After Philip II of Macedon invaded Greece, dozens of key city-states submitted to his conquest without putting up a fight — knowing that the Macedonian army would destroy their lands, kill their sons, and rape their women if they didn’t surrender before the fight began.
They were promised life and peace if they submitted and sent yearly tribute to the empire. To spare their people destruction, the leaders wisely pledged their loyalty to the invading king.
All of them except Sparta.
Sparta refused to submit. There was no discussion. No persuading. No compromise. No nothing.
The enraged invader sent a warning to the Spartan leaders: “Surrender. If I conquer your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.”
To which the Spartans replied with a single word: “If”.
Neither Philip II nor his son Alexander the Great ever attempted to capture the city.
The “if” mattered.
It was what Sparta brought to the fight. That “if” was the same spirit of conquest and effort that had empowered Leonidas and his 300 warriors 150 years earlier.
When Leonidas was in charge of guarding the narrow mountain pass at Thermopylae with just a few hundred Spartan fighters in order to delay the invading Persian army, Xerxes offered to spare his men if they gave up their arms.
To which Leonidas replied “Molon labe” — which means “Come and take them”.
They refused to take the easy choice.
History tells us that those 300 Spartans would take to their grave some 200,000 Persian enemy warriors.
Against overwhelming odds and unbelievable opposition, ordinary people armed with a belief in a mission bigger than themselves drew a line in the sand. They decided what was worth living for. What was worth fighting for. What was worth dying for.
It wasn’t bravado that convinced King Philip II to back down. It wasn’t loud words or angry threats. It was quiet resolve. Fearless determination. Unbreakable belief.
The Spartans probably would have lost.
The strength and size of the Macedonian army was insurmountable. Eventually the Spartans would have been crushed. But it might have cost the King most of his army — the lives of millions of Macedonian soldiers.
The Spartans’ resolve. Their belief about greatness. Their humility and unshakable courage is what made the difference.
What’s your “if”? What are you willing to fight for? What are you willing to do to get to where you want to be? What are you willing to do without?
It’s not about being loud, arrogant, brash, cold, or belligerent.
Success is about wanting more for yourself more than you are willing to take the easy path.
What’s that for you?
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