“The only people who see the whole picture are the ones who step outside the frame.”
Salman Rushdie

The French general Napoleon dominated the continent of Europe for almost 20 years. He led his armies to victory in dozens of battles, and lost only three battles in his entire career. He lost almost 600,000 men when he invaded Russia, failing to anticipate the cold of the Russian winter. Greatly weakened from the Russian campaign, he subsequently lost the battle of Leipzig, which led to his being exiled to the island of Elba. And finally, he lost at the battle of Waterloo due to a series of miscommunications with his field generals.

It is often forgotten that he won many other battles, small and large, and is considered to be one of the three greatest military geniuses of history. (Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan were the other two.) Napoleon had developed a quality that helped him to achieve victory, which you also can develop. It is called extrapolatory thinking. This is the ability to think and plan several moves ahead in whatever you are doing. This way of thinking involves your considering every possible event that could occur, and then making provisions for them, well in advance.

Napoleon personally felt that his thoroughness and depth of preparation, carefully considering every detail, were his key to victory. This quality was demonstrated by his phenomenal ability to arrive onto the field of a potential battle and then to think through every single possible twist and turn of the battle to its logical conclusion—before the first shot was fired.

Once he had completed his preparations, he could take his position at his command center to direct the battle. No matter what news he received from any part of the battlefield, he was always ready with an immediate response. Many people thought that his quickness of response under fire was because he was a brilliant thinker, which he was, but that was not the secret of his success. His secret was that he had thought through every possible eventuality, in advance.

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