“To become a true strategist, you must take three steps. First, become aware of the weakness and illness that can take hold of the mind, warping its strategic powers. Second, declare a kind of war on yourself to make yourself move forward. Third, wage ruthless and continual battle on the enemies within you by applying certain strategies.”
The 33 Strategies of War, Robert Greene
To become a strategist: Know Yourself.
“Your mind is the starting point of all war and all strategy. A mind that is easily overwhelmed by emotion, that is rooted in the past instead of the present, that cannot see the world with clarity and urgency, will create strategies that will always miss the mark.”
The 33 Strategies of War, Robert Greene
Here are 4 concepts from Greene’s Self-Directed War chapters to help you become a true strategist.
Your Inner Enemy
Your biggest obstacles are not rivers or mountains, technology, other businesses, luck, or other people; our obstacle is ourselves. If you feel lost and confused, if you lose your sense of direction, if you cannot tell the difference between friend and foe, you have only yourself to blame.
As in the book Propeller, the most important requirement for strategy is responsibility. Saying, “I am responsible” is the cleverest, and most reliable way to make sure you triumph and grow through any situation.
Everything depends on your frame of mind and on how you look at the world. A shift of perspective transforms you from passive and confused into a motivated and creative fighter. Our relationships define us. Recognize who you do not want to be. Be clear on your sense of identity and purpose. Green suggests, “Do not listen to people who say the distinction between friend and enemy is primitive and passé. They are just disguising their fear of conflict behind a front of false warmth. They are trying to push you off course, to infect you with the vagueness that inflicts them. Once you feel clear and motivated, you will have space for true friendship and true compromise. Your enemy is the polar star that guides you. Given that direction, you can enter battle.”
War of the Mind Strategy?
Our mind is weaker than our emotions. You become aware of this weakness only in moments of adversity—exactly when you need strength. Having more knowledge or intellect fails to equip us for conflict or pressure situations. What makes your mind stronger, to control your emotions, is internal discipline and toughness. No one can teach you this skill; you cannot learn it by reading about it. Like any discipline, it can come only through practice, experience, suffering. Build presence of mind first by seeing your need for it. Want it enough to work for it.
Presence of Mind
Presence of mind is a counterbalance to mental weakness, to your tendency to get emotional and lose perspective in the heat of battle. Your greatest weakness is losing heart, doubting ourselves, becoming unnecessarily cautious.
Being more careful is not what you need; that is just a screen for your fear of conflict and of making a mistake. What you need is double the resolve—an intensification of confidence. That will serve as a counterbalance. In moments of turmoil and trouble, you must force yourself to be more determined. Call up the aggressive energy you need to overcome caution and inertia. Any mistakes you make, you can rectify with more energetic action still.
Save your carefulness for the hours of preparation, but once the fight begins, empty your mind of doubts. Find joy in attack mode. Momentum will carry you through.
Alfred Hitchcock's first movie failed miserably. Hitchcock hated chaos and disorder, unexpected events, panicky crew members. Any loss of control made him miserable. From that point on, he treated filmmaking like a military operation. By establishing control in advance Hitchcock might not appear like presence of mind, yet it takes this quality to its zenith. It means entering battle (in Hitchcock’s case a film shoot) feeling calm and ready.
Death Ground: Urgency and Desperation
Freedom can be a burden. While daily routines help you avoid feeling directionless, often there’s a nagging fear you could accomplish much more.
We waste time.
Upon occasion, you feel a sense of urgency. Most often it is imposed from outside: you fall behind in your work, you inadvertently take on more than we can handle, responsibility for something is thrust into your hands.
Now everything changes; no more freedom. You have to do this, You have to fix that. The surprise is always how much more spirited and more alive this makes you feel; now everything you do seems necessary.
Eventually, we go back to our normal patterns. And when that sense of urgency goes, we really do not know how to get it back.
Leaders of armies have thought about this subject since armies existed: how can soldiers be motivated, be made more aggressive, more desperate? Over two thousand years ago, the Chinese strategist Sun-Tzu talked of a “death ground”—a place where an army is backed up against some geographical feature like a mountain, a river, or a forest and has no escape route. Without a way to retreat, Sun-Tzu argued, an army fights with double or triple the spirit it would have on open terrain because death is viscerally present. Sun-Tzu advocated deliberately stationing soldiers on death ground to give them the desperate edge that makes men fight like the devil.
Death ground is a psychological phenomenon that goes well beyond the battlefield: it is any set of circumstances in which you feel enclosed and without options. There is very real pressure at your back, and you cannot retreat. Time is running out. Failure—a form of psychic death—is staring you in the face. You must act or suffer the consequences.
We are creatures intimately tied to our environment—we respond viscerally to our circumstances and to the people around us. If our situation is easy and relaxed, if people are friendly and warm, our natural tension unwinds. Put yourself in a high-stakes situation—a psychological death ground—and the dynamic changes. Your body responds to danger with a surge of energy; your mind focuses. Urgency is forced on you; you are compelled to waste no more time. The trick is to use this effect deliberately from time to time, to practice it on yourself as a kind of wake-up call.
To create an environment where everyone is inspired to give their best, contact Positioning Systems today to schedule a free exploratory meeting.
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