Friday, 30 October 2015

The teachings of the past should never be forgotten

The great period of Ancient Roman prosperity lasted only two centuries, until the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180 C.E. Nevertheless, the physical and intellectual assets accumulated during those years have allowed Roman civilization to exert its influence until our day. 

Repeating old mistakes
The teachings of the past should never be forgotten, since the principles of how to achieve happiness and success are immutable. We don't need to waste resources making mistakes that can easily be avoided if we pay attention to History.

From the best times of Ancient Rome, we can learn important lessons about how to lead a rational life. Although technology and social context have evolved, we should still pay attention to recommendations of wise individuals who have learned from their errors, frequently after paying a heavy price. The following principles summarize essential elements of how to lead a rational life and enhance our chances of attaining happiness.

A solution to many problems

First, you should aim at becoming an entrepreneur, irrespective of your social origin, since individual initiative has repeatedly proven to be the ideal tool to create wealth, independence, and psychological well-being. 

During the golden age of Ancient Rome, the number of self-employed people grew faster than in any previous time in History, as large parcels of uncultivated land were put to agricultural use for the first time. In the 21st century, the same phenomenon is taking place on the internet, which has become the great liberator of entrepreneurial energies without distinction of sex, race, age, or personal history.

Focus on workable projects

Second, remember that there are more good ideas around that there is capital to fund them. Although the economy of Ancient Rome experienced sustained growth in the second century C.E., writings from that period show that it was not easy to obtain a loan. Contemporary financial institutions are thousands of times more efficient than the modest mortgage markets of Ancient Rome, but the number of individuals looking to borrow money has also grown exponentially. 

At any given time, there are always many more people in the world willing to borrow money than there are funds available. Do not waste your energy on projects that have no real chance of obtaining financial backing. Focus only on workable ventures.

Look for a practical approach

Third, bear in mind that, in Ancient Rome, individuals with vision faced similar obstacles as nowadays. How do you fund trade expeditions? Which goods should you import and export? Entrepreneurial men in ancient times quickly realized that the traditional Roman approach to business finance, a mortgage on a piece of land, was inadequate to conduct commercial enterprises. 

Through trial and error, they created different types of partnership contracts that have evolved through the centuries into our modern venture capital funds. Do not give up when traditional methods prove unsuitable to carry out your ideas. Seek further until you find a practicable approach.

Embrace salesmanship

Fourth, become conscious of the fact that salesmanship opens the door to tolerance and friendship. Ancient Romans learned the hard way that a commercial attitude was the only way to maintain a high standard of living. The first and the second century C.E. led to massive wealth creation due to an expansion of tolerance and entrepreneurship across Europe and the Middle East. 

Conflicts, although frequent, were limited in range. In the present context, when millions of individuals across the world are devoting their creativity to international commercial ventures, rationality is respected as the cardinal virtue of those who achieve business success. Effective salesmanship is nothing but logic applied to commerce.

Learn the lessons

As in Ancient Rome, logic and consistency remain today the pillars of personal growth. If you doubt that rationality is the best way to conduct your life, read History and study the dire consequences of prejudice and abuse. The events of past centuries prescribe that each of us should become entrepreneurial instead of expecting free help to come to us.

Instead of repeating old mistakes, let us learn the lessons of ancient wisdom and keep away deceitful theories that contradict the facts of History. We need to develop enough resiliency to avoid being overwhelmed by other people's opinion or lack of it. Studying Ancient Rome is a very effective method of reinforcing the idea that we should not waste our time trying to establish paradise on earth.

Discarding new ideas that do not work, and favouring proven systems is a sign of wisdom. The same logic applies to walking away from situations where people tell us that rationality doesn't count. Let us avoid repeating the faults of the past. It is much better to do what is right, even if it happens to be unpopular.


Image by Breibeest under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under

For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books

Rationality is the Way to Happiness

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