That Time Julius Caesar Was Kidnapped and Insisted His Captors Increase Their Ransom

Gee, talk about having a high opinion of yourself.

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By Gene Marks

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Sixteen years before Julius Caesar first became Consul of Rome and more than three decades before he declared himself "dictator for life," Julius Caesar was well on his way to becoming, well, Julius Caesar. Even as a 25-year-old man, he had more confidence than the typical person his age, or most people for that matter.

Want an example? A good one is that time he was kidnapped by pirates and was unhappy with the ransom they were asking for him. It's true.

As the historical site Britannica tells it, a band of Cilician pirates made the unfortunate decision to capture the young Caesar as he was travelling to study in Rhodes. Caesar, as you can imagine, wasn't exactly the best hostage. He bossed them around, made them be quiet when he wanted to sleep and forced them to listen to his speeches and poems. He also made fun of their illiteracy and always addressed them as if he were the commander and they were his subordinates.

"They took it as a joke from their overconfident, slightly nutty captive," Britannica recounts. Oh, and he also threatened to have them crucified after he was released.

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The pirates, apparently not knowing that they had in their hands the future ruler of the free world and likely fed up with his company, demanded a ransom of 20 talents (the equivalent of around $30 million depending on who you ask) for his return. That sounds like a lot of money in anyone's day. But for Caesar, it was simply not enough. He insisted that the ransom be raised to 50 talents, or about $70 million, and sent his entourage back to collect the cash.

Thirty-eight days later, the money appeared and the pirates were paid. After his release, the young Caesar raised a naval force (he held no office at the time), tracked down his former captors and had them ultimately crucified. Ah, the good old days.

But this isn't just a story about kidnapping, pirates, poems and crucification. It's about confidence. And self-worth. And knowing your value in the market. Caesar became Caesar for many reasons, but these two factors were, in my opinion, among the most predominant — as they are with any business leader.

What makes today's entrepreneurs take risks, gamble their life savings and press forward with their ideas regardless of the resistance? What drives successful sales and marketing executives to sell their products at prices higher than their competitors or celebrities to demand speaking and acting fees for many times more than others?

It's the same reason why we charge our clients $175 per hour for our services when some of our competitors charge less. We're not perfect, and we make our mistakes, but we also know what we're worth. We know that people have paid these rates before. We know that you get for what you pay for. And when our clients hire us, we are confident that they are hiring the best. And if they don't hire us, we track them down and crucify them. OK, just kidding about that. But yeah, the thought's crossed my mind.

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So go ahead, exercise that little bit of Caesar inside you. Set your prices not just on your costs, but on your value in the marketplace, and then set them at the higher end. If you're worth it and if you believe you're worth it, people will buy.

Gene Marks

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

President of The Marks Group

Gene Marks is a CPA and owner of The Marks Group PC, a ten-person technology and financial consulting firm located near Philadelphia founded in 1994.

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