Human Happiness

We all want to be happy, but of what does happiness consist? To some Russian soldiers of another Humans are born hoping for happiness and capable of joy.  It is our nature.century, happiness was dying in combat fighting for the Czar. To a saint, happiness is a lifetime of unrelenting worship and penitence. To a scholar, happiness is reading in the library or concocting in the laboratory. To the gardener, it is a lush, green garden and hands plunged deep into black dirt. The scholar would be miserable in the garden, and the saint - who would die eagerly the glory of God - would find dying for the Czar to be utterly meaningless.

Human happiness is produced by a life of meaningful activity. 

For most humans, imitating what others do produces a sensation of meaningfulness. Most humans speak as others speak, think as others think, dress as others dress, and act as others act. Being acknowledged by others as a member of the group is, for them, profoundly satisfying. Wearing the emblems of your group announces your affiliation, so we strive to look and act like members of our group. Why else would a man who once was happy to wear long hair and sandals now be happy wearing designer sweaters and driving a Lexus? Why else would women suddenly discover that toe rings and tattoos - formerly the emblems of strippers and sluts - are now a chic personal statement? Happiness is being a member of the group. It is not the toe ring or the tattoo that is important; it is being a member of the group. 

For some humans, simply being a member of the group is not satisfying. These individuals define meaningfulness in different ways: through solitary intellectual and spiritual adventures, through sensual pleasures like food and sex, through personal sacrifice, through nurturing and healing, through gambling, through religious worship, etc. 

For the Prince, meaning is self-defined. The Prince has an internal compass that points toward a meaningful life. 

Most people would be ashamed of being a college dropout, fearful of the harsh judgment of others and a lifetime of failure. For young Bill Gates, finishing his college degree was meaningless. Gates instantly abandoned his academic career at Harvard when he saw an article in a hobby magazine about an electronics kit marketed by an Albuquerque business man. Gates immediately founded a tiny software company in New Mexico so that he could sell a programming language to the customers who bought the kit. Later, Gates was asked by a visitor from IBM if his little software company had an operating system that might be modified for use on IBM’s soon-to-be-released personal computer. Gates’ company had not produced an operating system, but Gates reply to IBM was somewhat divergent from that truth - one of the many lies that have changed the world’s history and all our lives. Twenty-five years later, this web page is being composed on a computer running on Microsoft’s operating system, and there is a 96% chance that you are viewing it on one. Gates remains a college dropout. The college graduates who manage IBM, in the meantime, have sold the PC business they invented to a Chinese firm after a two decades of struggling.

Sam Houston was a white man who lived for years among red Indians, finding solace in their style of life. A slave-owner, he led an army of amateurs in a revolution against Mexico in the name of freedom. During that revolution, he endured scalding criticism and accusations of cowardice from his contemporaries as he led the Texas army in a shameful retreat halfway across Texas, running, hiding, refusing to give battle. Then, on hearing that Santa Anna had imprudently divided his forces, Houston wheeled his army about in an instant and led them in a brilliantly conceived attack, striking Santa Anna like a rattlesnake and defeating the Army of Mexico in a twenty minute battle. Houston was twice elected President of the Republic of Texas. Then, after guiding Texas to become a state in the United States, he was elected once Senator from the State of Texas, and twice governor of the Lone Star State. As governor, Houston - though a slave owner himself - was adamantly opposed to the secession of Texas from the Union and its entry into the Confederacy. These highly unpopular views and his characteristic unwillingness to yield to popular opinion - when he believed it to be wrong - resulted in his expulsion from the Governor’s office by the ungrateful primates whose nation he had founded, whose state he had created, and whose happiness he had secured. 

Houston’s inner compass pointed to a life of internally defined meaning that was unique to him. It is true that he shared the meaningfulness of his life with us by changing the history of North America and the lives of all North Americans who came after him, but Houston did what he did for himself - not for us. A Prince of the first magnitude, he followed the needle of his personal compass through a lifetime of extraordinary experiences.

Why do most people find meaning in a life of conspicuous mimicry while a few others march to the beat of a drum no one else can hear? Why are some people sweet and others hot tempered? Why are some people good dancers and others hop around the dance floor like a lizard on a hot plate? Why is one child sweet, good, and cooperative while her sister is a black-hearted, thieving, lying, little demon?

The obvious and only answer is: genetics, biochemistry, brain structure, and personal history. Human nature is really human natures. Our personalities vary like our faces do. Some people have lovely faces, some have dog-ugly faces, some people have big ears, some have huge noses, and some are balding, but most people have ordinary faces. Our personalities vary similarly. Our brains are as different as our faces.

The personality of a Prince is different from the personalities of most other men and women. Not better, not worse, not blessed, not condemned. Different. A different kind of brain in a different body with a different life history.

Happiness is being true to your own nature. For most people, happiness (that is, the experience of that which gives life meaning) is found by imitating other people and by doing what is expected by others, belonging to the chosen group, and basking in the group’s acceptance and approval. For the Prince, happiness is heeding the inner voice, following the inner compass, seeking meaning in a life of experiences that might not satisfy others but which satisfy him - or her.



Are You a Prince?

Machiavelli lived in a world controlled by a small aristocratic class. Only the nobly born, the wealthy, and their chosen administrators had any power. Democracy as we know it was unimaginable to him. The concept of human equality had not yet been invented. It would have made no sense to Machiavelli to write a book of advice to a shopkeeper, a peasant, a farmer, or a woman. He may have been a great genius, but he was also a creature of his time, as we are.

ICleopatran these pages and in my book The Modern Prince, I assert that a person can become the Prince of his or her own life regardless of his or her station in life, if that is his or her desire. Not all of us can be President, CEO, Senator, quarterback, Pope, or chairman of the board, and not all of us would want those positions. It was true in Machiavelli’s day and is true in ours that there are a few in the world who are self-directed and a much larger group who are followers. Most people want simply to be like most other people. They are followers. They dress like others in their reference group, talk like others, read what others are reading, think what others are thinking, vote like others are voting, and want to be seen as part of the group. They are true to their primate natures. Human see, human do. There is nothing wrong with this and there is no reason to look down on these people They are what they are, as are you.

However, a few of us prefer to assert control over the lives we live and theJulius Caesar people around us, to control our own destinies, and to control our own happiness. If you wish to set your own goals and pursue them in your own way, then I am writing to you. This is a much smaller group of people. They are not compulsive mimics. They prefer, instead, to seek a different, self-determined kind of life. A Prince can choose to be a CEO, president, or governor, but a Prince might also choose to be a housewife, farmer, chef, mechanic, mother, bricklayer, or loafer. A Prince might decide that what she really wants is to get on disability and spend her days reading novels and tending her garden. A Prince might decide to become a hermit living in a cabin in the woods, eating wild game and berries. A Prince does what he or she wants to, as much as possible. He or she is self-directed and follows the needle of an internal compass to a self-selected destination. A Prince might decide to pursue a life of fame and glory or to teach Latin at a tiny high school in an isolated farming community. The opinions of other people are important only to the extent that other people can help the Prince to achieve his or her goals.

You do not choose to be a Prince. Either you want to control your own life or you want to mimic others. It is probably not possible to change this fundamental aspect your nature. Either way, it is best to live according to your own nature. 

The Future Prince of CommerceThis is not to say that the Prince is sociopath, a person who thinks only of herself and who is indifferent to the feelings and welfare of others. Absolute disregard for others is alien to our species, inhuman, and insane. In the life you choose, it is likely that there will be many powerful, perhaps lifelong, attachments to others: family, husbands or wives, children, lifelong friends, professional colleagues, etc. The people in your life will probably be of the more common sort: followers, mimics, those who conform - happily because it is their nature - to the wishes and expectations of others. Presumably, they will look to you for leadership and guidance, whether they realize it or not. Perhaps you will make them aware that you are guiding them, perhaps you will not. There is no Machiavellian rule that says you must cherish other people or that you should treat other people badly. There is no Machiavellian rule that says that you must treat all people alike. You can be supportive of your husband, strict with your children, and indulgent with your lesbian lover. Why not? Do what feels right to you. Do that which is consistent with your nature after careful consideration of the facts and the likely consequences.

So, are you a Prince? Maybe, but probably not. Most people are not. It is not something you choose or aspire to. You are what you are. And, only you know what you are. Congressman, Governor, General, President, Senator, Governor

Is the Prince by necessity a “bad” person? Psychologists - none of whom appear to have read anything by Machiavelli - have even developed a test for the “Machiavellian” personality. People who get a high “Mach” score “influence or manipulate others in predictable ways, using tactics that are exploitative, self-serving, and deceptive.” Is the Machiavellian necessarily someone who prefers deception to honesty, cruelty to kindness, and betrayal to loyalty? Is Machiavellianism a perverse philosophy that advocates an upside-down morality where bad is good and black is white? 

Not at all. Machiavelli himself was a loving man who cherished his wife, his children, his mistresses and his friends. He was a patriot who worked for his beloved Florence in difficult times. He was a writer of philosophy, comedy, song, and poetry. He enjoyed good food, good wine, and good conversation. He was a faithful and beloved friend. But, he had eyes in his head and his hearing was acute. He observed that those who were most successful in life were never saints (though they posed as saints), that the Pope of his time was weak, indecisive, and treacherous (though he too posed as a saint), that priests and monks were often corrupt and decadent (as they are today), and that the good Lutherans who invaded Italy to defeat the popish, corrupt, Catholic Church were more eager to steal Rome’s treasure and rape Rome’s daughters than to make a theological point. He noted that average men and women are fickle, supporting leaders who offer them the most and switching allegiance from one leader to another despite pledges of loyalty. He also saw leaders betray loyal followers who had suffered much for them. He saw that men and women only keep promises when it is convenient to do so, and when it is inconvenient they find a pretext for breaking them. He realized that these behaviors are consistent with human nature, and he saw no reason to pretend otherwise. He fully expected his fellow men and women to be true to their inner natures.

People are not good or bad; they are good and bad - whether President, Pope, or Popsicle vendor. They are simply themselves: complicated, contradictory, and inconsistent - whether garbage man, repo-man, or mayor. Most people are not what they say they are - whether professor, mother, or prostitute. Most people are not what they think they are - whether student, philosopher, or con-artist. Most people imagine themselves to be much worse or much better than they really are - like you and me.

Everything is relative to who you are and where you are. Nothing is absolute. Perhaps you believe that “Thou Shall Not Kill” is an absolute rule. But what about a soldier in war? What about the death penalty? What about self defense? What about defense of your children and spouse? Once you start making exclusions for this situation and exceptions for that situation, you are sliding down the slippery slope of relativism. The Machiavellian observes that - in some situations - killing may be better than being killed, killing Hitler is better than surrendering your country to him, or that shooting a deranged high school sniper is better than watching him shoot your brilliant, lovely, sixteen year old daughter.

Every situation is relative to the people, time, place, and situation. Behavior that is effective in one situation is ineffective in another. For example, if you tell your psychiatrist in a private therapy session that you have a mistress he will congratulate you on your honesty; but if you mention that same fact to your wife you may find that her response is different. On the other hand, you if you tell your wife that you don’t intend to pay the psychiatrist’s bill, she may shrug with indifference. But, if you mention that same fact to your psychiatrist ...


Warning: Here at we have a policy of honesty with our readers. Learning the Machiavellian perspective and using Machiavellian techniques can solve some problems but it might create others in your life.

So, if you have read this far, then you should also read about the downside of Machiavellianism




The Modern Prince:

Better Living Through Machiavellianism


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  • It will teach you how to get what you want out of life.
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  • It will remind you that it is the people who love you who cause you the most pain in life. (Preview my chapter on love, if you dare.)
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  • It will teach you that the meaning of your life is your own personal decision.


Warning: Don’t buy my book unless you are willing to pay the price for success. To become a more successful person, you must become a stronger, more capable person. This is easier to say than to do, as we all know. My book contains no magical formulas or simplistic rules of life. It challenges you to meet life on its own terms and achieve your most cherished goals, whatever they may be.


  The Modern Prince is based on The Prince, a little book of advice written by Nicolo Machiavelli to the Prince of Renaissance Florence five hundred years ago. I have rewritten Machiavelli’s classic work for the modern reader. I used the same lively, readable style that you find in these web pages. Machiavelli’s ideas have been used by the movers and shakers of the world for five centuries.


   This is your one and only life. Live it by your own rules and on your own terms.


   Why live any other way?


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