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What Napoleon and I Have in Common

Our egos get in the way

Close-up of green beetle on a fingertip.
Evergreen doesn't need another Napoleon. It needs more beautiful beetles. Photo by Rob Ainsworth.

The expression to meet your Waterloo is about defeat.

This is because it was near the town of Waterloo, south of Brussels, Belgium, that Napoleon Bonaparte was eventually defeated by a combination of armies under the Duke of Wellington and Field Marshal von Blücher’s command.

From an early age, Napoleon had great plans for himself and went about them in an extremely focussed manner. By the time he was 34, he’d terrorised most of Europe, crowned himself Emperor of France and, if artists of the time are to be believed, had developed an imposing stance that involved hiding his left or right hand in his waistcoat.

But after fighting 60 battles, and winning most of them, Napoleon finally met his Waterloo on Sunday, 18 June 1815. In the late afternoon of that day, splattered with mud and, if some history books are to be believed, suffering from a severe case of hemorrhoids, his ego took a bashing and he was banished to Elba, an island 1,276 km from his beloved Paris.

Napoleon only met his Waterloo once, but I meet my Waterloo every day. My ego gets dented and splattered with mud, admits defeat, and hurriedly retreats.

When I use the word ego, I’m referring to that aspect of myself that forgets that I’m not here to start wars, crown myself ruler of the world, or terrorise my neighbours.

Egos can be extremely damaging. Up to 6 million soldiers and civilians died in wars of Napoleon’s making. And, incredibly, 48,000 fathers, sons and brothers died in one day at the Battle of Waterloo.

My ego isn’t that extreme. It doesn’t kill people. But it can hurt them.

So, whenever I find myself taking a mentally military stance, I take a deep, conscious breath, take my hand out of my natty white satin waistcoat, and keep my mouth shut.

That’s because I’m not always right.

Someone else may have a better plan, information I don’t have, or more ability to deal with the situation.

My point of view is just that – my point of view.

The more my ego admits defeat rather than going off to battle, the safer the other 7.9 billion people in the world are.

The world doesn’t need another Napoleon.

With love, Marlane

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