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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Life Cycles And Hannibal Barca and Scipio Africanus - Part Two

We last left our two mortal enemies waging their own separate campaigns to adapt to the new status quo following on from the momentous Battle of Cannae. Hannibal was slowly becoming a diminished presence outside of Rome, as the Romans did not engage him in a full-scale war.  He wanted to make a statement, that he could still get the Roman army to meet him in battle and turn things around. Meanwhile Scipio was gaining kudos by becoming a Quaestor (junior Magistrate), but upsetting some Senators because of his young age. They were both headstrong and ambitious you see and neither had fulfilled his true potential. So, we have now journeyed to the time of their shared lives when they were both in, what I call, important adult Years of Revolution (according to Life Cycles theory the first year of every 12 year cycle can be marked by the beginning of a new age/direction set to last for many years). Scipio became 24 most probably in the latter part of 212 BC and included a large part of 211 BC, whilst Hannibal was in his very important age of 36 at the same time.

It is interesting that even though they didn't meet in battle (that would come much later), their lives were even more inextricably linked by separate events, which determined the shape of their whole futures. Firstly let's take Hannibal. He had been using the ancient (and second most important after Rome) city of Capua (16 miles north of modern day Naples) as his winter headquarters. It has been reported that his men had become used to a lifestyle of soft living there and weren't as tough as they used to be.  Whenever they were in the countryside for a period, Roman tactics were to march up to the vicinity of the city walls, wherein Hannibal was alerted and came straight back to defend home base. He decided that he needed a tactic that would copy this with Rome.  He would instead lay a siege causing the Roman army outside Capua to come back to defend it and so meet them in the open.  

These two scenarios played out in the exact period of study (212 BC-211 BC).  In 212 BC the recent attempt by the Roman forces to march on Capua resulted in the two groups meeting in the Battle of Herdonia. This resulted in the loss of 16,000 Roman soldiers, so it was back to the drawing boards for the Roman generals. In the summer of 211 BC Hannibal was busy in the south of Italia and so the Romans were ready to try again, banking on taking Capua before he could return. Hannibal feared that if he approached Capua the Romans would simply withdraw, as they had done numerous times, only to return and lay siege when he had left. He tried to break this pattern by marching on Rome itself, laying siege and hoping the Roman army would return so he could meet them in open battle and win. Once again, things were in the balance during this time - the very time that most probably correlates with his being in his age 36 Year of Revolution (late 212 BC-late 211 BC). 

Roman Forces At The Battle Of Capua 

So he camped outside the Roman city walls for the first and only time in his life. This, however, was not on his terms. Not a true siege, for he lacked effective weapons and supplies for a lengthy encounter and planned it only as a feint. Not nearly the same as it would have been after the devastating Battle of Cannae, with the Roman army decimated. In 216 BC, with or without siege weapons, he would have created wholesale panic and exerted much psychological pressure. Now some five years later it was reported that Roman Patricians, far from being frightened, were openly selling the land he occupied for real estate purposes. Can you imagine this? They were making a mockery of him. One thing the last five years had taught them and that was resolve and patience to wait this warrior out. Word of his ineffective siege got back to the besiegers of Capua and they simply continued. On hearing this Hannibal had to retreat back to the south and Capua fell to the Roman forces soon after (shown in the drawing above).

So, for Hannibal, his central and often life and career-defining age of 36, did not contain a magnificent victory, only a humiliating defeat and with it the loss of much prestige throughout the whole region. Cities that had defected to him after Cannae, were switching back their allegiance to Rome. He no longer had Capua as his home base and the Romans knew that from this point onwards, they had the upper hand. He would now be the one pursued, rather than the pursuer. This unfortunate turn of events was to set in train a pattern of repetition throughout the rest of his life. He would continue to be persecuted by Rome, in one form or another, till his death many years later.

Now let's switch to Scipio. His age 24 Year of Revolution contained a major setback, that preceded a bold endeavour, which defined the rest of his life. His was the veritable definition of Life Cycles Theory in action. Firstly tragedy struck his family in 211 BC when both his father Publius Scipio and his uncle Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus were killed in battle in Hispania (Spain) by Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal. At the election of a new Proconsul, for a new army to be sent to Spain, only one candidate put himself forward to the Senate for consideration - Scipio. The reason for this was because it was regarded as a virtual death sentence by others, but Scipio wanted to avenge his family's honour even more than the risks incurred. Again, in spite of his youth, his demeanour and enthusiastic language made so great an impression that he was elected unanimously. So, his crowning achievement was to become a General and a Proconsul and to go after Hannibal's family who were responsible for the death's of his father and uncle. This was to be stage one in his personal war with Hannibal. Not a showdown just yet, more a platform to begin his ultimate quest.

Scipio Was Elected Proconsul and General of the Roman Army in Hispania

Can you see for yourselves how Scipio and Hannibal were so similar they were almost the same? Hannibal's father died in battle at Rome's hands, giving him a lifelong mission to avenge this and now Scipio's father had died in battle at Carthage's hands, giving him his lifelong quest. Now to another well recorded moment early in his campaign in Hispania. Because of arguments between the commanders of the three Carthage armies in the region, Scipio was able to make a surprise landing near Carthago Nova (New Carthage), the Carthaginian headquarters, and take it by surprise (still within 211 BC). So already, just at the beginning of his campaign, the tide was turning in his favour. Because of his humanitarian acts towards his prisoners, it caused the locals to perceive Romans as their liberators not their oppressors.

This is exemplified by his release of a beautiful woman who was betrothed to a Celtiberian Chieftain named Allucius. She was returned to him along with the money that had been offered by her parents to ransom her. Allucius soon married her and, in turn, brought his tribe over to support the Roman armies. This event was the subject of a famous painting by Nicholas Poussin called The Continence Of Scipio. It is shown to you below. 

The Continence Of Scipio

Let's summarise now and show the pivotal, but quite opposite, nature of events in each man's shared Year of Revolution. 
At 36 Hannibal suffered a humiliating defeat and loss of prestige within enemy territory (ie. Italia). This led on to other losses and banishments.
At 24 Scipio lost his father in battle, but got himself promoted to Proconsul in Spain and had a surprise victory. This was to lead on to a final victory and further promotion and fame. The victory resulted in gaining much prestige in enemy territory by his humanitarian acts. 
The essence of this is that for a second time each man had his fate sealed decisively in their shared Year of Revolution. I would still contend that though they did not meet in battle, each man was sealing the mutual fate of the other in separate arenas. Hannibal's loss of Capua meant the tables were turned and he was now a hunted man in Italia. There must have been a sense of unease, that one day in the not too distant future, he would have to decide whether to return to Carthage. Meanwhile Scipio's surprise capture of Carthaginian headquarters in Spain, meant that he was now on his way to drive them back to Africa and then go after his real target - Hannibal.

I'm done now and I won't use this main blog for any further parts of this fascinating story, but if you leave me a positive comment I will do a final post on this. I can almost hear some readers saying :- "...but you can't leave it at this! I want to know how it ended!" Of course you do and it involved a history-making meeting between these two great warriors. What did they have to say to each other? How did the final battle proceed? Yes, it's all a wonderful true story, so stay tuned.

Next month I am going to do a unique analysis of one of the most controversial world leaders of the 20th. Century. I am going to use Life Cycles Theory to delve into some unusual aspects of this very well known event and include a Life Cycles Families element, as well as another 'sworn enemies' encounter. I know you will enjoy it. Till then :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune".

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Life Cycles and Hannibal Barca and Scipio Africanus - Part One


This is a 2-part post featuring one of the most famous duos in all of military and ancient history:- Hannibal Barca and his nemesis Scipio Africanus. It will be told in terms of two of the most celebrated father-son pairings as well:- Hannibal and his father Hamilcar along with Scipio Africanus and his father Pubilius Cornelius Scipio. As always, there is an added twist, because I will be using the unique Life Cycles method of analysis to focus on events in just some of their adult significant years (ie.19/24/31/36). Is this a theoretical challenge? Yes, it is by far the most complex set of interrelationships I have attempted. Why did I decide to try to link these two mortal enemies? The answer as always with me is Life Cycles. That's why I call what I do:- 'psycho-biography with a twist'.

So without further ado I'll explain how this link came about. I have previously featured the life of Hannibal Barca in both Books ONE and TWO, such is my fascination. I planned to just feature him and his illustrious father Hamilcar (you must admit they are very impressive-sounding names). Then I accidentally noticed a coincidence, that both Hannibal and Scipio Africanus are said to have died in the same year (bit like I did with Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama). I also remembered a key fact from a BBC documentary on Hannibal (I have watched several and read extensively). When Hannibal laid siege to Rome in his only failed attempt, Scipio was said to have been 24 and my best approximation is that this took place in Hannibal's 36th year. Then it hit me! These two warriors were Confluent and that means their mutual fates were sealed together.


Now let's wind back the clock to when a young Hannibal begged his father to let him accompany him on his campaign in modern-day Spain. His father is reported to have held him close to a burning fire and make him swear to:- "never be a friend of Rome". Hamilcar had experienced the bitterness of defeat by Rome in the First Punic War and set about raising an army to strike back, which he did successfully. However, most probably in 228 BC, he died in battle. When surrounded by enemy troops he was said to have thrown himself into the Jucar River in Spain. His unyielding hatred of Rome, however, was already deep in Hannibal's veins. This traumatic moment is very likely to have occurred within young Hannibal's age 19 Year of Broken Pathways.

Let's now move forward to the first year of shared destiny for Hannibal and Scipio :- the year 216 BC, which was when Hannibal was in his age 31 Year of Broken Pathways and a 12 years-younger Scipio was only in his age 19 Year of Broken Pathways. This was the year of the momentous Battle of Cannae - Rome's most catastrophic defeat and one of the bloodiest battles in all of human history. Much had happened to Hannibal by this time. He had become, like his father, a military commander and when the leader of the Carthaginian army, his brother-in-law Hasdrubal the Fair, was assassinated in 221 BC, Hannibal took over. I'll mention a quote by the Roman historian Livy, regarding his appointment at the time :-
"No sooner had he arrived...the old soldiers fancied they saw Hamilcar in his youth given back to them; the same bright look; the same fire in his eye, the same trick of countenance and features. Never was one and the same spirit more skillful to meet opposition, to obey, or to command..."
So Hannibal was his father incarnate. He was going to be the one who finished his father's business by attacking and destroying Rome itself, in what is known as the Second Punic War. Let's switch now to the upbringing of young Scipio. He was born into one of Rome's most distinguished families, with a record of service in the highest offices stretching back to the early Roman Republic. His father was a noted military commander and Scipio joined him in the army at a young age, before the start of the Second Punic War. Unbelievably he was said to have made a similar vow to his father:- "that he would continue the struggle against Carthage all his life."


In short he was Patrician (ie. a member of Rome's ruling class) to his bootstraps and was also the son of a famed military father, who had vowed lifelong vengeance on his sworn enemy. I mean, never a greater similarity of two monumental rivals. Let's now pick up the threads of when Hannibal crossed the alps and arrived in what is modern northern Italy. Scipio's father led the force sent to intercept him. He was surprised to even be fighting Hannibal in this region, because he expected to face the Carthage army in Iberia (Spain). During what would become the start of the Second Punic War, at the Battle of Trebia in 218 BC, a young Scipio saved his father's life when he was wounded. He bravely rode back into the field of battle to rescue him, even though he was surrounded by enemy horsemen. So there is another shared pivotal moment  between father and son a young age for both men, which was a paramount feature of their lives, as well as their daring and bravery in battle. The overall Battle of Trebia, however, was decisively won by the Carthage army, echoing Hamilcar being surrounded by enemy troops, resulting in his death at his own hand.

More successful battles followed for Hannibal until the 'big kahuna' in the spring of 216 BC, when he seized the main supply depot for Rome at Cannae. The Romans dispatched a huge force in response, but by using brilliant tactics, he managed to totally defeat the much larger Roman army, resulting in estimates of 50-70,000 Romans killed or taken prisoner. It was Rome's most humiliating defeat and it took place in one day. This also affected young Scipio directly, as his future father-in-law died in the battle. Somehow though, Scipio survived this total bloodbath, as well as all the prior battles and of course this only intensified his desire to prevail over the Carthage army.

One of the most often debated topics between both academics and history buffs in general is whether Hannibal should have taken advantage of Rome's weakened state and immediately laid siege to the city. The consensus seems to be that he wouldn't have been successful (he lacked effective siege weapons, his soldiers were exhausted and not ready to attack and he was expecting a Roman surrender anyway), but there are always those (like myself), who think it possible even without directly launching an attack ie. just by massing an impressive army outside the walls to instill fear and panic. If successful this would have forever changed European history. Hannibal decided to go against the advice of his head of cavalry (which was to attack Rome) and took the second city of Capua (modern day Naples, who along with some other regional areas had defected to him) as a base instead. He then continued to ravage the countryside relatively unchecked for the next several years, as the Roman tactics were not to face him in a major battle. Instead they used guerrilla tactics of skirmishes and pursuing a 'scorched earth' policy (ie. burning farms and any sources of food), resulting in a strategic stalemate.


If you are well versed in Roman history you may know some or all of this. However here's what you probably don't know!
According to legend, after the disastrous Battle of Cannae, and on hearing that Lucius Caecilius Metellus and other politicians were at the point of surrendering Rome to Hannibal and the Carthaginians, Scipio and his supporters stormed into the meeting, and at sword-point he forced all present to swear that they would continue in faithful service to Rome. Fortunately, the Roman Senate was of like mind and refused to entertain thoughts of peace, despite the great losses Rome had taken in the war: approximately one-fifth of the men of military age had died within a few years of Hannibal's invasion."
So it may have boiled down to a simple matter of a battle of wills in the end. If this was true (and I suspect it might be), then Hannibal never even knew what an opportunity he missed. His bitter rival however, 19 year-old Scipio (think about his nerve for his age), knew exactly what Hannibal could potentially do and sealed his fate with his daring actions. Never a better illustration of Confluence between close rivals, in this case resulting in their mutual fates being settled in their combined Years of Broken Pathway.

Curiously I am reminded of this very phenomenon, when I did an extensive analysis on the similarities between bitter rivals Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington (born in the same year), as well as political rivals Abraham Lincoln and General John J Hardin (born in the same year. See my post ). But this is by the way.

Hannibal and Scipio, both had their challenges made manifest in their combined Year of Broken Pathways, so let's conclude Part One by asking what did the ensuing years of their uphill journeys have to hold? The theory says that your path gets altered and it usually involves some type of personal challenge that requires effort on your part to come to terms with. These challenges can be both positive and negative, depending on how things went beforehand. The lives of Scipio and Hannibal perfectly illustrate this point, which is just so textbook Life Cycles, I'll now spell it out.

1. Firstly for Hannibal it involved several years of frustration, following his momentous victory at Cannae. He never faced the Roman military in a major battle again and he was stymied by their failure to surrender and their brush warfare tactics. It caused one commentator to say :- "Hannibal you know how to gain a victory, but you do not know how to use one." His army were progressively weakened by all this and he pursued relatively small campaigns.

2. Secondly for young Scipio it meant several years of struggle to obtain the post of quaestor (the most junior magistrate role, but there was an age requirement of being 25 years). It was regarded as the first step in the so-called "cursus honorum" (path of honour). In 213 BC, in spite of opposition by the tribunes he was elected unopposed, because of his record of bravery and patriotism.

Now this builds up to their next combined significant year when Scipio would be at his age 24 Year of Revolution at the same time as Hannibal was at his important and often career-defining age 36 Year of Revolution. What is going to happen to them both that will markedly affect their futures? That will, in a sense again mutually "seal their fates"? Can you see the wonderful intricacy of Life Cycles, as it builds all this from only three basic theoretical concepts? Strange but true, I am the first and only person in all of history to make these observations and you, dear reader, are among the first to see them unveiled.

But enough of this self-congratulatory rhetoric. You really want to know what happens next don't you? Well I promise to deliver you a great story, but you'll have to read it in Part Two, because I'm done now........

                                                           END PART ONE

NB. My birth data is based on a consensus of historians, who place Hannibal's year of birth as either 248 or 247 BC. They also place Scipio's year of birth as 236 or 235 BC. There was almost certainly a degree of overlap between the periods covering their first 12 months of life, which provides the basis of Confluence. Judging by the incredible series of coincidences between their lives, I suspect this period of overlap to have be a good proportion of a total possible period of 12 months (ie. if they were born on the same day).

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama and Life Cycles

Omar and Faten - They Had It All And Lost It Within 7 Years

Recently the much-loved famous Hollywood actor and world-class bridge player, Omar Sharif, died at the age of 83 from Alzheimer's Disease. This is something I only became aware of through a Facebook comment, because I was travelling and not keeping up with the news. So this whole tribute article is an excellent example of a blind analysis. I didn't select the subject and I had no prior knowledge of his life - save the usual Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago movies and the fact he was a very good bridge player. I might add that neither movie lines up exactly with a Life Cycles significant year, so I have to really examine what did happen in some of his main adult significant years (like 24/31/36 etc.) to see what I get.

One of the chief pieces of information came to me quite late and that is the death of his one and only wife Faten Hamama, at the same age, earlier this year. He has described her as :- "his one true love". Although they officially divorced in 1974, they had been living apart for around a decade beforehand. Omar was not just separated from his 'one true love' by his own actions either, he was also separated from his beloved country of birth, Egypt, for most of his life (although he did spend some of his time there when his son settled in 2003). He largely lived out of hotels in wherever his latest movie was being shot. He was an international upmarket nomad if you will and has expressed his loneliness at this existence many times. Others have also commented that his roles often portray him as a "stranger in a strange land", so art imitates life again.

Let's examine both Omar (or Michel Chalhoub, which was his birth name) and Faten together, because their lives were inextricably linked, whether they spent most of it apart or not. Michel Chalhoub was born 10th April, 1932 in Alexandria, to a Melkite Greek Catholic family of Lebanese descent (so he was a mixture of influences even at birth). Faten Hamama was born 27th May, 1931 to a lower-class Muslim family in Mansoura, Egypt, though she claimed to have been born in better circumstances in Cairo. She was determined to become an actress when just a child and indeed appeared in her first movie role at the age of 8, becoming known as "Egypt's Shirley Temple". In Life Cycles terms they were Confluent for around 6 weeks (not really a large time, but then again it applied in every significant year).

They met in 1954 when Michel was selected for a part in the movie that would launch his career - Struggle In The Valley. By then Faten was a big star in Egypt and though she was married at the time, she agreed to share an on-screen kiss with Michel, who became known as Omar Sharif. This spilled over into real life and they fell in love and she managed to initiate an amicable divorce from her older husband. She was a very strong, independent woman, who later championed the rights of Muslim women to do this. Omar, in turn, agreed to convert to Islam. This was in 1955, so within Faten's age 24 Year of Revolution (May 1955 to May 1956). This was a moment of personal triumph for her, one of defying conventions. At this time she would have "had it all".

Then in Omar's age 24 Year of Revolution (April 1956 to April 1957) Faten became pregnant and their only child Tarek was born in March, 1957. Thus Omar is also Confluent with his only son for around the same amount of time as he is with his wife. At this time he would have "had it all" :- he had married Egypt's biggest star and they were called the Arab film industry's equivalent of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. They co-starred in movies and in this year they made a thriller Dark Waters (poster is shown above), which has been rated in one poll as the best Egyptian movie ever made. He now had a son and a very bright future. We all know, that with the benefit of hindsight, he was to become an even bigger star in Hollywood, but that was almost by default and it was 7 years away. Once again the unbroken journey of forward momentum for 7 years is displayed.

Now we move on to Faten's age 31 Year of Broken Pathways (May 1962 to May 1963). Just before this time she had starred in The River of Love (1961), her last movie with Sharif and the end of their on-screen partnership. Times were also changing for the worse in Egypt from Faten's point of view. There was a new initiative by President Nasser in 1962, to introduce Soviet-style socialism and this would come to include travel restrictions outside of Egypt. It would impact on her freedom to attend international film festivals and also meant a repression of Muslim women to initiate divorce. However these were insignificant issues compared to Omar's sudden and unexpected offer of a leading role in the movie Lawrence of Arabia. Director David Lean ostensibly picked out his photo, because his liquid brown eyes would contrast well against Peter O'Toole's very blue eyes. Already a major star in the Middle East he was cast as Lawrence's guide, but after many other stars pulled out or were unsuitable, he was offered the starring role as Sherif Ali. Lawrence was shot during 1962 and released at the end of Dec.

Omar's age 31 Year of Broken Pathways (April 1963 to April 1964) really coincided with the enormous critical and box office success of Lawrence. He was to go on to receive an Academy Award nomination and two Golden Globe Awards. He became, in this year, literally the toast of Hollywood as a new actor and offers began to roll in, along with a hoard of female admirers of this fascinating Arabian Sheik-style leading man. He was also affected by the Government-imposed travel restrictions and to a much larger extent than Faten was. He couldn't really work in Hollywood and visit Egypt in between and Faten wanted to continue her career in the Egyptian film industry, so they basically came adrift at this point.

I'm going to interject here and ask the obvious :- "Could things have turned out differently or was this separation inevitable?" Omar is on the record as saying :- " Maybe if I hadn't made Lawrence I would have gone on living in Cairo and had five children and lots of grandchildren" Well yes, maybe this is so. Also, maybe if Faten was not quite so independent-minded she could have followed him to Hollywood and worked at carving out her own international career. Also Omar was by his own admission drawn to the girls like a bee to honey and now there were ample leading ladies only too willing to share an on-screen (and off-screen as well) kiss with him, starting in 1964 with Ingrid Bergman in the movie The Yellow Rolls Royce. He soon admitted as much to an enquiring Faten saying that he :- "meets all these beautiful girls, actresses and other women.....and that he might fall in love with one of them at any moment". Well you've got to give him points for honesty I guess, but the marriage survived in name only until a divorce in 1974.

Once again we're left with the residual friendship side on Confluence and a life-long bond through their son (who had a small part in Zhivago). Now on to their own defining age 36 Years of Revolution, that had a similar theme - to live life by your own standards regardless of what government policy or religious convention might have to say. Firstly to Faten (May 1967 to May 1968). In the national setback following the Six Day War with Israel in June, 1967, Faten was asked to co-operate with Egyptian Intelligence Services and she refused resulting in her maintaining a self-imposed exile from her country. Despite President Nasser trying to get her to return and calling her a "national treasure"; she stayed away till the year following his death in 1971. She divided her time between London and Beirut. Isn't this ironic?! I mean if it would have happened a couple of years earlier then maybe Omar would have seen sense and returned to her.

She also championed the rights of Muslim women to initiate divorce and other related human rights causes, resulting some 7 years later in her breakthrough movie - I Need A Solution. From his side however, Omar's age 36 Year of Revolution (April 1968 to April 1969), was all about defying religious convention and causing a storm of criticism in the Arab world. It should be noted that he always felt deeply about religious and racial equality and harmony, not unnaturally since he was an ethnic Lebanese Christian, who had become a Muslim and in turn held no enmity towards Jewish people.

In 1968 the movie Funny Girl was released. He co-starred with Barbara Streisand and it attracted much negative publicity as she was Jewish and he kissed her on-screen (and fell in love with her off-screen as shown above). The Egyptian Government immediately condemned the film and it was banned in many Arab countries. Omar himself was unrepentant saying that he saw nothing wrong with any of it. He was as much a rebel against orthodoxy as Faten was, albeit in a different way. However, this placed a wedge firmly between him and his homeland. His own form of patriotic redemption was shown through his other great love - the game of bridge. He was a world class player and in 1968, even though he was living in France, he wanted to take part in the Bridge Olympiad as Captain of the Egyptian team. The Government refused to sponsor the team in France, so Sharif put up his own money to pay for their accommodation and living expenses. It was his personal contribution to his country, as well as a high point in his bridge career.

Omar has often echoed sentiments that argue for an inclusive view of religious differences and this was in turn imparted to his son Tarek, who in 1983, whilst doing a Uni course in Toronto, had a relationship with a Jewish fellow student, as a result of which Omar's grandson - Omar Sharif Jr.- was born. Omar Jr. was not only named after his famous grandfather, but he has become an actor and has recently admitted publicly that he is gay as well as half-Jewish (although this is just a label as you can't really be half of a religion).

Can you see how Omar and Faten were very similar in their attitudes and outlook? Had Omar not 'fallen for the lure of a Hollywood career' they could well have had five children and many grandchildren and fought their progressive causes together. Had Omar not lived a lonely life abroad (even though outwardly glamorous), they could have remained close friends in Egypt, no matter if they divorced or not. Omar did not find another satisfying long term relationship and Faten remained his 'one true love'. I hope you enjoyed this tribute article, which became by accident another case of the influence of Confluence in Families. Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."

Friday, July 3, 2015

The GOOGLE Story - Life Cycles and the Wojcicki Family


(sung to the tune of “The Brady Bunch”)

"This is a story, about a man called Larry,

Good buddy Sergey and a little com-pan-y,

Known as Google, which began in a garage,

Owned by Susan of the Wo-jit-ski{sic} fam-il-y,

Then others, flocked to join them,

And you knew it would be much more than a hunch,

That one day they’d become successful,

And that’s how they all became the Google Bunch"

This is the most ambitious series of linked posts I have yet attempted. I will link all 3 blogs to tell The GOOGLE Story, from a Life Cycles - Families perspective. This main blog will tell the story of Susan Wojcicki (pronounced Wo-jit-ski) and the massive contribution she made to the fledgling Google company. My SECOND BLOG will then tell the story of her sister Anne and her marriage to Sergey Brin and her own interesting career. Thus the theme of these two posts will be that they were sisters, within the high-achieving Wojcicki family.

Then my THIRD BLOG will feature a Life Cycles Confluence analysis of founders Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Susan and Anne. Does this sound ambitious? It sure does to me. (N.B. If the three terms used in core Life Cycles theory - Year of Revolution/Year of Broken Pathways and Confluence sound like a foreign language to you please read THIS.)


Did you know that Google actually began life in a garage in Menlo Park in September 1998. This was thanks to a very fortuitous set of circumstances for the house owner - one Susan Wojcicki and her husband Dennis Troper. She was born 5th July, 1968 into a family of academics from the Silicon Valley area and she planned on joining them as she graduated with honours in History and Literature from Harvard in 1990.

When she was in her age 24 Year of Revolution (Jul.1992-Jul.1993) she completed a Masters in Science and Economics and has reflected that the newly discovered breakthrough called the World Wide Web (see my post on Tim Berners-Lee for evidence of the time period match) opened her eyes to a whole new range of possibilities :- "No one in my family had ever worked in business beforehand.....I realized, oh, I can make things, I can sell things, I can have influence. And then when the Internet came out, you could reach people all over the world. I mean, that was just amazing." This was also around the period when she worked for a time at Educational software firm MagicQuest, which resulted in her getting bitten by the tech bug.

She went on to complete an MBA in 1998 and had also worked for top consulting firm Bain & Co. and at this time for Intel in a junior role. She and Dennis had just purchased a new home in Menlo Park (which she describes as humble) and were expecting their first child when they rented their garage to two Stanford students for $1,700 a month to help with the mortgage.

She tells of a parade of venture capitalists and journalists, who made their way to the fledgling company through Susan's living room and eating late night pizzas and M&M's with Sergey and Larry, where they talked of how their technology will change the world. Within a year (in other words at or very close to her age 31 Year of Broken Pathways (Jul.1999-Jul.2000)) she joined them to become the company's first marketing manager and Google employee No.16.

Talk about a veritable year of challenge (which is the definition of a Broken Pathways Year). She began with an office, but no staff and no budget :- "We had no marketing budget, but I was supposed to market the company -- by myself," she recalled. "It was a little overwhelming." However Susan was not to go on to be called 'The Most Important Person in Advertising' for nothing. Let's add another verse to 'the Brady Bunch' theme music..........
"Then Susan said to Larry and Sergey,

You’ve created all this wonderful geeky stuff,

But if I can, make us a decent profit,

Then we can go public and make a bundle soon enough….."

Her first task was finding office space for Google after moving out of the garage. Her early duties included refining the original Google logo designed by Brin and the overall spare look of the Google home page. She came up with the first of Google's "doodles." In addition she also contributed to the development of 'Google Images' and 'Google Books'. However her next big idea really hit pay dirt. In 2003, she came up with her multimillion-dollar brainstorm: AdSense.

AdSense is an extension of a program Google had successfully launched in 2002, called AdWords. AdWords offers advertisers sponsored search ads, those little text ads that appear near search results. Advertisers have to pay only if the ads get clicked. Wojcicki's suggestion:-"Why not offer these same ads all over the Web, on blogs and websites? Entice Web 'publishers' to participate by giving them a portion of the ad revenue. In other words, every time someone clicks on an ad on your site, you get a check."

Both these initiatives were a runaway smash from the first and it has been estimated that in the early days they produced nearly all (as much as 98%) of Google's income. Was it a mere co-incidence that later in 2003 Sergey and Larry didn't proceed with an offer to merge with Microsoft, but that in August, 2004 they went public with around 20 million shares at $85.00 each giving a market capitalisation of $23 billion?

Even today Adwords/Adsense is the second leading profit generator for the company. Do you wonder why she is called 'The Most Important Person at Google You've Never Heard Of.' But insiders know her worth without question. She has well and truly earned her title as 'The Most Important Person In Advertising'. All this coming from a surprisingly low key and pleasant person, who has been raising four children throughout this whole era, and places motherhood on an equal footing with her career.

But what was next for Susan? You see in Life Cycles terms she would soon be at her all important and often career-defining age 36 Year of Revolution (Jul.2005-Jul.2006). You know (or at least you do now) that this is still the most important concept in Life Cycles Theory. What began it all. So, yet again I put myself to the test. Now I am a 'bush poet' by nature, so I'm going to add another verse to my 'Brady Bunch' song

"Then Larry and Sergey said to Susan,

Use your magic on this video thing we have,

But when she said, no buy You Tube for a bundle,

Others thought the deal could go completely bad…."

In early 2005 Google launched a new product known as Google Videos with modest goals of letting users watch material from a library of archived TV content. This was managed by John Piscitello. However, recognising that this new approach was languishing, Larry and Sergey decided towards the end of the year (in other words right smack in the middle of Susan's 36th year) to bring in their chief revenue producer to see what she could do with this new initiative. Almost from the start Susan says she was easily outgunned by a rival start-up company known as You Tube :- "I saw some of their numbers and I just realized how much bigger they were than we were and even if it doesn't look good for you at that moment, you have to make the decision that it's not really about you but what's the right long-term thing for the company."

So she decided to champion the acquisition of her main rival in what was to prove to be Google's most expensive foray at the time. The founders wanted $1.65 billion as well as continued involvement and reasonable autonomy. The deal was negotiated in Sept. 2006, so just outside her age 36 year by 2 months, but it would be safe to say that nearly all of the spadework had been completed within her 36th year. You know, Life Cycles is not science, but on this occasion it's awfully close. Has this breakthrough acquisition gone on to define much of Susan's career? Well I'm told, when I read bio-summary articles, that she is known for Google and You Tube. However since 2006 You Tube has become her personal baby, and she has gone on to become senior Vice President and now Head of You Tube in 2014. I think there's little room for debate about her age 36 Year of Revolution coming to define her career and life.

Another element that I study in Life Cycles is what I call a 'period of controversy' that tends to happen before the breakthrough moment. Did controversy play a part in this acquisition? Well many considered this a risky move by Google. Though Susan presented the financial model justifying this huge acquisition; You Tube was not making money at the time and was initially a huge money loser. There were also legal concerns, regarding piracy issues over some of the content, and it landed Google in a brutal legal fight with Viacom (who were also rivals over the purchase).

They charged that Google had knowingly benefited from pirated content. But slowly with a $3.1 billion purchase of DoubleClick in 2007 and other acquisitions, such as the AdMob mobile ad network, it has has begun to pay dividends. In 2013 analysts estimated You Tube's revenue at $5.6 billion. Typical of Susan though she currently feels that You Tube, her baby, can do even better. This is demonstrated by a comment from the CEO of Maker Studios (who work with You Tube to create improved content and revenue) :- "I don't think anything was broken, but I assume even Google and YouTube believe it can monetize better. This is something Susan is very focused on."

I can relate to this almost ceaseless quest for improvement. This constant analysis of how well we're doing. With my Life Cycles Research I am constantly trying to challenge myself with more complex and inter-related case examples and The GOOGLE Story is currently cutting-edge for me. I hope you enjoyed this whether you're into IT or not. Of course if you are, then it should hold extra interest. For some odd reason, I find myself drawn to the present and future orientation of the IT world. I have now analysed people such as Alan Turing, Bill Gates, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Jobs and now the Google pioneers. Of course I regard myself as belonging to the future more than the present and I suppose this accounts for it. Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."

Thursday, June 4, 2015

On The Money - Life Cycles and Floyd Mayweather Jn. and Sen.

Welcome to the second post in the Life Cycles and Families series. This time it's a father and son, who are not just part of one of the greatest boxing dynasties ever, but they are also a household name in the community generally. I think it'd be safe to say if you haven't heard the name Floyd 'Money' Mayweather then you've 'been living under a rock'! His most recent fight with Manny Pacquiao was watched by an estimated 300 million world-wide and had sports journalists asking :- "With his unbeaten record, does this make Mayweather the 'Greatest Boxer of All Time'?"

No question the Mayweather family generally is 'on the money' in terms of success. But in common terms I'd say they're a 'bunch of tearaways', with criminal convictions and family feuds, that have involved Floyd Sen., his brother Roger and of course, Floyd Jr., who is as big a tearaway as the rest of them. They're the original 'black sheep', who have used their boxing talent to drag themselves upwards and eventually reach great heights. We're here to examine some key events in their combined careers from a Life Cycles perspective.

The photo above is tagged as 'Big' Floyd and 'Little' Floyd, so let's begin with 'Big' Floyd. Mayweather Sen. was born 19 Oct. 1952. His boxing record was 28–6–1 (18 KOs), and he won the U.S. Championship Tournament in March, 1977 against Miguel Barreto and then lost to the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard in Sept. 1978 on a points decision. He was a flamboyant dresser, who recited poetry about and directly to his opponents. In 1978 his brother-in-law shot him in the leg during an argument (see full story at the side column). Like I said the Mayweathers are a wild bunch. After he gave away boxing he became even more famous as a trainer.

Let's get down to Life Cycles analysis. A lot of big events happened during his age 24 Year of Revolution (Oct. 1976 to Oct. 1977) like his career high point of the U.S. Belt. But this was one day to be eclipsed by the birth of his son 'Little' Floyd Mayweather on 24th Feb. 1977. This is auspicious in Life Cycles terms because it gives the bond of Confluence, being the shared period of 8 mths. between Feb. and Oct in their birthday to birthday years. It usually means a 'fated relationship'. This will also give us our mathematical equation for each 12 year period. There is a wonderful anecdote that says when 'Little' Floyd was just 7-8 months old he would mimic his father's hands in a boxing-like gesture. This caused 'Big' Floyd to say :- "I knew then that he'd be a boxer!"

When 'Little' Floyd was in his age 12 Year of Revolution (most of 1989) and 'Big' Floyd was in his age 36 Year of Revolution a significant thing happened. It is well recorded that in 1989, 'Little' Floyd changed his surname from his mother's family name of Sinclair to Mayweather, to proudly reflect his links to his father. In spite of (or maybe as a result of) his father's many beatings, 'Little' Floyd trained relentlessly in the gym and even though he said he "basically raised himself", he now wanted to become a Mayweather in name and blood. It was a telling decision - an attempt to bond with his father (notwithstanding that he made his money by selling drugs), and an excellent example of Confluence in action. At this time 'Big' Floyd was just about finished with his career as a boxer (he had only one more shambolic fight in 1990, which he lost), but his career as trainer for 'Little' Floyd was cranking up, as he would soon go on to have a successful amateur career.

Now we'll now progress to 'Big' Floyd's next age 48 Year of Revolution (Oct. 2000 to Oct. 2001). Remember that 'Little' Floyd's age 24 Year of Revolution (Feb. 2001 to Feb. 2002) included much of this period. By now Floyd Sen's training career was give or take in full swing. Of course he had taught his son how to box and use his famous defensive stance to advantage in the early days, but this was interrupted in 1993, when he was sent to prison for drug trafficking. His younger brother Roger (who won two World Titles) took over his position. In 1998 he returned as trainer and manager for his son's 14th pro fight, a second-round knockout of Sam Girard in February. The photo above was taken during this time in 1998.

Unfortunately in 2000 things turned really pear-shaped. In March (right before our Critical Period of Confluence), Floyd Jr. had a falling out with his father and fired him as trainer. He also evicted his father from a home that he owned and repossessed a car he was driving. They reportedly didn’t have a cordial conversation for nearly seven years. I've discussed before the downside of when those who share close Confluence have a falling-out. So when 'Big' Floyd was 48 he had to watch as brother Roger returned as his trainer and 'Little' Floyd's career went from strength to strength. He then assumed his age 48 new career direction by training one of 'Little' Floyd's greatest opponents - Oscar De La Hoya. This is the second key stage in the father-son relationship that correlates almost exactly with Life Cycles theory.

Finally we'll look in on the only other such period of time in their combined lives ie. when 'Big' Floyd was on his age 60 Year of Revolution (Oct. 2012 to Oct. 2013) and when 'Little Floyd' was in his age 36 Year of Revolution (Feb. 2013 to Feb. 2014). Again it is a matter of public record that in May 2013 (in the exact Period of Confluence) 'Big' Floyd again took over as the principal trainer of 'Little' Floyd. This was after a break of just over 12 years, during which he had been under the steady hand of Uncle Roger. This was not an easy decision to make and you can see for yourselves at the side column how this created angst for Roger in particular. However, it is an excellent first-hand account of the bond of Confluence in action. It didn't come out of thin air either. 'Big' Floyd got back on speaking terms with 'Little' Floyd when he didn't train De La Hoya in his 2007 fight with his son. Gradually things began to thaw, but there were two other factors in recent times. One was that Roger was suffering from diabetes and it affected his levels of energy and more telling was because 'Little' Floyd felt he got hit with too many shots against Miguel Cotto in his May 2012 fight and wanted his father’s help in slipping punches. Given that fights at the top level are usually spaced out, the decision rolled out 12 months later.

In summary this is how the father-son/'Big' Floyd-'Little' Floyd story played out in Life Cycles Families terms.

1. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was born as Floyd Sinclair when his fahter Floyd Mayweather Sen. was in his Age 24 Year of Revolution
2. When Floyd Jr. was 12 he legally changed his name to Mayweather, whilst Floyd Sen. who was in his age 36 Year of Revolution had all-but finished his boxing career and became the full-time trainer of Floyd Jr.
3. When Floyd Jr. was in his age 24 Year of Revolution he had just fired Floyd Sen. (who was in his age 48 Year of Revolution) and then switched to his uncle Roger , who had previously trained him when Floyd Sen. was in prison. Father and son had a major falling out and didn't speak for 7 years.
4. When Floyd Jr. was in his age 36 Year of Revolution he announced that his father (who was in his age 60 Year of Revolution) would resume as his trainer.

This is an almost copybook case study of how those who share the bond of Confluence and are closely related can have a fated relationship. I did this analysis not because I knew any of it, but because someone mentioned the fact that Floyd Jn. had been in jail and then resumed his career. That's all I had. It only came out when I started to write. Hope you enjoyed this slightly different post. Life Cycles Families will return next month with just about the biggest story in the world of IT - The Story Of Google-. Till then :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune".