JOHN VESPASIAN is the author of seven books about rational living, including "Rationality is the way to happiness," "The philosophy of builders," "The 10 principles of rational living," "Rational living, rational working," and "Consistency: The key to permanent stress relief."
Excerpt from Chapter 1
Abbeel was born in 1786, and enjoyed little formal education. Nonetheless, he later picked up some German, Polish, and Russian during his travels. Abbeel wrote his memoirs in 1817, giving us a fascinating insight into how a man born in poverty in the late eighteenth century managed to overcome severe misfortunes, and start a new life. When Abbeel turned twenty, he was forced to leave his job at his father's brewery, and enlist in the French army. Napoleon Bonaparte was drafting hundreds of thousands of soldiers for his campaigns in Europe, and Abbeel was one of the draftees. He was then sent to fight in Austria, Germany, and Russia.
Abbeel served as a soldier for ten years, during which he was basically paid nothing. His salary, like that of thousands of other draftees, remained unpaid when Napoleon was deposed. In addition to suffering injuries and deprivations, Abbeel came out the war as poor as a mouse.
The most traumatic experience in his life was his participation in Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. The invasion killed two thirds of the French troops. When Abbeel was retreating through Germany, he was captured by the Russians, and forced to walk to Kazan, where he was kept in appalling conditions for three years, together with other six thousand war prisoners. From those, only hundred and seventy survived.
Despite his misfortunes, Abbeel never allowed himself to break down psychologically. When the Russians took him prisoner, he tried to escape three times. And when he was starving, he managed to stay alive by eating horse blood mixed with flour. No matter what happened to him, Abbeel would just keep going. He simple refused to give up.