Doubling Down in Life: Lessons from Julius Caesar

Have you ever seen the movie Rounders?

It’s a great poker movie basically dedicated to degenerate gambling. The cast features Matt Damon, Edward Norton, and John Malkovitch–but this isn’t a movie review, so why am I bringing this up?

There’s a great quote in the movie when Matt Damon leaves the table after essentially winning his way back to even. He gets enticed to go back to the table, saying “I told Worm you can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle, but you can’t win much either.”

Most of us play it safe our entire lives for one reason or another. Sometimes it has to do with complacency, sometimes it has to with fear, and yet other times it comes down to simply not believing in yourself. Trust me, I’ve used all 3 excuses… but the fact of the matter is that true growth only occurs when you are willing to double down on certain aspects of life.

Enter Julius Caesar

Perhaps one of the most infamous figures in world history, Julius Caesar, is most notably known for being a beloved dictator of the Roman Republic, which eventually fell after he was murdered on the senate floor. Like modern American politics, newbies to the scene have to earn prominence and popularity through effective campaigning–something that costs a lot of money!

As an emerging statesman in the Roman Republic, he decided to run for one of the most coveted positions in politics: Pontifex Maximus (a religious leader). On election day, it is said that Julius Caesar told his mother that “he would return as Pontifex Maximus, or not at all.” In other words, he had borrowed so much money campaigning that he needed to win, otherwise his creditors would have him killed. Some might call this stupid, but Caesar believed in his capabilities so much that he was willing to put his life on the line because his self-belief was so strong. If that isn’t doubling down, I’m not sure what is.

Another moment in his career further illustrates Caesar’s boldness and go big or go home mentality. Perhaps you’re familiar with the idiom “crossing the Rubicon,” which today means making a decision and not looking back. This came down to us from Ancient Rome when Julius Caesar crossed the river Rubicon (symbolic border between Italy and the rest of the Roman Republic). Bringing an army with him, Caesar essentially decided to forcefully take over Rome and the rest is history (look it up).

Julius Caesar knowingly broke taboos and made himself an outlaw in order to gain control of Rome. It also sealed his fate in history. Today we have things such as the caesar salad, the caesar haircut, and rulers throughout history (Russian Tsar and German Kaiser) using this title. In contrast, few people outside of history classrooms have probably ever heard of Pompey Magnus–one of the most decorated Romans ever and one of Caesar’s friends turned rivals. Why is that? One stayed within the confines of social norms, while the other took bold, decisive action to achieve at even further heights. If Caesar had played it safe, chances are you wouldn’t know his name either.

How Can We Double Down in Our Own Lives?

We all have things that we WANT to do, but aren’t getting anywhere with. Think about all the people who have a New Year’s resolution to get in shape. They sign up for gym memberships, go once, get sore, then never go back. The reason this happens to so many people is that they haven’t doubled down and made it a top priority.

Step 1: Consider the following categories in life, which one do you need to double down in?

1. Health: your physical wellness and dieting.

2. Wealth: investing, business, or career advancement.

3. Love: your relationship with yourself or others that you care about.

4. Happiness: things you enjoy doing and your mental state.

Only pick one area to focus on. Like Confucious said, “the man who chases 2 rabbits catches neither.”

Step 2: Get specific. Define exactly what it is you want to achieve.

This year, I’ve decided to double down on the health category. In my daily journal, I write that I am going to have a 6 pack and a toned body.

Step 3: When are you going to work on this?

Set aside time every day to work on your area of focus, remember, it has to be your TOP priority. By specifying a time and place, you are more likely to follow through because you’ll associate both with whatever you’re trying to achieve.

Since I get out of work at 3, I’ve made that my workout time. Pre-COVID 19 this meant going straight to the gym, now it means going to my basement. These have become automatic responses because it’s been more than 66 days, the time it takes to form a habit. If you get to this point, you’ll no longer have to fight the urge to do something else.

Step 4: How are you going to achieve this?

Think about what you need to do on a daily basis in order to accomplish this intention. For me, I started by following a specific workout routine rather than wandering around in circles until I ended up bench pressing (which I used to do). Once I got comfortable with the workout, I knew that I needed to add dieting as a stack on top of working out. I researched intermittent fasting and began doing that. Then, once I got used to that, I started counting calories.

By using progressions, you get easy wins and it also becomes easier to stack another habit on top to further your goal. This is kind of like the snowball effect, where it starts out small, but compounds over time as you build momentum.

Step 5: Rinse and Repeat.

If you double down in one area of life, you now have the recipe for success. You’ll gradually become more confident and believe you can do things once you start seeing results. The beauty of all this is that once you double down, the self-discipline and systems will be in place for you to achieve mastery in other areas of life. Keep working towards greatness!

Final Thoughts

Although most of us will never be Julius Caesar, we can become better versions of ourselves. If you are willing to take a leap of faith and get outside of your comfort zone, amazing things will happen.

I’d love to hear your stories about doubling down, reach out with comments and concerns!