Creative Destruction: Or why Genghis Khan wouldn’t tolerate your friends


Likes: Twinkies, siege warfare. Source: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

There’s a concept in economics called Creative Destruction. Basically, the idea is that when things stagnate in a country – often economically – it takes massive disruption of the existing order to improve things and promote growth. Think of it like a forest where the trees are so densely packed together that no sun reaches through the upper branches, and everything on the floor starts to rot – until a fire or other disaster clears some space, and things can start to grow again.


This works in other areas, although it’s often not very pleasant. Genghis Khan, for instance, is credited with bringing huge swathes of Asia into one political system, allowing increased trade and communication between the West and East. He did that by destroying the stagnant, tribe-run system that was preventing progress – but on a more basic level, he did it by catapulting palm trees into besieged cities, using captives as human shields and being indirectly responsible for the deaths of at least 10 million people. Historians argue about his influence, but you can’t deny that he was a bit of a shit.


The good news is, you don’t have to go that far. The bad news is that if things are stagnant, rotten or otherwise not working properly in your life, you’re going to need to wreak some Creative Destruction to fix it.


How? Here’s one way. Dozens of coaches, thinkers, business leaders and thinkers will tell you that you’re the sum of the five people you spend the most time around. If they’re proactive, healthy, kickass people who get things done: great. If they aren’t, you might be in trouble. When you embark on any sort of lifestyle change, some people are bound to try and hold you back – they’ll ask why you’re wasting your time at the gym, why you can’t go for beers every night, or why you’re spending all your time writing/reading/training instead of being up for all-day Call Of Duty marathons like you used to. They might even tell you that you’ve ‘changed.’


You might have to destroy these people. Not literally: I can’t stress that enough. But if they won’t change, or stop criticising you for trying to make changes, then at the very least you need to spend less time with them. If they’re relentless, you might need to cut them out of your friendship circle altogether. Because if the path you’re on is the right one (and hopefully you’ve done some research, so you think it is) – then they aren’t your friends for trying to keep you away from it. Catapult them out of your life, and make room for growth.


HOMEWORK: Write down the names of the five people you socialise with the most. Decide whether they help you, or hold you back. Act accordingly. And listen to Dan Carlin’s Wrath Of Khan podcast – it’ll make the most ruthless thing you can possibly do seem pretty tame.

About the author


Editor and creator of Live Hard. Fighting enthusiast, steak lover and aficionado of all things self-improvement related.


  • “but you can’t deny that he was a bit of a shit.” this part of the above text is really offensive! Who wrote this article, seriously try to criticise Genghis Khan after making some descent texts. It is true that Genghis Khan massacared many people but he did it to only the ones who resisted him. On the other hand, he was lenient, and generous to the ones who accepted him as a leader. He promoted freedom of religion, trade, and equality withing his Empire. He also had significant contribution to creating modern day world. By connecting East with West he created a brdige where culture, technology, and ideas were shared. As a result, we saw the import of gunpowder from China to Europe and cultural progress in Europe. Then the eventual entrance to renaissance in Europe. We actually owe him alot. In case of me, I am Mongolian, he is like a god king for every Mongolian. So if you dare try to say Genghis Khan was a bit of a shit when you are Mongolia and see what happens!!!!

  • And also i advice you to take a look at your life and your accomplishments before criticizing a famous historical figure

  • Hi Erkhemsaikhan, and thanks for the reply, it’s always nice to get feedback. You probably know more about Genghis Khan than me, since I’ve only recently got into learning about him. And I do agree that he had a pivotal role in a lot of the things you mention. But I’d question whether he was actually *intending* to do any of those things, rather than just consolidating his power. And from what I understand, ‘resisting’ the Khan essentially meant ‘not immediately accepting him as leader and handing over all your food and wealth.’

    But fair points, like I say. I’ll actually be putting up a post next week about the importance of considering other points of view. Hope you keep reading, I’d like to go to Mongolia some time.

  • You clearly have a non biased opinion of him being Mongolian and all. But no, you are right, what are the lives of 10,20, some say up to 70 million people in the face of obvious progress, I’m guessing those he killed wouldn’t agree. Hitler killed less people and his actions led to formation of the European Union and the freedom of trade and people, however that only happened 70 years ago not 700.

  • Returning to the personal growth issue, this is a difficult truth, evaluating the usefulness of those around you. They are what you are used to and you don’t want to hurt feelings. For me, when someone makes me uncomfortable for being me, I naturally back away. I think Quark was right, “There is no profit in making enemies.” Backing away is more gradual or gentle than amputation. If this meets with aggression, well, amputation may be kinder to everyone.

    This all requires great self-knowledge. If we’re lucky, we are around people who help us realize our gifts and allow us to try things, get passionate, and grow.

    I’ve just begun reading Danny Gregory’s The Creative License. I suspect he would absolutely agree with you on the evaluation of those around you. Thanks for adding to his message!

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