Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State. Philip II of Macedon inherited a weak country but moulded his army into a formidable and efficient force. He used warfare to secure his kingdom before instigating a conquest of Greece. After his death, the empire was passed onto his son Alexander the Great who ruled over a military campaign that created one of the largest empires of the ancient world.

William Shakespeare and Marcus Aurelius (the great stoic philosopher and emperor) have more in common than you might think. They share a recorded birth-date, with Shakespeare baptised on 26 April 1564, and Marcus Aurelius born on 26 April 161 (Shakespeare’s actual birth date remains unknown, although he was baptised on 26 April 1564. His birth is traditionally observed and celebrated on 23 April, Saint George’s Day).

Born in New York in 1825, Darius Ogden Mills was asked a series of questions on success after 50 years as a leading banker, investor and philanthropist.

Frederick Wellington Ruckstuhl was one of America’s leading sculptors, but it was not until he was 32 years old that he started that particular profession. Born in France, he and his family moved to St. Louis when he was a young boy. Between the ages of 14 and 19 he worked in a photography shop. He spent the rest of his time reading relentlessly and writing poems. He then began studying philosophy, which he continued for a decade. During this time, he also wrote for a newspaper but still did not know his calling.

Born into a poor family, John Wanamaker started work at the age of seven, helping his father in a brickyard. After his father passed away when he was 14, John went to work at a bookstore in Philadelphia and all the money he saved went to his mother. John was exceptional as a boy when it came to studying and business and soon got a job at the Town Hall clothing store. He was always the first one to arrive each day and often the last one to leave.

The world is a complex place we call home. The more you understand yourself and your environment – what you excel in, what you enjoy and what the world needs – the closer you get to living a life with purpose. Learning is the essential first step that can be followed by thinking and then doing. Learning allows us to acquire knowledge which over time turns into wisdom. Leaning gives us an advantage in the world over others. The process of learning should not stop after formal education. As Leonardo Da Vinci said “Learning never exhausts the mind.”.

Jacob Gould Schurman was a self-made-man whose career began at ten years of age working for his father on the family farm on Prince Edward Island in what is now Canada. Unlike many self-made-men, Schurman decided success to him was increasing his intellect rather than increasing his wealth and his aspirations enabled him to become a University President and a United States diplomat.

In 1893, Mary Proctor gave her first talk on astronomy. She had her doubts as to whether she would interest the audience but she overcame those doubts by testing herself and doing it anyway. She went on to do over 400 lectures. What are her secrets to success when talking to an audience?

Philip Danforth Armour began life growing up on a farm in New York. His parents were of Scottish and English ancestry and he was brought up in a strict sense. His father had plenty of work for him on the farm, while his mother made sure he stayed in school. In 1849 at the age of 17, Armour was still working on the farm when he began to hear tales of the Californian Gold Rush. He and a friend decided to travel across the country in search of this different work. They took the railroad as far as it would take them and walked the rest.

Miss Helen Gould lived in a large country house overlooking the Hudson River. Despite being wealthy and upper class you would not know from her appearance as she wore simple clothes, not over-dressed but elegant. Gould had a modest but ambitious character. Her ambition was to leave an impression on the world by way of doing good deeds. Her name is associated with charity throughout the United States.