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Lessons on Business from “Lycidas”

Three poets changed how I see the universe: Boethius, Dante and Milton.

John Milton is acclaimed as the greatest poet in the English language. I agree. If you ever want to dive into an incredible epic read “Paradise Lost”. His poetry is profound. Apart from scripture and Jimmy Buffett lyrics, Milton’s poetry is the only I have committed to memory. And yes, some Buffett lyrics are profound as well.

One of the great poems of Milton is, “Lycidas”. Milton was commissioned to write the piece upon the death of one of his classmates, Edward King. King drowned while traveling on the Irish Sea. The poem is as much about the death of King as it was Milton and Anglican Church issues. Within the poem are some great lessons on life that we can apply. I encourage you to read the poem and consider the lessons from Milton.

There is a Right Time for Everything

Timing is everything and everything needs time. The poem begins with Milton stating that his time to write poetry has not yet arrived, yet he was being pushed to write, “And with Forc’d fingers rude”.

“YET once more, O ye Laurels, and once more

Ye Myrtles brown, with Ivy never-sear,

I com to pluck your Berries harsh and crude,

And with forc'd fingers rude,

Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year”

Milton had long planned to write the “greatest epic poem”. He waited years before he began work on “Paradise Lost”. When one considers all the elements within “Paradise Lost” you are aware that Milton waited until he gained a wealth of knowledge on Christianity, Mythology and had developed a much defined world view before starting work on his epic.

Few are patient when stepping into their careers. I’ve experienced countless people who think because they have a degree they have all the answers to improve a business fresh out of college. Further, I’ve encountered departmental people that want to run the organization with no understanding of the company in whole.

Whether your career, or executing business, timing is everything and everything needs time. Ensure you have prepared yourself for the decisions you are making, if not, seek help and/or knowledge. React when the time is right. Use all available information and then your gut.

Find Others that Share Your Passion

John Milton and Edward King were serious about their craft. While it is not believed that they were close classmates, it is believed that King was as serious about education and writing as Milton.

“Together both, ere the high Lawns appear'd

Under the opening eye-lids of the morn,

We drove a field, and both together heard

What time the Gray-fly winds her sultry horn,

Batt'ning our flocks with the fresh dews of night,”

Development and execution in business is much more exciting when shared. Find those around you that share your passion and bring them along, and if they show a unique skill, allow them to lead.

Many Events are Not in Your Control

Within “Lycidus” Milton asks in a creative way, “Where was God when this happened? How could this be allowed? Why was such a talented person allowed to die?”

“Where were ye Nymphs when the remorseless deep

Clos'd o're the head of your lov'd Lycidas?

For neither were ye playing on the steep,

Where your old Bards, the famous Druids ly,

Nor on the shaggy top of Mona high,

Nor yet where Deva spreads her wisard stream:

Ay me, I fondly dream!

Had ye bin there—for what could that have don?

What could the Muse her self that Orpheus bore,

The Muse her self, for her inchanting son

Whom Universal nature did lament,

When by the rout that made the hideous roar,

His goary visage down the stream was sent,

Down the swift Hebrus to the Lesbian shore.”

So much in life is out of our control. How we view evil and adversity depends on our worldview. The fact that our worldviews on bad things vary, does not change the reality of their probability.

I’ve met people that have failed in business. When you do or try something long enough you will fail. What matters is how we deal with failure, not that we failed. There are endless events that can change our stars. When adversity is brought to your life or business look for the best approach and determinately proceed without looking to place blame.

Fame is Folly

What a powerful line comes from the God Apollo, “Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil.”

“Comes the blind Fury with th'abhorrèd shears,

And slits the thin spun life. But not the praise,

Phoebus repli'd, and touch'd my trembling ears;

Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil,

Nor in the glistering foil”

As you move through your career constantly check your ego. All of us have one, the question is whether it is helping or harming. Never forget, one day you are gone and forgotten. Work for the right reasons – you’ll have to decide what reasons are right.

When reading Milton I encourage you to be cautious about which subjects you choose to be cobelligerent with Milton. While he offers us many great insights, considerations and artistic enjoyment you must have a grasp on his political and religious leanings. Also, it is important to know that these changed over time in his writings.

Enjoy the last lines of the poem…

“He touch'd the tender stops of various Quills,

With eager thought warbling his Dorick lay:

And now the Sun had stretch'd out all the hills,

And now was dropt into the Western bay;

At last he rose, and twitch'd his Mantle blew:

To morrow to fresh Woods, and Pastures new.”

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