Everyone has heard of Bill Gates, Jack Welch and Richard Branson. They’re among the most successful business leaders of our times—as well as major influencers here on LinkedIn.
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 now?
I believe he can.
Caesar was only sixteen when his father died. Because of his family’s connection to the losing side in the civil war, Caesar 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, Caesar travelled to Greece to study public speaking under Molon, a famous orator who had also trained Caesar’s contemporary Cicero. (Being a good public speaker was an indispensable skill for a Roman politician.)
2. Investing in his network
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 the ordinary people. For this he needed to go heavily into debt.
Most of the things for which Caesar is celebrated today—invading Gaul and Britain, taking control of the republic etc.—he only did after being appointed consul in his early forties. It was 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 Caesar that one doesn’t want to imitate—his habit of sleeping with other men’s wives, for one—I admire him unreservedly for the way he invested in himself despite not having much money to do so.
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 fluently), and a company scholarship to go to Harvard Business School.
And I believe in lifelong education. That’s why I regularly go to the Aspen Institute in Colorado, the World Economic Forum at Davos, the Singularity University in Silicon Valley, and the Vedanta Academy in India.
Similarly, I continue to invest in building my network. I belong to EO (Entrepreneurs’ Organization) and YPO (Young Presidents Organization). The annual 3-day G1 Conference, an economic forum which I launched in Japan in 2009, has grown to become a powerful network, in and of itself.
Ultimately, your biggest asset is never financial. Your biggest asset consists of your SKILLS (derived from your education) and the size of your NETWORK you enjoy (based on trust).
That’s why I urge everyone to learn from Julius Caesar.
If you invest in your education and your network when you are young, in later life you will be able to perform heroic feats of business that will echo down the ages like the triumphs of Julius Caesar!