Business Eye: Learning from the Romans

Alex Pratt
Alex Pratt

If you are lucky enough to work in a job that affords you chances to travel you will likely fall into one of two distinct camps.

Some pack a full case with their predilections and a fixed mind set.

You’ll recognise yourself if you walk the streets repelling all incoming contact in the certain fear that everyone wants to rip you off.

Others travel light, with space in their mental suitcases to bring home new ideas and still squeeze under the Ryanair baggage limit.

Ideas are light where our fears are heavy.

Last week I was lucky enough to travel to Rome for the first time and came home so much richer for it.

The buildings, piazzas and fountains are simply beyond compare.

I was awe-struck at the sight of so many colossal ancient structures, so beautiful to gaze upon, so grand and so still-standing after two thousand years.

I dare anyone to be unimpressed by the huge life-like charging roman chariots that sit atop the National Museum. Wow. Setting the current day hustle and bustle against the remnants of the power house of the Roman Empire, immediately puts pay to the fashionable view that the gap between rich and poor is getting wider.

It is nothing close to what it once was. Indeed, it struck me that it has been the very pursuit of a wider gap that has powered so much human progress. Rome will remind you of this, if you let it.

Here at home we have descended into the black hole of believing that the chase to the comfortable middle is the desirable course and that it is somehow vulgar to fight to set yourself apart by becoming truly outstanding.

Yet, for thousands of years it has been the aspiration and ambition of man to excel that has powered all progress and brought us all so many shared benefits.

In the 20th Century we led the world. We could do so again if we were prepared to believe in ourselves once more.

I could not help but notice how modern day Romans take such pride and care in their appearance.

They strut the streets with a bold air of self-confidence and a strong sense of ambition; no tracksuits and trainers in sight.

The streets are packed with specialist shops and restaurants; a picture so different to that which we have allowed ourselves to become.

Compare this to what counts as progress here; a new Nandos.

Somehow, I don’t think Caesar would be that impressed.