should Be Happy About It

Images by melourra.