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The Art of War
Brilliant ideas that can guide your life
He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.
The Art of War has been one of the most influential guides in human history. Leaders from around the world in many different areas and backgrounds have applied Sun Tzu’s teachings to achieve their goals.
On the surface, the notion of the art of war seems quite sinister, but it’s lessons are actually peaceful in nature and teach you to get ahead, but not necessarily at the expense of others. To really get a grasp on these concepts, one of the best resources I’ve been able to find is Zhao An Xin’s Four Quadrants of Power. It uses the Art of War among other Asian knowledge systems to create a very powerful mental, social, physical and structural power that really makes you unstoppable in life. Why cheat your way into power when you can do it intelligently and deliberately?
When people think of psywar, they immediately think of shady dealings and waterboarding among other dangerous tortures. In reality, the art of war not only involves knowing everything about your target, but also in knowing all there is to know about yourself.
You might know exactly what that jerk in the office is going to say, but if you have now idea how you’ll react, then you have already lost your battle. Self awareness is not just knowing what you will say in response to an insult, but it’s key is in how you will feel.
Emotions have a way of ruining everything. People that can’t control their emotions whether it’s anger or even love will always be exploited. The person who finally snaps and gets enraged during a confrontation gets pummeled by their level-headed opponent. Having the self awareness to understand your weak emotional issues make you a much better opponent. If you have a problem with anger, you will never get to the better places in life until you Stop the Rage. No one puts up with a hot-head for long and no one promotes someone who can’t control themselves.
I once had a girlfriend who loved to pick fights. She would go out of her way to over-react or misinterpret something I would say because she had a bad day at work and wanted to blow off steam. Knowing her outbursts rarely had anything to do with me made these arguments very easy to get out of.
One day, as a strange little experiment, I told her we could never talk about my debt (which was almost non-existent and quite manageable). This had never been a point of contention between us before. One evening when she was feeling rambunctious, she mentioned my debt during an argument. Previous to this, I had never really cared about it, but the fact that she brought up something I said was off limits angered me.
I had to leave the room. I actually had no idea that I would get so mad at her. This provocation made me feel violent. I had the self awareness to remove myself from the situation, but not the self awareness to realize that my little experiment would affect me so deeply. We weren’t dating for much longer after this.
In the Art of War, Sun Tzu poses the idea of “taking whole.” Essentially what this means is that a victory over an opponent whose land you have devastated is no real victory at all. The whole point of invading someone’s land is for the benefit of owning their resources.
If you drop a nuke on your rival, then all you win is a burnt out chunk of worthless land and a bunch of dying residents who will never forget what you did to them.
The concept of taking whole is a victory that leaves everything intact. You can destroy your co-worker with a devious campaign of psychological warfare, but now you have to watch your back. What if you could find a way to defeat them on the matter at hand but let them keep their dignity? They will appreciate your generosity and may actually become your ally.
The art of war sets forth that a true victory is a victory over aggression. When you give you enemy a sporting respect, then the need to try and enforce a shaky peace becomes unnecessary.
Often taking whole goes way beyond simply bringing someone over to your side. Instead, you might show them that this is about more than any “side.” The greater good of the company, the benefit of your people, or the betterment of all mankind are things worthy of relenting for.
People are often most interested in what’s in it for them. Taking whole fits into this nicely too. It forces you to find a compromise (whether real or imagined) that avoids a devastating and costly war. If you can find a way to show that your proposal is most likely to get all the employees a bonus, then you’ll find little opposition. If you can show someone the biblical celebrations of sexuality, then you might actually be able to sleep with the missionaries that always knock on your door. Yippeee!
The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
The reality of the art of war
Psychological warfare has very little to do with actual war. The costly destruction of life and resources should be the very last alternative. What you are really trying to do in the art of war is to get your enemy to defeat themselves by making them believe the fight is unwinnable or that they have already won by embracing your way of thinking.
The real art of war is about knowledge: knowledge of your enemy and knowledge of yourself. It is how you manage the conflict in the world and inside ourselves; to face it directly and deliberately to achieve the outcome you most desire. This originates from an inner peace that creates a wise fearlessness that finally allows you to see the angles.
One hundred victories in one hundred battle is not the most skillful. Subduing the other’s military without battle is the most skillful.
Learning the art of war can help you, the trick is to find a source that explains the murky language