One must emulate both the fox and the lion, because a lion cannot defy a snare, while a fox cannot defy a pack of wolves. – Niccolò Machiavelli
What does that mean?
This is another Twitter shortened quote, which is stated more completely as: “A Prince must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.”
This quote is from a section on keeping faith (keeping promises), and details how and when a Prince should keep or break his word. The opponents of the Prince are cast as the wolves, who would either attack him directly (beastly attacks of force) or lay traps for the purpose of entangling him (clever attacks by law or using the word of the Prince against him).
To survive the direct attacks, he argues, the wolves must be met by a lion, a great and fearsome beast, more than able (in theory) to scatter and defeat a group of hungry wolves. In this, he says that aggressive use of force is necessary against those who would use it against you. Against the wolves the fox is no match.
Similarly, the fox must be of sufficient cunning to recognize traps set by the wolves, and (being a fox), outsmart the less clever wolves. In this, he says that when the conditions under which a promise was made no longer exist, or when it has been breached by those of bad faith, a Prince should no longer be bound by these promises. He also urges a Prince to sever any promises made with a wolf, as the wolf has already broken faith with the promise in the attempt to use it against the Prince. Against these wolves, the lion is no match.
Neither the lion alone, nor the fox alone can survive against the wolf. The Prince needs a mix of both, and must know when to break a promise to disarm the wolf when they attempt to out-fox the Prince. It’s an interesting chapter, and one worthy of a further reading.
Why is flexibility important?
Here, I don’t mean the ability to touch your toes, but the ability to change roles quickly when necessary. A single, monolithic view is probably one of the weaker stances one can take in life. A monolithic view is unable to flex, it is unable to react to changes, and will not survive once a weakness is found.
Instead, the ability to be flexible is the ideal defense in life. Every threat will be a little different. What worked well last time won’t necessarily be useful this time. If last time, the wolves laid a trap, and this time attack in force, the fox that won last time will be torn apart this time.
Even for those of us who are not Princes, flexibility is important. Whether it’s an argument with a friend, a spouse, a teenage son, or a neighbor, what worked last time probably won’t work the next time. Learn from your successes and your failures, and improve yourself every chance you get, starting with your flexibility.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Most of us have a preferred method of dealing with a known situation. If your child starts whining, you have a standard reaction. If a teen asks for the keys to the car, you have a standard reaction. If someone at a bar starts running his mouth, you have a standard reaction.
But that’s not always the best reaction. Every situation is different, and eventually, others will learn to anticipate how you will act, and use that knowledge to formulate a better strategy for getting their way. I know I did that to my parents when I figured out their pattern when I asked for the car keys. How about you, did you adjust your strategy when you were younger?
Why should you leave your flexibility behind, in your youth? Flexibility is still useful, even if you are 100 years old! While a centurion’s body might not be very flexible, if their minds are, they can be an interesting person to match wits with.
Think through your preferred reactions to the usual situations, and see if there are patterns. Consider if they still work well, or if they need to be modified. Think about how well they worked the last few times you used them. If you didn’t get the desired result, you might want to use a little flexibility, right?
You might have to think outside the box (the box of your own creation, I might add) to improve your flexibility. Your own mind is the limiting factor at this point. How you will deal with that aspect is up to you. I would suggest taking some time (now) and do some brainstorming for the more common situations, and the reactions that are no longer effective.
If you have kids in the house, expect to have to adapt your strategies, as they will be constantly learning, and are nearly infinitely flexible. At work or in social situations, you may find yourself dealing with the same situation, but with different people. What worked with one, may not be as effective with another. Again, flexibility is the key.
While the quote dealt with the wolves at the door of a Prince, not all of your situations will involve dealing with wolves. Be flexible enough to have other options available to you besides the lion or the fox. The more tools you have in your tool box, the more flexible (and likely the more effective) you can be.
From: Twitter, @JacquesMemoirs
confirmed at : http://thinkexist.com/quotation/a-prince-must-imitate-the-fox-and-the-lion-for/410945.html
Photo by foxspain