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Monday, January 17, 2011

THE FOUNDERS DEN: Entrepreneurs: Stop Reading the Crap Out There and Learn from History

In the heights of the Roman Empire, Julius Caesar stood leagues above the rest of the world. Some historians would argue that he was the most powerful human to ever walk the planet, and how can you argue? To me, he offers more than just a book I read in high school, though that book is rarely used as an example of entrepreneurship and it should be. However, he is more than an example; he is the heartbeat of the world of innovators and should be seen as the guide for all entrepreneurs. Julius said things like ““It is better to create than to learn! Creating is the essence of life,” and “I would rather be first in a small village in Gaul than second in command in Rome.” These quotes could be thought of as symbols of the way we all must think.

Ceasar was an inspiration and a role model for the free world, though he was an emperor. He should be read by entrepreneurs instead of Zig Ziglar or Robert T. Kiyosaki; he was the real deal. He owned the world, not a sales technique or a real estate strategy. True power comes from understanding true power, not what someone else wants you to buy. He also said “Men freely believe that which they desire,” which is why these “gurus” exist. Make sure you are reading all the time, but make sure you are reading things that draw real thought and come from a place where you would like to be one day. Don’t believe the hype and rush into a business that someone else claims to be a success in because most of the time those that you should learn from cost more than $29.95. Go to the source of information and do it right or don’t do it at all. It may sound strange, but be like Frank Lucas in American Gangster and go to the source directly or stop playing the game. Find the people that matter in your world and get to them the right way.

Now, being that Julius Caesar was the most powerful man in the world, I can safely say that he understood success and power better than any of us ever will. This is what no modern day book can teach you, how to truly handle success. Sure they teach you about the things to do to be a success and the road to walk down, but do they teach you how to handle it when you get there?

There is something that very few people knew about Julius Caesar. He always had a shadow behind him while he ruled his empire. He always had a skinny peasant standing behind him that would lean over and whisper in his ear, which would change the look on his face and the way he would speak. This peasant was not a God or a Statesman; he was a peasant that Julius Caesar himself paid to work for him. Everywhere Julius would go, this poor man would go and never did this poor man speak to anyone but the Caesar. Never did anyone know what they spoke about and why he was there. But, the story behind this man is one that I have taken to heart and every other businessman that is truly destined for greatness should also take to heart.

The story goes like this. One day the Caesar was walking through his palace and he stopped right outside the gates because he saw a man working on the wall. His guards immediately ran to accost this man and Julius stopped them so he could ask this man what he was doing. The man replied that he had been working on filling a hole in the wall, at no cost or want of recognition. The man explained that 2 known criminals had come in to his eatery in the poorer section of Rome and spoken about this crack in the wall. They spoke of the ways they were going to use it to break in and steal from the Caesar. Without thinking twice this man came to fix it. Julius was stunned and amazed and took this man under his arm for a walk. After this walk, no one really knows what happened because of the secrecy involved, and this man never left the side of the Caesar again.

The legend says that Julius had taken this man in and provided his entire family more money than they could ever spend in exchange for his undying loyalty and time. He saw what he thought to be a true Roman and a real honest man and rewarded him for it. However, this man would have the hardest job in all of Rome, as the legend goes, and through his occupation every free spirited innovator should learn.

Julius Caesar, the most powerful man on the planet had asked this peasant to be his voice of reason. He had given this man the daunting task of being the voice of reason to the most feared and respected man in the world in a time of pure chaos. This man, that no one knew, or ever spoke to, had the task of standing behind the most imposing figure in history at all times. Every time the Caesar got an ego or stepped out of line, according to the guidelines of best practices and Roman rules that Caesar himself wrote, you would see this skinny peasant lean in and whisper to Julius. He was only allowed to say one phrase in public and was rarely allowed to leave the grounds. For this his family never had to worry about financial matters ever again. But if he were to ever fail; his blood line would have ended on the spot.

Julius Caesar hired a man to stand behind him and whisper in his ear, “You’re only a man, you’re only a man, you’re only a man,” which is a far cry from the rich and powerful of our time. Today the rich and powerful will pay people to tell them the exact opposite and even pay to have others lie to them so they feel even more omnipotent. Caesar understood power and its uses and downfalls and took the time to look in the mirror. He noted that every powerful man will be tempted to think they are Godlike in the face of fame and fortune and he humbled himself at every possible chance.

This story, though legend and not historical (because they killed him too before anyone had a chance to ask him what he did for a living) tells me more about success than anything any “guru” ever could. It tells me that we all need to have a voice of reason and a person to stay in our face about the things we do on the way up or at the top. And, that it is more important WHO we are and not WHAT we are or what we have done. Take this this to heart and find those in your life that tell you the truth at all times and hold on to them at all costs. You may not even like them, but you need them if you plan to be a real success and not just another wannabe “guru”. I have found three in my life and they have saved my rear end more times from keeping me in check when I succeed than anyone could ever help when I fail. It is more important to have your feet on the ground than your head in the clouds. Don’t be afraid to look in the mirror and when it is hard to do, make sure you have someone there to hold it for you. The bottom-line is simple, power corrupts and only those that truly deserve it will maintain it. Protect what is yours and stay true to who you are as an entrepreneur, it is the only thing you can really control. Hiring a coach to keep you from making mistakes is usually not needed, but having a coach that helps you stay as focused as you did on the way up, will never fail.

By Eric Rice

LWI and The Founders Den

The Founders Den

The Founders Den is a collaborative group of successful entrepreneurs, attorneys, investors, tax professionals, and advisors who are committed to sharing their knowledge, expertise, and resources to improve the environment for rising startup businesses. The Founders Den Members come from a variety of professional backgrounds and business sectors, and are focused on leveraging their wisdom and experience to offer advice to young companies, and in select cases the Den serves as an incubator for promising ventures who are in need of support to turn their plans into reality.

Eric Rice is a successful entrepreneur and has built a number of businesses in sectors ranging from financial services to gaming. He is currently the CEO of LWI, a non-traditional marketing firm specializing in social media and online branding.

Eric Rice

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