A few lines on ‘Napoleon : The Great/A Life by Andrew Roberts’
*May contain spoilers. Also, typed on the phone. Please ignore the typos.
Stars : 5 out of 5.
Tells you what a single life can do. And it can do a lot! A story of enlightenment, courage, self-belief, intellect, discipline, will-power, and lots of passion (with a sprinkling of hubris, of course!), and how it can move worlds : for the good, and for the bad. Also, a tale on how individual personalities have changed the course of histories and shaped the world, to what it is today.
**What to learn from Napoleon:
- Relentless curiosity and the zeal to figure out things. He was never afraid to ask questions. As a General, he’d ask soldiers the most simplest and stupidest of questions. In fact, he loved stupid questions. Wanted to reduce things to their very basics and learn them. And he became smarter with each answer he got.
- Harvest great minds! : This is not an advice on organ harvest, what I mean is acknowledge the limitations of one’s own understanding, and learn from the best. Speak to experts on an issue.
- Ability to take in a lot of information, absorb it and use it.
- Elephantine memory.
- Reading. Readers are leaders. Even while on War, he’d carry a library around; and not just a few war books; this would be a stack replete with poetry, fiction, sciences, history, and the like. Read very very eclectically. Even if he was a despot in a lot of ways, he was an enlightened despot.
- Engaging and learning from the most learned women and men of the day.
- The love for structures and systems. (Great civil law system he came up with, for instance!)
- Values of enlightenment and triumph of reason over dogma and religion. Scientific temper.
- Hard work. Always the first one on the field!
- Writing. He’d write dozens of letters every day to all sorts of people; his wife, his opponents, military, legislators, the clergy and so on. That helped him structure and organise his thoughts.
- Being a micro-manager (not always good!) and having an eye for detail.
- Ability to compartmentalise. Even in the lowest ebbs of personal life, Napoleon’s’ ability to switch tracks and disassociate from it, and tend to administration and his work, and the need of the hour.
- Charm and a sense of humour.
- Vulnerability. Weak is the strong. His connect with the soldier.
- Boundless energy and passion.
**What not to:
- Hubris and unrestrained ambition and sometimes unchecked belief in one’s own invincibility. Very very dangerous! Each success should make you more careful, and not more reckless. Sometimes you have to be conservative and challenge your own assumptions.
- Micro management. Failure to prioritise the important.
- If you are too intimidating, people often don’t tell you the truth. Someone has to tell the emperor that he has no clothes. And for that the emperor should encourage free thinking and radical honesty, and keep an ear to the ground.
- He started off as a reformer; primary as a rebel against monarchy and hereditary rule. Ironically, as he went along, he ended up prioritising family over merit. This was, in a lot of ways, his real Waterloo.
- Don’t mess with Russia!