Before all else, be armed. – Niccolò Machiavelli
What does that mean?
In it’s original form, this quote was intended as advice to a ruler of a city-state. It meant to urge them to be prepared for armed conflict with another city-state, or to defend themselves from roving gangs of brigands. Without arms (a generic term of the era, meaning weapons), it is very difficult, even in a walled city, to protect yourself.
Arms, therefore, were a high priority in order to keep what they had and prevent the enemy (or opportunists) from taking it away from you. The presence or absence of arms could easily be detected by the many merchant/spies that worked the trade routes. The information would be available to anyone with sufficient desire and sufficient coin. An armed presence was a definite deterrent, but not a guarantee. Lack of arms, however, was pretty much a guarantee of an attack, if not sooner, then most certainly later.
Why is preparation (or being prepared) important?
As a former Boy Scout, being prepared is part of my nature. What are some of the things that could happen to you in a regular day? Car accidents? If you had been looking for potential ‘dance partners’, you should have seen them coming at least 4 seconds before the impact, and been able to take countermeasures. An argument in a meeting room? If you had been thinking about what might come up in the meeting, you should have had some ideas or facts to back your position. This would help make sure you had the better hand.
These were some pretty simplistic examples, but they both point out that many things that ‘just happen’ are observable and (to a limited extent) predictable. Failing to act on these clues, well that’s not a particularly brilliant course of action, is it? On the other hand, you shouldn’t spend every waking moment detailing plans for every conceivable outcome.
As usual, the well considered path lies somewhere between these extremes. The exact location of the ‘best path’ will vary from person to person and also by circumstance.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Today, it can apply to an individual both in personal self protection (the closest analog to the original meaning of the quote), as well as any other confrontation one might have. Anything from aggressive pan-handlers on a downtown street, to a disagreement with a friend, to a debate over the proper way to move forward with a project at work.
This quote urges us to be prepared, and to be armed. Armed with facts, armed with alternatives, armed with new ideas, armed with your full attention and mindful of all that is around you. That is the best method for protecting yourself, your ideas and your goals. Be ready for anything, at any time, from any direction.
Yeah, it sounds a little paranoid. Ok, a lot paranoid. But it is still good advice. What hasn’t been mentioned yet is the likelihood of occurrence. Things like death by meteor shower is so unlikely that even the most paranoid probably don’t have it on their list. Depending on where you live and how you act, the odds of being mugged can range from as unlikely as a meteor shower to a 50% chance any given week.
This method of weighing possibilities helps us determine for what we should prepare, and how best to spend our limited time and other resources. If there’s a meeting today with the boss about a project, take some time and prepare. What are the most likely aspects of the project you will have to defend? What are the projects weak points? Is it behind schedule or over budget? Better be prepared to answer a few questions, right?
What other aspects of your life could use a little preparation? What things at work, home, social, or some other aspect aren’t as ready as they could (or should) be? Grab some paper and jot a few of them down. Next to each one add two notations: how things will go if you are unprepared, and how things might likely go if you are prepared. Not absolute worst case and best case, but likely outcomes. That is part of the weighing process. Where will your effort be best rewarded?
So, which of all the different aspects of your life are you going to work on first? Chose one and set the others aside. On another page, write down the task you are preparing for, as well as what could happen if you are prepared and not prepared (you can copy or start again, as you wish).
Now take a moment and jot down the things most likely to come up. What specifically do you need to be prepared for? In the case of the business project, the schedule and budget were likely things to be brought up, so they would definitely be on the list. What are the other things for which you need to be prepared?
Now get busy and do the research. Have a few items to address each point. The schedule slipped because the customer changed the requirements, two people were out sick, and the computer system was down for three days. Not a list of excuses, but reasons and facts.
Because you are prepared and can explain why will help to soften the blow. If you are even more prepared, you might have a remediation plan, a way to catch up. Tell the customer that you can make the changes, but it will take more time, and get some schedule relief in the change order.
Now you’re not the source of problems, but a source of solutions. All because you were prepared.
From: Twitter, @philo_quotes
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/niccolomac125077.html
Photo by ricoeurian