No matter what you think of Genghis Khan, his legend lives on to this day. His military prowess can not be denied. He took the steppe tribes of modern-day Mongolia and turned them into a fighting force that was unbeatable in their time. Jack Weatherford’s Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World tells both sides of his story: good and evil. But whether you hate or love Genghis Khan, the final advice he tried to impart to his sons is worth following.
According to Weatherford, when Genghis Khan reached his 60s, he realized he had not well-equipped his four middle-aged sons to rule the Mongol empire after his death. He had spent so much time conquering and fighting that his sons lacked the leadership skills and wisdom to rule as Genghis Khan did. So, Genghis Khan scrambled to pass down lessons to his sons in his final years, but was he in time to ensure the future of the Mongols?
Genghis Khan’s Sons
Genghis Khan had four sons with his primary wife, Borte Khatun: Jochi, Chaghatai, Ogodei, and Tolui. However, his wife Borte had been kidnapped before her first pregnancy, and paternity questions surrounded Jochi’s birth.
According to Weatherford, Genghis Khan’s sons were loud and often argued with each other. Even though Genghis Khan accepted Jochi as his son, Jochi’s three youngest brothers never considered him legitimate. Jochi died six months before Genghis Khan, so he never had to live without his father or fight for his inheritance.
But, two years later, there was finally a kurultai, or meeting of chiefs called, where Ogodei was elected as Great Khan. After that, Changhatai went to the southwestern part of the kingdom and ruled there.
Each son impacted the kingdom, but their reigns were relatively short. They imbibed excessive alcohol consumption or had hot tempers and started to stray from how Genghis Khan lived. The fracturing of the Mongol Empire would begin one generation later.
Genghis Khan’s Life Advice
Managing and expanding the Mongol Empire had taken much of Genghis Khan’s time and effort, giving him little time to prepare for his sons to rule after his death.
- Simplicity & Moderation
According to Weatherford, Genghis Khan wanted his sons to live a simple life as he did. He wanted them to avoid becoming materialistic and frivolous. He wanted them to practice moderation in everything because he feared overindulgence would make them forget their vision and purpose, leading to loss.
- Self-Control & Humility
Genghis Khan thought self-control and swallowing one’s pride were the essential qualities of a leader. However, overestimating oneself can lead to problems.
- Actions vs. Words
Genghis Khan believed that a leader should not talk too much. They should only say what needs to be said. Actions, not words, are the way to win people’s hearts. Keeping their happiness at the center of your vision, goals, and plan is the best way to be successful.
Genghis Khan’s advice is good, but it highlights the most important lesson. The advice we should follow from Genghis Khan is to prioritize educating our children and the next generation. They are the future leaders of the world.
Waiting until our waning years to prioritize our children is bad for them and our legacy. No matter how demanding life can be, educating our children should remain a top priority. The wisdom we accumulate through life should not be hoarded for ourselves alone. Instead, we should pass it on and ensure our children understand it and can live better lives.
Unfortunately, Genghis Khan’s sons could not take their father’s advice, and the eventual end of the Mongol Empire was set in motion upon his death.
Weatherford explains that the Great Khan Kublai had evolved many Mongol traditions in unrecognizable ways from how Genghis Khan ruled the Mongols. Genghis Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan, turned hunting into a spectacle for the elite. He was overweight and plagued with gout. He was constantly drunk and often indulged in other desires and excesses.
“Only three generations after its founding, [The Mongol Empire] had lost its way.”
Teaching not just information to our kids but imparting valuable life lessons is a responsibility that must be taken seriously.