Niccolò Machiavelli lived between 1469 to 1527. In that 58-year span of life, considered old age then, Machiavelli led a life that many could not achieve if they had twice the time he did. From a senior official in the Republic of Florence to a writer of songs, poetry, comedies as well as a diplomate with repute in military affairs, Machiavelli was indeed a renaissance man. In his most notable work, his book The Prince he explained many attributes that befit a good, strong, smart, and cunning ruler of people. In essence, leaving out all the best parts, Machiavelli explains that to be a good ruler, or indeed a good leader, one must be exactly who they are yet be what is needed when its needed. Many in our day and age would call this two faced. I argue it is anything but.
A person who stands still and stout through life is a person who has not evolved since they planted their feet.
How does this relate to a survival, prepper, tactical or aware mindset? Think of it like this. To stick to one’s belief is like contemporary battle lines drawn in the dirt. Soldiers lining up rank after rank. Each firing on command, arranged in neat rows according to position and title. What Machiavelli suggest is that as a person, having our “ducks in a row” if you will, is what one should strive for. Indeed, a good point. Disciplined, prompt, well trained, organized, etc. Contrary to that is the unorganized, random, spur of the moment and seemingly rash action of guerrilla warfare. Being strong and true to who we are, yet fluid and adaptable to use the right tactic at the right time to achieve the desired outcome. Fluidity not in character, but in service to our character.
Guerrilla warfare is defined as “The use of hit and run tactics by small, mobile groups of irregular forces operating in territory controlled by a hostile, regular force.” Is that not how one moves through their day-to-day life? (admittedly, not all hostile) Whether negotiating a traffic light in heavy traffic or trying to figure out the answer to the question “Does this dress make my butt look fat?” is one not trying to tell their truth whilst sticking to their beliefs? (FYI, answer is yes, but we like it.) If you look at guerrilla warfare as the fluidity in service to the contemporary battle lines of your character, you can then start to imagine the complexity of every individual and every decision that is made. Now, add the weight of life saving/taking decisions in high stress.
Keeping these lessons in mind in high stress situations is not the easiest. Yet, it can become easy. A high stress situation can last for a few seconds, or months. There is no limiting factor. A soldier or Marine deployed may live in high stress for 18 straight months, where as an EMT, Firefighter or Cop may enter and exit many high stress situations in one shift. Having to control their mind and body before, during and after the event. Reflection and self-evaluations of one’s actions in any given event, then analyzing how one’s reaction or action in the event fit into who they are, or who they want to be, can be not only incredibly healthy but self-revealing as well. In those moments, that is who one truly is. If one were able to act in service to those in need in the way they could without violating their own beliefs, then that person acted truly Machiavellian.
As mentioned in my first article Socratic Method of Decision Making, one cannot establish a rigid set of rules and regulations when it comes to high stress. Allowing for a room to maneuver and adjust on the fly to make the best decision that specific situation may need is vitally important and vastly under rated. Much like leaving some extra space open in your Go-Bag. To be tremendously successful when endeavoring into an aware and prepared mindset, one has to know the people, places, and environments they are preparing for. My greatest teacher in this is Miyamoto Musashi and his mindset to win a fight before it has begun, which is where we will start next.
Author - John Carughi