Where you stand determines what you see. What you see determines what you think. What you think determines what you say. What you say determines what you do and ultimately become.
Standing at the foot of the nearly 2000-year old, 50,000-seater amphitheater commonly called the Colosseum in Rome, Italy you see the greatness of a civilisation that was, and is. The Colosseum was built, celebrated, abandoned, vandalised, and is now venerated, and a must-see world wonder that stands today as a monument of what can be build and what potential lies in us as people. When the vision is inspiring, the decisions are resolute and the focus is clear, very few things are impossible. Building is a mindset. What you build today will speak many years later. Just to know you are building something great or contributing to a great building effort is motivating. There is nothing as motivating and inspiring as a vision pursued with diligent focus and passionate energy. Challenge your energy into building and not rocking with ceaseless complaining.
The Roman Forum, at the centre of City of Rome, was for many years the centre of Rome culture, commerce and its great metropolis from which the empire was ruled. East of the forum is the massive and imposing Colosseum with a height of nearly 15 modern floors. It was commissioned around A.D. 70 by the Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty as a gift to the Roman people. It took an unbelievably a swift decade to build this massive structure and Vespasian himself did not live to see it completed. In A.D. 80, Vespasian’s son Titus, completed and opened the Colosseum. It was then officially known as the Flavian Amphitheater. A great celebration always follows a great work. In that spirit, the Colosseum opened with a 100 day celebration of athletic and war games that included gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights. Mock sea-battles were also held in the waterways that were especially built into the arena.
Commit to taking responsibility and building great things. It is not enough to merely exist and purposelessly pass through life, lost, and unengaged. It is not enough to laugh at those who are building and despise what others are building. It is not wisdom to mindlessly destroy what was built over many generations. Commit to strengthening and building the things around you. There is so much to build, so little time and so few committed builders. You are either building or destroying. Be known for building, mobilising others to build and focusing on what matters. Without a vision people perish, but without builders the vision perishes.
Over 1,800 years after the building of the Colosseum by the Romans; in another special building in Paris, France on April 23, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt who had in the previous year just completed his term as a United States president, gave an unforgettable speech. This speech remains as a living inspiration for everyone with a mind to build, sense to lead, and fortitude to focus on a noble work. The mental and thought tools for building are available for everyone to use. Do not be discouraged from building because others are in despair, despondency and mindless engagements. Roosevelt spoke deeply about the man in the arena. You stand in the arena of life daily. Let Roosevelt’s words be your call to action.
We think of building and the Colosseum, Roosevelt’s speech might have been more appropriately addressed to the man who built or is busy maintaining the arena. Before you pride yourself with standing on any stage, spare yourself a few moments to think about the person who built the stage.
Roosevelt addressing the French leadership on that April day in 1910 spoke about the responsibilities of being a citizen in a republic. He then crowned his speech with these immortal words:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
This words are worth re-reading at least five times. Do not be ashamed to play your part and keep doing what you know you must do. Strengthen your hands and give the force of action to your knees. With what you have, build! With what you can see, build. With those around you, build. Commit to building and taking responsibility. There is so much waiting to be built: businesses, schools, churches, families, organisations, institutions, nations, relationships. If you are idle it is not because there is nothing to build. It is likely because of a lack of understanding and vision. Get engaged and get busy. With each building challenge, there is always the challenge of sustaining the momentum. The Colosseum has a lot to teach us about this.
After four centuries of active use, Colosseum, that great and magnificent arena fell into neglect and the Romans got busy with other forms of entertainment. Right up to the 18th century the Colosseum had been abandoned, become a quarry and source of building materials. Its marble was mined to build the notable cathedrals of Rome, like St. Peter and others. Although two-thirds of the original Colosseum has been destroyed over time, this great imposing edifice remains a popular tourist destination, and an iconic symbol of Rome and its long, tumultuous history. What you build will always beg your story. It is impossible to visit the Colosseum and not want to hear the story of Rome, its people and its thinking. What is the story about what you are building?
Build to last and put your attention and focus on what you are building. Build with pride and excellence. What you build will inspire others to also build. The Romans were there, they built, they pursued an imposing vision. They wanted to lead the world. In the ruins you see traces of their vision and the majesty of their thinking, learning, art and culture. You see a signature of their greatness and noble minds. You witness what they passionately and diligently worked on. You are drawn into their drama, sports, stories, myths and legends. You are motivated to travel and see the wonders of their work. You are drawn by the magic of their ancient city, its structures, seats, baths, fountains, mazes, sculptures, ruins, spaces, muddy-walls, boulders, cathedrals, gardens and cobble-stone walkways. Your imagination is enraptured by the way they lived, played, thought, prayed, celebrated, governed and did life. You cannot help but challenge yourself to thinking bigger, better and to be a builder. You are amazed at how much their law, ideas and language shaped the world as we know it.
Start Building, Stop Playing
Great nations did not just become so – they are built. The world that was, did not just happen – it was built. The magnificent things we see around the world were built. Whatever you see in manifest form at one time was not there. It was built deliberately, through vision, hard work, struggles and massive feats. You do not have the luxury to be half-awake and go through life half-asleep. Start building. There is no glory is just mere talk that does not translate into action. There is no accolade for being a half-hearted champion. Life is not waiting and time is not waiting either.
Stop playing with time, opportunity and life. Start building, one brick at a time. People may not see the vision you are pursuing and the bricks you are putting together. Do not despair because other people do not want to build with you. Keep focused and keep building. Greatness is built with focused, faith-filled work. The world is not waiting for you to catch up while you sit still, scratching yourself. Build to last. Built with vision. Build daily. Start where you are and with those around you.
Committed to your greatness.