10 Lessons Frank Miller’s 300 can teach you about Successful Online Business

It’s 3:00 am and I just finished watching 300 for the second time (this time in IMAX). I sit here struck by a moment of clarity. Frank Miller must be an online entrepreneur in his spare time because 300 is the perfect metaphor for online business. Now I know what you’re thinking, this guy has completely lost it, and to be honest, that might be not far from the truth :)

Nevertheless, here are 10 Lessons Frank Miller’s 300 can teach you about successful online business…

Know your surroundings, and choose the battleground that most suits your strengths
Just as King Leonidas chose the Hot Gates as the perfect location for Sparta’s stand against the Persians, the same methodology applies to deciding on the niche and hook for your new online enterprise. Do your research and pick an avenue where your skills will thrive and your competition will fall. Choose a plan of action that highlights your skills while taking away advantages of your predecessors. Just make sure you cover your back at the goat path! You never know who’s sneaking up behind you!

A handful of well trained soldiers can out-perform thousands of weak ones.
The Spartan 300 stood against the million Persians for days because they were strong, well trained, and powerful. The same holds true for sites in the online marketplace. A well done site, where the owner takes the time to build a community and support it with continuous, quality content, has the best chance for success, even against hundreds of sub par competitors. At the end of the day, any successful formula requires repeat business, and you can’t get repeat business if your soldiers died in battle!

A few good friends is better then an army of acquaintances.
The Spartan 300 drew their strength from their family of fellow soldiers on the battlefield. When it comes to online business, the temptation to work your way from one end of the web to the other begging for links is very high. Take the time to actually contribute to community sites like Digg, DigitalPoint, or even blogs you read every day. In the end, it will take you much farther by becoming a respected community member then a single comment that is never revisited ever could.

The gods aren’t always right, do what’s best for yourself, above all else.
King Leonidas knew that the Ephor were wrong when they advised him to stand down on the eve of battle. In online business, it is far too easy to read advice from people with sites that are more popular than yours and take it to heart. A lot of this advice is good but a lot of it is bad as well. Taking the wrong advice can cut you off from avenues that may be right for you, even if it wasn’t for the person who gave it. Always do what is best for yourself, and never be afraid to experiment. After all, the Gods were all in the same position as you at one point in time. Remember that!

Keep your skill set sharp, cause you never know when you might have to defend yourself.
At a moments notice, the Spartans were ready to march into battle, with no hesitation. The same applies to EVERY area of business. Never stop learning, experimenting, and improving yourself. The moment you drop your guard, is the same moment your opponents take away your land.

Never retreat, never surrender.
Even to the bitter end, King Leonidas and his 300 fought for Greece, never retreating and never surrendering. While it’s not so cut and dry in online business, in most cases this is great advice. A lot of people quit because it gets too tough to maintain their blog or too hard to keep the products up to date on their website. If you retreat, if you surrender, you’ll never know if a month or two more of hard work might have paid off. You’ll also never be a Spartan!

Constantly adapt to your changing situation, it’s the only way to survive.
When the Persians dispatched Rhinos, the Spartans adapted and prevailed. When they charged in with elephants, they adapted and once again came out the victor. The web marketplace is no different. Technology is CONSTANTLY changing. If you want to stand atop a mountain of defeated competitors, you have to stay on the bleeding edge of technological advances to ensure your ready to ride the new wave the second it arrives. A spear is fine and dandy, until your opponent charges in with Lasers!

Never be satisfied with your past accomplishments, it might just get you kicked down a bottomless pit.
When the Persian messenger delivered his ultimatum to King Leonidas, he was cocky and backed himself up by the past accomplishments of the Persian Empire. What did he get for that? A trip to the bottom of a bottomless pit! (is that even possible???). While success is great, always look to improve on what you’ve done and never underestimate your competitors. The Web 2.0 world moves so fast that one days champion can be another days failure in the blink of an eye. Don’t let your site get kicked into the pit. THIS IS SPARTA!!

Even a man-god can bleed.
King Leonidas proved that even the seemingly untouchable Xerxes was capable of bleeding after all. It is easy to look at the true juggernauts in a specific field and think it’s impossible to compete against someone of that size. No one is untouchable, and great ideas rule the world. Be innovative, be cutting edge, and most of all be fearless even in the face of god-like competition. The history of the Web is littered with stories of the little guy rising up to conquer the great Internet beasts, with nothing but a better idea to drive them. As King Leonidas showed his Spartans, not everyone who seems like a God really is one!

Even if you’re a hideous, misshapen troll, the right networking can get you riches and women.
Even in his hideously grotesque form, Ephialtes knew the value of networking. He made friends with Xerxes who ended up helping him to both riches and companionship. While you most certainly can use the web to find companionship through networking, from a business side networking can help you improve your income by leaps and bounds. If you make friends with other people in your niche, work on link exchanges and mutually beneficial collaborations, and actively contribute to sites with quality feedback and comments, there is no limit to the opportunities ahead of you. Know your strengths and know your weaknesses, and use networking to take advantage of both. If you can’t be successful in one route, look at others. Constantly keep your best interests at the forefront of your decision making process.

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48 thoughts on “10 Lessons Frank Miller’s 300 can teach you about Successful Online Business”

  1. Haha, great article. I loved that movie and you could probably compare almost any epic battle movie with unrelenting soldiers to online business.

    It is, after all, the new milleniums digital battlefield :)

  2. LOL, I didn’t steal anything, I wrote this myself. I think that is pretty obvious by the poor grammar and tons of typos! :)

  3. This article is stupid. It should be the 10 lessons the Battle of Thermopylae can teach you about online business. Frank Miller did nothing but tell a story about a true historical event.

  4. “This article is stupid. It should be the 10 lessons the Battle of Thermopylae can teach you about online business. Frank Miller did nothing but tell a story about a true historical event.”

    It’s not about whether or not Frank Miller’s rendition of 300 was any better/worse than the actual battle, it’s about the LESSONS. Regardless of who told you, a good lesson is a good lesson, just like you need to learn a lesson in manners.

  5. That is probably true Phin, but if you’ll notice a lot of my points were dealing with events in the movie (and comic) which I can almost guarantee were there for style and story rather than historical accuracy. I think the title suits the content, it would have been a totally different article if I used the history of the Battle of Thermopylae instead…

  6. If I had the time and interest, I could probably repudiate every one of these points. But I don’t, so here’s the easy ones:

    As regards #2 and #3 in 1870, the large, conscript-based German army, armed faced the smaller, highly professional French army, which wielded vastly superior rifles (though they were outclassed in artillery). The French were beaten decisively.

    As regards #6, in 1941, the very large, poorly led, poorly equipped Russian army retreated almost continuously for 18 months before a smaller, highly professional, superbly equipped German army. We all know how that worked out for the Germans. Let me add that the mere phrase “never retreat” is one of the dumbest ever to make it’s way into the lexicon. Most armies that never retreat never make it home.

    So I offer an eleventh lesson: shallow analyses of shallow films don’t make for good advice.

  7. Crack, those are good points but more criticisms of the ideals in the movie not of the article. The article is not 10 Lessons you can learn to make you a better soldier or army.

    The article is very tongue in cheek. It’s not meant to be the new rules of acquisition or guide to daily business. It is mostly just an opinion piece meant for a laugh and a few interesting comparisons.

  8. Well, technically they don’t lose. The first 300 do, but the movie leaves you with the impression that their efforts opened the door for the rest of the army to come in and clean house. :)

  9. Good article. Good points. Frank Miller did do a good job, however, most of the points you make are based on events that actually happened, as they most likely happened (Not to get too technical).

  10. This article is a good example of why digg sucks. Getting to the top is as simple as writing a basic article based on a weak connection to a popular film.

  11. Nice article mate but as mentioned by others the story is based on actual events and is not fiction. So, Frank Miller should get no credit… Also have a read of Sun Tzu ‘The art of war’, Machiaveli’s ‘The Prince’ and The Mafia Manager to see how they relate to businesses… And to finish off war requires a strategy, so does business and companies are always in a battle with other companies…

  12. Some people take this stuff way too literally. It’s obvious the author wasn’t trying to write a business manifesto of any kind. When I first read this I took it as a joke, which I think is what it was intended to be.

    Some people just have no sense of humor…

  13. add this:
    “Never let fiction hide the truth, it can be a costly mistake
    Just like 300, the truth can be marred by fancy and often unnecessary fictionalized renditions of the truth. A good business stays away from this by getting to the truth, rather then relying on 3rd party arm-chair historian’s renditions of the truth.”

  14. It doesn’t matter if the article is wrong or historically this or that or whatever, #4 covers all of that.

    Very good article and nice analysis.

  15. In the spirit of always doing what is best for yourself, and never being afraid to experiment – well here are a few Frank Miller books that no doubt contain a treasure trove of info for online businesses. 😉

    Always Watch Out For What’s Behind Door Number Three (from Sin City)

  16. It’s worth pointing out that Ephialtes, in the graphic novel, threw himself off a cliff when all the Spartans died because he felt bad for what he had done.

  17. sadly your assumption that the spartans were ready to fight on a moment’s notice is bogus. classical times were not an analogue for our modern 24 hour world. often weeks or months could pass between decisive historical intervals. the spartans were known to place holidays higher than politics – in the film, some bogus “edict from the gods” apparently ties leonidas’s hands…in reality to spartans as a whole were comfortable to celebrate holidays instead of fight. the spartans were also loathe to vacate their territory to fight lest their slaves revolt.

    some more accurate “lessons” from sparta:

    1. enslave your neighbors, work them to death, once a year go to war against them even after they have been brought into spartan society as helots. talk about “theory x” management!

    2. shun heterosexuality where possible save procreation.

    3. obliterate the individual in society.

    4. be almost entirely reactive in your foreign policy

    5. avoid naval confrontations where athen will mop the floor with you

  18. Thanks for all the comments everyone. I think a lot of you who read the article took it much more serious then I originally meant it to be. I had no intention for it to be anything more then a light hearted comparison with a tie in to a recent movie. It was by no means an expert commentary on how to win a war or an expose on the real life Spartans or the Battle of Thermopylae. That’s why the title refers directly to Frank Miller’s 300 and not the historical events his graphic novel was based on…

    Brad: It’s true that Ephialtes throws himself off a cliff, but if I remember correctly he survives the fall and then the rest plays out pretty much identical to the movie with him betraying the Spartans.

  19. “The Spartans believed that the love of an older, accomplished aristocrat for an adolescent boy was essential to his formation as a free citizen. The education of the ruling class was thus founded on pederastic relationships, required of each citizen. The ephors fined any eligible man who did not love a boy, because, despite his own excellence, he failed to make a beloved “similar to himself.” Likewise, for a boy it was a disgrace to not find a lover. By the time they reached the age of twelve “there was not any of the more hopeful boys who did not have a lover to bear him company.”

    http://mainstreamiowan.blogspot.com/2007/03/separating-fact-from-fiction-about.html

  20. What I admire most of the blogosphere is how people watch a film based on a cartoon and take it as all the tomes of historical evidence ever written to expel articles filled up with cliches. Jesus dude, they all die in the end, you moron.

  21. I think you must be aware of these ten lesson because business is not made in Hollywood and these ten lessons will make you a legend not a microsoft 😉

  22. I think instead of having “Never Retreat”, a more appropriate one to tie in with business and the movie would be “Remind Yourself of Your Longterm Goals and Be in it for the Long-Run”. In the movie, King Leonidas kept reminding his company of Sparta’s values and how they could lose their homeland.

    Now, if you tie this in with business it suits a lot better. It helps avoid chasing your losses and it reminds us that we need to keep atop our strategic focus.

  23. The points you make are both good parallels and humorous in and of themselves. Frank Miller’s novel is a bunch of bull, however. It is very amusing how people say it is “a true story” like it is an accurate historical accounting. In fact, Leonides had roughly an army of 6000 (not 300) who faced an army of a little over 10,000 (not a million, even by Rosie O’Donnells poor counting skills). The original fight began when the Grecians invaded the Persian territory and burned a major city. Burning Athens was meant to be payback.
    I also noticed the bigotry that was ingrained into the movie. Spartans were these plucky, Chippindale dancers with Dores and Xiphos to look like the mighty soldiers. They were rough and tumble but had pearly white straight teeth that would have made any mordern day orthodontist proud. The Persians were portrayed as minorities (the African that was thrown down the well), freaks and monsters, and the very sexually confused eunuchoid cross-dresser that was supposed to be Emperor Xerxes. The obvious disdain for the Persian people was oozing from the screen.
    As a fantasy movie, it was amusing. Historic? I think not.
    Internet parallels–I can buy that–afterall, a lot about the Internet is to be taken with a grain of salt:)

  24. I think I agree with the article, I liked #4 especially. We have to constantly challenge authorize, and constantly question ourselves if we are doing the right thing.

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