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What you can learn from the greatest men in history. (4 lessons)

We are only on this earth temporarily, but the why remains ambiguous. Why are we here, what is the reason for our existence, and what are we meant to do with the time we receive?

These questions linger in everyone's head, and rightfully so. We would like to believe that we have been put on this earth for a reason, that our existence means something. To find this meaning, we go above and beyond: we believe in god, and that he made us in his image, we believe in atheism and think we are just animals roaming a planet, or we believe we are here to make an impact, to change things and leave a legacy.

In this blog, we’re going to talk about the latter. Why would you want to be great, make an impact, improve people's lives, and leave a legacy? Can’t we just accept that what we do doesn’t matter? Well, yes. We can’t accept that idea because it makes us purposeless. We need to feel like we are here on this earth for a great cause. To help people, build something, and leave a legacy for others. To become great.

There have been people throughout history who had this belief in a strong way: Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Winston Churchill.

They all had a profound sense of destiny, they were destined to make a mark on this earth, to do something no one else could do, and they did it. So what can you learn from these great people? What did they believe, and what did they do to become such great figures, make an incredible impact on the world, and leave their mark on history? Let’s find out.

“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.” ~ Napoleon

Why learn from the greats?

So why learn from the greatest figures in our history? What do they have to teach you? Weren’t they all different anyway? Well, the greatest figures in history have a lot to teach you, and this seems apparent only by looking at the way they learned from each other. The one thing every great figure in history has in common is that they’ve studied the greats that came before them.

Julius Caesar learned from Alexander the Great and used a lot of his war principles in his own war-making; Napoleon Bonaparte learned from Julius Caesar, he even wrote a book about Caesar's wars and absolutely studied the guy, he also studied Alexander the Great as well; and Winston Churchill studied Napoleon, who was one of his greatest heroes.

What this shows you is that every great man has studied those great men who came before him. They learned from them, from their mistakes, their successes, and applied their principles. To become great, you must know what a great person does, how he became great, and apply this to your own life.

Learning from them makes you able to avoid their mistakes, immediately implement their methods, and copy some of their successes. This massively speeds up the process for you and thus saves you an awful lot of time. These greats already went through some of the things you will go through in a fundamental way. The context right now may be different, the 21st century doesn’t look like the 19th century at all, but the fundamentals of human nature, work ethic, purpose, and mindset have always been the same, and will always remain the same. Learning from the people who have mastered the fundamentals provides you at least with a solid foundation, on which you can build further in your context.

What do you need to do to become great? (Lessons from the greats)

So what did these greats do, what mistakes did they make, what did they get right, and what fundamental principles can you learn from them that you can directly apply to your own life? To answer those questions, we need to look at what the fundamentals were for their success. What was the foundation on which they built everything, why did they become great when 99,9% of people didn’t? To find this out, we need to look for patterns between these great figures. What did all of these great people have in common, what fundamentals were the same in their own different contexts? What principles did Winston Churchill for example copy from Napoleon, and Napoleon from Julius Caesar, etc?

We find these fundamentals by researching these great figures, comparing them, and looking for patterns. Here are four of those fundamentals that every great person applied:

1-Find your uniqueness:

To be a great figure and make history, you need to do something no one else has done before. This is not possible if you are like everyone else, because everyone else only accomplishes what everyone else accomplished. If you are like most people, you will do what most people do, which is not much. So to make a real impact and do things no one else has ever done or would think of doing, you have to separate yourself from the herd. The way you do this is by finding your uniqueness and finding what truly makes you, you. This means not paying attention too much to social norms, or even societal expectations and rules. What everybody else does, and what behavior is common doesn’t matter to you, that only brings average results anyway. You need to find your own way, regardless of what anybody else thinks.

Napoleon was an outsider at school, he wasn’t like anybody else. When the kids would play during school breaks, he would sit somewhere and read. When school was out and other kids were playing with each other, he would go to the library and read about historic figures like Caesar and Alexander the Great. He didn’t fit in in school, he didn’t abide by social norms or pressure, he just did what felt right for him, what he was attracted to.

How you find your uniqueness is by doing that which you have a unique pull towards. Everybody is different in this regard, everyone is unique and has something that they are inclined to like. The difference between average people, and great people, is that average people have let society make them believe that they shouldn’t listen to this voice, that they should just go along with what everybody else is doing because that is normal and safe.

The greats never let society suppress their individuality and simply followed their heart and ambition.

If you truly want to become great, you have to be you. Not the version of yourself that other people would want you to be, not the version that looks like everybody else. You are a unique individual, listen to the voice inside of you, and let it guide you to where you truly want to go. This is the only path to greatness.

2-Develop a strong work ethic:

Every great person in history had the same thing in common and it’s something you hear all the time, but most of the time it doesn’t get this specific, so buckle up.

All the greats had a very strong work ethic. Napoleon sometimes worked entire days, barely getting any sleep, but still, he said that he got enormous joy out of working. Winston Churchill would be working constantly during his premiership in the Second World War, his secretary later even stated that during this time, 120-hour work weeks were nothing out of the ordinary. We can name numerous examples of this, great figures in history who were constantly at work. But this amazing work ethic isn’t just the result of discipline and willpower as most people tend to believe. It is actually way simpler than that, and it makes working much easier. Discipline and willpower surely play a part in this, but it’s only an addition, not the foundation.

What these people had, was a purpose. They had a goal they were working towards, a huge goal, and one that was uniquely fitted to them. The combination of an extremely ambitious goal, the unique personality to be able to attain it, and the belief that they could achieve this, naturally results in a strong work ethic. When your work is your purpose, the thing you feel like you are made to do, you tend to get tremendous joy out of it, and work is really only hard when you don’t enjoy it. Of course, sometimes these greats also had periods where they didn’t want to work but still worked because of discipline, but this is only useful in addition to working on your purpose. When you have to do everything out of discipline and willpower, it won’t last. To work hard consistently, you cannot rely on discipline, because once it runs out, you’re lazy again.

Hard work can only consistently take place with the knowledge that what you’re doing is your purpose, it’s what you’ve been put on this earth to do, then discipline can take over in the times when you don’t really feel like it.

When you find your uniqueness, and you find what you’re put on this earth to do, then hard work is just natural and easy, and even becomes fun.

“To be able to make your work your pleasure is the one class distinction in the world worth striving for.” ~ Winston Churchill...

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