If you’re really pumped up on success, you probably call the company you’re building (or planning to build) “Your Empire.” But do you really know what it takes to build an empire? Do you know how to dominate your world and climb to the top rank of entrepreneurship?
If there ever was a man who knew, it was Julius Caesar. The Julius Caesar: the man who built ancient Rome into the seat of the great Roman Empire practically single-handedly. And although times have changed quite a bit since Julius Caesar was around, there are still five important lessons on building your brand to imperial status and achieving true success that every modern entrepreneur should learn from the man who built Rome.
1. Don’t simply claim your value. Prove it.
When Caesar was a young man (and still a nobody), he was captured by pirates. Twice. When his second captors said they would ask 25 talents as ransom, Caesar laughed in their face. That was the price his first captors had asked and it was time to up the ante. As crazy as it sounds, Caesar convinced the pirates to ask for 50 talents for his release! Which today would be equivalent to the price of 3,550 pounds of silver. Not a small sum by any means.
But Caesar proved he was worth his salt. After mobilizing all his connections to contribute money for his ransom, Caesar built a small fleet and attacked the pirates, taking back every single penny his friends had paid to the pirates. Not only that, he also killed the pirates, and did the whole of Rome a favor by eliminated a real danger from the seas. If you think about it, that’s a steal for just 50 (refunded) talents!
Hopefully, you won’t have to kill any pirates to prove your entrepreneurial worth. But the question of value comes up just as often today as it did in the ancient world. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that their value depends on how much clients are willing to pay them for their products or services.
But the truth is that you’re responsible for showing the world where your real value stands. And the trick to that? Is having the confidence to over-deliver on your promises. Don’t just claim you’re worth 50 talents (or 50 million dollars). And don’t just throw a price on your website hoping, praying, and wishing, people will take the bait and believe you. Go out there and kill it.
Show everybody that those 50 talents they’re paying for you? They’re really a steal for someone of your talent and skills.
2. Don’t wait for permission. Get it done.
When Caesar was still studying law—and keeping out of politics—Mithridates of Pontus attacked the Roman frontier in Asia Minor. This frontier was quite a way from Rome, but young Julius Caesar understood the impending threat.
Instead of turning a blind eye and pretending that it wasn’t his problem, he raised a private army and marched to the defense of the attacked towns. By the time the official Roman army got to the scene, the enemy had practically been defeated and Caesar was hailed as a war hero in Rome.
Now, you may not have to fight any real wars, but if you’re ambitious entrepreneur with a dream to conquer the world, you will inevitably come up against some tough situations. And the same two choices that faced Caesar still face you: You can either shrug it off and say it’s not your job, or you can stop waiting for permission and go do it now.
Success doesn’t come from permission. Success comes when you take action and show the world what you’re capable of.
3. Manage your time (and everybody else’s)
Back in Caesar’s time, the yearly calendar was all out of whack. With only 355 days in the year, the months kept falling out of pace with the seasons and no one knew what festival they were supposed to be celebrating. (Imagine having New Year’s fall on Halloween. Total chaos.)
Everybody in Rome complained about the calendar, but no one really did anything to fix it. No one but Caesar, that is. Seeing that the Egyptians had a solar calendar that worked much better than the Roman lunar calendar, Caesar changed the entire time system in Rome, creating the Julian calendar of 365 days (plus a leap day every fourth February) that we still use all over the world today. Radical, no?
Time is the most precious thing we have in life, and what we do with our time defines who we ultimately become in life. Don’t let time slip out of your hands without taking full advantage of it. You may not be able to manage everybody’s schedules (and you probably don’t want to, anyway), but you can manage your time for maximum efficiency. Instead of complaining about how busy you are, develop a time management system that works for you.
Chunk out your day, eliminate distractions, stay on track with your to-do list and you’re good to conquer the world.
4. No way across? Build a bridge. And make it sturdy.
While conquering Gaul (modern-day France), Caesar had to deal with some Germanic tribes across the river Rhine that were harassing his army. The problem? Caesar didn’t have boats to cross the river. The solution? Build a bridge. And not just any ol’, made-to-last-two-days bridge. Caesar built two bridges (in two different years of the war) that not only proved strategically successful, but that are still considered masterpieces of military engineering today.
You may not have to cross the Rhine any day soon, but if you’re doing innovative work, sooner or later you’ll have to push the envelope to places it has never been before. And in those moments you have to remember that exceptional success requires exceptional steps.
No solution in sight? Take it as your opportunity to shine and build something new. Existing solution doesn’t match up to your standards? Build something better. Forge a new path. And not just for yourself, but for everyone who’ll come after you, too.
5. Blog about your experiences and what you’ve learned.
Would you believe me if I told you that Caesar used to blog? Not on the internet of course. But Caesar used to keep a traditional “log” of all his expeditions, written with a feather pen on papyrus. (Weren’t those the days!) While fighting the Gallic and the Civil Wars, Caesar wrote about his army, his strategy, his tactics, his decisions, his successes and setbacks, and generally everything he faced every day.
And he didn’t just write in a “dear diary” format. He wrote some of the best prose any Roman author ever did and published his work in Rome so people could follow his expeditions and stay informed on his progress.
And if Caesar could write while fighting wars on the frontiers, then you have no reason not to be blogging about your entrepreneurial trials and successes from the comfort of your couch. Regular contact and communication with a supportive audience is important for success, especially in today’s ultra-connected online world. You can’t just stay hidden from the world behind your screen until you find success. You’ll never find it.
You have to get out there and put your story out into the world now, as it happens. Because if you don’t share, no one will care. So don’t sit around debating whether a blog is a good idea, get out there and start writing about your adventures and see how true success will come find you along the way.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re fighting pirates or your inner demons, whether you’re managing the world’s calendar or managing your daily schedule, or whether you’re blogging from the campfire or from the coffee shop around the corner.
The essential steps for finding true success remain the same, even if their form has changed. So take a cue (or five) from Caesar’s playbook and go out there to conquer the world today!