Crossing the Rubicon

Owning up to your decisions

Published in the January 2016 Issue Published online: Jan 30, 2016 Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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On Jan. 10, 49 B.C., Julius Caesar was camped with his army on the north bank of the Rubicon River near the town of Ravenna, and he had a choice to make.

At the time, Ravenna and the area to the northeast were part of the Roman province of Cisalpine Gaul. Caesar had for several years served as governor of Gaul and commander of its armies, with whom he had enjoyed immense military success. But his term was up, and he had been ordered to return to Rome. Under Roman law, Caesar was required to disband his army before crossing the Rubicon into Italy proper. If he failed to do so, it would be viewed by Rome as an act of civil war.

Problem was, Julius Caesar wasn’t entirely sure he was ready to surrender the power and position he had achieved. Caesar was a thoroughly ambitious and not entirely scrupulous man. He liked being in charge, and he was good at it. His men were intensely loyal to him, and they were fully aware of the quandary he faced.

So they sat there on the banks of the Rubicon, a general and his army, perhaps the world’s most efficiently powerful military unit, just waiting. While Caesar hesitated, one of his legionaries—according to legend, a hulking, striking man, a specimen in every sense of the word—suddenly ran into the river with a bugle and sounded the advance. On seeing the enthusiasm of this lone soldier, Caesar urged the rest of the army across the watery border, shouting what has become one of history’s most famous one-liners: “The die is cast!”

History is probably correct to question Julius Caesar’s motives, morals and integrity. One thing is certain, though: The man did not take his decisions as a leader lightly. When he said, “The die is cast,” he might as well have been saying, “All right, there’s no turning back now; good or bad, I’ll accept the consequences of
this action.” (Let’s be honest, though—what he actually said sounds infinitely cooler than my version.)

We live in a world where accepting responsibility for one’s actions has become…well, almost rare. People are all about taking gambles, but when the house wins (as it often does), they think they’re entitled to another roll of the dice without being required to pay up again. And when the petition for that re-roll is denied, the game is suddenly “unfair.”

It’s an interesting crossroads where competitiveness and entitlement intersect, a crossroads that’s pretty tough to get through. You can’t just move the 8 ball when you get yourself stuck behind it.

Winston Churchill, another great (albeit less tyrannical) European leader, is quoted as saying, “Suc­cess is not final, fail­ure is not fatal: it is the courage to con­tinue that counts.” While it must be noted that failure for both Churchill and Caesar would in many instances have indeed proven to be fatal, the point must be taken: Whatever your decisions, live with the consequences and learn from them, rather than bask in glory or wallow in self-pity. Don’t doubt yourself, don’t waffle, and don’t complain. Instead of wearing yourself out looking for someone to blame, spend your energy finding and implementing solutions.

Ag folk, for the most part, don’t grouse about the hand they’re dealt. Sometimes the cards are good; sometimes they’re not. It’s possible to lose with a good hand and to win with a poor one. Sometimes you can bluff your way out of the hole you’ve dug, and sometimes you’ve just got to know when to take your licks and move on.

Crossing your own Rubicon might get you stuck behind the 8 ball sometimes, and that’s okay. You’re perfectly capable of playing your way out of it.