LESSONS ON HOW TO BE THE GOOD BAD GUY: THINGS TO LEARN FROM MACHIAVELLI
It is a good assumption to say that most of us prefer to be the nice guy. But the problem with being nice is that people tend to take advantage of you. You’re either not taken seriously or put into a situation you could have easily avoided if you just had said “no”. Sticky situations are best to keep at bay, and it’s especially undesirable when there are people looking up to you. So how do you exactly be the person people think you are?
Luckily enough, there’s a man who lived back in the Renaissance period who wrote a whole hand book for it. His name was Niccolo Machiavelli and the book he wrote is called The Prince. Now, this book was intended to be sort of a guide book for princes and leaders alike. But who would not want to be a prince or a leader? So the virtues of the book can be applied to the everyday man who wants to make his life a bit more meaningful. In summary, what Machiavelli says is that you don’t really have to be good to be a good person, just appear like one.
As unfortunate as it may be, nice guys do finish last. One of the reasons why this is the case is because they don’t reach out to get what they want. Douchebags on the other hand, are more than just willing to lie, cheat, beg, borrow, steal, bend facts, seduce, and even kill for what they want. Then again, you don’t really have to be that extreme to get what you want. So what you do is learn from the bad to make it good.
As Vennu Malesh poetically put it in his sensational number It’s My Life What Ever I Wanna Do, “I am a very good bad boy.” Make it your mantra. (Recommended to chant 3 times after waking up.)
- BE A RESOURCE TO FOSTER PEACE
“A wise prince ought to adopt such a course that his citizens will always in every sort and kind of circumstance have need of the state and of him, and then he will always find them faithful.”
It is nice to have our backs covered by others. The best way to afford such a luxury is by covering others’ backs. This simple equation serves another purpose as well: you will be remembered whenever they are in need, making you someone they look up to.
- BUT ALWAYS THINK OF WAR
“When princes have thought more of ease than of arms they have lost their states.”
It’s easy to get carried away when you’re having fun. All you will want to do is chill out, and in this process, forget work. If you do so, you will let your guard down and start to become a weak player. And thus, even your closet friends will abandon you because no one want to be around someone who’s negligent of what’s important.
- IDENTIFY PROBLEMS WHILE THEY ARE STILL SMALL
“If he who rules a principality cannot recognise evils until they are upon him, he is not truly wise.”
We love to procrastinate. Only when it is the 11th hour do we actually work. And it is then that we realize that there’s so much to be done, so much to be taken care of. Only if we had done it sooner… and we should! Whenever an issue presents itself, it has yet to snowball into something larger; and larger issues are hard to deal with; labor that could have been avoided had it been recognized earlier.
- AND CRUSH THEM WITH ONE BLOW
“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.”
Now that we have recognized the sore spot in a more timely fashion, the next step is to deal with it as swiftly as possible. Dealing with problems early are not only easy but will keep them from popping back up. Don’t make life harder than it already is.
- BUILD THE IMAGE OF A NICE GUY
“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.”
Be it drinking or indulging in cake when you’re supposed to be on a diet, we all have our own vices. The trick with them however, is to do them when no one is watching. The point here is to avoid being despised. And to avoid that, you don’t really have to be a nice and moral sort of person; you just have to appear as one.
- BUT BE TOUGH WHEN YOU NEED TO
“Love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”
Being nice is nice but one can always overdo it. There are times when you do need to be a bad guy. A good indication to become one is when you start to feel that people are taking advantage of you. As much as niceness is appreciated, it is taken advantage of.
- SHOW SOME LOVE
“Liberty and generosity, is a quality that many men admire. But if a prince develops a reputation for generosity, he will ruin his state.”
You may think that showing up to work with a batch of brownies will win you favors. So you do it again and again to get more people on your side. But this is more like bribing, and people start to see you as a charitable person, they will be disappointed when you don’t come in with those brownies and eventually turn against you. Do it sometimes to show that you appreciate them, not always as if you’re buying them.
- TAKE SIDES
“A prince is also respected when he is either a true friend or a downright enemy, when, without any reservation, he declares himself in favour of one party against the other; which course will always be more advantageous than standing neutral.”
Not taking any sides may seem like you’re being diplomatic. But to others, you’re just sitting on the fence. In other words, you come off as indecisive. So take a side and stand by your position. Don’t worry about upsetting the opposition and losing their regards for you; people would rather have a smart enemy than a dumb friend.
- DON’T BE AFRAID TO CHANGE
“He will be successful who directs his actions according to the spirit of the times.”
Being one self is a common motto for many. Sadly, the flaw with this notion is that it tends to make us resistant to change and not go with the flow. We mistake this stubbornness for being oneself. It is quiet necessary to adapt to change for the world does not revolve around us.
- LEARN FROM OTHERS
“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 savour of it.”
The Prince is full of actual examples from Machiavelli’s extensive study of the past and present of his time. He understood that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when someone else can show you how it’s done.
- BUT DON’T BE AFRAID TO GO YOUR OWN WAY
“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”
No one is guaranteeing that you will get full support for whatever you want to do. So even when others are discouraging, one ought to go with their gut feeling. That does not mean you don’t listen to others. Hear them out and consider their advice, compare and contrast with your argument, and if you still feel that you should do something, do it.
- PROMISES ARE LIKE WAFERS
“A fox is defenseless against wolves; a lion is defenseless against traps. A prince must learn to act like both the fox and the lion: he must learn, like the fox, how to frighten off wolves and, like the lion, how to recognize the traps.”
We are, by natural default, wretched and deceitful. But since we are trying to keep the image of being good, making and breaking promises is a part of it. While dealing with people, we may make a promise that puts us in a disadvantage. In such cases, promises can be broken and since the people already think we’re a good guy, they’ll forgive it.
Illustration & Words: Nirveek PPJ Shah