Five Ways to Make History

Last week we revealed the six greatest jobs in the world, jobs that provide wealth, satisfaction, power and fame. However, it’s possible to be successful on all these counts yet somehow fail to make your mark on world history. So, ever mindful of the determination that marks out regular visitors to, we want to help you become a historical figure.

If you take on board the examples below, it’s just a short hop to eternal acclaim and a permanent place in posterity. Do it right and people will erect statues to you in every public place while speaking reverently of your name and deeds in hushed tones. You will be the talk of the inns and bazaars of your capital. Whole libraries will chronicle your achievements. These are all good things! Advance, hero!

Belligerent Military Dictator

Job requirements and experience

  • Indefatigable willpower
  • Sufficient personal charisma to lead entire nations into war
  • Willingness to use and sanction the use of violence
  • Political ruthlessness
  • Precedents

    Adolf Hitler
     – The evil dictator’s evil dictator. Hitler succeeded in occupying most of Europe after a few weeks of blitzkrieg warfare, a new strategy that relied on the effective use of tanks, aircraft and radio. However, the Nazi occupied zone, which spanned from the North Sea to the Russian Steppes, collapsed completely only five years later. This didn’t make Hitler any friends and it’s certain that his wholly negative effect on world history (as many as 50 million people died during WWII) will mean that he is talked about for centuries to come.

    Someone destined for even greater longevity is Temujen or ‘Genghis Khan’ (Emperor of all Emperors). He secured his place in history by conquering two thirds of the known world (from Hungary to Korea) between 1206 and 1227. That’s not bad going and all before lunch. The compound bow used by his army was advanced technology at the time. It allowed his men to fight effectively as they thundered across the desolate steppes on horseback. Temujin’s dynasty continued to rule until 1368 when the Ming crew took over. His name lives on and he even made it onto the silver screen in ‘Bill and Ted’s Big Adventure’, a feat even Hitler could not match.


    Infamy and absolute power are the rewards here. People will quake at your name and secretly wish you dead. Can you handle that?

    Interplanetary Explorer

    Job requirements and experience

  • Must be an astronaut
  • Courage
  • Commitment to an intensive programme of training
  • Stamina for long-haul space travel
  • Prepared to leave loved ones behind, perhaps forever
  • Precedents

    The Moon isn’t officially a planet, but after nearly 32 years, Neil Armstrong is still famous across the globe. Despite keeping a surprisingly low profile since returning from the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, everyone knows he was the first man to set foot on Earth’s lifeless satellite. He claims to be a typical ‘nerdy engineer’ and to not have had a dream about wandering about on the moon, despite the mind-blowing nature of the experience. Maybe his mind was indeed blown clean away. Either that, or he’s a bit of a cold hearted bugger. It seems it was just another day at the office for Armstrong. He would however volunteer for a trip to Mars…


    OK, so Neil Armstrong is world famous, the first person to set foot on the firm ground outside of this planet. But the real glory will go to the as yet unidentified person who sets foot on Mars sometime in the next two decades. He or she is probably alive right now. This landmark in the development of our species will only to be surpassed by the first human to land on a planet outside of this solar system. Who knows, we might see both achievements in our lifetime…

    Revolutionary Inventor

    Job description

  • This job is apparently 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, therefore a tendency to sweat profusely is desirable
  • Mad technical skills
  • Marketing savvy – your invention won’t make you any money sitting in your workshop, unless it’s a money printing machine, of course
  • Precedents

    Thomas Alva Edison comes to mind. In his long career as an inventor, he came up with 1093 inventions including the electric vote recorder (so we have him to thank for George Bush), the universal stock ticker, the foundations of wireless telegraphy, the phonograph (a primitive sound recording device), electrical switchgear and fittings, the motion picture camera and numerous military innovations.

    One of his rivals at the time was Nikola Tesla and it was his method of transmitting electricity, the alternating current (AC), which most profoundly electrified the world. If you need to measure magnetic flux density, then you’ll need to do so in teslas. Having a scientific unit named after you means you’re definitely doing well.

    Then there is a whole legion of nameless, faceless individuals who could claim to be the first to stumble upon such innovations as fire, butter, bread, beer and writing. It’s likely that these were all discovered by accident or developed piece by piece. History does not relate. However, you can imagine that individual discoveries in each field made the inventor enormously popular and relatively famous at the time.


    In January, there was an example of the massive fame and prestige that awaits a successful inventor. In this case, it was merely the expectation of a revolutionary advanced technology that caught the public imagination. ran a story on a book advance paid to Dean Kamen, an inventor from New Hampshire, who has a reputation for developing clever medical technologies. The insulin pump, heart stent and a highly advanced wheelchair all sprang forth from his mind.

    The book apparently contains details and testimonial regarding a mysterious invention known as ‘Ginger’ or ‘IT’ that would, according to those who had seen prototypes, revolutionise the world. Between honks of laughter, Jeff Bezos, CEO of allegedly claimed it is “a product so revolutionary, you’ll have no problem selling it”. Steve Jobs, the computing visionary behind Apple Macintosh, also made great claims for the technology, according to leaks from the book. Within days, Dean Kamen became world famous, the epicentre of a hypequake, and all on the back of a rumour he has since distanced himself from. The invention will be unveiled next year…

    Artistic Genius

    Job description

  • Produce masterpieces in as many media as possible, or excel in at least one.
  • Painting, sculpture and music may guarantee maximum longevity.
  • Precedents
    Everyone has heard of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Salvador Dali, Picasso and Van GoghMozart, Beethoven and Bach remain world famous musicians; Elvis and The Beatles will leave lasting legacies. Shakespeare has remained popular for over 400 years.


    Acknowledgement of artistic genius is more dependent on prevailing cultural trends than our other examples. Neil Armstrong was American, but the sheer novelty and prominence of his achievement assured instant world fame and a place in the history books. Although some would argue that Shakespeare made a uniquely great contribution to the English language, that his work has universal appeal could be disputed.

    The market for works of art and fashion plays a major role when cultures decide to elevate certain individuals to the status of artistic genius. Historical standing is not the whole story. Van Gogh owes much of his recent fame to the enormous price paid for some of his paintings in the 1980s (Sunflowers went for $25 million). The Beatles may be the most successful pop band of all time, but this is only beyond dispute in commercial terms. The music of Mozart, Bach, etc remains the music of a self-appointed, intellectual elite – people in a position to design from above which cultural artefacts, whether music, literature or visual art, possess more artistic quality than others.

    So, in this area where taste and marketing matter so much, there are a number of good routes to becoming eternally famous. Pop musicians should aim for the lowest common denominator and maximum exposure, they should be epoch-defining; Fine artists should attempt to give birth to a whole new branch of culture single-handedly, or to gain patronage from the Establishment. Success means earning a place in the culture of a large part of the human race while successfully fending off the critics and copycats for generations. This sounds difficult, but artistic creativity offers the opportunity to succeed in so many different ways.

    The Random Factor

    Job description

  • Just do your thing in a certain place at a certain time and allow circumstances to do the rest
  • Precedents
    The world is still convulsing from the actions of Gavril Princip. On 28 June 1914, he walked out of a sandwich shop in Sarajevo to find Archduke Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of the Hapsburg Empire, sitting in a car with his wife. His driver had taken a wrong turn in the confusion following an attempt to bomb his car. Princip happened to be there because he had become peckish while waiting for his six co-conspirators to kill the Archduke.

    Seeing his chance, Princip jumped up onto the car and fired two shots at close range, killing the Archduke and his wife. Within a month, after irresistible diplomatic tension and in an era where combat meant glory, the First World War started. This conflict precipitated the Russian Revolution, the Second World War and, ultimately, the Cold War. It’s likely that no other teenager has had such an impact on world history.

    A more positive example of the Random Factor at work happened during another lunch break forty years later when Richard Feynman, a brilliant young physicist, visited the canteen at Cornell University. Someone at another table was just ‘goofing around and threw a plate into the air. Feynman noticed that the college emblem rotated twice as fast as the airborne wobbling plate it was printed on. This sparked an idea in his fertile mind about the wobbles in the orbit of electrons and whether or not they are similar – a train of thought that eventually lead to the reformulation of quantum physics, an achievement which won him a Nobel prize in 1965.


    No real Prestige, but perhaps the greatest influence of all. Your everyday actions or something you do on a whim could initiate the most enormous chain of events without you ever knowing or intending the result. Gavril Princip died in prison, from tuberculosis, four years after he stepped out of the sandwich shop; the unknown guy in the canteen may be organising Greek weddings somewhere. Perhaps by doing next to nothing you’ll have a greater effect on history than if you consciously try.

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