Don’t Steal It, Create It

September 17th, 2012 by Rich Christiansen

The past 4 months I’ve taken a re-group sabbatical, spent extensive time with my family, and been able to focus on some of my personal life priorities, regrouping for this next surge in business. I always find this incredibly therapeutic and refreshing and also find I have much more success if I back off and collect my thoughts for a bit.
One of the significant events of the summer was a two-week trip that I took with my wife through all of Europe. We were able to go to Barcelona, Spain, France, and all around the coast of Italy including Florence, Pisa, Rome, Naples, the Amalfi coast, and over into Venice. We were able to go into Greece and Athens and Izmir as well as my personal favorite Constantinople, or Istanbul, Turkey.

Through the course of this trip I learned a lot of great life lessons and gained some real insights from those who went before but one of the most significant was simply this: Build it don’t steal it.

I was shocked as I learned the history of each of these major cities how frequently the model was to simply steal it. This model is not sustainable. It was crazy. The conquerors would come in and take the most valuable assets and bring it home. Everybody had everybody else’s riches. They called it Spoils of War or Victor’s Gains but the reality is it was just plain robbery.
There were obelisks littered all over Europe, yet these darn obelisks we all know were Egyptian.
I was amazed as I looked at the Hagia Sophia. Christians created this beautiful, amazing dome with gold, rubies, diamonds, and other precious jewels. When the Ottomans came they covered it up with plaster, took it over. The Christians eventually won it back and uncovered part of it, and the next conquerors covered it back up again. We are so lucky it wasn’t completely destroyed. The Byzantines came and took the most prized, valuable golden statues from the Ottomans, took it down into Venice, and put it on top of St. Marks.
Constantine’s mother wanted Christian symbols so what does she do? She orders a Crusade and Constantine marches in Roman armor down to Jerusalem and took many religious relics, including the staff of Moses, the Turban of Job, and supposedly part of the arm and skull of John the Baptist which are encrusted in gold. Those items aren’t in Jerusalem anymore, those are actually in Constantinople. Crazy!

Everywhere I went I found these kinds of examples of people who just stole it. Then I contrast that on the other hand to the great creators. I’m talking about Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, we’re talking about the great architect Botticelli. These were true creators, lasting, enduring, respected, people we know. Here’s the challenge I want to throw down from this life lesson that I learned: Be a creator. Be a creator, not a sacker or a stealer.

This is one reason I’m not really hip on venture capitalists, or corporate raiders but instead love to focus on the very inception of creation and bootstrapping in the early phase. It’s not that I couldn’t do the others but with that creation process, there’s something very hard, but very magical about it. Be a creator in your life. Don’t get tempted to go steal, rob, or cheat the system and you’ll find a lot more lasting joy and also I think that you’ll be more impactful going forward.

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