Scott Dolloff, a friend of mine and creator of RainMaker Martial Arts Software, recently sent me an awesome gift: a replica of Alexander the Great’s helmet.
Not only does it look incredibly cool sitting on my desk, this helmet reminds me of a great story…
A story that has an important message about how to achieve greatness.
On this blog I talk a lot about how to have an empowering mindset, how to reach your full potential and achieve the most you can in your life.
So who better an example to follow than Alexander the Great?
For a guy who only lived to age 32, he accomplished more than most people could ever imagine. In his lifetime, his homeland of Macedon went from a moderately sized Greek kingdom to one of the largest empires in world history.
And Alexander did all that without losing a single battle!
Now you might think that success like that would go to the guy’s head… that he might have been a bit egotistical in life…
You’d be wrong. And that’s why you need to read the story I’m about to tell you.
Before I can tell you the story, there’s one other guy I need to introduce…
Alexander the Great is pretty well known (just look at the dozens of cities that still have his name today) yet you may not have heard of the other character in this story.
This guy may not have dozens of cities named after him, yet he was still an important man. To this day he is one of the most influential philosophers in world history…
…who also lived in a brass tub and mostly made his living as a beggar.
AND he coined the word “cynic.”
His name was Diogenes.
Diogenes sounds weird, doesn’t he? Maybe you’re wondering why anyone would ever want to listen to him…
First, when he used the word “cynic” it just meant “dog-like,” which mostly describes his personality. He was a man of simple needs, he was happy to be alive, and he had zero patience for scoundrels and liars.
Second, Diogenes truly was a wise man. A lot of his most thoughtful quotes are still with us today, like this one:
“Simply to live is not evil, but to live a worthless life is.”
See, for all his strange behaviors, Diogenes respected hard work, and he was quite optimistic about human life. He just thought people needed a little more humility and little more honest hard work.
Now, by the time Alexander the Great was emperor, Diogenes was an old man. A humble, old, somewhat grouchy man living in a brass tub. Alexander was young, full of glory, and traveling around the world with a posse of brilliant advisors and loyal, elite soldiers.
Here you’re probably wondering how on Earth these two men relate to each other. What could they possibly say to each other? How could they possibly cross paths?
The answer is shockingly simple…
Alexander the Great was a huge fan of Diogenes, and he went out of his way to visit him one day.
That’s right: Emperor Alexander, the most powerful man on the planet, specifically chose to visit Diogenes, the beggar living in a tub.
That’s pretty mind blowing already, yet wait until you hear their conversation…
It’s a warm afternoon. The city bustles with people, the roar of their conversations echoing through the stone streets and alleyways. Diogenes sits half asleep in his brass tub, sprawled out like dog to soak up all the sweet sunlight.
In comes Alexander and his posse. Their presence is unmistakable – crowds part before them and sit watching in awe. Their heavy armor clanks and glimmers. They walk with high heads and stoic, unflinching faces.
Alexander spots Diogenes and walks directly to him. He stands so close to the humble philosopher that he casts a shadow over him.
“Greetings,” he says, “I am Alexander the Great. I come to you as an admirer. Much of the world belongs to me. Tell me what you want, and you shall have it.”
The crowd goes quiet, wondering why their emperor would stop to speak with such a strange man. Diogenes only groans and waves his hand.
“I want you to move,” he says, “and let me have my sunlight.”
The crowds’ jaws drop. The soldiers rattle their blades. An advisor approaches Alexander.
“How dare he insult you my lord!” says the advisor, “We will have him arrested – or worse.”
But Alexander raises a hand for silence.
And he steps aside and lets sunlight fill the tub.
He looks out over the confused crowd. Everyone’s jaw is hanging open. He explains himself with just one sentence:
“Truly, if I were not Alexander, I would wish to be Diogenes.”
Ever since that day, this story has been told and retold by countless different people in cultures all around the world. As you can probably see, it is quite a memorable story.
But what did Alexander mean by those famous words? What lesson was he trying to teach the crowd and his men?
Scholars and historians have come up with all sorts of answers here, yet I think the answer is really quite simple…
Greatness and humility go hand in hand.
This is such an important lesson, and it’s one that needs to be spread far and wide. See, I meet a lot of ambitious people in my work, and so I’ve come to recognize a lot of the mistakes that come with ambition.
Heck, back in my younger days I made a lot of these mistakes myself…
Too many people think that greatness comes from shoving your way into power, thinking you’re the smartest person in the room, and stepping all over the little guys on your way to the top.
However, that kind of behavior leads directly into failure.
True greatness comes from solving other people’s problems. It comes from making big promises and delivering even more than you promised. It comes from being warm, and generous, and kind to the people you want and NEED to help you.
And most of all, greatness comes from recognizing that you are always coachable. It comes from letting yourself be humble in front of those who are wiser than you and willing to challenge you to do better.
I’ve been a business coach for a while now, long enough so that many of my clients are far along on their own paths to greatness.
And I can tell you that 100% of the people who made it big and continue to make it big are the people who have grand visions and big ambition, but who still allow themselves to be coached. These are people who graciously accept constructive criticism and work their butts off to turn it into action.
Do you understand what I’m saying?
Do you understand the power of greatness and humility?
Are you ready to learn, take action and grow a business that will help thousands of people and let you live a lifestyle of freedom, happiness and abundance?
Committed to your success,