Rodney Ohebsion

Francesco Guicciardini Quotes

It's a great mistake to make absolute, categorical, "by the book" statements about things. Almost all of them have some exceptional qualities and distinctions due to differences in their circumstances, making it impossible to refer everything to the same standard. Such exceptional qualities and distinctions can't be found in books, but must be taught by discretion. (6)

It's very misleading to judge by examples. Unless they are identical in every way, their use is limited, considering how even small variations in circumstances can give rise to the widest differences in effects. And discerning these minute variations requires a good and clear eye. (117)

Whatever has happened before or is happening now will repeat itself in the future. But the names and surfaces of things will have changed, and unless we have a discerning eye, we won't recognize them and act or judge accordingly. (76)

…Faith breeds obstinacy—for faith is no more than believing firmly and almost with certainty things that are not in themselves reasonable; or if reasonable, believing them more unreservedly than reason warrants.

Therefore, he who has faith becomes stubborn in his belief, and goes on his way resolute and intrepid, disregarding difficulties and dangers, and ready to suffer every extremity.

And so it happens that, as the things of this world are subject to infinite changes and chances, unlooked for help may come in many ways over time to one who has obstinately persevered. And when this perseverance is the result of faith, it may well be said that faith can accomplish great things.

We currently have a great example of such stubbornness of the Florentines—a group who, contrary to all human reason, prepared themselves to await the joint attack of Pope and Emperor, with no hope of receiving help for anyone else, with disunity among themselves, and with difficulties facing them on every side. For seven months, they have managed to fight off the assaults of armies, even though it seemed impossible for them to do so even for seven days.

In fact, they have brought things to such a point that if they were to win now, no one would be surprised, whereas earlier, everyone assumed they would lose.

And this stubbornness of theirs is mainly due to the belief that—as Friar Girolamo of Ferrara told them in his sermons—they cannot be destroyed. (1)

If princes, when all goes well with them, make little account of their servants, and slight them or set them aside for the most minor of reasons, how can they be displeased or complain if their dutiful, loyal, honorable servants leave them and accept other more profitable employment? (4)

Pay more attention to what people should be expected to do based on their disposition and habits, and less attention to what's reasonable for them to do. (151) [Consider what people really are, as opposed to merely thinking that they'll be reasonable.]

If people were as discreet or grateful as they ought to be, then it would be best to benefit servants whenever you can on any occasion that offers you to do so. But experience (including my own) shows that as soon as servants are fulfilled or their master can't continue providing the benefits he did at first, they'll quickly abandon him. Thus, the master who looks after his own interests shouldn't be too generous, and should be more frugal than liberal, working on his servants by exciting their hopes rather than by satisfying them. But in order for this to work, he must sometimes be generous to one of them. This will be enough—for people by nature are moved more by hope than by fear, and are more exited and encouraged by the example of one person they see abundantly rewarded, than they are discouraged by the sight of many who haven't been well treated. (5)

Even though many people prove to be ungrateful, don't let that stop you from benefitting others—for not only is beneficence in itself a noble and almost divine quality, it may also happen that, as you benefit others, you'll come across someone to grateful that he'll make up for everyone else's ingratitude. (11) [Benefitting others makes you a better person--and that itself is a good reward, even if the people you benefit turn out to be ungrateful. Also keep in mind that for every few ungrateful people you come across, you might come across one who's extremely grateful, and goes above and beyond returning the favor.]

People seldom remember the benefits they've received. And thus, we should depend more on people who can't fail us, and less on people we've benefited. For the latter will often forget the benefits, underestimate their significance, or believe they had a right to receive them. (24)

If you've wronged someone, never be tricked into thinking you have a good reason to trust or confide in him again—even when he has honor or profit to gain should he come through for you. After all, people often become so consumed with the idea that someone else wronged them, that they'll be willing to harm themselves to get revenge—either because they value this satisfaction more, or because their passion prevents them from recognizing what would really be in their best interests. (150) [Don't expect people to be reasonable. Their drive for something like revenge might make them go so far as to (knowingly or unkowingly) sacrifice honor or money.]

Be careful of doing something that'll please one person and displease another person equally. The second person will definitely remember, and exagerate the severity of the offence since it benefited someone else; while the first person will forget what you did for him, or consider it less than it was. (25)

Beyond all others, a prince should beware of the types of people who can never be satisfied. No matter how much he benefits those people, those benefits will never secure him against them. (130)

It is indeed great to have authority. If rightly used, it'll make you feared even beyond what you can do. Your subjects won't know how much authority you really have, and usually choose to give way to you almost at once, rather than test if you can do what you threaten. (40)

I commend those governors who, despite using few severities or punishments, know how to gain and maintain a reputation for strictness. (341)

A dissatisfied person will be reluctant to risk danger, even if he really wants to harm you. Instead, he'll wait for opportunities that might not ever never come. A desperate person, on the other hand, will seek out those opportunities, and jump into all kinds of revolutionary hopes and schemes. Thus, you seldom have much to fear from the first, but always must be on your guard against the second. (131) [Even if someone doesn't get what he wants, he might not be willing to do much about it. But desperate people are often willing to do almost anything.]

When people see you in a position where you have no choice but to do what they want, they'll think little of you and treat you accordingly. After all, people are generally influenced more by their interest or the indulgence of their spite than by what's right, what you deserve, what they owe you, or the thought that you've been brought low because of them or to help them in their distress. Thus, you should flee this humiliation as you'd flee fire.

Many people who are now exiled would have avoided such a fate if they had taken this counsel to mind—for, though a person will not be helped much by the fact that he was driven out due to his fidelity to a certain prince, he will certainly be harmed much by the fact that the prince, seeing him an outlaw, will think, “This man can do nothing,” and will thereby treat him however he wants and without much consideration. (196)

No matter what you do, your subordinates will steal from you. Consider my own case: even though I've been very caring and set a good example, it hasn't stopped the governors and other officers under me from being dishonest. (204) [If you have subordinates, they'll end up stealing at least a little something, no matter what you do. This is an unavoidable part of dealing with others, and it should be tolerated as long as it doesn't get out of hand.]

How true is that ancient saying “Place reveals the man”! Nothing so clearly reveals a person’s qualities so much as to give him place and power. How many are there who speak well, yet do not know how to do! And how many are there in the streets and marketplaces who seem to be capable people, but turn out to be shadows when employed! ... [Morover,] power reveals someone's true bent of mind and character. The higher someone's position is, the less there is stopping him from indulging his natural temper. (163, 253) [It's difficult to tell whether someone will be a good fit for a position.]

My experiences in government have shown me that when trying to bring about an agreement or compromise, it's good to move in only after letting both sides discuss and debate things at great length. When I used that approach, they'd both eventually grow weary and beg me to adjust their differences. And then, by doing what they asked for, and without crossing any lines, I'd get credit for accomplishing what I wouldn't have managed to do at first. (43)

When ambassador in Spain, I observed that whenever the Catholic King, Don Ferdinand of Aragon, a most prudent and powerful prince, wanted to do something new, he'd go about it in such a way so that even before his intention was made public, the whole court and people would be crying out and urging him to do it. (77)

If you have a plan that someone will probably oppose, here's a good way to get his support for it: make it seem like he's the originator and head of it. Lighthearted people especially are often won over by this tactic, since it satisfies their vanity, and they prefer empty honors to something they'd be better off seeking. (200)

We should value the real and substantial more than the ceremonial. And yet, it's unbelievable just how much people are influenced by courteous manners and pleasing words. And this because they all believe they deserve to be greatly esteemed, and thus will feel hurt if they find you aren't giving them the deference they're convinced they're due.

Someone who wants to be loved by his superiors should be sure to show them respect and reverence. And if he makes a mistake in doing this, it would be better for him to go too far than not far enough. Nothing offends a superior more than the notion he's not getting the attention or consideration he thinks he deserves.

If you want people’s goodwill, be careful not to refuse their requests point-blank. Instead, answer them with generalities. After all, the person making the request might not need your help later, or something might happen that'll give you a good excuse for withholding it. Not to mention the fact that many people are foolish and easily tricked with words, and in many cases, you might satisfy someone with a smooth answer, even without doing what you can't or don't want to do; whereas, had you denied that person, he would've been displeased with you no matter what turn of events had taken place. (36)

It is honest and manly to never promise what you don't intend to do. However, people are unreasonable--and thus, even if you have a valid reason to deny someone, he'ill be dissatisfied. ... Therefore, seek to amuse with answers of general encouragement, and as far as possible, avoid committing yourself by positive engagements. (309)

As long as it brings you no loss or discredit, it is a wise course, though little followed, to hide your displeasure towards others. After all, you might have to make use of such people in the future--and that'll be difficult to do if they consider you an enemy. I've frequently had to seek assistance from people I hate--and those people have served me with the utmost alacrity, thinking I like them or at least don't dislike them. (133)

Be careful not to needlessly say something that might be passed on to others and offend them. You might not see the future harm in saying those things. Be very careful, I tell you, for many people—even prudent ones—make this mistake, and it's difficult to avoid it. But if the difficulty is great, so much greater is the gain to him who knows to overcome it.

And should necessity or anger move you to speak sharply to anyone, at least be careful to say what'll only offend that person. For instance, if you want to go after someone, don't vilify his country, family, or kinsfolk. It's a great folly to incur the resentment of many, when your purpose is to only vex one person. (7-8) More

Don't let the fear of making enemies or displeasing others keep you from doing what you ought to do. Doing one’s duty brings a person reputation, and this will help him far more than a few new enemies will hurt him. In this world, the only way to completely avoid offending others is to be dead.

But the same tact that guides us in pleasing others is also shown in knowing when and how to do what displeases—that is, these things must be done on just occasion, at fit season, with modesty, for honorable causes, and in creditable ways. (217)

We often see the advantages of having a good name and reputation. And these advantages are hardly anything compared to those that are unseen, and that, led by the good opinion that prevails concerning you, come on their own, without your knowing why. (158)

We only see a small percentage of the advantages that come from friends and family. After all, occasions when you need their help are rare in comparison with the day-to-day benefits of knowing you can have their support when you will. (87)

Since friends are so valuable, never lose a chance to make them—for people are brought into constant contact with one another, and friends help and foes hinder at times and in places where you least expect it. (14)

Like others, I've sought honors and preferment. Moreover, I've often gotten more of them than I'd wished or hoped for. But they've always been less satisfying than I epxected. And this, if we well consider it, is a strong reason why we should disencumber ourselves from vain desires. (15)

Everyone seeks greatness and honors, because the pluses of having them are easy to see from a superficial glance, while the weariness, fatigues, and risks that attend them are unseen and hidden. But if their inherent evils were as apparent as the good, we'd really have no motive to desire them, other than this: the more a person is feared, reverenced, and honored, the more he seems to approach and resemble God. And who wouldn't wish to obtain such a likeness? (16)

Be skeptical of people claiming that they chose to give up their position and power due to their love of quiet. In almost every case, they've ultimately been forced into to their position of retirement—and experience shows us that as soon as the narrowest opening offers a return to their previous lifestyle, nearly all of them forsake their “much prized” tranquility, and throw themselves into the opportunity as eagerly as fire rushes upon dry or resinous fuel. (17)

Ambition itself isn't evil. And we shouldn't condemn someone whose spirit prompts him to seek fame by worthy and honorable means. In fact, people like that achieve the noble and loft, whereas those untouched by the passion for fame are generally frigid souls that are more disposed for ease than effort.

But hateful and pernicious is the ambition that makes self-aggrandizement its sole end and aim, as we find in most princes, who, having this as their goal, and wanting to clear the path that leads to it, will put aside conscience, honor, humanity, and all else that is good. (32)

Pursuits that are not pushed forward by this fiery spur [fame] are lifeless and empty. (118)

[E]ven if it should be obvious that you're lying, a confident assertion or denial will often perplex and puzzle your listeners’ minds to some extent. (37) [Even if someone says something that's cleary not true, he still might get many people to consider the possibility that it is true, as long as he states it with confidence.]

Even if someone's a known bullshitter, his frauds still succceed at times. (105)

If you want to conceal or misrepresent one of your intentions, try to show others—with the strongest and gravest reasons possible—that you intend the opposite. When people think you're convinced that it makes sense to do something, they'll readily persuade themselves that you'll base your decisions on what reason dictates. (199)

If someone wants to get ahead in the world, he should hide his failures and exaggerate his successes. Though I'm the type of person who hates such charlatanism, nowadays worldly advancement depends more on people’s opinions than on reality, and it's good to make it seem like are going well, but bad for the contrary to be believed. (86)

The world exalts and praises honesty, and it detests and condemns deception. But for an individual, deception is usually more useful, while sincerity tends to advance other people's interests. But since deception definitely isn't a good thing, I'd commend someone who's usually open and sincere, and only resorts to deception in certain rare and important matters. Furthermore, in this way, he'll gain and benefit from a reputation for honesty and sincerity... (104)

A prince or anyone else who is employed in state affairs should not only conceal what is undesirable to have known, but he and his ministers should also be in the habit of being silent about anything at all that he would not have made public—including even very minor and insignificant matters. If your subjects and those about you are thus kept in the dark as to your intentions, and abide in suspense and wonder, they will watch even your slightest movements and gestures. (88)

Though you have much to gain by being secretive, you have even more to gain by not appearing secretive to your friends. After all, most people feel slighted and offended when they see you unwilling to impart your affairs to them.

It's not desirable to gain a reputation for being suspicious and distrustful. And yet... we can hardly err in believing little and distrusting much. (157)

Though I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that people should avoid ordinary conversation or friendly talk, I will say that it's prudent to speak of your own affairs only when you must, and only about what's necessary for the present conversation or purpose, concealing as much as possible. It's more pleasant to do otherwise, but more useful to do this. (184)

I'm slow to believe news that in itself seems likely, unless it comes from a reliable source. After all, it's easy to fake what people are already prepared to accept, whereas things in themselves improbable and unlooked for are seldom invented. And since this is the case, I am also less apt to discredit unlikely news. (89)

Thought it would be best to produce complete perfection, this is very difficult to do. And it's a mistake to spend much time in over-refining, as other opportunities often escape us while we seek perfection. And even when we think we've attained it, we'll later find out that we were wrong—for due to the nature of things in this world, it's almost impossible to find something that has no imperfection or blemish whatsoever. Thus, we must be content to take things as they are, and to consider the least evil as good. (126)

Whenever we make decisions and act, there will be reasons that support the contrary—for nothing is perfect enough to be entirely free of blemishes. Nothing's so bad that it doesn't contain some good, and nothing's so good that is doesn't contain some bad. And thus it happens that many people, being perplexed by every trifling difficulty, rest always in suspense. These are the persons we speak of as over-scrupulous, because they entertain doubts about everything.

Rather than being this way, we should, after balancing the disadvantages on both sides, accept those that weigh the least, remembering that no course we can take will be clear and perfect in each and every way. (213)

Though we must be cautious in our undertakings, we shouldn't think up so many of their difficulties that we end up concluding that success is almost hopeless. On the contrary, we should reflect on how greater facilities may disclose themselves in the execution of our designs, and that as we proceed, obstacles may disappear of themselves. (194)

Small and almost imperceptible beginnings are often the cause of great disasters or successes—and thus, maximum prudence lies in noting and weighing well all circumstances, even if small. (82)

How often we hear it said, “Had this been done or that not been done, this or the other result would have followed.” And yet, if it were possible to test these opinions, we'd find out how wrong they frequently are.(22)

How many acts are blamed when done, which, if we could see what would have followed had they not been done, would have been praised! And likewise, how many things are praised that under like circumstances would have been blamed!

Therefore, do not be hasty in either commending or condemning based on a mere superficial view of things. To form a just and solid judgment, look carefully below what appears to the eye/the apparent surface. (215)

Though I am naturally firm and settled in my resolutions, I often experience some sort of regret after making an important decision. And not because I believe I'd choose differently were to choose again. Rather, it's because before I chose, I had the difficulties of each choice better in view; whereas after my resolution is formed, I no longer fear the difficulties of the options I didn't take, and I only consider those that I still have to deal with, which, looked at alone, seem far greater than they would have appeared if contrasted with the others.

In order to free myself from this torment, I have to carefully recall in my mind those other difficulties I had previously set aside. (156)

Princes have an infinite number of secrets, and an endless number of matters to take into account. Thus, it is mere rashness to hastily judge their actions—for often it happens that what you suppose a prince to have done for one reason, he has in fact been done for another; and what seems to you done at random and imprudently, has been done designedly and with consummate wisdom. (154)

Messer Antonio of Venafra was wont to say, and with justice, that if some six or eight sensible men are brought together to consult, they become that many fools. For, disagreeing among themselves, they rather promote disputes than arrive at conclusions. (112)

Do not work to effect changes that do not remove the grievances under which you suffer, but merely substitute one oppressor for another. Changes of this kind only leave you where you were.

For example, what profits it to have banished John of Poppi from the service of the Medici, if Bernard of S. Miniato, a person of like character and condition, enters in his room? (50)

Future matters are so deceptive and subject to so many accidents that even the wisest of all people regularly make miscalculations. In fact, if we were to track their predictions, particularly those regarding particular events—for in their general conclusions they are less apt to be misled—we would find them as inaccurate as people who are considered less discerning.

Therefore, it's usually unwise to give up a present good in due to apprehension of a future evil, unless the evil is either very certain and near, or far greater in degree than the good. Otherwise, due to a fear that may afterwards turn out to have been groundless, you may lose the good that lay within your grasp. (23)

Never assume anything will happen, no matter how certain it may seem. As long as you can do so without upsetting your plans, keep something in reserve to be used in case the opposite of your expectations occurs. After all, since things often turn out so differently from what was looked for, it is only prudent to act in this way. (81)

In narrating current events, some writers will enter on a discussion of what is likely to happen hereafter.

However, even when such forecasts are made by well-informed people and seem admirable to the reader, they are actually very misleading—for these types of logical conclusions are like chain links: they depend on one another, and if any of them fail, the other deductions will all fall to the ground. Even the smallest variation in the circumstances can be enough to cause an error in the conclusion.

Thus, it is impossible to form a judgment of the course of events that are still remote. Our opinions must be formed and modified from day to day. (114)

I have noticed that when men of great sagacity have to decide on an important matter, they almost always end up distinguishing the various courses it may take, and, after considering two or three probable contingencies, form their final decision on the assumption that one of these will indeed happen.

Be warned that this is a dangerous method to follow—for in almost all cases, some other contingency will turn up that was not taken into account by these deliberations and met by these decisions.

Thus, in forming decisions, it much wiser to assume that the unlikely might happen, and only limit your deliberations when necessary. (182)

Whoever well-considers it will hardly deny that in human affairs, Fortune rules supreme. After all, we constantly find the most momentous result springing from fortuitous causes that were not within human power to either foresee or escape. And although discernment and vigilance may temper many things, they cannot do so un-helped, but always stand in need of favorable Fortune. (30)

As for those who ascribe everything to prudence and capacity, and exclude as much as they can the influence of Fortune, even they must admit that much depends on being born at a time when your virtues or qualities are in demand. …

But of course, if someone could change his nature to suit the circumstances of the times, then he would be so much the less under Fortune’s control. However, this is difficult if not downright impossible to do. (31)

Neither wise men nor fools can in the end escape what has to be. And thus, nothing I have ever read seems to me more true than that saying of Seneca: “Ducunt volentes fata, nolentes trahunt” [Fate leads the willing; drags the unwilling.] (138)

The truest test of someone’s courage is his behavior when overtaken by unforeseen dangers. He who shows a good front to these—as we find very few do—really deserves to be called resolute and intrepid. (70)

Things we do not anticipate move us beyond comparison more than those that are foreseen—and thus, I pronounce it to be a great and resolute spirit that stands undismayed amid sudden dangers and disasters; for this in my judgment is the rarest excellence.

The person who rushes blindly into dangers without discerning their true character—he is merely foolhardy. The person who recognizes dangers and fears them no more than he should—he is the type of person that ought to be called brave. (95)

Those who govern states must not be daunted by seeming dangers, however great, near, and imminent they look. For, like the proverb says, “The Devil is never so black as he is painted.” Many things may come about that will cause dangers to disappear of themselves. And even of those that do arrive, some un-thought of remedy or alleviation will be found to accompany them. (116)

Anything that is destined to perish by a gradual wasting away rather than sudden violence will end up enduring longer than you might suppose at first sight.

An example of this is hectic patient, who, after his case has been pronounced hopeless, will sometimes linger on not just for days, but even for weeks or months. And likewise, in the city that has had to be reduced by blockade, the unconsumed stores are constantly in excess of what all had reckoned them to be. (34)

Do not attempt any [local] innovation in the hope that the people will second you—for this is a dangerous foundation to build on*. The people will either lack the courage to stand by you, or, as is so often the case, will cherish views that differ greatly from what you imagine.

Consider the case of Brutus and Cassius: after murdering Caesar, not only did they not receive the public support they had counted on*, they even had to flee to another city out of fear of that very public. (121)

Wise economy consists not so much in knowing how to avoid expenses—for these are often unavoidable—as in knowing how to spend to advantage and get extra value for your money. (56)

In wars, those who attempt to spend the least always end up spending the most—for nothing demands a larger or more unstinted/lavish outlay of money than war. The more complete the preparations are, the sooner will the war be over; and since the failure to spend money will prolong the enterprise, it will ultimately cost far more [than not trying to have saved money in the first place].(149)

Too subtle an intellect is a gift that brings torment and unhappiness to its possessor, since it only serves to involve him in scruples and anxieties unknown to people of duller perceptions. (6)

Distrust those who talk loudly of liberty. Nearly all of them—nay, all of them without exception—have their own ends to serve; and we are often shown by experience—which is our surest guide—that these fellows will rapidly rush to an absolute government if they think it will allow them to push their fortunes better. (66)

One who has sound sense can make great use of another who has fine parts; much more so than the other can make of him.

If you observe closely, you will find that not only the manners of people, but also their language and modes of speech, dress, style of building, methods of cultivation, and the like, alter from age to age; but, what is more remarkable, their sense of taste also alters, so that a kind of food that is relished by one generation is often displeasing to the next. (69)

There is nothing in life that should be more desirable or that brings more glory than seeing your enemy prostrate in the dust and at your mercy. And this glory is doubled by he who uses the occasion well—that is, he who shows mercy, and is content with having had the victory. (72)

Revenge does not always spring from hatred or a cruel disposition—it is sometimes necessary, in order to set an example that will teach others they must not harm us.

And likewise, it is not necessarily improper to get revenge without feeling rancor against the person revenged. (74)

If someone takes revenge in such a way that the person who is hurt does not know where the injury comes from, then the act must have been done out of a motive of rancor and hatred. It would be more generous/honest to work openly so that everyone may know who did the act—for then that person will be thought to have acted not so much from hatred and vindictiveness, but more from a motive to clear his honor—or in other words, to be known as the type of person who will not put up with offenses. (202)

What does it matter to me if the person who injures me is acting out of ignorance and not from ill will? In fact, this can make it all the worse—for ill will has definite ends, works by its own rules, and thus does not always inflict the hurt it might; whereas ignorance, having neither rule, nor aim, nor measure, behaves like a madman, and deals its blows in the dark. (168)

Happy/lucky are they to whom the same opportunity offers itself twice. Even a wise person may neglect or misuse it on the first occasion—but to fail to recognize and profit by it the second time is certainly foolish. (80)

If you would be someone employed in [worldly] affairs, never allow such affairs to leave your hold. You will not be able to recover them at your convenience.

But if you continuously retain your hold on them, one will lead to another, even without your using any special diligence or industry to get them. (84)

With a tyrant, it is safer to stand fairly well with him than share his closest intimacy. This way, if you are generally esteemed [in the community], not only will you profit by his greatness—and sometimes more than those people he feels close to—you may also hope to save yourself in the event of his downfall. (100)

To protect yourself against a brutal and bloodthirsty tyrant, no rule or remedy can be prescribed that will avail anything to you, except what is recommended in the case of the plague: Flee as fast and as far as you can. (101)

There is no man so prudent as to not sometimes make mistakes. Good fortune lies in our making fewer than others do, or in matters of lesser importance. (108)

See the extent people deceive themselves! They regard the sins they do not commit as heinous, and those they do commit as trivial. (122)

During wartime, I have often received news that seemed to indicate our affairs were desperate, but was followed shortly later by other news of a reassuring kind; or sometimes the good news came first and the bad news later.

In fact, these contrary rumors were not uncommon at all—a lesson to a wise captain not to be too easily depressed or elated. (127)

To speak of “the people” is in truth to speak of a beast, mad, mistaken, perplexed, and lacking taste, discernment, or stability. (140)

It is no wonder we are ignorant of what has happened in past ages, or of what is currently happening in distant countries and remote cities. After all, if you note it well, you will see that we lack true knowledge even when it comes to what is presently going on day to day in our own town. In fact, between the palace and the marketplace there often lies so dense a mist or so thick a brick wall that no eye can penetrate it; so that the people know as much of what their rulers are dong, or their reasons for doing it, as they know of what is being done in China. And thus, the world is readily filled with empty and idle beliefs. (141)

All historians—without, as it seems to me, a single exception—are at fault in omitting to relate many things known in their times, due to the fact they considered them matters known by everyone. (143)

The very same things that readily succeed and “accomplish themselves” when undertaken at the proper moment, will, if attempted prematurely, not only fail, but will often become impossible to succeed when their time does come.

Thus, rather than rushing things hastily or precipitating events, we should await their season and maturity. (78)

Unless rightly understood, the proverb that bids the wise man to take advantage of time might be dangerous.

By failing to use an opportunity when it offers itself, it might be lost forever; and for many for many things we must decide and act quickly.

However, when we are surrounded by difficulties and trouble, procrastinating and gaining time can either extricate ourselves from troubles, or at least allow us to understand them better.

By putting this meaning on the proverb, it is wholesome; but interpreted otherwise, it might frequently prove harmful. (79)

He who is in too great haste to bring a war to a conclusion will often prolong it, by failing to await the necessary supplies and the right time for the enterprise.

Such a person makes what might have been easy quite difficult—and for every day he thought he would gain, he often loses a month or more. Plus, his haste often causes many additional disasters. (148)

Both in wars and in many other important matters, I have often seen preparations neglected due to impression that they were too late, and yet it has been seen afterwards that they would have been in time, and that the omission to make them has caused much loss.

This results from the fact that things often move slower than we anticipate them to, and that what we imagine will be over in a month often is still ongoing after a few months.(162)

Though human life is short, rest assured that he will find it long enough who knows to make wise use of his time, and does not unprofitably waste it; for a man’s nature fits him for great efforts, and anyone who is diligent and resolute will get through an incredible amount of work. (145)

Pray to God that you are always found on the winning side—for in being so, you will be credited even for what you had no part in; whereas he who stands with the losers is baled for an endless number of ___ he is wholly guiltless of. (176)

Trades and industries are at their best when they are not yet generally understood to be profitable. When seen by all to be so, they fall off; because, from many resorting to them, the competition prevents them from being any longer lucrative. In all things, it profits to be up betimes. (178)

In matters of business, take this as a maxim: it's not enough to give things their beginning, direction, or impulse; we must also follow them up and continue our efforts until completion. People who conduct business this way contribute greatly to finishing things, while those who follow a different plan will often assume things are finished they've actually just begun, and their difficulties haven't been encountered yet ; such are the heedlessness, futility, and perversity of men, and such the lets and hindrances that things present in their own nature. (192)

When enemies who usually have been leagued together against you chance to fall out, to attack one of them in the hope to dispose of him separately is often the occasion for all to unite afresh. It behoves you, therefore, to note carefully what the differences that have arisen between them are, together with all the other conditions and circumstances in which they stand, that you may judge whether it is more for your interest to single out one of them for attack, or to stand aloof and look on while they fight it out among themselves. (221)

In my youth, I made light of such superficial accomplishments as dancing, singing, and playing; nay, even of writing a fair hand, knowing how to ride, how to dress becomingly, and all other like arts, which savor more of show than substance.

Since then, however, I have seen reason to change my mind. For though it is undoubtedly a mistake to waste too much time in cultivating these graces, or to make a lad’s entire training consist in acquiring them to perfection, still I have found by experience that these gifts and the knack of doing everything confer honor and reputation even among men of good birth; and that too in so marked a degree that we may say he lacks something who is without them. Moreover, excellence in matters of this sort opens the way to the favor of princes, and offers a beginning or occasion to him who is a proficient therein to obtain high and lucrative preferment—for the world and its rulers are what they are, and not what they should be. (179)

When entering a new war, it's very dangerous to assume there will be victory. No matter how safe and easy wars may seem, they're subject to a thousand accidents, and these will lead to even greater disorder if the person involved isn't ready to put forth both strengths and courage; as he will be where preparations have been made from the first on the footing that difficulties will have to be encountered. (180)

Prosperity/good-fortune is often our worst enemy, making us vicious, frivolous, and insolent... (164)

Far higher satisfaction will be found in controlling the passions than in gratifying them. For such gratification is brief, and of the body; whereas the satisfaction we feel when passion has been subdued is lasting, and of the mind and conscience.

Thought it's satisfying to vent our feelings of pleasure or discontent, it's also dangerous to do so.

Popes Julius and Clement were as different as could be. The former was of great and even excessive courage, ardent, impulsive, frank, and open, while the latter was of a temper inclining rather to timidity, most patient, moderate, and withal deceitful. And yet, though they differd so much, they ended up with many similar achievements. Because in the hands of great masters, patience and impetuosity are alike fitted to effect important ends; the one operating by a sudden onslaught, breaking down all opposition; the other seeking to wear out by delay and to conquer with the aid of time and opportunity. So that where the one hinders, the other helps, and conversely. But were it possible for a man to combine the two natures, he would indeed be divine. As this, however, can hardly happen, I believe that, all things considered, greater results are to be obtained by moderation and patience than by impetuosity and daring.

Although we act on the best advice, yet, so uncertain is the future, the results are often uncertain. But that doesn't mean that we should give ourselves up like beasts a prey to Fortune, but like men to walk by Reason. And he who is truly wise should be better pleased to have been guided by good advice though the result be untoward, than to have prospered in following evil counsel.

I have ever been of a most open nature, and the sworn foe of all quirks and cavils, so that anyone dealing with me has always felt himself much at his ease. Nevertheless, I have recognized that in negotiating, this artifice is of signal service, namely, never to come at once to those questions that are of most moment, but postponing these to the last, to allow yourself to be drawn towards them only step by step and reluctantly. Whose does this often succeeds beyond his hopes; while he who transacts business as I do, will only secure that without which no settlement were possible. (132)