Maybe it’s because I am convinced I am Aeneas reincarnated. Or maybe it’s because I’m drawn to the romance and adventure (wait that doesn’t sound right) of the ancient worlds that I’ve recently been on a historical fiction reading spree.
As such, I recently finished reading Steven Pressfield’s “Virtues of War”. It’s a historical novel told from Alexander The Great’s point of view. We first meet Alexander as King of Macedon, but the story interweaves across various years as the king tells us about his childhood, ascension, reign and finally, demise.
Pressfield does wonderful work delving into Alexander’s mind, giving us an intimate look at how Alexander strategized for war, reign and life.
The book is filled with wonderful quotes, insights and passages. Here are three that resonated with me.
1. As I reined-in, Agathon stood in spirited exchange with the eldest of the wise men. Indicating me, the lad declared,”This man has conquered the world! What have you done?”
The philosopher replied without an instant’s hesitation, “I have conquered the need to conquer the world.” I laughed with delight. At once our party yielded.
As a newly minted college graduate in 2010, I was ready to take on the world. I fulfilled my end of the bargain, I went to school, took the courses, got in debt and finally graduated. My dream job should have been handed to me on May 21st, 2010 yea?
Wow, was I in for a rude awakening. The world doesn’t care about your Intro to SDSU Fight Song Course or about your English degree. It only cares about what you have contributed. What right did I have to selfishly demand and demand, when I had done nothing to contribute to the betterment of those around me?
The world was here long before me, it doesn’t owe me anything. And it was only when I came to that realization, that the world became mine.
2. “Always attack. Even in defense, attack. The attacking arm possesses the initiative and thus commands the action. To attack makes men brave; to defend makes them timorous.”
Pressfield’s Alexander was of course, referring to war. But the notion of attacking, IE being proactive instead of reactive can be applied to any facet of life. I recently took on new role with my company. And part of what will determine my success will be how proactive i am in anticipating challenges, obstacles and opportunities.
I cannot simply wait for items (good and bad) to manifest themselves, I must always be on the attack as a way to defend against anything that may hamper or detract from our goals or anything that can advance our positioning.
What are you being proactive in this year?
3. “Let us conduct ourselves in such a fashion that all nations wish to be our friends and all fear to be our enemies.”
This reminds me of the words my guidance counselor shared before I was set to study abroad in Barcelona. “Remember, you’re not just representing yourself. You are representing your family, your school and your country. Carry yourself accordingly.
While Alexander’s definition of studying abroad was a bit different than mine, the message stands clear. Always be the best version of yourself, no matter where you may be.
Pressfield’s Alexander seems to have the right balance of introspection, as for the most part he doesn’t let his feelings or personal relationships detract him from his ultimate goal: to rule the world.
“Virtues of War” is a highly recommended book. It’s a personal look into the mind of one of history’s greatest leaders, strategists and men.