Jan 262011

Heroes can be a great source of inspiration when the going gets tough. Carefully chosen heroes can remind us of the qualities we should have and why we must fight on. Therefore, it is important to have a few inspirational sources to draw from when needed. One of my favourite sources is history. I love to read about great leaders, men who defied the odds and refused to give up. Their willpower, personal characteristics and motivation are just the thing I need when I am down. I admire many people and characters, but there are few whom I would consider heroes. After careful thought, here are the four that made the cut and the reasons why.

Komnenos Mosaics by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

The Wisdom and Prudence of Emperor John II Komnenos (1087-1143)

When John came to power, the Byzantine Empire faced threats on all sides. Not only did he have to defend his Eastern front from the Muslim Turks, he had to keep a watchful eye for threats from the Christian West. Even though the Byzantines were Christian, they were Orthodox and had strained ties with the Catholics. In the face of these problems, John exercised great self-control and prudence. He chose to defend his realm by expanding in a careful and methodical fashion. A realist at heart, he knew his strengths and weaknesses and focused on making careful gains. By the time of his death, his long string of victories had earned him the universal respect of his friends and foes.

But John was not just wise in warfare. His reign itself was mild and just. Even though cruelty was the norm, he never condemned anyone to death or mutilation. As far as he could, he tried to temper his laws with mercy. He also favoured men of ability over his friends and relatives. This ensured that he would always have capable talent to serve him. When it comes to ruling justly and managing power, John is my favourite hero because of his wisdom and prudence.

Tokugawa Ieyasu by Wikipedia

The Patience and Perseverance of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543–1616)

Tokugawa Ieyasu was the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. He was the man who brought peace to Japan for 250 years, ending an era of endless war and strife. But when he began his journey as a young man, he was merely a minor warlord. There were many other mighty warlords around who had the power and the ambition to unite the land. During this time, Tokugawa waited. He focused on growing his power and made useful alliances. When he saw that the times were against him, he did not resist and yielded. He knew deep down inside his heart that his time would arrive one day. And when he neared 60, his moment arrived. Most of his foes had died and those that remained, he crushed at the epic battle of Sekigahara. At last, he was the most powerful warlord in the land.

I admire Tokugawa most for his patience and perseverance. Not many would have his wisdom and foresight to endure as long as he did. In fact, few people appreciate patience today. Most of us are in a constant rush. We want things done yesterday. The slightest delay causes us to feel irritated. Whenever I feel annoyed by the slowness of events, I turn to Tokugawa for his patience and perseverance.

Skanderbeg by Wikipedia

The Indomitable Spirit and Resolve of Skanderbeg (1405-1468)

George Kastrioti, also known as, Skanderbeg or Lord Alexander to the Turks was the hero of Albania. No one deserved this title more than he did. For over two decades, this man defended his homeland from the might of the Ottoman Empire, one of the strongest powers of the 15th century. What is stunning about his resistance is that he had very little money or manpower to do so. It was true that he was a great leader. But that alone would not have been enough against the odds. The main reason he could hold off the Ottomans for so long was due to his spirit and resolve. Despite the great odds against him, he refused to give up and carried on his heroic struggle to the very end.

Skanderbeg’s heroic struggle has always been a source of inspiration for me. The man just simply did not know how to quit. Now every time I think of giving up, I recall the struggle of good old George and I resolve to fight on as he did. After all, no matter how bad my problems are, they are nothing compared to what George had to face.

Tomb of Khalid by Wikipedia

The Boldness and Creativity of Khalid bin al-Walid (592-642)

I have read about many military leaders in history. But none have dazzled me more than Khalid bin al-Walid the Sword of Allah. Simply put, he was one of the greatest general to walk the face of this Earth. More often than not, he faced off against and won foes that outnumbered him greatly. Vital to the rise of Islam in the 600s, his tactics and strategies turned the Arabs from a motley rabble into a fighting force that would dominate the Middle East for centuries. The key behind his genius was his boldness, mobility and speed. He used extreme methods to destroy all the foes he fought.

During its rise, Islam had to struggle against the might of Byzantium and Persia. Both empires however, had just fought a bloody war that left them weakened. Seizing the moment, Khalid attacked with the Arab armies. First, he took on Persia, and then he attacked Byzantium. But even in their weakened state, the armies of Byzantium and Persia were more numerous and better equipped than the Arabs. Unfortunately, neither empire had a leader with the genius of Khalid. Thanks to his creativity and skill, he prevailed against all odds.

Even though I love the Byzantine Empire, I find it hard to dislike Khalid. In fact, it is thrilling to read about the exploits of the Sword of Allah against such titans. His boldness and creativity in the face of great odds has always been a source of inspiration for me.

Taking Action

Each of my heroes has a certain quality I wish to emulate. As and when I need them, I merely have to think of the hero to ignite the qualities I need. Since heroes can have a profound impact on our lives, it is important to choose them wisely. The right ones can lift us up while the wrong ones will bring us down.

Do you have any heroes who inspire you? What qualities do these heroes have that cause you to admire them? Do share your thoughts and comments below. :)

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  26 Responses to “Heroes of the Vizier”

  1. Hi Irving,
    These men are absolutley facinating. Thanks for the history lesson – cool stuff. I admire Jesse Owens, the olympic athlete, he had every reason to fail, but he didn’t. He won his medals in front of Hitler, showing him there is no such thing as an inferior race. I also love Ellenor Roosevelt. She was a power house at a time when women were expected to walk quietly behind their husbands. She was extreamly smart and embodied kindness and integrity. The kind of woman who commanded respect, even among men who didn’t respect women. It’s important to have role models, especially if you didn’t grow up with them. They show us who we want to be like and can be like! Thanks for the great post!
    Dandy recently posted..Cognitive Distortions- Win against itMy Profile

    • Hi Dandy,

      Glad you enjoyed the article.

      I enjoyed reading about your role models. Like you, I think Eleanor Roosevelt is fantastic! She was capable in her own right and a great source of support for Franklin Roosevelt at a critical time in world history. Women shouldn’t be expected to walk quietly behind their husbands anyway. There is so much more a couple can do when they work hand in hand.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  2. Thanks for the history lessons. I recall doing well for history classes but can barely remember what I have studied. My heroes do not stretch as far back. I draw more from the contemporary ones, like Disney, Angelina Jolie, Jose Silva and Thomas Edison. They have qualities like boldness, intuition, can do attitude and authenticity.
    Evelyn Lim recently posted..Power Words for Intention Setting In 2011My Profile

    • Hi Evelyn,

      You may be surprised to know, but I hated my history lessons in school. They were an absolute bore! I even dropped history in junior college. Instead, I read up history on my own. Interestingly, my history teacher did cover the era of Khalid, but somehow I just didn’t find it interesting until I read it on my own. And of course nothing beats watching history come to life the way you envision it by playing computer games. Grand strategy games are the best way to learn history haha!

      I admire Angelina Jolie and Thomas Edison. I think there is a lot to learn from Thomas Edison’s approach to inventions.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  3. Amazing column! Inspirational and fun. Thank you for the education. I would like to link this post to my blog- as I feel these thoughts are vital for a Good Global Citizen. Thank you for sharing.
    Bethany Miller recently posted..Great Stories – Bags of GrainMy Profile

  4. I wasn’t aware of these visionarys before; like other people, I’ve only looked at modern heroes. But this has opened my eyes to a new kind, those who inspired the inspirational. Thanks :-)
    Stuart recently posted..How To See The WorldMy Profile

    • Hi Stuart,

      Every age has its heroes. Most of my heroes happen to come from bygone eras. I guess that is what happens when you are a history buff like me.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  5. Irving – It’s funny – I used to look to prolific stories of history for examples of courage, strength, and inspiration. Now, like Stuart mentioned, I primarily use modern day or just-a-century-ago modern stories. Your post is a reminder to think back to great people who made a powerful impact on the world. I will give this some thought and add my own conclusions hopefully later.
    Bryan Thompson recently posted..Why the Call Center Guy You’re On Hold With Might Just Be Your Next Best FriendMy Profile

    • Hi Bryan,

      The heroes of each era have their unique characteristics. Modern day heroes are inspiring in their own ways and I do admire a few contemporary people like Queen Rania of Jordan for example. Others would include Mustafa Kemal, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and so on.

      But heroes from history are much more interesting to me because of the challenges and the chaos they had to deal with. To manage it the way they did requires personalities of great stature.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  6. I have long admired Eleanor of Aquitaine and Jeanne d’Arc, each a warrior in her own way. In more modern times, I admire Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr., all warriors of peace.

    But if I could meet just one person, living or dead, I would meet Bruce Lee. People think of him only in the context of his martial arts movies, but he was a man who studied philosophy and fought against prejudice, the prejudice of white Americans who tried to deny him a place at the table, and the prejudice of Chinese Americans who prohibited him from teaching martial arts outside the Chinese community. In his martial arts, he threw out all tradition and developed the “way of no way,” a style of fighting that required an acute awareness and response to the present moment without the trappings of stylized combat. His style was the manifestation in physical form of the Tao.

    • Hi Galen,

      Both Eleanor of Aquitaine and Jeanne d’Arc were fascinating women. Although between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, I always preferred Saladin. ;)

      But the woman I admire most in history is Tamar of Georgia. I love how she was Queen Regnant and ruled in her own right. Her husband, David Soslan, was her consort who derived his power from her. But they loved each other and he supported her by leading her armies to bring about the Golden Age of Georgia. Theirs is a lovely marriage which I think many of us can learn from. They probably rode into battle side by side although David was likely the one doing the fighting.

      And let’s not forget Wu Zetian. The only female emperor of China. Her climb to power from the position of concubine was unexpected, but it shows how she was a master of events.

      Ah Bruce Lee is deserving of respect. I have read about his life and knew he studied philosophy. From what he has written, he has managed to blend the east and west in his life. Yes he did turn the tables on traditions with his fighting style. To have to have fought against the prejudice he faced was not something pleasant. But he was more than equipped to hold his own and he has clearly won the respect of many the world over. It is easy to forget that he accomplished so much in his short life. At least his daughter is doing all she can to keep the legacy of her father going.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  7. Hi Irving,

    you’re articles are so well researched… and always educational! I’m sure I would never have heard of any of these historical men, if not here :-)

    Skanderberg seems to personify that quality we both admire – perseverance.
    Scott McIntyre | Vivid Ways recently posted..Don’t Let Low Expectations Destroy Your High Hopes and Big DreamsMy Profile

    • Hi Scott,

      Thank you for your praise. I do try to make sure that I know what I am saying in my articles. History has always been an obsession of mine. I just love epic stories, all the more so if they were real. A lot of what I know was really first inspired by computer games. There is just no fun playing something if you don’t know what happened in reality. After you know, the fun part is reshaping events. ;)

      Yeah, I can see why you like Skanderbeg. The way he fought against the odds will always be something I admire about the man.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  8. Fascinating post (as well as your knowledge of history) Irving! Great choice of pictures, and personalities that you described are quite fascinating!

    • Hi Marko,

      It is good to see you again!

      I actually have a lot more heroes than these. But these 4 were chosen for their inspirational qualities. And it was not an easy task. I went through my list to find the men who either faced great adversity like Skanderbeg or displayed exceptional qualities like Tokugawa, John and Khalid. I am glad you like my article! :)

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  9. Hi Irving,

    While I’m adverse to the idea of war and killing, I appreciate the qualities you admire in these leaders. I can’t imagine what life would be like in the midst of such strife and terror. I’m naturally drawn to Tokugawa Ieyasu who issues in an era of peace.

    My real life heroes are leaders like the Dalai Lama, Ghandi, and Mother Teresa for the clear vision, love, kindness, and commitment to non-violence. Each deity in the Buddhist tradition represents a particular quality like compassion, power, healing, and so on. So in a similar fashion, images of deities are used to invoke those particular qualities.

    Thank you for another fascinating article.
    Sandra I Always Well Within recently posted..101 Inspirational Quotes to Light Up Your LifeMy Profile

    • Hi Sandra,

      Sadly, war and killing is an integral part of human history. It’s probably something to do with that energy inside each of us which, if there are no creative outlets, could result in extremism. I am afraid I too would not know what it would be like to be in the midst of such strife and terror like Tokugawa’s time.

      The Dalai Lama, Ghandi and Mother Teresa are all great heroes in their own right. I personally admire Queen Rania of Jordan for her humanitarian work.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  10. Anyway, I can interest you in some Persian (ancient Iranian) history, Irving?
    So wonderful to see how you draw energy and inspiration from your heroes. Asian history is very foreign to me; I know very little about it but I take a lot of inspiration from the Renaissance genius men, and in particular, naturally, Michelangelo and da Vinci. I imagine, more than anything, what they would have done if they lived in this age among us. And if only da Vinci could see that yes, man can fly (and do all the other things he was so certain we can do). Oh so tempted to go back to read more history now. Thank you for this post.
    PS: Are you still using Twitter? I tweeted it yesterday. You’ve been quiet :)!
    Farnoosh recently posted..Someday I Will Go Back to IranMy Profile

    • Hi Farnoosh,

      I would love it if you would share about Persian history. I am familiar to an extent with the Sassanid Empire. I also know a smattering of the Parthians and the Safavids.

      Ah yes, I know Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Sad to say, the first time I came across them was in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But eventually I read up on them proper. I think Da Vinci was amazing for all his inventions. He was definitely a man ahead of his time!

      Yeap I am still using Twitter. Just a little busy this week due to a lack of inspiration so I went into my cave to think.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  11. Some really good choices. I have heard of a few, but knowing western History better than eastern it is only a cursory knowledge. The closest I come to having a lot of info is Tokagawa and that is just from reding “Shogun” about 15 years ago, which is only “based” on him. Not an exact history. The same is true for Byzantium. I have read a ton of Roman history and I know a lot of history where Rome and Byzantium crossed paths, but not much about Byzantium itself. It sounds facinating, I may have to look into it when time permits.

    The one Byzantine who always DID interenst me was Belasarius. It seems to me he was essential at a few points early on to keeping byzantium alive, with little “official” help from Justinian and Theodora. For Eastern legend, I always appreciated Miyatmo Mushasi. As much because he was an iconoclast and his Philosophies than anything else. Of course his being THE kickass swordsman helps too. Then of course Leonidas of Sparta (though I always hesitate to say that since most people now just think of “300″)

    I guess the one common thread of all of these is that they were leaders who did what they thought was right, stood up for their causes often in spite of what their own leaders and countrymen thought was proper. (and ultimately were proven, “right” by history.

    Interesting post, thanks for getting me thinking about history again.
    Steve@Internet Lifestyle recently posted..19 Ways Fiverrcom can Grow your Internet BusinessMy Profile

    • Hi Steve,

      Yeah I have heard of “Shogun” but I haven’t got round to reading it yet. I think it is because it was historical fiction and I did not like the idea of the changes made even though it was about Tokugawa. That said, I might give it a read one day for the flavour of the period.

      You should give Byzantium a read. I always preferred Byzantine to Roman history because of its struggle. Rome was all mighty and powerful but Byzantium was always on the ropes against bigger and wealthier foes. Often it came close to extinction many times, but it always managed to come back from the brink.

      Ah Belisarius. He was truly a superb tactician and commander. He was not really responsible for keeping Byzantium alive. Byzantium was never that threatened during the reign of Justinian. Rather, Belisarius was responsible for the reconquest of the West on behalf of Justinian to wrest and restore the West from barbarian to imperial rule. The reason he was “essential” was because Justinian did no trust him and gave him insufficient troops to carry out his task. Thus he had to rely on his creativity to achieve his aims with meagre means. Still he did manage to conquer Northern Africa, Sicily and Italy despite being outnumbered. The reason I did not include Belisarius was because he was cuckolded by his wife countless times. It is very hard to look up to him as a hero especially since it was not an open marriage.

      Musashi was pretty cool. He was probably the ultimate swordsman who devoted his life to hone his craft. Did you know he was also good at castle architecture and painting? He was also a published author with his book “The Five Rings.” Any Mushashi fan would know of his duel with Sasaki Kojiro.

      I confess that I only know of Leonidas from “300.” Gerard Butler’s naked torso is forever engravened on my mind when you say Leonidas of Sparta. I am familiar with the Spartans, but their Spartan lifestyle is simply not for me. Even so, Leonidas’ last stand was heroic. But the last stand I prefer is the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

      Hmm it is always shaky ground when it comes to right and wrong. What one things as right and good may not be so for others. We need only look at the countries around the world to see the chasm between leaders and citizens. That said, there were a select few leaders in history who truly wanted what was best for their countrymen. These are the leaders we admire and respect.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  12. I don’t have any heroes per-say. What i do have is role models i would like to model life after to a particular degree.

    1. Sean combs
    2. will smith
    3. Jon d Rockefeller
    4. Andrew Carnegie
    5. Eminem ( rap skills0
    6. Mohandas Gandhi…for his peace
    jonathanfigaro recently posted..Laws You Need To Know To SurviveMy Profile

    • Hi Jonathan,

      To me, heroes and role models are one and the same. I choose my heroes for the qualities that I wish to have and follow. That is a fine list you have there. I probably like Rockefeller of the lot.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

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