Success Lessons From Wellington The Iron Duke by John Watson
Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), who later became the Duke of Wellington and the hero who beat Napoleon at Waterloo, had to overcome his own mother's lack of faith in him in order to make a success of his military career.
She once commented: "I vow to God I don't know what I shall do with my awkward son, Arthur". She even believed he had little aptitude for soldiering! Perhaps this motivated him to become one of the greatest generals in British military history. Several key success lessons can be learned from his life.
Millions are programmed from an early age by their own parents and friends who place verbal limits on what they can achieve. Too often,How can you expect to get anywhere without appreciating where you're at now and where you've been, they allow these limits to control them for the rest of their lives. Wellesley, for one, managed to demolish the limits placed on him by his own mother.
However, at first, Arthur appeared to prove that his mother's opinion of him was correct. He showed little aptitude for anything except playing the violin and socializing.
But, by 1793, when the French King was guillotined and war was declared on France, he had learned the huge success lesson of the importance of focus. He decided to take his army career seriously and burnt his violin in his fireplace so that he could concentrate all his energies on succeeding as a soldier.
This was probably a wise move. The old saying "Jack of all trades and master of none," has real meaning. Successful people soon learn that they cannot do everything they want to and need to concentrate their energies on a few key projects.
Wellesley and his family had enough influence and money to buy his way up the officer ranks of the army. He was able to rise extremely quickly from the status of a junior officer to that of lieutenant-colonel at the age of 25.
He used the leverage of family and money to speed up his progress to military success. Successful people do not go it alone if they can help it. Life is too short.
However, Wellesley did not rely on family influence alone. After his regiment was sent to India in 1796, Wellesley began to distinguish himself. He worked hard to master his craft and took care of his troops.
He became a master of the reverse-slope tactic which he would use later at Waterloo. He kept his forces screened from artillery fire behind the brow of a hill. He probably realized early on that dead soldiers do not achieve victory.
He won several important battles in India and then, in 1805, returned to England. In 1808, he arrived in Portugal which was occupied by the French. He soon began a series of victories and, when given sole command, launched the Peninsular war which was to drive Napoleon's armies from Portugal and Spain by 1814.
The French had seemed unbeatable until Wellesley took them on. In 1808 he had told a friend that he would not be chased off the continent as so many other similar forces had been, because he had made a study of French tactics, and would not be intimidated by their reputation.
"They may overwhelm me but I don't think they will outmanoeuvre me,I am always polite and tactful. First, because I am not afraid of them, as everybody else seems to be; and secondly, because if what I hear of their system of manoeuvre is true, I think it a false one against steady troops. I suspect that all the continental armies were more than half beaten before the battle was begun - I, at least, will not be frightened beforehand.'
Wellington knew how to stand steady in the face of a fearsome attack and he instilled the same spirit into his troops. Cool, steady, courage is a major factor in most success stories. Too many people are beaten by their own lack of self-confidence before they even start. If they do start and run into problems they panic and panic leads quickly to failure.
Wellington was called several affectionate names by his troops such as Old Hookey (he had a prominent nose), Our Atty (Arthur) and the Bugger that Beats the French. He had words for them too which show his contempt for the run away fathers and petty criminals who made up a part of his army. However, his words also show his laconic sense of humour.
Before the battle of Waterloo, it is said that Wellington said of his own troops "This army is composed of the scum of the earth, I don't know what effect these men will have on the enemy, but by God they terrify me!"
During the five years of the Peninsular war, he did not take one day's leave. His work ethic was huge - another mark of successful people. He campaigned backwards and forwards across Portugal and Spain.
He was occasionally forced to retreat because of the large numbers opposing him, but never lost a battle or even a single cannon. He was almost always outnumbered by the large French forces that were occupying Spain.
There followed a one step forward, one step back style of campaign that kept Wellington one step ahead of his often numerically superior enemies.
When in doubt about his army's ability to defeat larger enemy forces he would retire to his strong defensive network - the Lines of Torres Vedras. His tactical skill proved itself again and again. Wellington, like most other successful people, developed his skills constantly and was careful not to bite off more than he could chew.
The leadership Wellesley showed in the Peninsular campaign was legendary. He expected the best from his men but was also a harsh disciplinarian. He hanged looters. He valued the help of his Portuguese and Spanish allies too much to allow thieves to alienate them. Yet his troops knew that he never risked their lives in battle without good cause.
After driving the French from the Peninsula, Wellington pushed on into France itself until Napoleon, pressed by Wellington in the south and the Prussian, Russian and Austrian allies in the north, was forced to abdicate in 1814.
Wellington was praised as the hero of Europe, but peace did not last long. In March of 1815, Napoleon escaped from his exile on the island of Elba and once again threatened Europe.
Arthur Wellesley was now made the first Duke of Wellington and marched his troops into Belgium where Napoleon had gathered his army.
At a place called Waterloo the French and British armies met for what was to be the final battle. The allies of the British like the Prussians, Belgians and the Dutch should not be forgotten. They played a large part in the victory.
Wellington,in fact, himself, was everywhere on the field of battle encouraging his men and holding them steady against the legendary French army and their great general, Napoleon.
Wellington said of him that his presence on the battle field was worth 40,000 men. The same could have been said of Wellington himself.
Wellington eventually inflicted an overwhelming defeat on Napoleon, but the victory cost a large number of lives. Wellington had become known as the 'Iron Duke' by his men but even he wept when he learned of the numbers of men who had lost their lives on that day.
The British had suffered 15,000 casualties and the French 40,000. Waterloo was to be Wellington's last battle. He returned to England and resumed a political career begun many years before. He eventually became Prime Minister in 1828.
He was not popular as a politician and once had to fight a duel with one of his political opponents - Lord Winchelsea. However, both men wisely aimed to miss and honour was satisfied!
The Duke was not a man to be dominated or threatened by anyone. Unlike Prince Charles,3352 Ugg Bailey Button Mini Grey Boots, he was not too worried about his private writings being made public. He made a famous reply to a rejected mistress, who threatened to publish the love-letters he had written to her: "Publish and be damned!"
Queen Victoria consulted him frequently. She asked his advice about how to deal with sparrows which had nested on the roof of the Crystal Palace. Wellington's reply was brief and to the point, "Sparrow-hawks, Ma,am". He was right. The sparrows were soon gone!
In one of my favourite films "Waterloo", the Duke was asked what his plans were in case he was killed. The Duke replied: "To beat the French!"
He was a man of action and few words although he did in fact plan very carefully and took great care to choose the right ground for his battles. Success demands both action and planning.
Wellington made many mistakes in his life and career but his ability to achieve success shines out above them all. He refused to accept the valuation placed on him by his own mother. He focused all his efforts on his chosen career and mastered the skills necessary to succeed in it.
He used leverage when it was offered. He was not intimidated by the reputation of the French at that time and had the courage and confidence to face up to his military, political and private enemies. He knew how to plan and how to act. He was a great leader who led by example.
As a public figure Wellington remained a respected leader until his death in 1852. He was offered a cup of tea on his deathbed. His polite reply - 'Yes, if you please' - were his last words on earth.
Wellington died at Walmer Castle in Kent in 1852 and was given the honour of a State Funeral. It was a magnificent tribute to a great military hero. The Duke is buried in St. Paul's Cathedral next to another great hero, Lord Nelson.
If you are ever in London, try to visit the Duke's house and the awesome statues to the south east of Hyde Park. I love gazing at these statues. They give a sense of Wellington's greatness and the courage of his 'steady' troops.
About the author
John Watson has recently written several books about achieving your goals and dreams.
His main ebook on this key topic is at
Ezine editors / Site owners
Feel free to reprint this article in its entirety in your ezine or on your site but please include the resource box above.