Sun Tzu once said, "Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of your opponent's fate."
Sun Tzu was a military general, strategist and philosopher who lived in ancient China. Around these parts, we know him as the author of, "The Art of War," which was an extremely influential book about strategy. I read this book several years ago - and so many incredible nuggets of truth have stuck with me. These lessons have helped me rise above any adversity I might experience.
In "The Art of War," Sun Tzu explains how to manage crisis, strategize conflict, and win battles.
Some of the key points I took away are:
1. “All warfare is based on deception.”
You have to be aware of your capabilities and your surroundings. What I did was make a checklist of everything I was capable of, had experience with, and was known for. That is the first step.
Granted, sometimes you have to adjust your plans according to your resources. Location can play a big role in this decision making process, but once you do that, you should act quickly. There is a very short window of opportunity.
With that being said, you have to outwit the competition. You can do this by subtlety staying the course and moving in one direction.
For me, it might be a dollar amount, or skills I want to utilize. Once I hone in on what I want - then I plot the course. The funny part is, most people will expect you to crumble. However, a warrior's attitude does not allow that. Gracefully glide across the pond, but be kicking up a storm under the water.
2. “Let your main object be victory, not lengthy drawn-out campaigns. "
The next step is all about decisive behavior, and time management. You have to focus on the end result and set a time line for yourself. (ex. - I will accomplish this goal by this date.)
It is important to keep your morale up. (Think "keeping the troops happy.") This is important in your personal relationships. Do not let the burden of what you are enduring seep into the lives of people you love and want to be around. Also, if someone is trying to help you, then you show appreciation and provide encouragement.
Of course, Sun Tzu recommends shining the light on your competitor's weaknesses, however, I am not a fan of that tactic. However, there are ways you can do that without doing anything. If you know for a fact you are more qualified, then stand next to the other person. Give them a little rope.... it all works out in the end.
After all, you are waging a war of sorts.
3. “If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle”
I think this is the best advice for life in general. It is all about knowing yourself, knowing what you are capable of, and understanding the same of your opponent. Don't use up all of your energy trying to go on the attack, but instead, yearn to excel and succeed at everything you do. Your work will speak volumes. Put a focus on your strengths, especially the ones your opponent does not have. ;-)
Take initiative. This is no time to hesitate. If you find some holes in your strategy, then take the time to fix what needs to be fixed, and move forward as quickly as possible.
In the book, there is a basic formula for a "Strike." There is:
- The preemptive attack.
- The divide and conquer
- Siege mentality
- The retreat
Hopefully you will not be on the side of "retreat." With a proper plan, and the right qualifications, you can move forward.
4. “One may KNOW how to conquer without being able to DO it”
Just because you have the books, have the paper, and can technically do what is required, does not mean you have the talent. Be efficient. Be honest with yourself.
5. “The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.”
Sun Tzu has two ways to outsmart and take down your opponent (the competition.)
Tips on how to “win” the battle include:
- The Element of Surprise
- Deception: Masking your true strength when trying to outflank or outwit your “opponent”
- Using Bait to outwit your opponents and draw their true intentions and positions.
- Not relying on any one person but instead focusing on the discipline and unity of your support system
6. “Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.”
Next you have got to learn how to spot your opponents weaknesses, and position yourself in the most advantageous way.
Fairly simple process:
- Take initiative
- Be aware of your opponents weaknesses, and make sure you are even better at them
- Be aware of the competitive advantage
- Be a moving target; Make sure your next move is hard to predict
- Remember: timing is everything
7. “The difficulty of tactical maneuvering consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain.”
Keep your current relationships, support system, and other resources in good standing. Make sure you know the market, and understand what your odds are. Most important - DO NOT ENTER INTO AN ALLIANCE UNTIL YOU KNOW YOUR OPPONENTS MOTIVES. Hands down - the single MOST important piece of advice I could ever give you.
8. “In the midst of difficulties we are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune.”
One writer on the subject states, "A great leader has the ability to read the signs around him, track history and therefore be alert to deception or sudden changes by correctly extrapolating future behavior."
Sun Tzu gives an acute reading of human behavior here:
“When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce.”
The truth is, there are dozens and dozens of nuggets of truth for setting your goals and achieving them. I think the biggest mistake people make is that they underestimate their opponent. Not me.... I think anyone is capable of anything, and in hard times, it is every man for himself.
If you get a moment, watch this fantastic video. You might walk away with a few golden nuggets to live by.
Remember this can be applied to all areas of our lives.
I'll leave you with this last quote...
“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected .”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
I wish each of you success in your future endeavors! :-)