History’s Infamous 5: Lessons Freelancers Can Learn From Them

History’s Infamous 5: Lessons Freelancers Can Learn From Them

Mao Tse Tung, Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Kim Jong-il all have something in common. Each of them has affected the lives of many people, largely in a negative manner. However, these 5 political leaders can offer us something else besides negativity, overt control and extreme political views and beliefs.

The History Infamous 5

History is there for us to learn from past mistakes so that we can absorb the good and avoid the bad. If we view them objectively without pre-judgement, they have led rather incredible lives and achieved quite a large undertaking; although their methods of achieving their goals are highly questionable.

As freelancers, more often than not, we too must make harsh decisions that force us to set aside our nice-guy personality and push forward regardless. The 5 political leaders this article will take a look at are mostly dictators and interestingly, I believe that ‘dictator’ is a word that best describes us freelancers as well. We are our own dictators. We make hard decisions that push us to go beyond our comfort zone so that we can advance forward and reach our ultimate goals.

Looking beyond the superficial, let’s study each individual and learn how we can apply the positive aspects of their philosophy and their good work habits.

The Infamous 5: History’s Most Controversial Leaders

Please be aware that the article’s intent is not to promote or influence anyone to accept their beliefs but to objectively explore that part of history and to see what we can gain from it.

Mao Tse Tung

Held in high regard, Mao Tse Tung is seen as a great revolutionary, political strategist, military mastermind, and savior of China. A controversial figure, his is a contentious and ever-evolving legacy.

Many Chinese believe that through his policies, he helped to build the foundations of modern China in terms of the economic, technological and cultural aspects of the country. It is because of him that the country was able to transform from an agrarian society to the major world power it is becoming today.

Mao Tse Tung
Image credit: marmotfotos

Learning Point

Reflecting upon the guerrilla roots of Maoism which sprung from the need to build support in the countryside against Japanese occupation and the emphasis on the need to win over the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people through ‘education’. We can apply Mao’s beliefs in the way we deal with our clients; to win over their ‘hearts and minds’ through ‘education’.

We should educate our clients and teach them the need to embrace new or specific technology to complete and produce excellent work. Also remember that by building a good relationship and ensuring support from all our clients, we will be able to sustain ourselves in the long run.

Saddam Hussein

Former President of Iraq Saddam Hussein held his position from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003. A leading member of the revolutionary Ba’ath Party, he played a key role in the 1968 coup that brought the party to long term power. The Ba’ath Party espoused secular pan-Arabism, economic modernization, and Arab socialism.

Under Saddam’s government, Iraq broke out of the consternation of Islamic conservatives and helped give women added freedom and offered them a chance to take on high-level civil and industry jobs. He also created a Western-style legal system making Iraq the only country in the Persian Gulf region that is not ruled according to the traditional Islamic Law.

Saddam established and controlled the “National Campaign for the Eradication of Illiteracy” and the campaign for “Compulsory Free Education in Iraq”. The government also established free schooling up to the highest education levels and helped thousands in his country learn to read in the years following the initiation of the program. His belief that education and constant upgrading is a key component to progress was his most positive contribution during his control of Iraq.

Saddam Hussein
Image credit: ethiosudanese

Learning Point

Saddam’s focus and contribution through the compulsory free education in Iraq is his way of trying to modernize and improve Iraq. We freelancers must also constantly upgrade and improve our skills so that we can keep up with the world’s standards and continue to survive in this cut-throat and competitive industry. It is only with our own determination and through self motivation to continue learning that we will improve and make our mark in the industry.

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler is a name that is widely known. Leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party abbreviated NSDAP in 1921, the party was commonly known as the Nazi Party. He gained support by promoting German nationalism, anti-Semitism, anti-capitalism, and anti-communism with his charismatic oratory abilities and propaganda. Appointed chancellor in 1933, he quickly transformed the Weimar Republic into the Third Reich, a single-party dictatorship based on the totalitarian and autocratic ideas of national socialism.

His achievement and political advancement could not have been possible if not for the fact that he was a gifted orator. He captivated his believers with his emotional speeches, his beating of the lectern and growling. His passion and blind belief in his own words inspired others to believe him as well. However, this gift of speech had to be developed over time and with much practice.

He honed his skills by giving speeches to soldiers during 1919 and 1920. He perfected his delivery by rehearsing in front of mirrors and even went to the extent of choreographing his display of emotions and eventually, he became an expert at giving impassioned speeches. It is said that Hitler was above all else, an actor; and a great one at that.

Adolf Hitler
Image credit: gargsuni

Learning Point

A master of negotiation, a very effective communicator, and influential speaker, Hitler was able to talk his way into getting whatever he wanted. Freelancers also have to master the skills of good negotiation so that they are able to deal with clients. It is difficult to come to a compromise when the two parties involved have vastly different agendas and priorities.

The trick of brilliant negotiation is to ensure that you are able to get what you want without offending the client or allowing them to feel cheated or bullied into the end result you want. You must first understand your client and their personality so that you can work your way around them to get your desired result. Practice like Hitler on how to convince your clients and be sure to truly believe in what you are proposing so that you might inspire them to trust in you and believe as well.

Joseph Stalin

A man responsible for many deaths and atrocities in the Soviet Union, now known as Russia, Joseph Stalin was the first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s central committee. He held the post from 1922 and subsequently became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1924 until his death in 1953. During the period he was in power, he launched a command economy replacing the New Economic Policy of the 1920s. He introduced the concept of Five-Year Plans in the hopes that it will help the Soviet Union undergo rapid industrialization and economic collectivization.

Stalin’s Five-Year Plan substantially helped to modernize the previously backward Soviet economy. Through his Five-Year Plans new products were developed, and the scale and efficiency of existing production greatly increased. Some innovations were based on indigenous technical developments, while others were based on imported foreign technology. Despite its high costs, the industrialization effort allowed the Soviet Union the ability to fight and ultimately win the Second World War with the rest of the Allies.

Joseph Stalin
Image credit: i.telegraph

Learning Point

Making important decisions is part and parcel of a freelancer’s livelihood. Often, the decisions you make regarding the projects you have today will impact future potential projects as well. Learning from Stalin’s eye for foresight, freelancers should think ahead and have their own five-year plan to better themselves. Before you embark on your own drawn up five-year plan, be sure to know what goal you want to achieve first. Set high but achievable and realistic goals. Then work out how to get to that end point you want to achieve over the course of the next five years and do a yearly evaluation to ensure you are always on track of your five-year plan.

Kim Jong il

Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-il of North Korea, also known as Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, succeeded his father, the founder of North Korea. Commanding the fourth largest standing army in the world, Kim Jong-iI is officially referred to as the “Dear Leader” and the “Great Leader”.

North Korea’s highly secretive nature is a result of Kim Jong-il’s policies and beliefs. North Korea has little contact with other nations and has almost cut off all foreign relationships. He wishes to ensure that his country and its people stay focused and whole heartedly follow his lead without concern about how others view him or his methods of doing things.

Kim Jong II
Image credit: independent

Learning Point

Charging forward regardless of what others might think of you is also something we might learn from the example of Kim Jong-il. Being a freelancer is not an easy career path. Others might put you down and mock your choices and decisions. However, do not take into account their negativity and push forward by putting your heart and soul into whatever decisions you’ve made.

Every major company has a confidentiality clause written into their important contracts, even with their employees. It is included to protect the interests of the company, its secrets and its projects. Of course we should not go to extremes and be excessively harsh and secretive. However, we have to protect ourselves and our clients and ensure that ongoing projects should not have information or details leaked out before they are ready to be released.

History and the Lessons We Can Learn

These 5 infamous individuals have made their mark on history. Their views are extreme and callous and some prefer to move on and to brush them aside. However we should take the positive lessons we can learn from them and use them to our advantage.

What else do you think we can learn from them? Share your thoughts with us in the comment box below and let us know what you think about these learning points we can pick up from these 5 political leaders.

Aidan Huang is a web enthusiast and ingenious blogger who loves all things design, interesting and technology. He is the editor-in-chief at Onextrapixel and have founded several other interesting blogs. Do keep in touch with him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.


  1. / Reply

    Excellent article!

    I like the way you talk about leaders and the good things they do.

      • Tbonedaddy,
      • May 18, 2010
      / Reply

      What are you talking about?

    1. / Reply

      Hitler didn’t do the good things, friend! By the way, very well article and it’s informative, Aidan!

    • Benjamin,
    • May 17, 2010
    / Reply

    Nice parallels, and refreshing to see someone NOT picking on the negatives of these people for a change.
    Just a note: It’s Adolf Hitler… with an “f” ;)

    1. / Reply

      Hi Benjamin,

      Thanks for pointing it out. Got it fixed.


      • Tbonedaddy,
      • May 18, 2010
      / Reply

      Poor Adolf and the gang. Killed over 100 million and we should focus on their good qualities like not having killed more? Nice!

  2. / Reply

    I understand the point that you’re trying to make, but learning lessons to apply to freelancing from the 5 individuals responsible for the worst evils of the 20th century is really appropriate in my mind. The “skills” that you highlight were used to perpetrate the murder hundreds of millions of people, and I don’t really see what that has to do with freelancing. You should be careful when writing articles like this – people are going to get offended very easily.

    1. / Reply

      I presume you meant to say ‘…. is really inappropriate in my mind’ – however, the most evil people in the world are very often geniuses in one field or another and it is a shame that their talent is not put to good use rather than evil. This kind of article surely points out how it could all have been so different if the imaginative thought processes of these leaders was put to doing good things for the world and/or their countries. Why should we not learn from them – after all, most businesses these days work to a 5-year plan – should they not do that because Stalin invented it? There is never a complaint about articles pointing out the things these evil men have perpetrated that we should NOT be doing – it is good to know we can gain something, however small in the whole scheme of things, from their horrible deeds!

      • Ryan Moore,
      • May 18, 2010
      / Reply

      I agree that it’s inappropriate, however the author does have a point. For an example the other way, the Nobel Peace Prize is named after Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite.

    • Lou,
    • May 17, 2010
    / Reply

    I agree with Addicott. While I wholeheartedly approve of focusing on the positive qualities of people, this list of leaders and their qualities is not appropriate. There are many, many examples of leaders throughout history that also displayed these characteristics but promoted positive, peaceful causes. But, I guess that wouldn’t get the reaction that Aidan wanted.

    • jack,
    • May 18, 2010
    / Reply

    sounds like the leader of north korea has a little something in common with the leader of a little fruit logo company based in california

    • MC,
    • May 18, 2010
    / Reply

    Love the article.

    You missed an evil leader who left u.s in 2008. He is also known for killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s although i guess hes one former leader who most certainly was not a genius of any sort.

    @Addicott Web, come on! If this article was called 5 Influential Western leaders and lessons we can learn from then you’d never call for censoring of this article. Why, because they commit ‘acts of evil’ in a civilised fashion, with their citizen’s support.

    • Kent,
    • May 18, 2010
    / Reply

    Now this is an off the wall article, bit reaching im parts maybe but fun to read

  3. / Reply

    After reading the post and trying to craft a coherent, well reasoned comment, I find myself stuck. So I’ll stick with bullet points.

    – I really enjoyed the post.
    – I’m fairly certain we can all agree these 5 are the worst of the worst. They’re responsible for the most death and pain NOT perpetrated in the name of God in history.
    – The title and subject of the post were likely carefully developed to elicit strong reactions and draw readers in (After all, it got US to read it and comment on it, didn’t it?)
    – Like Carol said above, these men were probably “geniuses in one field or another”. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It’s just that in Mao, Hitler, Stalin, Saddam and Kim, these qualities were developed to the dark extremes of their respective ranges (the geek analogy, I imagine, would be the light/dark side of the Force).
    – At least for the purposes of this post, we need to try and separate the politics from the men in order to see how these character traits could be refocused into something more positive, and how these characteristics can be applied to the freelancing life.

      • Tbonedaddy,
      • May 18, 2010
      / Reply

      I agree we need to separate the politics from most thoughts posted here under the topic of freelance design. But one cannot and should not separate what these men did. Praising their negotiation skills and their determination to become political movers and shakers is not something that should be held in high regard.

      I would like you to explain that to the millions of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, spouses, children and grandchildren who lost love ones to these men. I don’t think they would agree with you. I don’t think they could separate the men from these despicable acts.

      What we need here is a little more perspective. If the author wanted to focus on those positive traits, focus on the traits. Using Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein as examples is not only polarizing but inflammatory.

  4. / Reply

    Excellent article. I earlier thought it would be a article about what not to do based on the infamous 5.

    • Tbonedaddy,
    • May 18, 2010
    / Reply

    I found it a bit odd that one can make the connection between freelancing and the abuse of power and the murderous pedigree these individuals hold (over 100 million) Never would I have imagine that Adolf Hitler or Stalin would ever be painted is such a positive light. As Bob Dillon wrote, “the times they are changing.” My how we have forgotten the millions of innocent people these men have killed over such a short period of time. These men are not just the worst of the worst (politically correct words) they are brutal, evil dictators who thought nothing of the people they claimed to protect and love. Thought only of their selfish ego maniacal desires. I guess this is one of those examples where the ends justified the means. Is this what I need to glean from this article? Is this the kind of designer I should be? Or maybe the negative feedback is what the author wanted to achieve. I don’t know. I’m pretty open minded but I think when it comes to these guys that is where I close the door.

    And whoever thought it was time to say something positive about these psychos…maybe you need a refresher in history. Maybe we all do.

      • Famous,
      • May 18, 2010
      / Reply

      I agree. I think the author should have chosen others with higher standards for us as designers to focus on. In my mind I will never see myself looking to these men for any kind of association to how I want to be.

  5. / Reply

    While I agree that it’s very unusual to read an article about the 5 masterminds of evil, and how I can take their strongest sides and use them! I must say that this article in fact was a good read! I think that all of you that are saying, that this article gives praising to these individuals!

    I couldn’t disagree more!

    Some of those traits gave them the opportunity to become the most powerful leaders! Which is something as a Freelancer is very important, as we are own bosses! This article only gives praise to the abilities/traits! To think otherwise is being ignorant at best!

    Just because that these people did terrible and unimaginable stuff doesn’t mean we should forget all about them? No! I disagree! We should learn from the whole experience and let it help us become better!

    Just my 2 cents

  6. / Reply

    C’mon! i though that designers, programmers and such were free minded, open and free thinkers.

    I’m realizing that some of the guys who commented this post didn’t understand the basic and main theme.
    I agree that each one of the infamous listed here were the worst that ever put a foot on this planet (i can name a few more), and i don’t approve in not even a single bit what they did. But it’s for our own good always learn from the history to not step with the same rock.
    Also, there’s a lot of people around there studying those guys cause they were influential in their time and people, sadly, followed them. And so, i think it’s a good thing learn about those guys who can reappear in the shape of lambs and later become lions and so stop them before make a bigger bad.

    What the author point out it’s real, like it or not.
    If you want to make the difference: do good things no matter how you learned what you know.

    PS: sorry for my English

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