A Famous Quote from 2000 Years Ago Seen in Context

 Mt. Vesuvius, as it would have appeared to Pliny the Elder (23 ACE - 79 ACE) as seen from across the bay of Naples, although not with such a beautiful, clear blue sky...

Mt. Vesuvius, as it would have appeared to Pliny the Elder (23 ACE - 79 ACE) as seen from across the bay of Naples, although not with such a beautiful, clear blue sky...

“Fortune Favors the Bold” is a popular quote. Does it have the same worth in career advancement, contract negotiations and office politics? As it turns out, the history behind this popular saying has an ironic twist, so perhaps it requires a bit of caution.

The phrase was used by Pliny the Elder, fleet commander of the Roman Navy, when he was sent on a rescue mission during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 ACE. When his advisors suggested greater caution, he proclaimed that fortune favors the bold! So he sailed across the bay (see photo above) under the threatening sky of the erupting volcano. It has since been used in literature and by everyone from generals to motivational speakers as an encouragement to act fast and bravely.

In the modern workforce, this can certainly be a worthwhile approach. Arriving early is always good and arriving prepared & ready for action is also good practice. However, it also should be taken in context. Being bold can seem overzealous and being too early can be seen as not being careful enough. This is particularly the case for Gigsters. Completing a project too early will suggest that the work was not done carefully enough, or worse, that the project should have cost less, which could have long-term ramifications. So be bold, but also contextual.

Ironically, Pliny should have listened to his advisors. He was stranded on the beach where he landed, and while he tried hard to invigorate his men, he succumbed to the gases and destructive force of the volcano. The danger was greater than he expected – he did not consider the context. The only fortune that Pliny attained was the immortality of his famous quote.

So the next time someone loudly professes that “fortune favors the bold” you will know that to be true with a caveat. Consequently, determining if this is the right moment to be bold and correct them, is also a matter of carefully considering the context!

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This blog post was previously published in The Gigster 'Zine, our free newsletter discussing new and innovative part-time opportunities & strategies for anyone with a college degree. To sign up for the newsletter, click here.
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