I was channel-surfing last night when I came across a show about Genghis Khan. I immediately stopped channel-surfing and sat engrossed for 10 minutes or so. My girlfriend walked in and asked what I was watching.
“It’s a show about Genghis Khan. He’s so awesome.”
“Why? Didn’t he just kill and rape a bunch of people?”
Always eager for a chance to prove my girlfriend wrong, I ran upstairs, grabbed my copy of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford, and turned to a passage I’d highlighted in the introduction.
In American terms, the accomplishment of Genghis Khan might be understood if the United States, instead of being created by a group of educated merchants or wealthy planters, had been founded by one of its illiterate slaves, who, by the sheer force of personality, charisma, and determination, liberated America from foreign rule, united the people, created an alphabet, wrote the constitution, established universal religious freedom, invented a new system of warfare, marched an army from Canada to Brazil, and opened roads of commerce in a free-trade zone that stretched across the continents. On every level and from any perspective, the scale and scope of Genghis Khan’s accomplishments challenge the limits of imagination and tax the resources of scholarly explanation.
If that doesn’t inspire you, then I don’t know what will. Check out 9 lessons on power and leadership from Genghis Khan by Ryan Holiday. I’m also a big fan of the Conqueror series by Conn Iggulden, which is a historical fiction series based on the lives of Genghis Khan and his descendants Ogedai, Mongke, and Kublai Khan – which Iggulden calls “the greatest rags to riches story in human history” (start with book 1, here).