Everyone has heard of Bill Gates, Jack Welch, and Richard Branson. They’re among the most successful business leaders of our times. The internet is flooded with their accomplishments, motivational quotes, and ambitions.
But what about Julius Caesar? Can a Roman politician, general, and writer who was assassinated more than 2,000 years ago offer us any valuable life lessons for the modern world?
I believe he can.
The Life & Times of Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar was only sixteen when his father died. Because of his family’s connection to the losing side in a civil war, he was immediately stripped of his inheritance. He was short of money for most of his career as a result.
But that didn’t stop him doing two very important things.
1. Investing in his education
In his mid-twenties, Julius Caesar travelled to Greece to study public speaking under Apollonius Molon, a famous orator who had also trained Cicero. Being a good public speaker was an indispensable skill for a Roman politician—and Julius Caesar knew that. So despite his limited funds, he made his education happen, and it paid off.
2. Investing in his network
Julius Caesar spent vast amounts of money hosting expensive dinners designed to win the support of his fellow politicians. He also put on lavish festivals to win the support of ordinary people. For this, he needed to go heavily into debt.
Most of the things Julius Caesar is known for today—invading Gaul and Britain, taking control of the republic, etc.—happened after he was appointed consul in his early forties. That means it was only in the last third of his life that his investments in his education and his network really paid off.
While there are some things about Julius Caesar that you wouldn’t want to imitate—his habit of sleeping with other men’s wives, for one—you’ve got to admire the way he invested in himself, especially considering how little money he had to do so. The limits and obstacles we perceive between us and our ambitions can almost always be overcome with the right attitude and drive.
And, yes, a little luck.
Caesar Your Opportunities!
I was lucky. Even though my family was not well off, my parents were committed to funding my education. I also won scholarships, such as for a high-school exchange program in Australia (where I learned to speak English) and a company sponsorship to Harvard Business School.
But I believe in lifelong education, and that dictated how I directed the luck that came my way. It’s also why I regularly attend conferences to educate myself about the global stage and my role in shaping society. I’ve attended meetings at the Aspen Institute in Colorado, the World Economic Forum at Davos, the Singularity University in Silicon Valley, and the Vedanta Academy in India, to name a few.
Similarly, I continue to invest in building my network. I belong to the Entrepreneur’s Organization and the Young President’s Organization. The annual G1 conferences, which GLOBIS launched in 2009, have grown to become a powerful network. In other words, I don’t just network for myself. I try to find ways to build networks that benefit greater, even new, communities.
Ultimately, your biggest asset is never financial. Your biggest asset consists of your skills (which are derived from your education) and the size of your network (which is based on trust).
That’s why I urge everyone to learn from Julius Caesar. Invest in your education and your network when you are young, and in later life you will be well positioned to perform heroic feats of business that will echo through the ages!