This past week, I have been on a much-needed rest in Europe with my beautiful wife. I had an amazing experience in Rome and there was one object in particular that captivated my attention. I was so fixated on it that I couldn’t get my brain off of it, even late into the evening. I wasn’t fixated on the things that you would expect one to ponder after visiting Rome.
Of course we were fascinated with the Sistine Chapel, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Colosseum. Each was equally captivating and intriguing to me. But the one thing that struck me like no other was the Obelisk in the middle of St. Peter’s Square—the most famous Obelisk that the Greeks had originally captured from the Pharaohs in Egypt.
As I was looking at it and thinking about it, I considered that indeed this very Obelisk once stood over the Pharaohs in the height of their reign in Egypt. They were the supreme rulers, only to be conquered and have the Obelisk taken by the Greeks, and later the Romans. The Romans placed it in the middle of the Circus of Nero. They held chariot races around this very Obelisk. They thought they were invincible and the Obelisk was a sign of that power. With that power they crucified, burned, and tortured the Christians around their Obelisk.
Ironically, about 300 years later Constantine declared Christianity a legal religion and now the Obelisk sits in the Vatican—the headquarters of the most famous religion in the world.
That very same Obelisk, around which Christians were tortured, became the place where Catholics (believing they were invincible) turned and tortured Protestants.
Now when I look up on top of that Obelisk, I see the old Egyptian symbols, but more prominent is the gold cross adorning the top of the once Egyptian Obelisk. As I gazed up and then contemplated the Obelisk’s history, I had two major thoughts.
1. It is vital that we steer our businesses in a deep legacy and tradition. That helps us endure. Tradition is what helps sustain and grow roots that penetrate deep.
Tradition is also part of our firm foundation and value system discussed in The Zig Zag Principle.
2. My second thought is more meaningful and impactful to me. I think it is vital that we actually recognize how superficial and intangible many of the things that we espouse to really are.
That hunk of rock is going to be sitting somewhere as a great sign of the power of someone for thousands of years into the future. Our own transient little rocks can be ever so fleeting.
My final thought and bit of advice is this—there are multiple ways that we can live our lives. On choice is to be power hungry, arrogant, and eager to wrestle all the power you can. But I contend that there is a more meaningful way to live life. I suggest we create long term, meaningful, and lasting trust relationships with those around us. It’s fine to appear a little vulnerable and susceptible at times. I would rather live my life that way.
I do believe that we have purpose beyond this life. When the time comes I believe we’ll actually find a much greater level of happiness and joy if we led a meaningful life, rather than a life of seeking after a power rush.
So in your business, make sure you have something to fixate your attention and effort on, but don’t let it be based on a flimsy facade and transient power that will come and go.