Looking for something to entertain myself with while I packed, I came across Mike Duncan’s The History of Rome. With short episodes (most about 15 min) and a depth of knowledge I quickly became hooked.
His 2nd episode, Youthful Indiscretions, covers the “life” of one of the mythical founding brothers of Rome, Romulus. Towards the end he highlights how Romulus likely wasn’t an actual person and yet so much of Rome’s beginnings are told as if this individual the key contributor
Mike relates this to George Washington, in how Washington’s fame has replaced our awareness of other important figures in US history. Such as Horatio Gates, who according to Mike, helped secure French support and thus a critical contribution to the fledgling nations success in the revolution.
Would we one day only remember Washington? In place of even other famous founding fathers like Hamilton, Madison and Jefferson?
Could, one day, US history look like Roman history? Where we no longer know The “whos”, “what’s” and “whys” of history and only know of the legendary hero Washington, who in a single crossing of the Delaware River, wrote the complete Constitution and upon landing grew the first great US cities from a handful of seeds of a fallen cherry tree?
Maybe we’re already on our way considering how little we seem to know about our own history. There’s much we could take away from this, but in the least, I’d hope we’d recognize that we don’t know as much as we think we do. We should be slow to assume we know the answer, and be willing to research before we react. It might be better to first assume No One Knows, and be more comprehensive in our understanding of past and present events.
Eric Reis’ The Lean Startup was a New York Times best seller and vaulted Eric Reis from a successful but relatively unknown entrepreneur, to a household name in Silicon Valley and beyond. His book challenged businesses to think less about developing the perfect product before launching and more about delivering a viable product sooner, and rapidly iterating on it until it “crosses the chasm“. His theory centers around the principles of being fast, observing the market, and pivoting quickly to improve the offering. While original in his writing and successful at changing how many thought about product development, he wasn’t nearly the first to change a field with these principles.
In this, Eric Reis is like John Boyd, the legendary USAF Colonel who revolutionized air warfare.
John Boyd’s greatest contributions came after his time as a fighter pilot in the Korean War. Boyd believed that it was speed and maneuverability in air warfare was the key to victory. This belief led to the creation of the Lightweight Fighter program, which, after several iterations, gave birth to the F-16 Fighting Falcon and several other innovative aircraft. His focus on maneuverability went hand-in-hand with his theory-in-practice framework he called the OODA Loop; Observe-Orient-Decide-Act.
Both Eric Reis and John Boyd believed in the importance of speed and the ability to respond quickly in gaining victory. Like most great ideas, theirs were developed with the help of others and on the ideas of those before them. The OODA Loop was developed around the time of another loop that was gaining traction in the manufacturing field, the Deming Cycle. Which at their cores, are all simply variations of Bacon’s Scientific Method.
This idea of winning through action, learning and improving has shown up time and again in various forms because it works. While simple in concept, organizations can struggle to implement it if they don’t commit to building towards speed and being disciplined in its execution. For those who do, however, victory is likely theirs.
To read more on Boyd and the OODA Loop (vastly underappreciated), start here.
Despite his timeless fame relatively little is know about the Greek Homer, yet even less is known about the true origin of his legendary poems The Iliad and The Odyssey (such as who actually wrote them). While their genesis may not be known, Robert Fagles’ translation of Homer’s The Odyssey is a poetic masterpiece that likely brings us closer to how the story was first told in all it’s glory.
Even with his unique gifts and great success (and my favoritism for his works), it’d be a bit too bold to claim that Seth Godin is today’s Homer. While Seth Godin’s writings may not match the scale and scope of those famous epics, his wisdom is right on par.
In You Go First*, Seth Godin reminds us that to achieve anything we must be willing to act; written thousands of years later his message sounds a lot like Homer’s Odyssey proverb:
“Bashfulness, for a man in need, is no great friend.”
Homer, “Book 17: Stranger At The Gates,” in The Odyssey (Robert Fagles translation), 365: line 381.
Don’t wait for someone else to do it, it begins with you.
Notorious B.I.G. has many a famous line, but maybe none so well known nor so true as his adage Mo Money Mo Problems. However, he wasn’t the first, nor even the most famous American to drop that knowledge.
B.I.G.’s adage is like that given by Benjamin Franklin in his annual publication Poor Richard’s Almanac. A well selling piece that he printed annually for over 20 years, it was full of bits of wisdom for their times and ours.
Remember this the next time you find yourself wishing for more money, “He who multiplies riches multiplies cares”.