Note: This is the first column for The Examiner by Jim Morgan, director of marketing for Fike Corporation. Look for his business advice every other Saturday on the Business Page.



When you consider the billions of people who have walked Earth over thousands of years, it’s intriguing to realize how few lives we deem worthy to study, judge, and perhaps even emulate. 


Throughout history there have been countless rulers, warriors, philosophers, artists, scientists, merchants, and explorers – many of whom probably had successful careers. But mediocrity doesn’t withstand time, and even those with brief encounters of greatness often fail to be remembered after a few generations.

Note: This is the first column for The Examiner by Jim Morgan, director of marketing for Fike Corporation. Look for his business advice every other Saturday on the Business Page.

When you consider the billions of people who have walked Earth over thousands of years, it’s intriguing to realize how few lives we deem worthy to study, judge, and perhaps even emulate. 

Throughout history there have been countless rulers, warriors, philosophers, artists, scientists, merchants, and explorers – many of whom probably had successful careers. But mediocrity doesn’t withstand time, and even those with brief encounters of greatness often fail to be remembered after a few generations.

So what enables a life story to be consistently taught over decades and centuries?

Ancient Rome existed for more than1,000 years, but today’s typical student identifies Julius Caesar and maybe Augustus, and that’s about it. Using our selective lens of greatness, Leonardo da Vinci was the face of the Renaissance, Isaac Newton discovered gravity, George Washington single handedly established the American nation, and Neil Armstrong figured out how to get humans on the moon. These people were remarkable, but they didn’t achieve in a vacuum, and most of them didn’t purposely plan their immortality.

I suspect that for many “famous” people, the reason they continue to be part of the modern discussion is that they encountered – and sometimes even overcame – the Shakespearian “thrust of greatness.” We admire great lives not because they prevailed, but because of what they prevailed against. Often, their achievements were first of some kind. Or they dared to do things that challenged societal norms. Most had to overcome personal fear and uncertainty. And almost all had to risk something significant, including their own lives.

It is this aspect of risk that attracts me most to the great people of history. The historical people we hold up to be noble all share a common risk DNA.

They didn’t risk haphazardly – most of the time the costs were understood. But what’s fascinating is how many great ventures were undertaken mostly on the principle of forward motion. In other words, “we must advance and keep advancing, or we’re at risk of falling behind.”

 Great leaders understand that inaction has as many consequences as action.

In January of 49 BC, Julius Caesar stood on the banks of the Rubicon River, debating the risk and reward of what I believe he considered a principle of forward motion. Crossing the river and marching on Rome was an act of treason, and would start a civil war. Many people would die. If unsuccessful, Caesar himself would be put to death. These were not trivial risks. But Rome was deteriorating under massive corruption and a repressed working class. The Roman way of life was on the verge of collapse due to mismanagement. Caesar felt that inaction, although lawful, would ultimately result in the death of Rome itself. 

After much thought, and input from his “executive team,” he acted-decisively. In time, Caesar reaped the personal benefits for his bold endeavor. But at the Rubicon, I believe his real motive was the fear of inaction.

So, as a business or community leader, are you willing to take risks in order to advance your organization? Do you push your company to develop new products and find new customers? Do you challenge processes in order to improve productivity? Do you stand up for what you believe in, even if you stand alone? All leaders have Rubicon opportunities, and some rivers should not be crossed. But the main lesson from the Rubicon still holds true today. By rolling the dice, you might win. By holding the dice, you can’t win.

Have the courage to act decisively. Who knows, maybe hundreds of years from now people will know your name because of it.