The year was 49 BC,
and Julius Ceasar had a decision to make. As italian winter winds blew, he stood at the river Rubicon’s edge. The Italian river marked the boundary between the Roman province of Cisalpine Gaul to the north, and Italy Proper. His legion stood before him waiting for his move: turn back, or cross the river to take Rome, an irrevocable act of war.
The entire journey Caesar had not known what choice he’d make but felt intuitively once he approached, he’d know . The story goes, that as he stood there he had a supernatural vision. The apparition crystallized the choice he’d have to make and the and at once, turned to vapor.
He then uttered the famous words,
“The Die Has Been Cast.”
And he marched on to Rome.
He and his legion had now become outlaws. War was inevitable.
Civil War ensued and left Ceasar the Victor which meant his capital offence would go unpunished. Ahh, the spoils of war.
Thousands of years later the phrase “Crossing the Rubicon” has endured to refer to any individual or group committing itself irrevocably to a risky or revolutionary course of action — similar to the decision made in this legendary tale.
History books are riddled with these stories where historical characters gave a middle finger to plan B and went “all in”. I suppose it’s the very reason we read about them in history books in the first place.
The Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes is one such example. He did it the 1500’s when he docked onto a Mexican beach to find riches. Not just any riches though, the most fantastic mythical collection of wealth anyone had ever heard of.
Up until then no one could find it. And for Hernando, in his humble profession of “Conqueror” this was his ticket, his Heisman, his Stanley Cup, his Catalina Wine-Mixer.
His men planned to do some routine pillaging, maybe grab some precious jewels, spread malign illness to natives and call it a day. Back home to Spain for some tapas, bull dodging, and tomatoe throwing.
But Cortes had other plans. There on the beach, eyes glaring fiery resolve, he commanded his Spanish Fleet of Ships to burn.
“Haha…Very Funny Nando…Last one to the coconut stump is a rotten…wait.. is he serious? Shit. He’s serious.”
“Burn the Boats! “ And for the Spaniards in the room, “Quemar Los Barcos!!”
And burn the boats they did. In doing so, he declared to 500 conquistadors, we are going to claim our riches or die. We will fight with everything, and if we get to go home it’ll be on their ships.
So they marched into the jungle to Get rich or die trying. Frightened, awakened and vastly outnumbered they fought and emerged victorious. Without a doubt, this was not a noble or righteous pursuit, but it was one they put everything on.
Hernando and his men were rich and became legendary.
Their twitter following exploded. For. Sure.
Both epics demonstrate such brazen commitment to the outcome that all other options were thrown to the fire. Faced with the choices they now had, how did the soldiers at the river Rubicon or Mexican beach react? The way we all hope WE would. With their lives were on the line and absolutely zero possibility of retreat, they rose to the occasion.
This story has echoed locker rooms of bruised and beaten underdogs ever since.
Fourth quarter, down by 7, forty seconds left.
What. Do .You. Do.
Come from behind or live in mediocrity.
So I ask you now as I often have to ask myself,
What are your boats?
What is your rubicon? The river you have to cross that would mean you really want what it is you say you want.
The fence you find yourself on, what’s keeping you there? The plague of hesitation and apprehension has claimed many lives and left inert potential unused.
I hate to sound so hoo-rah, but don’t you want to close the void between the person you are, and the person you can be?
I do. Desperately.
And everyday that gap doesn’t become smaller, I get this horrible nagging voice that wont let up. It’s like Hernando is whispering in my ear, burn it. burn it. burn it.
Someone told me once during a routine existential conversation, the world’s greatest wealth is not in the middle eastern oil fields, or African diamond mines, but in our graveyards. For there, lies the vast reserves of what could have been, people who played it safe and never said “f**k it. I’m all in”
Don’t be that Guy (or Gal). Throw the dice for God sake.
Cross the rubicon.
See you on the other side.