I’ve got time down to a science. I know that it takes me exactly 23 minutes to get out the door in the morning, and that it takes about 11 minutes to get my 3 little kids to their gymnastics class…door to door. I know how long it takes to grab a lunch at work, and exactly how long it takes to curl my hair and put on my make up.
My alarm goes off at an ungodly time of the morning. 1:45 AM. It’s in those deep, dark hours of the morning, when I’m tip toeing around in blackness, that I wonder if I’m crazy. I do love my job, but I don’t get much sleep, and I constantly hear “I don’t know how you do it”. Honestly, with my hours and 3 little kids, sometimes I don’t even know how I do it. But I do know that I’m not the only person who wishes they had more sleep or more time to relax.
I’m writing this post because I want to share what inspires me in those deep dark hours of the morning. I am inspired by history. Human history is our shared lineage of perseverance. It’s the real life story of people who were born, endured hardship, and still managed to change the world.
The average life expectancy in this country is 79 years. That’s about 41 million 522 thousand 400 minutes. In the early Middle Ages, the life expectancy was closer to 45. That’s only 23 million 652 thousand minutes, and their lives were much harder than ours. There was no modern medicine, no real rights for women, and constant fears of hunger and war. There were no cars, no phones, no grocery stores or department stores. Cities were cesspools of filth, a common cold could kill you, and education was hard to come by, even if you were wealthy and privileged.
Let me tell you about a few of our collective ancestors, and what they managed to overcome. Their stories are brutal and painful at times, but we still remember their names today. There is a reason for that.
Let’s reach back to the year 60 AD. There was a warrior queen named Boudicca. She was married to a powerful King, and had several daughters. Life was as good as it could get.
Boudicca and her family lived in England. Long before William the Conqueror and Queen Elizabeth, the Romans were in charge of the land. They built amazing infrastructure, and even a massive defensive wall that stretched from the North Sea to the Irish Sea. It was called Hadrian’s Wall, and parts of that wall are still in tact today.
While Boudicca’s husband was alive, there was relative peace between their people, and the Romans. When her husband died, everything changed. The Roman governor annexed their kingdom, had her daughters attacked, and flogged Boudicca. The rights of their people were rescinded, and Boudicca became the queen of nothing.
Still, there is a reason that Boudicca is remembered as one of the most fierce warrior queens ever. She waited, biding her time until the Roman governor went on a trip. When he did – she pounced. She organized her people, and several other marginalized tribes, and they attacked. She managed to destroy modern day Colchester, driving out the Romans. After they sacked Colchester, they marched toward a little town the Romans called Londinium. Modern day London. They seized that too, causing Emperor Nero to consider withdrawing all Roman forces from the island of Great Britain.
Take a look at the huge Holy Roman Empire, and recognize the feat that Boudicca achieved. One woman almost banished the powerful Romans from her land.
Unfortunately, the Romans did come back to win in the end. They had superior numbers, and an entire Empire to feed them. But Boudicca almost took them down.
She may not have been successful in the end, but that 30 year old woman will be remembered until the end of time. Not because she was successful, but because she almost did it, and waged a heck of a battle to get there.
None of us are successful in everything we do, but sometimes it’s the battle that will be remembered. Next time you are struggling with something, think about Boudicca. A woman who lived and died before the year 100. Her husband died, her lands were taken, her daughters attacked, she was flogged, and still she summoned the strength to united a people, and take on the Holy Roman Empire.
Surely we can power through when times are tough.
William the Conqueror
In 1028, a little boy named William was born in France. His father was the Duke of Normandy — his mother was the Duke’s mistress. In those days, that was not the easiest situation. In fact, it made it very difficult for William to succeed his father as Duke. They called him William the Bastard. When the old duke died, the path was not clear for William. He had to fight other nobles for his title, and eventually became the undisputed Duke of Normandy at the age of 19. The whole process was final by the time he was 32 in 1060.
In the year 1066, William decided that France wasn’t enough. He wanted England too. He built a fleet, crossed the Channel, and attacked. His forces landed in September, and by Christmas Day 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned King of England.
King William’s reign changed the nature of England. He brought the French culture and language to the country. He initiated a castle building program, changed the church, and sponsored the first census. Because of William, French culture ruled England for centuries.
William fought for what he wanted. He fought through society’s stigma to claim his father’s dukedom. He fought through Anglo-Saxon forces to claim a country that he thought he had been promised.
None of us will likely conquer a nation, but we can go after what we want. We can achieve goals that seem out of reach. Why not?!? If William seized what he thought he was due, why can’t you? The job you want, that weight you want to lose?? None of it is out of your reach if you believe in yourself – even when others don’t.
Robert The Bruce
The 1300s were a time of turmoil for a man named Robert Bruce. Born to a Scottish noble family, Robert had a pretty good life. Unfortunately, his people were under the thumb of the oppressive regime of the English King – Edward the 1st, the so called Hammer of the Scots.
After a while, Robert could take no more. He quietly consolidated Scottish power around him, and seized the crown of Scotland. 31 year old Bruce may have been crowned King, but it was a slap in the face to Edward. Bruce took the crown, but still held no power over his land. He and Edward began battle after battle…most of which, the superior English forces won.
A few months after claiming the crown, Bruce was defeated by the English in battle, his wife was being held by his enemy, and his brother had been executed. King Robert was forced to flee his own country.
He ran, with just a handful of supporters, across the sea to Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland. He holed up, in a cave, desperate and alone and wondering what the heck he should do next.
The legend goes that the Bruce was lying in the cave, weighing his options, when he saw a tiny little spider spinning a web between the cave walls. He watched the spider try to get her web to stick on the slippery cave. The spider tried to reach the wall six times, and six times she failed. Well, by now, Robert had forgotten his problems, attention fully fixed on this one tiny little spider. On the 7th try, the spider was victorious, inspiring a struggling King to go back to his country, and fight to see another day.
Bruce went on to claim victory over the English. He is one of Scotland’s greatest historical figures.
Robert the Bruce lived 55 years. In that time, he changed the course of a nation. If the legend is to be believed, his choice to continue the fight was made in about 5 minutes by watching a tiny common spider – life expectancy 76 days. Let this little story be a lesson for us all. Sometimes, when everything is going wrong, we just need to take a few minutes to simply sit and watch the world go by.
Robert the Bruce got only 55 years on this earth
William the Conqueror 59
Boudicca just 31
Most of us will average 79 years. Take a lesson from history. Learn to unapologetically go after what you want. William did. Learn to power through adversity even in your darkest moments. Boudicca certainly did. And in those deep dark moments, when it seems that your dreams are not attainable, take a lesson from Robert the Bruce. Sit back, take a moment, and breathe.