Gladiator: What We Can Learn from The General Maximus

Gladiator is one of my favorite “hoo-rah” movies ever.

You know, the movies that inspire you to climb mountains and punch things, like Braveheart, 300, or Garfield 2: A Tail of Two Kitties.  Now, although it wasn’t exactly “historically accurate” and had its share of inconsistencies, Gladiator is a fantastic film that has inspired me to push harder, fight for what I want, and live a better life.

If you haven’t seen it before (shame on you), or you haven’t seen it in a while, get caught up by watching this trailer/tribute, and then come on back.

Ready? Good.  Let’s take a look at who the general Maximus is, and why he’s the man.

(It’ll help if you’re listening to this while you read.)

He played the hand he’s dealt

Up until things fell apart, Maximus Decimus Meridius was the highest ranking general in the Roman army. He won one decisive victory after another while expanding the empire.  Then in a few short days, he was stripped of his title, his family was brutally murdered, and he was sold into slavery far away from anything and everything he’d ever loved.

Imagine if at this point in the movie, Maximus turned to his fellow slaves and spent the last hour of the movie complaining about his bad luck: “I don’t deserve this, I’m not supposed to be here,” or “If only things were different, my life would be better,” or “why do they get to be free and I have to fight for my life?”  Or even worse, what if he just sat there and started crying?


Fortunately for us movie-goers, Maximus played the hand he was dealt to the best of his ability.  This is the story of “a general who became a slave.  A slave who became a gladiator.  A gladiator who defied an emperor.”  He lost his family, his job, and everything else; however, he understood that sh** happens to good people, and his ONLY option was to make the best of his situation… so he fought in gladiator battles, earned the support of the crowd, and worked his way up to fight in the Colosseum.

What we can learn: Stop feeling sorry for yourself and start doing something about it!  Some of us are tall, some are short, some are athletic, some are clumsy, some are fat, some are skinny, some are good looking, some are ugly.  That’s life.  You might have a slow metabolism while your friends can get away with eating whatever they want.  Tough sh**.  Your family wasn’t murdered and you weren’t sold into slavery, either – you just have to worry about eating better and exercising more!  Play the hand you’re dealt, and play it without complaining.

Rule #1 of the Rebellion: We don’t care where you came from, only where you’re going.

He understood the importance of teamwork

After winning a number of solo victories in the the “minor leagues,” Maximus earned a trip to Rome to fight in the major leagues, the Colosseum. In his first battle, a recreation of the fall of Carthage, Maximus was on the team whose only job was to die.  Thankfully, Maximus understood the importance of teamwork and quickly took command of the other slaves by unifying them.  As they waited for the battle to begin, Maximus told his fellow gladiators:

“Whatever comes out of these gates, we’ve got a better chance of survival if we work together.”

Sure enough, through the power of teamwork Maximus and his merry band of slaves were able to defeat the the other, far-better equipped gladiators on horseback and chariots.  VICTORY.

What we can learn: You don’t need to do everything alone, and you don’t need to struggle with weight loss or an unhealthy lifestyle alone.  There are thousands and thousands of people out there like you after the same goal – a better life.  If you don’t have a support group at home with your friends or family, find one at work or online.  Find somebody to have daily conversations with about your successes, failures, triumphs, and struggles.  Ask questions, give advice, offer support.

We are an army of rebels at Nerd Fitness, and we know that we have a better chance of survival if we work together.

He had motivation up the wazzoo

Maximus was one pissed off dude. His wife and child were murdered, he was left for dead, and then sold into slavery.  Suck.  Because of this, he spent the rest of his life working towards exacting revenge upon the Emperor Commodus, the man who ruined his life.  After a major victory in the arena, Maximus had the opportunity to meet Commodus and delivered one of the greatest speeches in movie history.  I still get chills down my spine every time I watch it:

My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.

Boom. If I was a gambling man (WHICH I TOTALLY AM), I would have bet my life savings right then and there that Maximus would succeed.  He had a single cause that guided his every move – every battle that was won, every decision that was made, every word that was spoken, and every action that was taken had “avenge my family and take down Emperor Commodus” behind it.

He wanted vengeance, and he wanted it bad.

He got it.

What we can learn: Every single decision you make every day takes you one step closer to your goals or one step further away.  It’s your decision to eat McDonalds instead of bringing in your own lunch, it’s your decision to sit on the couch for another half hour of crappy TV instead of getting in a quick workout.  Every single decision you make, no matter how miniscule, either takes you closer or further away from what you want out of life.

The strength of your desire to succeed will determine how you will make these decisions.  If you kinda want something, you won’t be willing to make many sacrifices and will probably give up at the first road block.  However, if you want to succeed more than anything else in the world, you’ll run through walls to get there.  You’ll do whatever it takes.

I get at least one  email a day from a reader asking me to give them the motivation to get in shape. Unfortunately, I can’t provide motivation, only inspiration through my articles and actions.  You need to decide what you want in your life, and the desire to get what you want has to come from within YOU.  My friend Saint spent two years without any true motivation to succeed, so he never didt; then, back in January – he found that desire within himself to want to be better…and now he is the most driven person on this planet.

People ask me all the time how I stay motivated.  Here it is:

He valued his legacy

Early in the movie, Maximus addressed his soldiers before riding with them into battle, delivering one of my favorite lines ever:

“Brothers, what we do in life echoes in eternity.”

Maximus valued his legacy.  He understood that the actions he took and the decisions he made during his life could have far greater consequences after he passed away.  He fought in battles and conquered civilizations because he believed the rest of the world was “brutal and cruel and dark. Rome [was] the light.”

Maximus made decision based on how they would affect people around him, and would affect the lives of generations to come.

What we can learn: What do you want your legacy to be?  What do you want to be known for?  You certainly don’t need to have aspirations of world domination or becoming the most famous _____________ in history (though it’s awesome if you do), but I would encourage you to think about how you are perceived by your friends and family now, and how you’ll be perceived after you’re gone.  Ask yourself: “Am I making a positive impact on the people that I interact with, or am I dragging them down?”

  • If you are overweight and extremely unhealthy, how will your children know how to behave any differently?
  • If you constantly complain to your friends about everything, how will you be perceived as anything other than a defeated pessimist?
  • If you have a dead-end job that you hate and do nothing about it, how will your children ever realize its okay to follow their dreams?

Your legacy doesn’t need to be world changing, but it should be life-altering for the people that you love and care about.  It’s your obligation as a reader of this site to live a better life; it’s your obligation to encourage and inspire your friends and family to do the same.

What’s your echo?

I am driven to succeed because I know that what I do today will echo in eternity. I exercise and eat well to be an example to those around me.  I want to be known as the guy who helped people all over the world live better lives.  I hope that Nerd Fitness will eventually allow me to spend more time helping those that cannot help themselves.    I want to have a positive impact on every single person that I meet.  I know that I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, so I look at every single day as a blessing – as long as I’m doing what I love, I’m inspiring those around me to live better, and I do my best to leave this world a better place than when I got here, I can leave with no regrets.

I ask you now, brother or sister, what are you doing in life that will echo in eternity?



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