Defensive Living: The Other Side of Self-Defense
Defensive Living strays a little from the path of my past books. All of the books in my Warrior Wisdom Series have focused on idealistic wisdom – those special qualities which the true warrior should strive to develop in his life. The Secrets of Worldly Wisdom, on the other hand, looks at the wisdom of living successfully with other people, specifically those who do not live by the same character traits as the man of honor and character. Not everyone lives a life of character and honor. In fact, it is fairly rare to run across someone who takes qualities such as honor, character, integrity, etc. seriously.
In today’s world, it is much more likely that you will encounter people who put their own desires ahead of their character and honor. Therefore, you need to understand how these people think and what makes them tick. You need to realize that they most likely do not live by the same standards as you live by and prepare yourself for what you may encounter when doing business with these people. As Baltasar Gracian wrote many years ago, “It is just as important to have studied men, as to have studied books.”
Although Defensive Living is not an exhaustive study in human nature, it does give some insight into what you should expect when dealing with other people and wise ways to keep yourself from being blindsided by their less than honorable actions. It is always better to be prepared for the worst case scenario and have things turn out much better than you expected, than to be unprepared and totally taken by surprise. There is no such thing as being too prepared. Louis Pasteur stated that, “Chance favors only the prepared mind,” and that is the purpose of this book – to prepare your mind for what you may encounter in a world becoming more and more void of men of character.
Defensive Living focuses on the wisdom of nine of the world’s foremost authorities on human nature: Jean de la Bruyere, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Lord Chesterfield, Niccolo Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, Baltasar Gracian, Francesco Guicciardini, Francois duc de La Rochefoucauld, and Han Fei Tzu. You may be familiar with some of these men and others you may find that you have never heard of before, but you will be familiar with each by the time you finish this book.
Likewise, you may find some of these men an odd choice to be included in a book on wisdom, as some of these men are not considered to be bastions of wisdom. But each of these men is included in Defensive Living for their specific insight into human nature. Some are included for their insights in how to deal with leaders and men of power, and others for their wise insights into human nature as a whole. Each has his own perspective, but taken together you can start to see the nature of human beings that has changed little over the centuries.
Also, you may consider many of the views and insights that these men held toward people in general to be a bit negative. I urge you not to focus too much on whether or not their views toward other people are pessimistic, but rather whether or not their views are accurate. Think about whether or not the views that these men of old held toward others still apply to people today? Have people become more honorable over the centuries or more self-serving? Of course, these views will not apply to everyone. If they did, we would all be in big trouble.
They are not meant to be an absolute, faultless picture of human nature, but rather a general observation which applies to the majority of people in which you will encounter. See the wisdom contained in this book as more of a broad-spectrum admonition to consider when dealing with those who you don’t really know well enough to be able to discern their character. Lord Chesterfield put it nicely when he said, “The knowledge of mankind is a very useful knowledge for everybody…You will have to deal with all sorts of characters; you should therefore know them thoroughly, in order to manage them ably.”
It is the aspiration of Defensive Living to leave you with a large portion of the knowledge of mankind, or at least enough knowledge to save you from some of the snares that you will come across during your journey. Defensive Living is not a scientific study or the last word on human nature, everyone is different and unique, but this book can serve as overall indicator of what you can expect from people in general. The wisdom in Defensive Living not only comes from the experience of wise men over the centuries, but also from my own personal experience and worldly wisdom that will enable you to live a prosperous life.
As you read both the quotes and the commentaries, you will no doubt recognize both the behaviors and character of many of the people you have known in your life. Most likely, you will be able to put names and faces to many of the characterizations which are portrayed in this book. The reason for this is that there are actually human characteristics which transcend both time and cultures. People are people, and there will always be honorable people and dishonorable people. You need to understand how to deal with all kinds of people.
While it is true that you learn to deal with people by actually doing so, you can also learn from the wisdom and mistakes of others. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. Heed the admonitions of those men who felt strongly enough to write their experience down for you. Use their valuable lessons to avoid costly mistakes. While you should personally strive to live a life of character, honor and integrity, be aware that the majority of people you meet will not live by the same ideals.
I also want to stress that some of the wisdom which Defensive Living contains is not necessarily wisdom that the honorable man seeks to incorporate into his life. For that type of wisdom, you will want to read the Warrior Wisdom Series. There are some morsels of wisdom contained within this book that were included specifically for the purpose of explaining how things are, not how they should be. Please be aware that I am not suggesting that you incorporate all of these observations in your life, but merely making you aware of how things truly are in today’s world.
Always strive to develop excellence in your own life, while at the same time allowing for the fact that others may or may not share your values. Those who strive for excellence share the same character traits. Likewise those who do not strive for excellence share similar character traits with each other. As Charles Caleb Colton wrote, “He that studies books alone will know how things ought to be; and he who studies men will know how they are. Defensive Living seeks to disclose how things are, so you can avoid the trap of believing that people will always act as they should. See things as they are, not as they should be.