Never fight a land war in Russia

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After pwning most of Europe & North Africa, and crowning himself Emperor the decade prior #winning, Napoleon marched his army across Europe to invade Russia in the summer of 1812. His ass was literally handed to him a few months later as the bitter cold Russian winter set in.

See the Russian army strategically retreated further and further into the interior of Russia, drawing the French army in and extending their supply lines across Europe. 480,000 frozen and dead or captured French soliders later, Napoleon retreated #pivot back to France to recoupe. But no one likes a loser so he was soon exiled to a tiny island off the coast of West Africa where he died a few years later really pissed off and bitter, likely with a bad case of syphilis. #fail

Moral of the story: Don’t get greedy. Napoleon could have just been happy with making most of Europe his personal stomping grounds, but he got greedy and over-extended himself.

Applied to business: Own 1 or 2 things to be epic at, let everything else go.

It’s easy to spot a business that is trying to do too much and failing at most of it. They get greedy thinking they need to do or be more than what their core competency is. Jack of all trades, master of none as the saying goes.

It’s just as apparent when a business has specialized or even hyper-specialized in something and is owning the mind-share and market.

Startups need to be extra cautious here. Trying to do or be too much may find them in hostile territory out gunned with winter setting in.


  1. Paul Kenjora
    Paul Kenjora

    Just because its hard doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Look a bit further back in history and Moscow was conquered, settled, and even had a foreign Tsar once in 1610.

    Going in over-confident might be a bad idea but the moral of the 1610 story might be, win over the local population first. Where there’s a will, theres a way.


  2. Steven

    I’m going on the assumption that this is your philosphy at I like it, and believe that it is very easy to get greedy, and fail at everything you are attempting to achieve in an attempt to please and capture an additional market segment at the expense of your existing one.

    Any energy diverted into something new is energy taken away from what you are doing now. Modularization is hot. Everyone needs to be doing it. Customers like to be have quality options at hand. The “botique” business model brings customer focus, choice, and personalization to the forefront, and quality that has been lacking back to the product.

    Don’t be the Big Box. The key is to continuously innovate within your expertise, and creatively add levels of value to your core product instead of trying to be everything to everyone.

    I enjoyed the history lesson, and how you applied it to modern business strategy. Thanks for the insight.

    Steven Romero