Today I share about a key factor in becoming as successful as the people you most admire in business or in personal life. A “lifehack” that Plutarch taught thousands of years ago, before Tony Robbins, who teaches the same point today. This “life-hack” is all about modeling successful habits of the people you most admire.
L. Mestrius Plutarchus, better known simply as Plutarch, was a Greek writer and philosopher who lived between c. 45-50 CE and c. 120-125 CE. A prodigious and hugely influential writer, he is now most famous for his biographical works in his book, ‘Parallel Lives’ which present an entertaining history of some of the most significant figures from antiquity.
He was the first ever in history to write in such detail about the early influences on the formation of character and habits of legends like Pericles, Alexander the Great and Julius Cesar. Plutarch was not so interested in a detailed chronological account of the subject’s life but, rather, he sought to pick out their essential good and bad qualities and present a portrait from a moral perspective. As translator Ian Scott-Kilvert eloquently puts it,
“Plutarch has an unerring sense of the drama of men in great situations. His eye ranges over a wider field of human action than any of the classical historians. He surveys men’s conduct in war, in council, in love, in the use of money…in religion, in the family, and he judges as a man of wide tolerance and ripe experience. ”
He taught a system for training the youth in school about the positive habits and the ‘ego-traps’ of these great leaders, so that they could model the positive behaviors and avoid the negative ones. Plutarch passed on his experience of high politics in his “Rules for Politicians”, a treatise giving advice for young aspiring public servants.
From middle age, Plutarch was a high priest at the Temple of Apollo at the sacred site of Delphi.
Below is a selection of extracts from Plutarch’s work.
He was also greatly admired for the example he made of the interpreter, who arrived with the envoys from the Persian king to demand earth and water in token of submission. He had this interpreter arrested and put to death by a special decree of the people, because he had dared to make use of the Greek language to transmit the commands of a barbarian. (The Rise & Fall of Athens, 83)
His physical features were almost perfect, the only exception being his head, which was rather long and out of proportion. For this reason almost all his portraits show him wearing a helmet, since the artists apparently did not wish to taunt him with this deformity. (The Rise & Fall of Athens, 167)
The fact was that his voluntary donations, the public shows he supported, his unrivalled munificence to the state, the fame of his ancestry, the power of his oratory and his physical strength and beauty, together with his experience and prowess in war, all combined to make the Athenians forgive him everything else, and they were constantly finding euphemisms for his lapses. (The Rise & Fall of Athens, 259)
On Alexander the Great:
Alexander went in person to see him [Diogenes] and found him basking at full length in the sun. When he saw so many people approaching him, Diogenes raised himself a little on his elbow and fixed his gaze upon Alexander. The king greeted him and inquired whether he could do anything for him. ‘Yes’, replied the philosopher, ‘you can stand a little to one side out of my sun.’ Alexander is said to have been greatly impressed by this answer and full of admiration for the hauteur and independence of mind of a man who could look down on him with such condescension. So much so that he remarked to his followers, who were laughing and mocking the philosopher as they went away, ‘You may say what you like, but if I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.’ (The Age of Alexander, 266)
The general opinion of him was that for warlike experience, daring and personal valour, he had no equal among the kings of his time; but what he won through the feats of his arms he lost by indulging in vain hopes, and through his obsessive desire to seize what lay beyond his grasp, he constantly failed to secure what lay within it. For this reason Antigonus compared him to a player at dice, who makes many good throws, but does not understand how to exploit them when they are made.’ (The Age of Alexander, 414-415)
Whose biography has influenced YOU most?
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