If you ever spend a holiday in Egypt, don't forget to visit the place where the barrack of archaeologist Howard Carter used to stand one century ago. When you inquire about the exact location, your guide will point at a promontory in the sand, a small elevation in the Egyptian desert that looks no different from the other dunes.
How curiosity and persistence work in your favour
visit the place stand still, examine the spot, and look around,
wondering if the guide is telling them truth. Those visitors are
actually not interested in looking at the desert. What has brought them
there is the story of Howard Carter, a man who, thanks to his curiosity
and persistence, became the most famous archaeologist in History.
his modest origins and lack of academic degrees, Carter's profound
interest in the history of Ancient Egypt led him to read all available
books on the subject and, little by little, he earned a reputation of
specialist in Egyptian antiquities. His initiative and hands-on
experience in excavations led him to develop the theory that the tomb of
one Pharaoh, Tutankhamen, had not yet been found.
hypothesis conflicted with the prevalent idea at that time, held by
professors and specialists alike, who sustained that all tombs in the
Valley of Kings had been already found. When Carter was in his early
forties, he teamed up with an English wealthy landowner, Lord Carnavon,
obtained a concession to excavate the Valley of Kings and began to look
for the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen.
Visit the promontory where
Carter's barrack used to stand and you will see that the sand ends
abruptly at the riverbank three hundred meters down the slope. The small
boats crossing the Nile these days still offer a sight that is not that
different from what Howard Carter witnessed at the beginning of the
Walking past the point of maximum discouragement
In 1922, Carter went through the lowest point in
his career and he must have spent many hours pondering his dark future
and unsuccessful past, as he contemplated the boats sailing across the
river. His sponsor, Lord Carnavon, had announced that he would no longer
be funding Carter's excavations beyond the end of that year.
belief in the existence of Tutankhamen's undiscovered tomb had not
earned Carter any professional distinction. On the contrary, his theory,
developed out of his own interpretation of fragments found by other
archaeologists, was considered marginal and obscure.
previous six years, Carter had spent a good part of Lord Carnavon's
fortune in excavations in the Valley of Kings. The results had been so
disappointing that Carnavon had decided to put an end to the enterprise
at the end of that season.
At that time, Carter was already 48
years old and must have been looking back at his life wondering if he
had done the right thing by embarking on a risky venture instead of
choosing a safer career as antiquities dealer or monuments inspector. He
had no money, no wife, no children, and an uncertain future.
Entrepreneurs often succeed by following a non-conventional strategy
he had devoted decades to studying Ancient Egypt, he had failed to
secure a high-paying position. The dominant view was that Tutankhamen's
tomb had been pillaged and forgotten centuries ago. Only Carter was
convinced that the tomb could still be found, buried somewhere under the
Carter's hypothesis and initiative had moved Lord Carnavon
to entrust him with conducting excavations in the Valley of Kings, but
six years of digging had been to no avail. In fact, the determination to
search for Tutankhamen's tomb had wasted Carter's own life and a
substantial part of Lord Carnavon's fortune. Europe had been ravaged by
World War I and Carter knew that, after his long years of failure, his
chances of finding another sponsor for his excavations was nil.
is a virtue that can be taught only by example. Taking calculated risks
to pursue your dream, as Howard Carter did, cannot be emphasized enough
as the key to a happy and successful life. The level of risk must be
assessed and minimized as much as possible, but in the end, a man must
remind himself that he is going to live only once. Extraordinary value
cannot be achieved by simply following prescribed routines.
when tourists visit the location of Carter's wooden barrack in the
Valley of Kings, their guide usually asks them to take a few steps on
the sand, turn around, use their hand to shade their eyes from the sun,
and look at the sign on the other side of the dune.
It is the
sign that points visitors to Tutankhamen's tomb, which Carter finally
managed to find in November 1922, just when his last excavation campaign
was to end. He had spent years looking for that tomb and had succeeded
only a few days before Carnavon's final deadline. Carter's extraordinary
initiative and persistence had paid off against all expectations, in
direct opposition to the views of official experts and professors.
Personal initiative plays a key role in achievement
provides countless examples of how entrepreneurship opens the door to
striking success. Relentless initiative is far superior to stale
knowledge. Those with vision and ambition can always acquire the
information they miss. Possessing expertise is not worth much without
the willingness to put it to practical use and take the risks associated
After discovering Tutankhamen's tomb, Carter
lived for another 16 years, enjoying the prestige and financial
advantages of being the best known archaeologist in the world. The
treasures found in Tutankhamen's tomb have an immense value, but they
cannot be compared to the lesson drawn from Howard Carter's initiative
For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living
[Image by vilpedo under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]