A Tragic Lesson on Change from a War Hero Who Had It All

by Karl Rohde — Get free updates of new posts here. Photo Credit: Karl Rohde


If the name Pizarro rings a bell it's for good reason. The Pizarro’s were a band of brothers attributed with the conquering of Peru in 1530. They were conquistadors of the highest order: ruthlessness, narcissism, cruelty, ambition, greed, rampant brutality and corruption. Under the banner of Christianity and the servitude of the King Charles V of Spain these entrepreneurial warlords achieved remarkable things for their monarchy albeit at an immeasurable cost to the Incas and Amazonian rainforest Indians.

Of note was the youngest of the Pizarro brothers, Gonzalo. For his service and tributes to the king he was rewarded with governorship of Quito, Peru - effectively he was an emperor with vast sums of wealth. This however was not enough for his greedy heart.

After a failed attempt to find the fabled city of gold, Eldorado, at the cost of some 4000 slaves 2000 war dogs and 500 horses and near death for himself, Gonzalo was in lust for more. Much of his power and hubris was attributed to the incessant exploitation and slavery of the local Indians. This was about to change. New laws were introduced around 1545 to protect the indigenous peoples and give them some liberties as subjects of the Spanish empire. Many of the conquistadors living in Peru were against these laws since they could no longer exploit the natives.

It would have been so easy for Gonzalo Pizarro to acquiesce to these laws, considering his wealth and hero status, for conquering Peru. Alas, he saw these laws as a violation to his perceived entitlement to be assimilated with emperors. In light of his wealth and status, his response to these new laws was perplexing. Instead of adapting he chose to preserve the old ways and declare a rebellion against the king of Spain. What arrogance. After many a skirmish Gonzalo was eventually captured and beheaded and declared a traitor and a heretic forever shaming the once great Pizarro family name.

Change as we are often told is constant. Despite the consistency of change it’s fascinating to observe that for the majority of us change is a challenge. In light of this take stock and realise for some, namely Gonzalo Pizarro, it was so overwhelming that full scale war was the only perceived response.

The lesson however is that we can only adapt to change. Resistance is futile as the saying goes. I recall the advice from David Taylor, author of the Naked Leader, who said the best way to deal with impending change is to act like it's already here.

If only Gonzalo had applied the council of the Roman philosopher king, Marcus Aurelius, whose writings he would have had access to:

“Adapt yourself to the things among which your lot has been cast and love sincerely the fellow creatures with whom destiny has ordained that you shall live.”

As you deal with change in your day perhaps cast a thought on how you might adapt.

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