The second book I’ve read this year, after ‘The Undiscovered Self‘ by Carl Jung (and excluding comics), was ‘The Civil War‘ by Julius Caesar. The aim of reading this book was to get an understanding of strategies from one of the greatest minds of the human era – strategy that I hoped would help me in real life:
- How can I move forward?
- How can I make better decisions in American Football?
- What is the meaning of strategy?
- What is the benefit of strategy?
The above is among many other questions that I hoped would be answered.
What I learnt from the book has definitely helped to accomplish gaining an idea of strategy, but more so, it has helped me get a better idea of what ‘leadership’ is really about. Caesar is undoubtedly a great leader who was able to get the best out of his men, and not just the best out of men that he talked to in close contact with (letting them motivate those beneath them), but also men from the lowest rank.
After reading this book, I can confidently say that there are a lot of poor leaders around – particularly in my place of work. Everything above the regular ‘buying team’ I work in, above the boss that we’ve had since I started working there, have a lot of work to do in being able to properly understand people of the lowest ranks – but i will leave that there. I can go a lot into the poor state of leadership around me, but it would be fruitless.
Here are some general lessons that I’ve learnt from the book:
- Stand up for yourself – To start the book, Caesar had basically been removed from Rome by his adversary, Pompey. Caesar, knowing his rights as a human being and the power he had at his fingertips, set out to break down the forces barring him from taking his rightful place in office. So we shall stand up for our human rights, and move forward as better people by coming together.
- Act quickly – Once you know what is the right course of action, make sure you follow through with it and act decisively to win. This can keep the opponent off guard, as in the battle against Pharnaces.
- Wake up as early as possible – This is something that you can see with positivity happening all the time. The average person can stay in until the early hours of the afternoon, meaning that they miss out on accomplishing things in the morning that they would have been unable to, where in the afternoon and evening, you are often preparing for the next day as well as enjoying the luxury of spending time with your loved ones and friends.
- Look after your troops – Sometimes we all come upon hard times, and resources are sparse. However, as long as you look after the people that you depend upon, they will do what they can to help you. This aspect helped Caesar triumph in numerous battles where they were far from their supply lines, and is also something i really see as a failure from the bosses at work.
- Leadership comes from all levels – You can be a leader at any position, by helping and creating for others. Caesar, who could only be in one place at a time despite having forces across Italy, Spain and down to Greece, was able to trust a lot of the people beneath him to make the right decisions in battles and in looking after their troops far from where he was. This extended down to the legionaries who would be in charge of many a fighting force, and many then below them to display courage for those that may be of a weaker mind.
- There is a lot of incompetence these days – I won’t go too much into this, but is something that i’d like to explore more in the future. Have we reached too much of a comfort level in life to make something of ourselves? Is it too easy?
- React to the movements in front of you – In an equal matchup, make sure you are fully prepared for what is to come
- Know your surroundings – I had thought of this as more of a battle tactic, than something that can be translated into real life, but having thought more into it, it still fits. Just like Caesar needed to know the terrain, where his supply lines are coming in, we need to know what our platform is, who our friends and enemies are, among many others.
- Strong defences – Attack without strong defence can lead you into a loss. You need to make sure you have strong defence so that if someone was to come back at you, you have an answer for them.
- Teach/ learn specific skills for a specific plan or to deal with a specific issue – This is something that I think (particularly in my lessons from watching my American Football team) we fall into a trap with too many times. Is there a scheme that we need to run and how adjustable is it? In our practising, are we making sure we’re acting to deal with a future issue? Are we improving upon our weaknesses? If not, then, as the old adage goes, “you are only as strong as your weakest part”. Having to deal with elephants in battle and adjusting to hand-fighting tactics in war, Caesar made sure to teach his subjects Gladiator style fighting and also how to deal with elephants, by bringing elephants into his ranks to ready his troops for these ‘docile’ beasts.
- Act with mercy towards enemies – There are many instances in the book whereupon Caesar captures an enemy, who would then fear for his life, begging to have their lives saved. Caesar did exactly this, making sure to keep people on his side. By showing ruthlessness in this situation, he could easily have forfeited the support of this people in future, making people fear, as opposed to respect, him.
These are some of the many lessons that I have learnt from this book, and I would highly suggest reading it yourself if you want to improve your strategy and leadership qualities.