Life Lessons: Seven lessons from Khlestakov

for the uninitiated, Khlestakov is a fictional character in  Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector, a comedy drama set in in pre socialist Russia.  In the comic play Khlestakov is a junior government official who gets stranded in a little town, after gambling away all his money. However along the line he gets mistaken for a high ranking government official by the officials of the little town, and he is able to use this smokescreen to con the governor and all his officails of all their money and he leaves the town richer than when he came into it

even though The Government Inspector is a fictional work and Khlestakov is a fictional character, yet everyone of us, whatever we do can learn one lesson or the other from the so called “Government Inspector.” here are seven of the lessons we can learn from him.


He was a fast thinker and  good actor

  Adaptability to an ever changing world is a must have feature for anybody who hopes to make headway in the ever changing world of today.  like Khlestakov, we are confronted  with situations in our jobs, in our social relationships and every facet of our life, when we suddenly have to alter our way of thinking and start thinking in another way. Most times, life presents opportunities to us as it did to Khlestakov, without notice, scarcely any time to think and leaves not even a second for delay. The difference between people who reap full benefits of situations like Khlestakov, and people who lose out on opportunities, is not just the ability to adapt, but the ability to do it with the speed of thought.    Part of the reasons that dinosaurs became extinct was that when the earth’s climate changed, they were slow to get the necessary skills to adapt. Today they are fossils to be admired in museums. Don’t let inability to change turn you to an outdated relic unable to meet new challenges, continue to grow and change.  Like the chameleon that uses his ability to change to survive and stay on top of every situation. The present world calls on men who can think on their feet.  Life will always  throw scripts at you, it behoves on you to get your acting  gear at hand,  for any role you are called to perform.


He had Imagination

 Khlestakov was only an average official passing through a small town yet he was able to swindle all the officials with all their cunning and shrewdness simply because he could use his imagination. Imagination is what distinguishes the individual from the crowd, imagination  sees power in potential,  imagination sees the solutions where there are only problems. But the mistake a lot of people make when the word imagination is used is that it is meant for authors, painters, or nuclear scientists. This is a misconception, we need imagination in our everyday activities, in our places of work we need imagination to  look at the people that surround us and see beyond their age, social status, gender, and history and see the good they are capable of performing. It takes imagination to look at a tedious and unimportant job and think “well i can put my all into this job and do it so well that it will be recognized.” Vision and focus are products  of the imagination. A man who does not have imagination cannot visualise where he is going, not to talk on focusing on how to get there. What you picture in your future is a product of your imagination. Let your imagination run wild, think outlandishly do not limit yourself to thinking realistic as the age old maxim goes “when you aim, aim for the moon, so that if you miss you can end up among the stars.”


                                                   He was confident

Khlestakov did not set out to be a con man he was caught by suprise just as much as anybody else in the town, yet he was able to maintain such a facade. His facade was far from perfect, he continually made blunders and slips that might have proved costly in another situation. Yet  he was never discovered, the answer is simple. He had confidence. Not everyone has the ability to behave like Khlestakov, in that we confidently act out a lie so much that it becomes the truth, but everyone of us can develop that  confidence, one step to building confidence is to accept one’s failibilty, when you accept your faliures as part of who you are, you are on the right track to self confience,being sure of your facts is another step in this direction,  self belief also inspires confidence. All these are tiny details that everyone can work on and develop confidence. Confidence is an integral part of human relationships, a lot of people tend to erroneously believe that being confident only manifests in being a good talker, this is only partly true. Confidence is what allows an individual look up and see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is confidence that allows one to tough out a difficult situation instead of becoming a complainer, it is confidence that allows one to believe in someone else’s vision and remain loyal to the end. As the Government Inspector proves, in the game of life,  a confident man has won half the battle already. Wiston Churchill might not be the best millitary brain around but he was the one confident enough to step to the plate during the dark days of the war.  History may have forgotten many a brilliant tactician, philosopher or  wealthy ruler, but it will always remember men who developed the courage confidence to go “where even angels fear to thread.”


                                                          He respected Osip

Everybody has that one person or the other who look up to them, it may be an employee, or a junior Colleague, it may be a younger friend or a younger sibling. Whoever they are they also deserve respect.One thing that worked for Khlestakov was the fact that his servant Osip also put in a good word for him where necessary. Even though Osip was actually trying to feather his own nest, his destiny had become so intertwined with his master’s that he could not get any advantages without it affecting the latter, we learn from Khlestakov that discrimination is an attribute of the small minded, whatever we do, we have people who are inferior to us in one way or another, it is a mark of greatness to be able to look beyond our own social standing and learn how to respect people who do not have what we have. Just as Osip reflected back on Khlestakov and enhanced his social status, so do our underlings reflect back to us us.


He was thorough

 Once Khlestakov had all the officials of the town under his thumb he proceeded to deal with them ruthlessly before he escapes. In whatever we do we should remeber that the hallmark of a true master is  paying attention to what other people have missed. It is the ability to do a complete and thorough job that distinguishes an average job from a masterpiece. In the game of life there are no half measures. As it is often said life is a war, and everyday is a new battle in itself. One cannot afford to rest on one’s oars after a victory, because there are always new lands to conquer, new lessons to be learnt, and new heights of victory to attain . Khlestakov showed he was no coward by swindling every single official he could find. Only cowards engage in half measures. In our dealings  with people we should keep in mind the fifteenth law of power that states that any enemy crushed should be crushed totally. Anything we do should be done thoroughly  and conscientiously because  a rolling stone as they say gathers no moss. When a situation presents itself it is our duty to make sure we take every thing we can and learn every lesson we can from it. Dont forget that it is a winner takes all environment, a winner must learn how to take it all.


He knew when to quit

 Khlestakov obeyed Greene’s 35th law to the letter, he knew when victory was won and when to withdraw. If he had not withdrawn  when he did, his smokescreen would have been  seen through and he would have failed. One thing that helps a champion is that he knows when to quit.  There is always a tendency for us to over reach when we have victory in our grasp. Khlestakov knew when he had already  accomplished his purpose. If we go beyond our bounds we have a tendency to lose the mystique behind our successes. As they say the masquerade that performs his stunts in moderation will be praised. The one who goes beyond his bounds will only find disgrace. Like Khlestakov, we need to know when victory is won so that we can withdraw and remain fresh for future battles.


He had a sense of humour

 This is perhaps an addition to the previous six mentioned, but it is worthy of mention as any of the other six. Life does not give us cause to smile very often but the key to getting the best quality out of life is ti ensure that we get a chance to laugh out of every situation we find ourselves as the bible says in the book of proverbs “As a man thinketh so is he” and a  A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance; But by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken.” The ability to get a chance to laugh out of situation is the ability that only a few people have and this ability is what distinguishes between an average life an a quality life. As they say blessed the man that can laugh at himself, because such a man will definitely have  something to laugh at.

0 thoughts on “Life Lessons: Seven lessons from Khlestakov

  1. Thanks for writing this piece. You somehow managed to teach life lessons based on the activities of a scrupulous character. You had me looking for my copy and putting it on my to-read list next to ‘Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again’ One shouldn’t forget this satiric books and most importantly, one shouldn’t forget to learn from them.

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