Good Advice from 484 Years Ago

Sometimes I read blogs of other people. Some of those people are famous. Some are not. I almost always come away with something that yields an “a-ha moment” for me.

Every Friday I read Tim Ferris’s “5-Bullet Friday” and often find food for thought there. (For more on Tim Ferris, see

This week, Tim (I hope he doesn’t mind that I am calling him “Tim” and not “Mr. Ferris”) quoted Niccolò Machiavelli and I had my “A-HA” instantaneously. For those that don’t know who Niccolò Machiavelli was, he wrote a book studied the world over since 1532 called “The Prince”. (On a side note, Machiavelli never knew his popularity. He died 5 years prior to the book’s formal printing. I highly recommend this little gem of a book.)

While written as a political discourse, the quote from this book, I believe, most definitely applies to all people.

“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”

How does this apply to all of us? Well, for me, I know that stepping out in the world is hard. Fear is easy to give into. But calculating the risk and moving forward in a prudent and judicious manner, now that’s strength, especially because you are not giving in to the fear, but using it.

You never have any guarantees. A quote I have been known to make often is “You make plans and God laughs”. We never know how things are going to turn out. Plans go sideways. We ask for things and we never know if the answer is going to be “no”. But let’s face it, if you don’t ask, the answer is always “no”. Why suffer with a definite “no” when you may very well get a “yes”? Isn’t a “maybe” better than the “no, hell no” you’re going to get if you act from sloth and do nothing?

The goal is to participate all in. I think luck is in the doing. You get lucky because you participate. If you participate with calculation of the risk and acting decisively, you increase your chances of being lucky. So isn’t it better to move forward with deliberation as Machiavelli says, than to sit back and wait for the world to happen to us? Because one thing I know for sure. The world will happen whether we participate or not. I’d rather drive the bus than be a passenger any day of the week. You?


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