Last week's Get Some Victory newsletter laid out some ways to overview historical eras and nations for inspirational people to learn from - artists, statesmen, businessmen, inventors, or whatever else appeals to you.
At the end of it, I asked readers to send me a line if they knew a great story I should know about. Simon Payne wrote in from the Czech Republic to share some very impressive Czech historical figures who I hadn't heard about before. I enjoyed reading this a lot, and he kindly agreed to let me post this. Here's Simon -
This email has got me thinking and after while I came up with a name I'm sure you have not hear of and is actually pretty interesting persona.
His name is:
It was a Czech priest that has a great influence on Czech history and even the whole Europe. I'll try to keep it brief as there is plenty information about him on the internet.
So why was this guy so interesting?
Among other things he worked hard on himself, he studied a lot and was pretty smart and respected guy. He was not afraid to point that the church at his times (15th Century) was not serving the people in the right way and began to talk openly about the problems it has (and there were plenty). He actually started the reform movement in Bohemia. I'm not even sure if he wanted to be a hero but he was burned alive for heresy. For Church it took almost 600 years to apologize and recognize his death as unfortunate.
He was very good speaker and many people loved him, he was a blogger of his time. A very famous one because he has a lot of listeners. Therefore after his death Czech people went into fury and rage! And what followed was one of the most interesting times in our history!
The Hussite movement was formed lead by famous one eyed leader Jan Zizka and they wandered around the land and even around the Europe and drained and fought with the Crusaders and Teutons and others. They were actually pretty successful and used various amazing techniques to defeat much stronger opponents like mounted knights by using river mud as a trap and then beaten them with simple tools used to crush crops. They used wagons to form a effective barriers and turned many battles int their favor. I loved reading about Hussites as a small boy! They were just violent farmers and angry bandits but there is something about them. They stood for for what they believed and made the whole Europe wonder to what to do with them?
These time were called Hussite wars. It was really unprecedented in Europe because all the Crusade and Teuton raids were unsuccessful. And Hussites began to drain even other countries. I know that it was not all for a noble purpose. They lived in a misery and they had a chance to actually do about it. Well I still thing about it as the only time the Czech people really stood for themselves. Which certainly wasn't during the World War 2...
These were violent times and Hussites at the end turned at each other and pretty much beaten themselves... which was a shame but they left a lot for the nation. Did you know that we Czech people are the only nation in the world which can actually form one single real medieval army of knights! Yes it's true. Classical sword fighting is very popular in here and I don't mean with the sword but rather with the actually much heavier sword you see in movies like Robin Hood. It's very popular among young people and they form groups where they train and then make reconstructions of historical battles! A lot of movies are like Joan of Arc were shot in Czech Republic because you will find here a lot of skilled sword fighters and event blacksmiths and other professions. It's more a hobby nowadays but still pretty impressive. I myself trained fighting with the sword when I was younger and it was delightful experience.
I hope you enjoyed my little story about our little nation.
Simon, that was brilliant, thanks for sharing it. I'd recommend everyone check out the links - interesting people. Jan Zizka in particular is really impressive - amazing record as a commander and he made great use of very few resources against very tough opposition. I went to just skim the links you sent me, but I wound up reading them all in full - very compelling stories and some excellent lessons and insights.
You probably meant the Blanik Knights inside Blanik mountain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blan%C3%ADk
But as you correctly point out that was just a broken legend because when Czechoslovakia was attacked by five armies of the Warsaw pact: "in Blanik not a single leg moved".
Hussites on the other hand were pretty real. Based on this discussion about them article my friend reminded me that there is one interesting fact that was not mentioned on Wikipedia...
Did you know that Jan Zizka was the second person in history who managed to win a battle against unbelievable predominance ratio (more attackers than defendants), when he was protecting some castle.
The first place occupies nothing else than the battle of Thermopyles which might not even be real ...
This is an interesting bit of history regarding the Hussites - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C3%A1bor - Tabor, an egalitarian city founded by notable Hussites.
I can't remember the name of one specific legend from CZ - the 12 knights who are "sleeping" in a mountain, who will rise up again when the country is threatened. That one always intrigued me, although now we know it's false, they would've risen when the Russian tanks rolled in, or when The Plastic People of the Universe first took to the studio...
Question from a reader -
I'm reading The Book of Five Rings, and I have a question.
There's a lot of good stuff about acting decisively and immediately so that you can win while your opponent is hesitating, but I don't get why he emphasizes swords so much in particular.
Masters of the long sword are traditionally known as heihosha [strategists]. As for the other military arts, those who master the bow are called archers, those who master the spear are called spearmen, those who master the gun are called marksmen, and those who master the halberd are called halberdiers. But we do not call masters of the long sword "long swordsmen", nor do we speak of "short swordsmen". Bows, guns, spears and halberds are all tools of the warriors and each should be a way to master strategy.
I was invited by the awesome connector Shai Goldman of Silicon Valley Bank to the "Brains to Ventures" dinner and panel. B-to-V is group of European entrepreneurs and investors. The dinner was arranged while they were touring Silicon Valley. On the panel were:
Here are my highlights (in "live blog" format) from the event, with a video of the event below.
Bill Tai & Matt Cohler: Be disruptive... And profitable if you can... But profitable without being disruptive is not interesting to Silicon Valley... Bernd Hardes disagreed, said predictable is better for him.
Matt Cohler: "It's best to figure out how to be good at being lucky"
Bill Tai: "Disruptive ideas come from disruptive people"
I was invited by the awesome connector Shai Goldman of Silicon Valley Bank to the "Brains to Ventures" dinner and panel. B-to-V is group of European entrepreneurs and investors. The dinner was arranged while they were touring Silicon Valley. On the panel were: Jan Bomholt, moderator - partner at B-to-V Gunnar Piening, European entrepreneur and partner at ECONA AG Bill Tai - partner at Charles River Ventures Matt Cohler - General partner at Benchmark Capital (also early at LinkedIn and Facebook) Bernd Hardes - with OSTE Investment GmbH and previously CEO at the German company Entertainment Shopping AG Here are my highlights (in "live blog" format) from the event, with a video of the event below. Bill Tai & Matt Cohler: Be disruptive... And profitable if you can... But profitable without being disruptive is not interesting to Silicon Valley... Bernd Hardes disagreed, said predictable is better for him. Matt Cohler: "It's best to figure out how to be good at being lucky" Bill Tai: "Disruptive ideas come from disruptive people" Jan Bomholt: European entrepreneurs start with technology while us entrepreneurs start with business problem.... Matt Cohler disagrees, saying that all entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world start with a problem to be solved Matt: "there's China... And then the rest of the Internet" Silicon valley VCs don't like to invest in companies they can't drive to... or some would say "bike to" Gunnar Piening: Advice to European entrepreneurs: "I realized that to get traction in the US, I would need somebody on the board with a vested interest in the company"... He found that with August Capital... its investment didn't change the company, but changed the pace at which the company wad growing... His was the first company August Capital invested in outside of the US (then jokingly said "outside of California" even)... Some fund rules would not even allow investments outside us... Bill Tai has done 16 IPOs (as investor)... One on Hong Kong exchange, the rest are in the US... "but remember, I started in '91... with a stellar exit environment for a decade"... Now potential IPO activity is a function of how the capital markets behave... CRV is mostly invested in the US, with 65% of its portfolio companies in California... Chinese companies only in Internet space... "There are some business models in China that would never work in the US." Matt Cohler: "Focus on maximizing your upside, not protecting your downside" ... Silicon valley is the place in the world that "maximizes your ceiling" in terms of technology companies... It's "usually the right answer" to move to Silicon Valley as an entrepreneur. Matt Cohler: Hollywood & silicon valley - "we are like studio executives" ... Look at a script and see who the lead actor is... Silicon Valley is the nucleus of the labor pool... jut like movies in LA, having this pool of talent allows entrepreneurs & investors to "put it together quickly"... "If you want to amass a company with an employee pool like Facebook or google, this is the place." Bernd Hardes on Berlin as center of entrepreneurial activity... "take everything you just said (about Silicon Valley), divide it by 10, and you're there" Jan talking about Aydin Senkut and Jeff Clavier... "They can move fast because they only have $15mm under management..." Bernd Hardes says he is "looking to play it safe... to take old ideas like web portals and make them work better... 30% to 40% improvement per year is OK... don't need a 10x return like Silicon Valley does." Berlin is very hip, so all the "cool guys are going there", and because there are so few tech companies, salaries are 1000 to 2000 Euros per month. The UK is beating France and Germany on investments & capital... "If Berlin is so great, why is UK winning?" Matt cohler says that historically, Internet startups based in Germany are addressing German market in German.... but In the UK, products are in English addressing a potentially global market, so that's one reason for the UK's dominance in Europe... Also institutional investors in Germany are reluctant to invest in early stage companies... And exit chances in Germany are limited... Bill tai says the history of the UK is to finance things globally for centuries; that plays a part too... "The UK has penchant for risk and risk capital" Matt Cohler says "the entrepreneur is fantastic" and talks about Researchgate (a professional network for scientists)... it's a German based company that Benchmark invested in... Matt commented "it's a little like dating... You know pretty quickly"... when he went to coffee w/ the Researchgate CEO he wasn't planning on investing, but "I left the meeting saying "I'm going to invest in this company"" Bernd Hardes on "The next big thing": "I Have no clue, and if I did, I wouldn't tell you" ... I'm not trying to find the next big thing; I'm trying to male sure the next big thing finds me." CRV was the first institutional investor in Twitter, and it happened "almost by accident, with Odeo needing funding". " I thought it was a very interesting tool" said Bill Tai... but "none of us knew it was the phenomenon that it became." Matt cohler (an early Facebook employee): "One person saw how big Facebook could be, and that was Mark [Zukerberg]"... It was very rare and very special... Jan, as moderator: "Everyone says Facebook will kill foursquare... Why do you believe Facebook won't kill Twitter?" ... Bill Tai answering: "Facebook is the instantiation of your true network on the web, centered around photos... Twitter is a way to broadcast what is on your mind... Like microblogging... so they're very different' Matt Cohler: Facebook and MySpace are very different... In 2003 people who made social networks were very hesitant to ask users to put your real name... Linkedin was one of the first to do that... Facebook did the same thing... That little thing was very significant... On MySpace, you don't always know the person's real name... "One of the things I remember Mark saying early on was "we are not trying to keep Facebook cool... We are trying to make Facebook useful" ... [Facebook] took MySpace and made it useful. Bill Tai, on predicting the "next big thing": The web has become pervasive and is bringing out the authenticity in people - this is the difference between MySpace and Facebook - Facebook is the real person, MySpace is the "LA version"... The virtualization of yourself will overshoot the actual person... Lots of interesting things about what identity is... Question from audience: "Are Americans more open to "opening their kimono?" than Europeans?" Matt Cohler: At a high level, the while world is moving to openness... the legal environment in Europe around privacy and information sharing in Germany is very strict... Question from audience: "How important is operational experience to being a VC?": Matt Cohler - it's important ... There are various ways to do that... No right or wrong way to become a vc... "I don't know". Here's a video of the panel: