a.k.a: Diogenes the Cynic
Born: circa 412 BCE
Died: 323 BCE
Diogenes is regarded as one of the founders of the cynic philosophy, which later inspired stoic doctrines. While the factual description of his life would sound boring, the anecdotes behind the man and his philosophy are awesome and give a deep insight into the character, so I shall focus on these…
Diogenes was born in Sinope (mordern-day Turkey). His father was a banker and it is likely he was helping him out. At some point, they became embroiled in a scandal involving the defacement of the currency and Diogenes got exiled from the city. Little else is known about his early life.
After his exile, Diogenes moved to Athens. There, he used his simple lifestyle and behavior to criticize the social values and institutions of what he saw as a corrupt society.
He made a virtue of poverty. He lived in a large ceramic jar and was known for carrying a lantern in the daylight, looking for an honest man.
Later in his life, he got captured by pirates and got sold to a Corinthian. Stories vary regarding what happened next but he most likely lived the rest of his life in Corinth, preaching his doctrines.
– When he was asked where he came from, he replied that he was a citizen of the world (cosmopolitan).
– When Plato gave Socrates’ definition of man as “featherless bipeds” and was much praised for the definition, Diogenes plucked a chicken and brought it into Plato’s Academy, saying, “Behold! I’ve brought you a man.” After this incident, “with broad flat nails” was added to Plato’s definition.
– When Alexander The Great met Diogenes. He was very thrilled to meet the famous philosopher and asked him if there was anything he could do for him. Diogenes, who was relaxing in the sunlight, replied: “Yes, stand out of my sunlight.” As everybody laughed, Alexander declared: “If I were not Alexander, then I should wish to be Diogenes.” To that, Diogenes replied: “If I were not Diogenes, I too should wish to be Diogenes.”
– When he once visited the magnificent house of a rich man, he spat in the rich man’s face then said: “I didn’t dare to spit anywhere else.”
– When he was going to be sold as a slave, he was asked what his trade was. He replied that the only trade he knew was that of governing men and therefore, that he wished to be sold to a man who needed a master.
There’s plenty more but these are my favorite. Besides, it’s meant to be a brief description, so I’m keeping it as such.
Why he’s on the list:
The Cynics’ philosophy is to live in agreement with Nature and to become free from the influences of desire such as wealth, power and sex which have no value in Nature.
I always thought this was bullshit and I still do.
However, another one of the Cynics’ principle states that happiness depends on being self-sufficient and a master of mental attitude and for this, I respect them.
Diogenes has been able, throughout his life, to live by those principles and has always shown virtue through actions rather than theory.
But that wouldn’t be enough to make it on this list: this list is for badass people only.
That being said, Diogenes is a critical thinker who doesn’t respect anybody or anything except truth and virtue and those who apply them.
Combine this genuine attitude with the fact that he just doesn’t give a shit about anything and now it makes perfect sense that he’s on this list.
“Why not whip the teacher when the pupil misbehaves?”
a.k.a: Le Roi-Soleil
In 1638, after 23 years of marriage, Anne of Austria finally gave birth to a child, leading contemporaries to regard him as a divine gift and Louis XIV (only the Dauphin at the time) was named Louis-Dieudonne as a consequence. Louis XIII died at the end of the Thirty Years War when his son was only four years old so his mother ruled as regent until her son could claim his throne.
When Louis XIV came into power, France was going through turbulent times and so, he did not live the privileged life of a king-to-be.
In 1660, at the age of 22, Louis married the daughter of King Philip IV of Spain, Marie-Therese, in order to seal the peace treaty after the Thirty Years War. But despite their 6 children and the evidence of affection early on in their marriage, Louis wasn’t devoted to his wife and took many mistresses, both official and unofficial, during his lifetime.
One year later, Cardinal Mazarin, who had been like a father to Louis, died and Louis XIV became King of France. Louis XIV ruled as an absolute monarch of France and involved himself in all matters of state. His statement “L’etat, c’est moi.” is very representative of the way he ran his government.
During Louis’ reign, France fought three majors wars (the Dutch War, the War of the Spanish Succession, the War of the Palatinate) as well as two lesser wars (the War of Devolution and the War of the Reunions) and gained land as a result of these conflicts. But even though France spent most of its years under the reign of Louis XIV fighting wars, it also flourished culturally during these same years. By bringing the Academie Francaise under his patronage, he became its protector, protecting writers such as Moliere, Racine and La Fontaine, whose work remain greatly influential to this day. He also supported music and the visual arts. But perhaps the most spectacular of his achievements remains the Palais de Versailles, which was originally a hunting lodge built by his father and where he eventually relocated his court, thus giving the Louvre to the arts and the public.
He died of gangrene in 1715 after 72 years on the throne. His great-grandson, Louis Duke of Anjou, became his successor (Louis XV) since his son, grandson and eldest great-grandson had all predeceased him.
Why he’s on the list:
Louis XIV put in place the Code Louis, which was later used as a basis for the Napoleonic Code, which itself is still used today as the basis for many modern legal codes. And Napoleon himself, who was anti-Bourbon (Louis XIV was of the House of Bourbon), described him as “the only King of France worthy of the name”.
I love absolute monarchies and I hate democracies. Of course, absolute monarchies are double-edged swords as monarchs can lead their kingdoms to greatness but also to ruin depending on their characters, philosophies and visions. But at least there’s a slight chance it might work. Democracies, on the other hand, never work as politics and personal interests inevitably get in the way of good judgement. I am using democracy here only as a modern example for the other end of the spectrum. In contrast, Louis adhered to the theory of the divine rights of kings, became the most powerful French monarch and consolidated a system of absolute monarchical rule. This, me likey!
But what I like most, even though Louis XIV was often criticized for it, was his vanity. It is said that “there was nothing he liked so much as flattery, or, to put it more plainly, adulation; the coarser and clumsier it was, the more he relished it”. He cultivated his public image and the idealization of the monarch by having himself depicted as Roman Emperors, as Gods and even as Alexander The Great. And if you still don’t think vanity’s cool, just check the Galerie des Glaces at Versailles, it’s enough to understand why he’s on this list.
“I almost had to wait.”
a.k.a: The Other Software Billionaire
Died: Not Yet
Larry Ellison was born in New York out of wedlock. His mother, judging herself incapable of caring for him, gave him up for adoption to her aunt and uncle.
After graduating from high school, Larry attended the University of Illinois but later dropped out. He then continued his studies at the University of Chicago but dropped out again.
In the 1970s, Larry worked for the Ampex Corporation as a programmer on a database project for the CIA which he named ‘Oracle’.
Soon after, he founded ‘Software Development Laboratories’ (SDL) and subsequently renamed it ‘Relational Software Inc.’ and later ‘Oracle’ after its flagship product ‘Oracle Database’.
The original release was called Oracle 2. There was no Oracle 1.
Although IBM was the primary database system for companies, it did not cater to smaller companies and microcomputers. This allowed Oracle, Sybase and Microsoft to fill in that void.
The original Sybase software was sold to Microsoft and became the well-known SQL Server.
Today, the market is still dominated by IBM, Microsoft and Oracle.
Larry also served for a few years as a director of Apple Computer when Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997.
He is still the CEO of Oracle and the company keeps on growing…
Why he’s on the list:
As I said in one of my previous posts, I do not like college dropouts but what I like even less are the entrepreneurs who take that hypocritical symbolic $1 salary.
Management and ownership of a company are two very distinct topics and should remain separate. Unlike most entrepreneurs, Larry seems to understand this difference.
Even though he owns more than 20% of Oracle and is ranked by Forbes as the 8th richest person in the world, he also tops the list of the best-paid executive of a public company with total compensations over the past decade reaching well above $1 billion.
It’s like a ‘fuck you’ to the supposedly modest (but hypocritical) CEOs of other successful tech and internet companies whose salary is 1$.
And I like that so I included him on my list.
“Twenty minutes compared to never, that’s a lot.”
a.k.a: The Bad Boy of Chess
Bobby Fischer was born in Chicago to a Jewish mother who had moved from Switzerland to the US. The actual identity of his father is unknown. So Bobby grew up with his mother and older sister. When he was six, his sister bought him a chess set and he learned to play from the instructions.
A few years later, Bobby joined the Manhattan Chess Club. At age 13, he defeated the winner of America’s Chess Championship by sacrificing his queen. This game became known as the game of the century. One year later, he won his first US Chess Championship, the first of eight. Later that year, he set the record for becoming the youngest chess Grandmaster.
In 1972, Bobby Fischer played against Boris Spassky for the World Chess Championship title. The game was seen as a proxy battle for the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. And although he hated most Soviet players and accused them of collusion, he had respect and affection for Spassky. He ended up winning, thus becoming the first and only American to win the World Chess Championship in the 20th century.
Bobby did not defend his title in 1975 and then disappeared from the chess scene for almost 20 years, after which, he played a rematch against Spassky and won again. This was his last time playing chess in public and only time since his world championship title.
He died of illness at the age of 64, coincidentally the number of squares on a chessboard.
Why he’s on the list:
Bobby Fischer found his passion in chess and went to the extremes to develop his skills.
He read books, analyzed games, and even played against himself because he had no one else to play. He played for the fun, for the challenge, for the love of the game.
Chess was his life.
He loved the imagination and creativity that chess offered and eventually came up with his own chess variant (Chess960) which rendered the memorization of opening moves rather impracticable, thus compelling the players to rely on their talent and creativity instead.
“Let’s play. I’m willing to play anywhere,” says Bobby.
This leads me to my second point. You can’t be so passionate about an activity and so skilled at it and yet remain modest. Modesty is for average people. When you’re consumed by something, you want to prove to yourself and the world that you’re invincible. In Bobby’s words: “I am the best player in the world and I am here to prove it.” It’s a natural consequence of the love of a game rather than mere arrogance, as many tend to think. Provocation is just another way to challenge yourself further, push the limits, be the best, as you’re being put on the spot by those waiting your downfall.
Today, he is still regarded by many to be the best chess player of all time but it’s his love for playing rather than his status that puts him on my list.
“I object to being called a chess genius because I consider myself to be an all-around genius who just happens to play chess, which is rather different.”