“It is better to die than to lose one’s freedom.” — Leonardo da Vinci
After his native country, Syria, was reduced to a Roman providence, Publius Syrus was forced to move to Rome at the young age of twelve. Passing his early life in slavery, he understood better than anyone else what freedom meant, and there was nothing he craved more than liberty. Despite his circumstances, he was determined to carve out a different future for himself.
During the occasional dinners he would share with his master, he would impress him with wit. As the years went by, his masters slowly recognized his potential and decided to invest in Syrus by funding his liberal education. It allowed Syrus to further develop his potential and get closer to his goal of one day being free.
Syrus could have been upset about the situation that he was in, but he decided to make the most of it. Although still a slave, his education allowed him to take his life into his own hands. Eventually, after many years of using his wit and ideas to win favors from his master, he was bestowed the gift of liberty. He was finally free.
For the rest of his life, Syrus would cherish his freedom and work towards unleashing his potential. He made up for lost time and delighted everyone around him. He began traveling and sharing his talent of miming and improvising. His theatrical performances, however, did not merely serve to amuse people. He also used his talent to instruct people and share useful maxims about life. In fact, he turned his performances into vehicles of political satire. He wrote lengthy essays, none of which survived to this day except fragments that are available in the form of small maxims.
Even the mighty Caesar took notice of Syrus and invited him to celebrations upon winning his second election. This turned into one of his proudest days when he won the theatrical contest. Despite being a slave for so many years, he had found a way to unleash his potential. None of this would have been possible without liberty.
Liberty stands at the core of human potential. Without freedom, we cannot flourish for very long. Imagine how former slave Harriet Tubman felt in her escape into freedom. “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person,” recounting on her newfound liberty. “There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”
The day we are free is the day we can start to grow and live up to our potential. We are constantly battling with ideas and searching for ways to grow. We might not be a former slave as Syrus was, but we have our own prisons that we need to escape from.
After completing high school and mandatory military service in Germany, I moved to America, embarking on a journey that re-defined me and helped me grow beyond what I deemed possible then On my journey, I had to overcome many obstacles. In pursuit of the American Dream, I had to live confined by the many rules that the country set up for immigrants. For example, immigrants have to earn the right to work. For many years, I was unable to work in the country. I needed to go through university to qualify for a visa. And, like every other immigrant, I had to put up with immigration officers at the border and dozens of applications to feed the bureaucratic system. The road to freedom is a long one indeed.
In order to grow on my journey, because of all the challenges, I began to keep a journal of what I learned. I started writing a playbook to remind myself of the elements that are necessary to grow and move my ideas forward. What follows in this book is a collection of ideas that have helped me to accelerate my learning, structure my thoughts, and make things happen. It is my hope that this book can instruct or inspire you in some way.
We have a choice: do we want to remain prisoners of our thoughts, or escape our prison and fulfill our potential? It is up to us. As Publius Syrus advised, “Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself.”
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