34 Life Lessons From Napoleon Bonaparte

I was shocked when one of my friends didn't have a clue who Napoleon was.

While reading the 900-page masterpiece by Andrew Roberts, I asked her. 

"Do you know who Napoleon is?"

Her reply.... "Is it a pasta from Italy?"

A F*cking pasta! 


Napoleon has more books written about him than anyone else in history! More than Jesus, Mohammad, Ceasar, and Alexander the Great. 

Whether you think he's a pasta, tyrant, or hero, there is no denying this man achieved greatness. And greatness leaves clues. In Napoleon's case, he left more than enough clues on how he climbed the ranks to become the French Empire's first Emperor. 

George Home, one of the shipmen who onboarded Napoleon to HMS Bellerophon, put it brilliantly in his memoirs "He showed us what one little human creature like ourselves could accomplish in a span so short." 

And today, you are going to learn 34 life lessons from Napoleon the Great.

1) Lead from the front 

Inspire by leading

'Bonaparte advanced in front,' recalled Petit, 'and exhorted to courage and firmness all the corps he met with; it was visible that his presence reanimated them. 

Skin-in-the-game

In one bulletin, he boasted of not having removed his boots for over a week. He wanted his men to know he was leading, working, and fighting from the front. 

Take responsibility as a leader

'No; I was the master, and mine was the fault.'

Like a Shakespearian tragic hero, he chose the fatal path despite others being available. He took responsibility for everything that happened within the Grande Armee and France. 

Napoleon would later say:

"It's absurd to have captains who have never fought a war"

When discussing battle plans. He didn't believe you could be a captain and lead without experience. It's true, how would they inspire their soldiers who have been in more wars than they? 

Napoleon remained calm during the most stressful of times as a leader. When surrounded by Austrian troops, his soldiers looked at him for guidance. His reaction? merely shouted out in a calm tone "We have them now!" and went forth with a decisive strike to victory

This is authentic leadership. Calm and collected. He is leading from the front. Decisive, quick, and inspiring. All from the front. Everything on the line. 

 

2)Have a good memory - focus on details 

Napoleon once met a man ten years after their initial interaction, which only lasted a few moments. 

The guy was shocked; Napoleon remembered their encounter ten years prior when he asked about his kids. Napoleon was obsessed with holding on to memories. He wanted to know everything and anything, even the smallest of details. 

In the book "how to win friends and influence people," it talks about a guy who would note down everyone's name, birthday, etc. He would then send them a card in the post from a single encounter. This would blow the minds of the receiver. It goes a long way to remember small details; it shows you care. 

 

3) Simplicity is everything 

The Code Napoléon simplified the 14,000 decrees and laws that had been passed by the various revolutionary governments since 1789, and the 42 different regional codes that were in force, into a single unified body of law applicable to all citizens, laying down general principles and offering wide parameters for judges to work within.

Not only that, but Napoleon also went on to do the same thing with educational reforms:

42% of the French couldn't speak or write in French when Napoleon came to power. He understood that with 9+ languages, the country couldn't move forward effectively and efficiently.

His educational reforms made French the only permitted language of instruction, as it became for all official documents. By 1813 French secondary schools were the best in Europe. Some of Napoleon's original lycées, such as Condorcet, Charlemagne, Louis-le-Grand, and Henri IV, are still among the best schools in France two centuries later. 

Napoleon would also focus his attack on one area for just enough time to have a numerical advantage. This simple strategy enabled him to beat armies far bigger than his. 

Keep it simple; that's where the power is. 

 

4) Be okay with not knowing everything.

Ask questions! Get obsessive about knowledge. Be okay with being wrong. 

Napoleon would say

"Know how to listen, and be sure that silence often produces the same effect as does knowledge".

"Do not blush to ask questions".

I love that. Do not blush to ask questions. How many of us are scared to ask questions in case it's "embarrassing"? Too many! Get comfortable asking questions about topics you have no idea about. 

Napoleon chaired no fewer than 55 of its 107 plenary sessions, frequently intervening on matters of particular interest such as divorce, adoption, and foreigners' rights. Napoleon's constant refrain on questions of 'the general interest' and civil justice was: 'Is this fair? Is this useful?'

Before he went to battle in Italy, he asked for all the books, maps, and war stories about the land. He had the courage to admit his ignorance when he didn't know something. 

He had an obsessive demand for information. 

'I am always working, and I meditate a great deal,' the Emperor told Roederer in March 1809. 

'If I appear always ready to answer for everything and to meet everything, it is because, before entering on an undertaking, I have meditated for a long time, and have foreseen what might happen. It is not genius which reveals to me suddenly, secretly, what I have to say or do in a circumstance unexpected by other people: it is reflection, meditation.' 

There has probably never been another ruler in history to match him for sheer intellectual capacity and its persistent application in government.

 

5) Always be open to negotiations. 

Napoleon didn't start any of the seven wars of the coalition against him. He sent many peace offerings to the UK and other countries. He never swayed from this standpoint. 

In some cases, it brought peace to France and Europe. In others, his peace offerings ignored, and they waged war against him anyways. 

But it didn't matter to Napoleon; he would always seek negotiations no matter how many rejections. 

Don't ever stop asking or doing what's right. 

 

6) Take decisive action when it's needed. 

Napoleon took control of the republican defense in Paris against the royalists who were about to attack. 

This was before Napoleon rose the ranks. 

The republicans were outnumbered 6 to 1, and Napoleon knew that once you hit the mob hard, they scatter. 

Napoleon opened fire with grapeshot at the advancing royalists (which means shooting all sorts from a cannon, like a shotgun of bits). As soon as the royalists had a whiff of grapeshot, they lost focus and scattered. 

Napoleon would later remark that once you let the mob take an inch, they will try and take a mile. He knew with the mob you have to hit them hard and fast; you cannot delay. 

Don't be scared to take decisive action. Holding on to that employee because you're too scared to cut them off, don't hold back. Take action.

Many instances, when we let people take way too much, which leads us down a path of trouble. If only we had the guts to take action sooner!

 

7) Become an omnivorous reader

Napoleon was an omnivorous reader from childhood and devoured historical and military biographies in his father's library in Corsica and then at the three French military academies, he studied from nine years old. 

Napoleon would also send books to the girls he was seeing, asking for their opinion on them. 

He later demanded all his generals to read and reread biographies of the great ancient generals and heroes. Only then, he believed, they could become great generals. 

 

8) Focus - converge your strength. 

Napoleon had the capacity for significantly faster movement than the enemy, and to concentrate forces to achieve numerical advantage for just long enough to be decisive

"Nothing is so important in war as an undivided command. There should be one army, acting upon one base and conducted by one chief"

Focus and use everything you have to one spot. This is your best bet. Do not spread yourself too thin.

You could be winning a game until the last second, and vice versa. 

This fight from "the fighter." Micky ward takes a beating all fight, ON PURPOSE, because it gives him that one chance, one opportunity to unleash the strength to one place (kidney shot) to win the fight. 

 

9) Gather all intelligence before making moves, but then act like lightning. 

Once he was sure of his intelligence, Napoleon made a lightning dash from Valladolid to Paris.

Once you are aware or know of something, and you need to act, do not waste a single millisecond. 

Speed is everything. 

 

10) Plan all kinds of outcomes, expect plans not to go your way

Here's a story:

In the Bavarian State Archives is a sketch, Napoleon drew outlining how the battle had been fought, which shows how remarkably closely it progressed to his original concept. Although Napoleon continually changed his battle-plans according to circumstances, on some occasions, engagements did go according to plan, and Austerlitz was one such.

Napoleon dictated to his war minister Henri Clarke his 'General Dispositions for the Reunion of the Grande Armée,' the founding document of the campaign. It stated precisely which troops needed to be in which positions under which marshals by which dates between October 2 and 4. On September 20 alone he wrote thirty-six letters, his record for 1806

"I'm going to arm because you are arming; because finally I have something to fear, and it pays to be cautious." 

Napoleon wasn't scared to plan even at the zenith of his power. He knew planning was everything. Plan every outcome, to the end. Combine that with a great memory, quick reaction times, and tactical genius, and you can get past any obstacle.

 

11) Amor Fati - Love of Fate

"As a man called upon to decide the fate of peoples. It came to me that I really could become a decisive actor on our national stage".

"I sought a glorious death disputing foot by foot the soil of the country,' Napoleon later reminisced of the battle, where a howitzer shell disemboweled a horse he was riding but left him unscathed. 'I purposely exposed myself; the balls flew around me, my clothes were pierced, but none reached me."

He believed he was the savior of France. He believed in fate so much he would eat at camp within striking distance of Russian artillery. 

When you believe in something so much, you embody it. You don't waste time thinking about trivial matters. Fortune favors the bold. 

He came to see himself as a direct descendant of people like Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. 

 

12) Compartmentalize Your Mind for Greatness 

"Different subjects and different affairs are arranged in my head as a cupboard" "When I wish to interrupt one train of thought I close it and open another"

Napoleon's ability to sleep on a battlefield with 700 cannon firing is all the more remarkable considering that on or near the Raasdorf knoll that served as his headquarters, no fewer than twenty-six staff officers were killed or wounded that day.

"I had often seen him lose his temper about some trifle such as a door opened when it should have been shut or vice versa, a room too brightly or too dimly lighted. But in times of difficulty or misfortune, he was completely master of his nerves."

"In my own case, it's taken me years to cultivate self-control to prevent my emotions from betraying themselves. Only a short time ago, I was the conqueror of the world, commanding the largest and finest army of modern times. That's all gone now! To think I kept all my composure, I might even say, preserved my unvarying high spirits … Yet don't think that my heart is less sensitive than those of other men. I'm a very kind man, but since my earliest youth, I have devoted myself to silencing that chord within me that never yields a sound now. If anyone told me when I was about to begin a battle that my mistress whom I loved to distraction was breathing her last, it would leave me cold. Yet my grief would be just as great as if I'd given way to it … and after the battle I should mourn my mistress if I had the time. Without all this self-control, do you think I could have done all I've done?"

Napoleon was able to compartmentalize his life to quite a remarkable degree, much more so even than most other great leaders. He could entirely close off one part of his mind to what was going on in the rest of it; he himself likened it to being able to open and close drawers in a cupboard.11 On the eve of the battle of Borodino, as aides-de-camp were arriving and departing with orders to his marshals and reports from his generals, he could dictate his thoughts on the establishment of a girls' school for the orphans of members of the Légion d'Honneur, and shortly after capturing Moscow he set down the new regulations to govern the Comédie-Française. No detail about his empire was too minute for his restless, questing energy. 

13) "In war moral factors account for 3/4th of the whole, strength only 1/4th"

"More battles are lost by loss of hope than loss of blood."

Attributed to Napoleon and when one of the staff officers pointed out that he was 'only a Russian' Napoleon snapped back, "After a victory, there are no enemies, only men."

Napoleon understood that moral factors are way more important than strength, and this applied to the army, the people, and other countries. 

He didn't want to lead with strength, but he did want it to help his cause. This is why many of Napoleon's moves were made to ensure high morale for his men. 

Napoleon would tell his generals to inspect his men for 8 hours at camp. He would ensure they all got paid on time. How annoying is it to work for someone who doesn't pay you on time? You could tell how serious Napoleon was to go into battle by how many letters he sent about ensuring his soldiers had adequate boots! 

It's similar to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Napoleon knew this intuitively. Cover their needs, provide inspirational leadership, and only then will people rally behind you to greater things. 

 

14) Use Gamification

Napoleon addressed his troops in camp billboards. He would list off many stats such as victories, time-fighting, troops captured, generals, cannons used, and flags. 

He would also call certain demi-brigades by new nicknames such as "the 57th demi-brigade which nothing can stop"

He would go as far as making these nicknames official. Stitched into their uniforms in gold. 

He knew the power words had. Do you think the 57th demi-brigade would stop at the next battle? Of course not. 

Think of call of duty today. You track the matches you win, kills you have, headshots, achievements, points, flags, and ranks. It has boys across the world addicted. 

Now think of this game in real-life under an inspiring leader who brought you win after win. 

There is no doubt these soldiers pushed harder due to the gamification of war. How else can you look at such a brutal thing as war? If anything, Napoleon needed his soldiers to detach it from reality, facing death, and the horrors of war are hard to take. 

 

15) Be tolerant of all religions/faiths/thinking. 

"I must give the people their full rights in religion. Philosophers will laugh, but the nation will bless me."

"The idea of God is very useful. Napoleon said, "to maintain good order, to keep men in the path of virtue and to keep them from crime."

He was a child of the Enlightenment, he didn't believe in any one religion, but he respected them. 

Religion has been one of the most powerful tools ever created to bring people together for a single cause (also a tool of destruction in many cases).

Regardless of what you think of someone else's beliefs, you should be tolerant and respect them, especially as a leader.

 

16) Don't let your ego fool you.

"I shall blow into Paris unexpectedly," Napoleon wrote to Lucien from Lyons on June 29, 1800. 

"I want no triumphal arches or any such colifichets [fripperies]. I have too good an opinion of myself to care about such nonsense. The only real triumph is the satisfaction of the people."

The Napoleon Complex is bullshit. Napoleon didn't even have one! Yes, he declared himself Emperor, but it was strategic not out of ego. 

Ego gets to all of us sometimes, but Napoleon was adamant not to let it get to him.

He would later tell his enemies that even though he wore the imperial purple, he never forgets his first craft, being a soldier. He would later prove this by always going into battle himself. 

 

17) Leave go of what you can't control.

By 1812 Napoleon didn't believe any colonies could be held in perpetuity, predicting that they would all eventually 'follow the example of the United States.'

Well, he was spot on with this. You can't control things that are way out of your personal sphere. While Napoleon controlled a lot as he was a dictator, for us, the colonies can represent everything outside our own minds. 

We can only control our mind and how we react to things. Nothing more. 

 

18) Create a Reward System

Napoleon believed in rewarding service. He invented the Legion d'Honneur to reward both soldiers and civilians no matter what background. 

Napoleon would frequently take off his own medal and give it to someone who deserved it. 

"You tell me that class distinctions are baubles used by monarchs, I defy you to show me a republic, ancient or modern, in which distinctions have not existed. You call these medals and ribbons baubles; well, it is with such baubles that men are led."

Napoleon chose the occasion to make the inaugural awards of a new French order, the Légion d'Honneur, to reward meritorious service to France regardless of social origin. 

Rewards were a very important part of Napoleon's reign and inspired his men to achieve more. 

 

19) Be willing to change your mind in an instant.

Daru was left in admiration at 'the clear and prompt determination of Napoleon to give up such enormous preparations without hesitation.'

Don't get married to a single idea, plan, or strategy. It's foolish. Always be open to changing your mind in the face of new information. 

 

20) Aim for the imperial purple, but act like a soldier 

'Your master wanted to remind me that I am a soldier. I hope he will own that the imperial purple has not caused me to forget my first trade.' 

A sentry from the 17th Légère had overheard the prince's demands. 'Do you know, these people think they are going to swallow us up!' Napoleon told him, to which the sentry replied, 'Let them just try it; we should soon choke them!' That put Napoleon in a better mood. These brief but obviously heartfelt interactions with private soldiers, inconceivable for most Allied generals, were an integral part of Napoleon's impact on his men. 

The contrast between Napoleon's personal lack of adornment away from official occasions and the gorgeousness of the costumes of those around him was noted by many, as it was intended to be; indeed Denon instructed the painter François Gérard to 'Take care to emphasize the full splendour of the uniforms of the officers surrounding the Emperor, as this contrasts with the simplicity he displays and so immediately marks him out in their midst.'

Dinner was at 6 p.m., but he very often missed it, instead of eating whenever work permitted

He ate food as it was brought to him, in no particular order. He was no gastronome, and was perfectly happy eating macaroni. 

Napoleon preferred the most simple dishes. He wanted to do the work. His imperial purple didn't change that. 

 

21) You don't need to be bigger and stronger all the time, only for a decisive moment.

A masterful plan, an appreciation of terrain, superb timing, a steady nerve, the discipline and training instilled at Boulogne, the corps system, exploitation of a momentary numerical advantage at the decisive point, tremendous esprit de corps, fine performances on the day by Friant, Davout, Vandamme, Soult and Saint-Hilaire, and a divided and occasionally incompetent enemy

Someone can win until the last millisecond, then lose. 

Napoleon would later say, "There is a moment in combat when the slightest maneuver is decisive and gives superiority; it is the drop of water that starts the overflow.' He talks here about extreme focus and the ability to perform it. 

"To tell you the truth, the thing that made me gain so many battles was that the evening before a fight, instead of giving orders to extend our lines, I tried to converge all our forces on the point I wanted to attack. I massed them there." 

In 1814 the Allies had nearly 1 million troops marching on Paris. 

After the catastrophe of the Russian campaign, Napoleon was left with a ghost army of just 30,000 men. No veterans, no experience, only the untested youth of France. 

25 to 1 odds against Napoleon in his quest to save his empire. 

It was to the next four battles that Wellington was referring when he said of Napoleon's 1814 campaign, it 'has given me a greater idea of his genius than any other. Had he continued that system a little longer, it is my opinion that he would have saved Paris.'

Smaller teams with purpose, direction, support, and strategy can always win, no matter the obstacle. 

 

22) Wake up early and learn how to work and relax 

'Work should be a way to relax.' He thought that if one got up early enough, as he told Eugène on April 14, 'One can get a lot of work done in little time. I lead the same life you do, but I have an old wife who doesn't need me around to have fun, and I'm also busier; however, I allow myself more time for relaxation and amusement than you."

Napoleon learned to relax while learning. If you can feel relaxed in solitude reading books, you can turbo-charge your progress. 

Napoleon would also urge his brother to wake up early and get his work done. He felt those morning hours were superior to evening hours. Something I, too, believe in. 

 

23) Communicate and listen effectively 

Quote about Napoleon:

"What at first struck me most was the remarkable clarity and grand simplicity of his mind and its processes. Conversation with him always had a charm for me, difficult to define. Seizing the essential point of subjects, stripping them of useless accessories, developing his thought and never ceasing to elaborate it till he had made it perfectly clear and conclusive, always finding the fitting word for the thing, or inventing one where the image of language had not created it, his conversation was ever full of interest. Yet, he did not fail to listen to the remarks and objections addressed to him. He accepted them, questioned or opposed them, without losing the tone or overstepping the bounds of a business conversation, and I had never felt the least difficulty in saying to him what I believed to be the truth, even when it was not likely to please him."

In April 1807, perhaps the quietest month of his entire reign, Napoleon still wrote 443 letters.

Savary explained in his memoirs that Napoleon never minded people disagreeing with him, so long as they did it in a loyal spirit and in private: 'He never resented anyone who frankly showed opposition to his opinion; he liked his opinions to be discussed.

He was fond of discussions, but didn't impose his opinions, and made no pretension of superiority, either of intelligence or of rank.

There are so many golden points above on how to communicate and listen as a leader. Strip away the nonsense, listen carefully, ask good questions and speak only when you have grasped the concept in its entirety—simplified language with focus. 

 

24) Look after your people.

His abiding concern with how his soldiers were shod led him to write twenty-three letters about boots and shoes in November and December alone

Although he worked them inordinately hard, Napoleon was considerate to his staff, who almost universally admired him. He was indeed a hero to his valets, aides-de-camp, and orderlies, and far more of his personal servants volunteered to go into exile with him than the British could allow, a remarkable tribute to his talent as an employer. 

Mademoiselle Avrillon, who worked for Josephine (his first wife), remembered him as being 'extremely polite' and 'very indulgent when small errors were committed.' His chamberlain, the Comte de Bausset, wrote: 'I can categorically say that few men were more level in their character and gentle in their behaviour.' Agathon Fain thought 'Napoleon was a loyal friend and the best of masters,' not least because 'he would spoil everybody'. An alcoholic coachman was kept on the payroll years after he should have been sacked because he had driven a wagon at Marengo.

The seriousness of Napoleon's intentions can be ascertained by his renewed focus on the condition of the army's shoes

It was unheard of to treat foot soldiers with the respect Napoleon did. The English general Wellington would remark that his soldiers were worthless and like dogs. 

Read this passage about how Napoleon would look after his men."

"Pay great attention to the soldiers, and see about them in detail. The first time you arrive at the camp, line up the battalions, and spend eight hours at a stretch seeing the soldiers one by one; receive their complaints, inspect their weapons, and make sure they lack nothing. There are many advantages to making these reviews of seven to eight hours; the soldier becomes accustomed to being armed and on duty, it proves to him that the leader is paying attention to and taking complete care of him; which is a great confidence-inspiring motivation for the soldier."

On July 22 he wrote to the naval ministry to complain that, due to non-payment of expenses, workers in the Channel ports had to sell their silver sleeve-buttons. 'They must absolutely not be the ones to suffer,' he insisted, 'no matter how things stand the workers must be paid'

"Suppress no complaints you have to make of your superiors. I am here to do justice to all, and the weaker party is especially entitled to my protection."

I find this inspiring. What a leader of men. Take note of this, and a reminder he was the Emperor, he could have done whatever the hell he wanted to—but looking after his men was his priority. Making sure they got paid, even though he lived in a palace, far removed from the consequences of non-payment. 

 

25) You don't need to be good at everything to be successful.

Napoleon didn't hold his gun properly on his shoulder, and as he asked for it to be tightly loaded, his arm was always black after he'd fired a shot'. He once took seven shots to kill a cornered stag.

Napoleon himself wasn't a great shooter, but he was a fantastic horse rider, general and strategist. 

Even if you suck at something, this shouldn't shy you away from the front line. That's where you learn the most. Skills and experience from the front, enhance all your other skills. 

 

26) Find a way of working that suits you.

"He needed seven hours' sleep in twenty-four, but he slept, as one secretary recalled, 'in several short naps, broken at will during the night as in the day.' Since his bedroom was close to his study in all his palaces, he could be at work in his dressing-gown at any time of the day or night, with his secretaries on rotations to take dictation. 'He used to get up,' recalled another secretary, 'after an hour's sleep, as wide awake and as clear in the head as if he had slept the whole night quietly."

'If he fatigues himself uselessly during the day, he will be too tired to work in the evening … If I had slept the night before Eggmühl I could never have executed that superb maneuver, the finest I ever made … I multiplied myself by my activity.

He would wake up in the middle of the night and start working. He knew when that moment hit, that idea, that strike of lightning he had to act. When we act in the moment of intense inspiration and motivation, we often do our finest work.

Naval tweet storm about how to get rich was done in a single moment. He got the intense urge to write it out, and it just flowed. 

Find your flow. 

 

27) Make use of dead time.

On long journeys in their carriage, Josephine read novels to him, chosen from the précis of newly published ones that he had the historical novelist the Comtesse de Genlis draw up for him every week.

He would also have her read to him while taking 3-hour baths. 

He turned his wife into his own audible account! 

Do you have any dead time you can utilise? Any unused capacity? 

 

28) Get deep into many topics. 

Napoleon admired Gothe. Here's a passage about the first time they met:

"As he entered the room, the Emperor exclaimed, 'Voilà un homme!' (Here's a man!), or possibly 'Vous êtes un homme!' (You're a man!). The two men discussed Werther, Voltaire's play Mahomet, which Goethe had translated, and drama in general.* Napoleon complained that Voltaire should not have 'made such an unfavourable portrait of the world-conqueror' Julius Caesar in his play La Mort de César.

Goethe later reported that Napoleon' made observations at a high intellectual level, as a man who has studied the tragic scene with the attention of a criminal judge'. 

Napoleon told him he felt that French theatre had strayed too far from nature and truth. 'What have we now to do with Fate?' he asked, referring to plays in which prearranged destiny formed the determining agency. 'Politics is fate.' When Soult arrived, Napoleon spent a few moments addressing Polish affairs, allowing Goethe to look at tapestries and portraits, before returning to discussing Goethe's personal life and family – 'Gleich gegen Gleich' (on equal terms), as Goethe later put it. 

Napoleon did not give his opinions didactically, but regularly ended by asking, 'What do you think, Herr Goethe?'

"Goethe was to describe his time discussing literature and poetry with Napoleon as one of the most gratifying experiences of his life."

You can't fake this. Napoleon was able to impress Gothe because he read, listened, understood concepts, and developed a deep and wider understanding of countless topics. 

 

29) Expect negativity; it's just how things are, even when you achieve great things

"The problem," Napoleon told Caulaincourt, was that "Society in the salons is always in a state of hostility against the government. Everything is criticized, and nothing praised."

Anything you do, no matter how great, will be criticised. 

F*ck it, deal with it. 

 

30) Don't expect an easy life.

Napoleon would send a letter to his brother saying. 

"I am touched by your suffering, but I wish that you were more courageous. To live is to suffer, and a human being who is worthy of honour must always struggle for mastery of self."

To live is to suffer, spoken like a Buddhist!

 

31) Never put your full faith in enemy agreements. 

"Assuredly but for my marriage with Marie, I never should have made war on Russia,' he said, 'but I felt certain of the support of Austria, and I was wrong, for Austria is the natural enemy of France."

'It's better to have an open enemy than a doubtful ally."

Make sure you understand this before going into negotiations with other companies or rivals. 

 

32) It's often self-destruction that causes your downfall, watch out for it. 

None of his opponents could threaten the existence of the largest European empire since Ancient Rome, larger even than Charlemagne's. Only Napoleon himself could do that. 

The British empire, the largest the world has ever seen, also crumbed because of self-destruction.

It's often us, we, that is the cause of our own downfall. 

You must always be true to yourself, take a bird's eye view of your situation and give yourself the advice you'd give to a friend. It's hard to take that advice, but it's what's right.

We often lose because we ignore that logic and move ahead. 

 

33) Have a laugh!

What makes Napoleon unique amongst history's dictators is that he has a sense of humour, in any scenario.

Once when the guy aide de camp next to him had his helmet blown off by a cannonball, Napoleon remarked "you're lucky you're not taller!"

He would also throw in dry humour during serious conversations, tense battlefield scenarios, and more. 

His playful personality rubbed off well on people, including the majority of Englishmen that met him on the ship, taking him to St Helena. 

He would walk around the ship pinching men, slapping their heads, and just having that classic school ground joke about.

When he met Gothe, we walked into the room in a loud voice, "Here he is, you're the man!" and would jump straight into a conversation.

Napoleon was known for his cheeky smile too.

On St Helena, he became friends with a young girl who he was able to play with and have funny conversations due to his playful nature.

His letters and comments also show much charm, an occasional capacity for candid self-appraisal, and a fine sense of humour which allowed him to make jokes in virtually any situation, even when facing catastrophe.

When you can back humour up with wisdom, action, and inspirational leadership, you can do anything.

Goethe said that Napoleon was 'always enlightened by reason … He was in a permanent state of enlightenment'. He was the Enlightenment on horseback.

Have fun.

 

34) Offensive First

Napoleon only fought five defensive battles; he lost 40% of them.

Wrestle for the initiative, and don't let it slip. That was Napoleon's go-to strategy. 

Starting on the backfoot is never ideal, that comes from hesitation.

Twitter @scottflear

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