Napoleon on News and Information Management (Plus: Video on Outsourcing E-mail and More)


(Photo: Dunechaser)

Napoleon, though mostly known as a little man with a funny hat, is regarded as one of history’s great commanders. He was also well-known for his unusual but effective methods of information management.

Here are just two examples from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay entitled “Napoleon, or The Man of the World“…

His instructions to his secretary at the Tuileries are worth remembering. “During the night, enter my chamber as seldom as possible. Do not awake me when you have any good news to communicate; with that there is no hurry. But when you bring bad news, rouse me instantly, for then there is not a moment to be lost.”

It was a whimsical economy of the same kind which dictated his practice, when general in Italy, in regard to his burdensome correspondence. He directed Bourrienne to leave all letters unopened for three weeks, and then observed with satisfaction how large a part of the correspondence had thus disposed of itself and no longer required an answer.

(hat tip to Ryan Holiday for the source)

He was also a source of excellent quotes that can act as decision-making guideposts. To wit:

“Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.”
“Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.”
“He who knows how to flatter also knows how to slander.”
“Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.”

Read more on Napoleon’s military strategy here, aptly referred to as “Napoleonic strategy”.


Odds and Ends: Short Interview from London, Comment from the Philippines

Ryan Carson interviewed me in London yesterday, and we covered a number of topics more and more people have asked about, including: favorite software and tech, more detail on outsourcing e-mail and the inbox (the fundamentals are in “The Holy Grail: How to Outsource the Inbox and Never Check Email Again“), application of 4HWW and lifestyle design during a recession, and much more.

If the video doesn’t display for you below, it can be found here. I hope you enjoy it.

I’ll let this comment, from another post on the blog (The Art of Letting Bad Things Happen, which I reference in the video), speak for itself. From a virtual assistant (business process outsourcing) in the Philippines:

I am a writer in the Philippines employed by a BPO company which caters to clients in the US needing virtual assistants, and I speak on the latter’s behalf as I get to observe them everyday.

I am sorry to disappoint AAndrews, but as “laborers” in the Philippines “making the cost of Americans’ dream activities less and so affordable”, a VA’s life is not all that bad so there really is no need to guilt Tim Ferriss and others like him who rely on virtual assistants. The VAs in our company may get just a pittance of what personal assistants get paid in the US, but it is still a win-win situation because the cost of living here is after all not as high as the US’s. This case with the VAs and others like them is not the vile, repulsive thing that child labor is.

Those of us in BPO companies are professionals happy to be able to stay in our country doing work we like. We are aware of the gulf between our pay and yours, but you see, with our salaries, we get to live like your average young professionals. We make rent, send our kids to school, enjoy time with friends, indulge in hobbies, dress decently.

Here as in anywhere else, your lifestyle is a choice you make.

Posted on: February 12, 2009.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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86 comments on “Napoleon on News and Information Management (Plus: Video on Outsourcing E-mail and More)

  1. “Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.”

    This quote resonated with me. How many people live defeated, boring and purposeless lives daily…….thus a slow death. I’d rather go out quickly than live that kind of life.


  2. Truth is timeless. In my own field, movement and exercise, this is evident to anyone who experiments across varied physical cultures and exercise traditions. As my coach and mentor Scott Sonnon is fond of saying, “good movement is good movement.” Whether it’s yoga, power lifting, gymnastics, break dancing, football or ballet, jaw-dropping grace and economy of movement will share the same principles.

    Thank you for reminding me that the same idea of timeless and borderless truths is applicable to my business as well.



  3. Hey Tim,

    Excited about the new case studies (side bars and real life examples) in the new expanded version of the 4HWW. I’ll pass this on to all my viewers/readers. Let me know when it’s completed. Have fun in London.



  4. Tim

    Thanks for sharing, ah… “Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.” Looking forward to the new book. :) Do you use a PC or Mac?



  5. Hi Tim,

    It will definitely be exciting to see what happens in your new book! It would be great if we could see examples of things such as some of the points in your text ‘rule book’ for your email and outsourcing.

    Did you ever write a post about why it is that you use a Mac? If not, could you possibly list some reasons as to why you use them over a normal pc when possible?

    Thank you in advance ;)


  6. One of my fav Napoleon quotes is “Glory may be fleeting but obscurity is forever.” I have that on a t-shirt. People wanting to learn more about Napoleon should check out my podcast “Napoleon 101″.


  7. Good stuff. I suspect most employees in the US would cry if they knew how many times up their annual salary they were being used as leverage for. No reason to feel bad about using VAs.


  8. Thanks for the great interview. And we wait the revised edition of the book.

    But how does the first quote from Napoleon relate to “The Art of Letting Bad Things Happen”?