Chapter 7 - The Battlefield (Strategy and Goal Setting)
Cyborg Attack Mode
Military Strategy in Non-Military Situations
Making use of tactical considerations to ensure overall strategic success For most of the preceeding chapters of this book, we have discussed topics which give a person short-term tactical advantages. For example, skills to successfully write a particular exam, techniques to minimize sleep time, and knowledge to use specific machines and tools to benefit us. These are all individual “weapons” in our war against the obstacles. You can think of them as machine guns, tanks, or even individual soldiers. But because of their nature, they are limited in that they still require guidance to use them. Even the smartest of weapons, the artificially-intelligent “smart” cruise missiles, need someone to determine their targets for them. This is when strategic analysis and guidance comes into play, and will be the focus of this chapter.
One clarification must be made concerning the material in this chapter. Some of it may portray itself as advocating the “use” of people, in a superficial and pragmatic manner, without regard for their individuality or feelings. Yet it should be obvious that I cannot possibly want to convey that kind of message. “No man is an island,” it has been said, and no person should be. On this planet, we are each unique and special. In my life, I have met so many individuals with remarkable qualities and personalities that I find it ridiculous to attempt to generalize about people. I have friends all over the world. Most from personal encounter and travel, others (such as penpals) simply from correspondence. I do not consider myself a conniving or iniquitous person. I doubt my friends do either. In fact, for the most part, I have tried very hard to help as many people, and animals, as I can financially and psychologically afford to. Yet it took me a long time to get over the stigma of compromising objective accomplishment with the fear that one is using other people. Our treatment and relationship to other people come on at least two levels.
First of all, we are associated with that person because of some need, whether it is emotional, financial, or otherwise. Yet on top of this utilitarian level, we overlay our personal feelings and affection. We cannot say, for example, that we are “using” our fellow students to achieve some end, unless we also say that we “use” our parents to ensure survival. We cannot blame patients for “using” doctors, lawyers for “using” witnesses, or patrons from “using” waiters. Just because you are afraid of being a jerk if you asked a classmate to help you type up a paper does not mean that you suffer the consequences of not getting it typed, or paying to have it typed (by “using” someone else). In fact, if a classmate was a personal friend of yours, you would probably not hesitate to ask for help, secure in your knowledge that you would have done the same for them. Just because you prefer to ask for help from people who are already your friends does not preclude the fact that you can ask for help from people first and then become their friends. I know a lot of family doctors that have personal relationships with their patients. I am sure that very few of those patients started off as friends first, before deciding to see the doctor. I made many good friends during my school years simply because situations demanded that I collaborate with them on a certain project, or borrow their notes.
To be sure, most students make friends at school in exactly this manner anyway, so what is there to prevent us from becoming aware of the fact, and maximizing its value? In any event, what I present are only the tools and potentials for their use. Whether or not you decide to use them towards friendly, or manipulative, ends will depend on your personality. Nothing that I can say will make you go out and do harm to someone else unless you are already predisposed to something like that, in which case you would merely be using my material as an excuse. I take comfort in knowing that people can only succeed if they think, subconsciously or not, that they deserve it.
Mapping Out the Objectives
In order to win a war, we must understand as many aspects of the situation we are in, as possible. However, there is but a single supremely important piece of information that supercedes all others in priority: Knowledge of the conditions of victory. I say this because we must understand what we are fighting for. We must understand the whole point of the war. It is easy to be caught up in the intensity of the moment, in each individual shorter-term battle, and in the even smaller components of that battle - the very-short-term goals. Without knowing what our ultimate objective is, we cannot know when to stop fighting, we cannot know whether or not we had already won, and most importantly we cannot know if we have made errors in our strategic thinking without a specific target to gauge us.
Therefore, let us specify our ultimate goal. What do you want to get out of your business? Out of your school? Out of your life? Why do you wake up every morning? What are you trying to accomplish by reading this book? What would make you totally happy for the rest of your life? Please sit down at your desk now - using maximum shielding so that you will not be disturbed at such a critical point in time - and write down your thoughts about the ultimate objective you are striving towards. Make sure that it is truly extremely long-term. When thinking about your target, ensure that you are specific about it. Very specific. It would do not good for a commander or general to give a vague description of an objective to his or her soldiers. They must have specific characteristics to identify the enemy.
Likewise, you must describe your goal in specific terminology. What makes your target different from other targets? How “big” is it? What “colour” is it? What does it “look like?” For example, if your target was the achievement of a million dollars, then the specific characteristic of it would be the appearance of the digit $1,000,000 in your bank statement (Net balance, I might add!) If you were a student, perhaps you wanted to graduate at the top of your class. In that case, perhaps a diploma and a letter from your dean telling you that you’re the best, would serve as specific descriptors.
In addition to writing down the detailed "markings’ or attributes of your target, write down the reasons, the “why,” for your choice of target. You need to understand your rationale behind the selection of this objective, because you can usually find out more about what you really want to get out of life by looking at the reasons behind your choices, rather than at the actual choices you have selected. Do this now, and take up to an hour to really ask yourself questions about your own life, and the direction it is going, and where you want to ultimately end up.
Now, take a look at your supreme goal - your “big target” or BigT. Can you break it down into component targets and smaller, shorter-term objectives? I am sure you can. Simply examine your ultimate goal, and write down all the individual steps it would take before you achieve that ultimate goal. Think about all the things that will lead you right up to that big bullseye, all the stepping stones on your path to total success. To help you with this task, here’s a hint: Sometimes people find that their particular BigT is hard to break down because they have no idea how to get from where they are, to where the BigT is. That’s OK. Use some problem-solving help. Use the technique of working backward. In other words, establish your BigT, then write down what will immediately preceed and lead up to it. Write down the causes of the effects. By working backward, you will be able to plot out a viable route to success. I learned this method when I was playing with maze problems as a kid. If I simply drew a line from the goal, all the way back to the starting point, I would save myself the trouble of having to decide all the different paths and changes in direction that come with working forward.
Now that you have established your BigT, we can look at the SmallT’s (the shorter-term goals). Can you break down these into constituent targets? I know this exercise is getting tedious, but believe me it will serve you for years to come. If you have done this kind of “goal planning” before, try doing it again, but this time think in terms of military strategy and objectives. The change in paradigm may give you new insight and make you realise that there were some objectives of key strategic importance that you never knew existed! Finally, stand back and take a look at your overall strategic plan. You have identified the ultimate objective - the BigT - and the individual component targets - the SmallT’s - that lead up to it. Ask yourself whether or not there are other SmallT’s which can lead up to the BigT just as effectively (provided those SmallT’s are achieved)? By doing so, you are mapping out your options. Remember, maxok does not mean you must follow one path all the way to success, and throw in all your efforts and resources into that one path, regardless of feedback. Maxok requires you to use your judgement, and put maximum effort into your overall war, or each individual battle, but if things aren’t working out, you have to switch to another plan of attack. Maxok means that you don’t just give up. It doesn’t condone stubborness.
SmallT’s - The Shorter-Term Goals
Breaking down the big parts into smaller parts
Let’s look at the SmallT’s for a while. In the example of the student, a SmallT which can lead to the BigT of total academic success would be getting an A in his physics class. Another SmallT would be getting an A in his chemistry class. Yet another SmallT would be getting an A in his literature class. The list goes on.
Now, if we look at the SmallT for the physics class, are there even shorter term goals? You bet. He has to ace each of the individual exams, do well on the assignments, and get the 15% participation mark. And what about those exams? The goals within that objective consist of getting each individual question correct. Do you see the changing scale of events? We move in from an overall BigT, and zoom closer and closer from the war, into the battles, and into the skirmishes. The very act of planning out your overall battleplan in this manner ensures that you have a total and holistic sense of the entire war situation. This sense of the “big picture,” with knowledge of the individual details of that war, will provide you with a specific frame of reference to compare everything that happens against.
By knowing what you do now, you can gauge the relative importance of certain actions and events, and determine their actual and objective worth towards the achievement of your BigT. Many times, people encounter problems that may seem very important, but which in fact turn out to be irrelevant to their ultimate objective. For example, while most people think that failing a course is a very bad thing - and it can be - it may turn out that the course was totally optional and not at all related to the student’s major, in which case he can simply drop it. End of story. In another example, a business executive who loses a deal with a particular client may realise that the client had nothing to do with what the exective really wanted to do in her life: Enter the Olympics!
Thus, not only do we need to break down our objectives into smaller and smaller pieces, to map out the individual footsteps to take, on the path to success, but we also need to identify steps that are unnecessary or irrelevant. While it may be nice to climb up a mountain that lies somewhere between our starting point and the destination, our major purpose is to get to the destination. Climbing the mountain, or failing to climb the mountain, is irrespective of our final goal. It may even deter us or delay success. While other people, mountaineers for instance, will make the mountain itself their goal, we have not chosen that path. Every person has his or her own specific goals, and specific strategy and battleplan to achieve those goals. Do not mistake another person’s SmallT for your own SmallT. If Mary, who is an astronaut, can withstand a million G-forces (because she’s a cyborg as well) that’s great. But it would be useless for you do be able to do the same, except to impress your friends. Unless you think that impressing your friends would lead you to your BigT - hardly likely - then what Mary can achieve and you cannot is not to be your concern.
Overcoming Life’s Obstacles
The Grandmaster of War
More than two and a half thousand years ago, a man by the name of Sun Tzu wrote a book. He called it the Art of War. Chinese today refer to this incredible work as Sun Tzu’s Art of War. It details completely the subject of effective military strategy. Sun Tzu’s book was so well-written and his theories so powerful, that the king of the kingdom of Wu made Sun Tzu the general and master strategist for his entire army. The kingdom of Wu was invincible for about two decades, but after Sun Tzu passed away, and his theories then forgotten by the army, the kingdom of Wu succumbed to its enemies and was finally defeated in 473 B.C. In 1782, Father Amiot - a travelling Jesuit priest - translated the Art of War from the Chinese into French. As a result, it has been said that Napoleon himself used Sun Tzu’s strategies to win his battles, and that his final defeat was a result of neglecting Sun Tzu’s theories.
In 1905 the Art of War was translated into English. And finally, 88 years later, in 1993, its theories were incorporated into this book, as a tribute and homage to the great man himself, Sun Tzu, the grandmaster of war.
The 36 Stratagems
More Power from China
In addition to the Art of War, the Chinese have enjoyed yet another tome of strategic theory: The 36 Stratagems. Interestingly enough, no one person wrote the 36 Stratagems. In fact, each of the 36 was derived from numerous sources and strategic thinkers, distilled over the centuries and passed from generation to generation mainly by word of mouth. Even today, the Chinese people know of the 36 Stratagems the same way proverbs are passed down through history in other cultures of the world. For those of us who are predominantly North American, we can enjoy this collection of wisdom from China through the wonderful book, Lure the Tiger Out of the Mountains, by Gao Yuan (published by Simon & Schuster). I highly recommend it, along with the Art of War.
The Art of Cyborg War
The Path to Invincibility
Now that you know the two major sources for strategic theory, let us begin to apply the wisdom to win our own wars, to achieve our own BigT’s.
In the remainder of this chapter, I will discuss with you the many theories of strategic warfare. I will provide only a concise and brief synopsis of their wisdom. I cannot give you the totality of their application. Individual needs will vary among users, and between situations. It is impossible to cover each and every possible use for the strategies, but knowledge of their overall description and value will allow the aspiring cyborg to tailor the strategy to the needs of specific circumstances, and understand the options available at his or her disposal.
Neither will I present all of the strategies of warfare. Some of them have very little relevance to events outside of warfare, and some of them have questionable ethical value. Moreover, a full treatise on every single strategic concept would be overwhelming, and you will find it confusing and impossible to choose among so many possibilities. I have limited this chapter to only the strategies that I feel are worthy enough deserve our attentions, for the time being. I will leave futher investigation into the matter as the topic for another book. If your curiousity is still piqued after reading my presentation, then I recommend you examine the sources listed in Appendix B for more information.
There is no strict format in which I will present the following material. With very few exceptions, no one strategy is more important the the others. Priorities of application will differ with changes in situational demands. It is up to you, the user, to understand their value, and select the best appropriate applications for them. I will also tend to use more examples that have to do with school, rather than business, for I feel that there tend to be more sources for business strategy than the academic counterpart. Do not, however, make the mistake of limiting the use of the strategies to my discussion: The strategies are universally applicable.
Without futher ado then, I present to you, the Art of Cyborg War.
The Ego and Mistakes
The “Highest Stratagem of them All”
Having said all of the above, I wish to draw your attention to Number 36 of the 36 Stratagems. Literally translated, it says:
- "Thirty-Six Strategems: Escape is the highest of them all."
A secondary implication of Number 36 is to halt the rising damage and destruction. An army that stubbornly fails to fall back, and retreat from an overwhelming enemy will soon face total anniliation and attrition. If a student finds that he cannot cope with a certain class, regardless of all other tactical considerations taken to secure success, then the only way to minimize damages is to drop the course before a low grade is recorded - permanently - into the student’s academic progress, and the grade average is compromised. Number 36 states that you must drop the course before the drop-deadline, before it’s too late, and an F is recorded. In the scenario of business, Number 36 alludes to the concept of a “sunk cost.” Recall that we agreed that sunk costs are not failures in and of themselves. They are merely lessons to be learned, and the wise fighter will likewise learn from mistakes by being brave enough to retreat for the time being. A course dropped can be taken again, the next time around with more information about it, and thus a higher chance of success. Repeat after me: “Retreat is not defeat. Retreat is not defeat. Retreat is not defeat.”
Know Thy Enemy
Sun Tzu stressed that in order to win battles (and ultimately the war), we have to know the strength of both ourselves and the enemy. But who is the enemy? Sometimes, it’s easy to tell, but most of the time there are far more numbers of “hidden” enemies, than conspicious ones. We can simplify the task of enemy identification by realising that anything that hinders or prevents our realisation of success is an enemy. This includes people and events we are shielding from. It includes other demands placed on our time and energies, that deter us from focussing our resources towards the main battle situation. Think about all of these factors that influence you now. If you are running a business, the enemy will be other businesses that compete with you in your industry. It may even include businesses from other industries. Enemies in school can include people who steer you away from studying, temptations to not go to class. A traffic jam might be an enemy, if you are trying to get to school to write an exam. In fact, even the teacher could be an enemy, if his or her teaching methods are not working well for you. Take some time now and write down all the enemies you can think of, no matter how trivial they may seem. Remember, as you write, that some enemies may appear in the form of allies or comrades, but turn out to deter rather than assist you. For example, you family, although usually supportive and understanding, may try to prevent you from your polyphasic sleep schedule (q.v.) and this renders it as an enemy. Take one hour to write down your list of enemies. Now.
OK, while you were writing, you probably realised that enemies can fluctuate. In other words, depending on the circumstances, an ally could be an enemy (as in the example of your family) and vice-versa. This is quite normal. The USA decided that the USSR was its enemy for a while, but now they’re buddies. Actually, before the “cold war” started, the USA and the USSR were friends. So you see, everything changes from time to time. In the example of your teacher or professor, even though the teaching methods may not work for you, the teacher really does want to help. It’s just the method of instruction that’s the real enemy. And this brings us to the next point: Some of your enemies are not really enemies at all, but were perceived as such because of a hidden and more fundamental problem. The real enemy was the teaching method, not the teacher. Go back to your list and recheck your enemies and try to find more fundamental faults with them, rather than consider the surface issue.
Now that you have finished with your enemy list, you understand what you have to look out for. And that leads to our final point on this subject: You must try to turn enemies into allies. To illustrate, if your teacher’s methods aren’t doing you any good, perhaps you can confront the teacher and discuss your problems with him or her. Since your teacher probably isn’t “out to get you” - contrary to what some students may think! - he or she will work with you to find some way around the problem. Perhaps it’s the manner of speech your teacher uses in class, or the way the presentation or lecture comes across to you. The teacher may even suggest some extra credit for you, to compensate for your bad performance in previous tests and exams. In this case, your teacher has allied with you and given you additional opportunity to prove your worth. A bad situation has thus been rectified.
To summarize, Sun Tzu says:
- "By understanding yourself and understanding your enemy, you will win all of a hundred battles you fight."
Sacrifices as Investments
Throwing a Brick
The 36 Stratagems list one which applies to personal sacrifice:
- "Throw a brick to attract jade."
To see it in the light of the student, the relatively unimportant social events that he misses in order to study are bricks. The A+ he gets on the exam is the valuable jade. This stratagem is easy to see in such a context, but there are other applications.
If you are trying to sell a product, as a manufacturer, the brick is the cost of advertising. The jade is the ultimate reward that supercedes all your investments in advertising. If you are a student writing a research paper, the brick is the time you spend researching in the library. The jade is a great paper and great marks. In addition, if you are trying to get an A+ on a critical class that is of absolute importance to your major, and find that you don’t have enough time to study for its exam, then you can cast the brick and stop studying for the less important classes, and put your efforts towards that critical objective. You may not do as well in the other classes you sacrificed, but you will get a high mark for that vital course, and in the long run you will successfully graduate in the major of your choice. A language course may not be as important as a maths course, for a student majoring in physics. A computer science course may only be an elective for a humanities student. Casting bricks to attract jade mean that you maxok all your resources, to the extent of perhaps “wasting” some of them (but you can never tell, because there is no way you will truly know what the exact amount of a certain resource is necessary to obtain success. Only God - and maybe your mother - will know for sure) but to secure the objective in the long run.
I must stress, however, that too many people abuse this stratagem. They think that they will neglect their electives so that they can do better in their major courses. This is wrong. They should strive to accomodate all their classes. Throwing a brick must only be done in dire circumstances. You have not done your job well as a strategic commander if you have to resort to throwing bricks all the time, and the key to being able to cope with as many things as possible is organization, as we have discussed, and intelligent management of your time and energies.
Taking Advantage of Opportunities
A House on Fire
Opportunities abound in life, and the wise cyborg will do well to take advantage of as many of them as possible. In the words of the immortal Anthony Robbins, “The meeting of preparation with opportunity generates the offspring we call luck.” Therefore, we must be prepared, in order to maximize the value of opportunity when it comes knocking our doors. The Stratagems have this to say: “While a house is on fire, take advantage of the confusion to loot it.” This stratagem, granted, has rather nefarious overtones, but we can ignore the bad side and use the good. The wisdom is the same: Secure the chance to do things, when circumstances are most favourable for their success. Let me give you a constructive example: Assume that you need to use the school’s computer system to finish an assignment for your computer science class, but there are simply too many students around and too few computers. Every time you go to the computer lab, you fail to find a vacant computer workstation, and so far you have not been able to do the assignment, and the deadline is fast approaching. What do to?
Pull the fire alarm and get everyone out.
Actually, I’m just kidding. That was a horrible example (but a funny one, I think, sort of, maybe. OK, it wasn’t. Happy now?) but serves to illustrate my point. You have to find a situation in which you can achieve your objectives. Pulling the fire alarm wouldn’t do anyway, because the computer system might be turned off in such an emergency, and above all you might get expelled from school for such an inconsiderate prank. A better solution would be to wait until everyone’s gone home, and there are more terminals free for you to use. This doesn’t work all of the time, of course. Students may refuse to go home until they have finished their assignments (which may be well past the deadline, if your school is anything like mine!). A more substantial mode of action would be to do the assignment before all these people decided to hog the machines. Again, you have to find a situation that avoids the problem of congestion. A maxok variant of this solution would be actually go up to the computer science teacher and ask him or her for the assignment before it is even handed out. This is true “maximum maxok” (if there can even be such a thing). It isn’t “cheating” because you aren’t infringing upon the rights of another student. In fact, you are doing the masses of people a favour, by finishing your assignment early so that you won’t have to compete with them for yet another space in the computer lab, and you have essentially increased the number of available computer units by one.
There is a concept called the “tragedy of the commons.” The story associated with that idea goes something like this: In a certain village, all the farmers depend on the same field for planting crops. The area of the field is of a size that can exactly accomodate each farmer’s crops provided everyone kept their planting to a certain limit. This was to allow the field an opportunity to regenerate the nutrients in its soil, and accomodate the next batch of crops for the village. However, as far as each individual farmer was concerned, it was to his best interests to plant a few more crops than he was technically allowed. His rationale was that the relatively few extra crops he planted would hardly make a difference. Yet when a large number of farmers do likewise, we find that the field has been depleted of its nutrients, and cannot support any more crops. The village thus suffers from the seemingly minor actions of a few selfish individuals. This aggregate effect of small differences is somewhat akin to synergy, though in a negative context. Taken in light of what we have discussed above, the argument may be that if everyone pre-empted the situation and did their computer projects sooner than expected, the cumulative effect would be a situation of chaotic frenzy in which everyone was competing with everyone else for the computer lab, and we would be back at square one. On the contrary, I hardly think it realistic to believe that there will be that many people who read this book, and do as recommended. The world would not be in such disrepair with so many people underachieving, if the majority of humanity were so action-oriented and initiative-taking. Therefore, it is only the relatively few outstanding students who will make the effort to pre-empt the deadline rush. On the other hand, if indeed everyone took advanced action instead of waiting until the last minute, there would still be ample time and space for everyone to do the assignment, since there is plenty of time before the deadline. However, if the latter should ever happen, it would be very much a reason to celebrate the changing of the times, and would surely motivate the teachers to devise a new system to accomodate the phenomenon.
Finally, remember what Mr. Robbins stressed: Preparation. You must be competent and ready to do the assignment, even if you have the chance to do it. If you don’t know your material, you won’t be able to do the work. That may require some further reading into your textbooks, more than what had been assigned, and that’s to be expected, since you are tackling the problem well beforehand. Throwing bricks again, while the house is burning.
Let me leave you with one more example. Assume that you have to do a report on a certain book that your teacher has assigned. Assume that you got the assignment hand-out in class, and the due-date is not for another three months. Further assume that apart from yourself, nobody else seems to be especially concerned that anyone do the assignment right now. What course of action do you take? The answer is that you should go to the library, get the book, and do the assignment as soon as possible.
The reason? Again, limited resources, just like the computer lab example. If you don’t get the book now, how will you find it when everyone wants to borrow it, and when the bookstore is sold out when people are desperate enough to buy them to do the assignment. Again, you are not injuring anyone, and in fact doing a good deed by relieving other students of the additional demand you put on the book if they have to compete with you to obtain a copy. The “burning house” is an empty library, or an empty computer lab. By “looting” it when the situation is most favourable - when nobody is competing with you for the resources - you have secured your assets and enabled you to do the work. Furthermore, you have finished the assignment long before other students start to panic, and you have thus more time to concentrate on the final exams that may be slated around the book report deadline.
A Winning Attitude
The Sheep’s Clothing
One of the things I want to discuss is one’s attitude in school, business and life. The Stratagem of the Pig says:
- "Pretend to be a pig, and eat a tiger."
Discussions with a school counsellor, no matter how successful you are as a student, may give you new insight into your academic progress. When acting amongst employees or other people in your place of business, do not wear your rank like a medal, and intimidate and overly impose upon them. The general who commands an army still needs people to willingly and enthusiastically support his leadership decisions. By being a decent person to those under his command, the true strategist reveals his strength and competence only in the achievement of worthwhile goals, never in a display of arrogance and abuse of power. The key to personal rapport is to understand that everyone is only human, even cybernetically enhanced entities such as cyborgs. By pretending to be a “pig” - even when you are already an A student or a successful business executive - you will be able to “eat the tiger” of higher achievements and ultimate success.
The Power of Cooperation
Related to the above discussion of a need for humility, is the following strategem:
- "Kill with a borrowed knife."
To illustrate, assume that you have several big assignments to do. In order to hand in an assignment for the following week, you must somehow get your essay typed up quickly. Unfortunately your typing skills are dismally lacking, and there is no time to take a typing course. Furthermore, assume that if you spent your time slowly grinding away at the keyboard, you will not be able to finish the other assignments that have to be done. Your only course of action? Find someone else to type the assignment for you. The other person can be in the form of a friend, or a fellow classmate, or a professional typist. However, the wisdom of this stratagem encourages interdependency and an overall conservation of resources. Although the fastest route to take is to hire the services of a typist, that may incur additional expenses and this additional burden on your limited resources should be avoided. The better route would be to ask the help of a classmate who can type much faster than you, but who may be lacking in some other skill which you can help with.
For instance, perhaps your fellow student is not clear on how to do research in the library. If you strike a deal with him, and ask him to type your assignment, while you help him find the books he needs, then you have created a relationship of interdependency (rather than dependency - in which you depend on him totally for your essay to be typed, and he may resent not getting anything in return for his time - or independency - in which you decide to grit your teeth and bear the brunt of it all, hammering away however slowly at the keyboard by yourself). Of course, I am not condoning actually doing the entire research project for him. I am only suggesting that you lend him a hand and show him how it is done, and maybe do a bit of the work for him, while he helps you get your essay finalized in time for the deadline. Another example of “killing with a borrowed knife” can be seen in the form of asking favours from other people to perform activities for you that you need not really have to do yourself. For example, when running a business, perhaps you don’t really have to meet a client yourself, and someone else can do the job just as effectively. You can delegate your assignments to other people, and lighten your own load, but always be sure to be totally sensitive and concerned about their feelings. Hopefully, you can exchange skills, so that you can help them with something that you are more competent to do, otherwise just remember the favour you asked, and return it when you have the opportunity to do so. Actions speak louder than words. Don’t just “promise” them that you will return the favour, and then forget all about it. Make a personal commitment. Never assume that people will “forget” that they did a favour for you. Have you ever “forgotten” that you went out of your way to do someone else a favour, and they didn’t return it? A sense of cooperation and interdependency will ensure that everyone gets to borrow each others “knives” from time to time, and the overall system efficiency will be elevated.
Finally, always follow up on tasks you have delegated to another person. Not only can they make mistakes, but your additional perspective can reveal new ideas that can contribute to a better result than via the efforts of one person. If you let someone else type your paper, proofread it even after they have already done so. Follow up by calling the client that you asked your employee to meet, and seeing if everything went OK. Remember that in the end, you are only one who is really responsible for the tasks you delegated, not the person from whom you asked the favour.
The Stratagem of a Transporter
Materializing Out of Thin Air
Sometimes, watching Star Trek on television, I wonder whether or not some day we can actually “transport” people over a beam of energy and rematerialize them somewhere else. The technical considerations aside, we can learn from this concept via yet another of the 36 Stratagems:
"Create something out of nothing."Perhaps the best way of helping you understand this concept is by using the example of 3M’s PostIt note pads. I’m sure you’ve used them before, those yellow sticky paper pads that you can stick on and peel off virtually anything. Have you ever wondered how such an incredibly useful thing came to be? Well, the idea for the pads didn’t initially arrive out of deliberate research. In fact, what 3M’s engineers came up with one day was an adhesive - a glue - that was neither very sticky, nor very non-sticky. It was a half-way kind of thing, and 3M didn’t know what to use it for. It was too strong for some applications, and too weak for the rest. It was an invention that was… nothing. Then, one clever 3M person decided to put it on a notepad, and created the first prototypes of “relocatable” sticky paper. He sent these prototypes around the company, and people started to use them. Demand for the “prototype” increased so much, that this engineer called a stop to its limited production, and asked 3M to consider marketing it as a real product.
The rest is history.
Another example of creating something out of nothing is demonstrated to us by the Coca-ColaÂ® Company. Remember when they discontinued the sale of the “original” CokeÂ®, and introduced the “new” CokeÂ®? Remember how the public went into an uproar and demanded that they make the old one again? Well, now we have the “new” CokeÂ® and Coke-ClassicÂ®. The company effectively created something - an issue, a public uproar, free advertisment - out of nothing. Before the company stopped producing the original formula, nobody complained, and nothing was happening. They decided to fill the vacuum, by materializing, out of thin air, a “new” need for the original CokeÂ®.
Such is the stuff legends are made of.
In your life, try to take advantage of this valuable stratagem. Look at things that you had never considered useful, and try to think of uses for them. Not only is this going to benefit yourself in the long run, but it also reduces the amount of garbage in the environment. Who ever said that cyborgs can’t be environmentally-friendly?! Even intangible things can be converted and made useful. Perhaps you know a special song or poem by heart, but never thought it could help you in any real way. Well, why don’t you use it as the basis for a memory story? If you know it so well, you can attach memory images onto it, and use it for an upcoming essay exam.
Make a commitment to reconsider everything “worthless” in your life, and dream up new applications for them. You will soon find that there really is nothing in the universe that is totally worthless. Usually the best ideas are derived from things that people had overlooked (as sometimes the best books that are published were ones that had been rejected by other publishers!).
General Strategic Theory
Beyond the Stratagems
We have covered quite a lot of strategic theory thus far. Perhaps you have found it rather difficult to absorb so much information. Don’t worry. Relax. Once you have the basic foundations of those concepts in your mind, your subconscious will automatically think of ways to put them to use. In this section, I will discuss ideas about strategy that do not fit into any specific category, and so I present them as a complete collection.
A Time To Recharge
Timeouts in the battlefield
One of the key things to keep in mind when contemplating command decisions is to understand the need to take a break. Soldiers must rest, tanks refuelled, artillery reloaded. When studying or working hard, take a 10-minute break, for every 50 minutes you work. Use the break to rest your mind, and allow your brain to consolidate the information into your memory. When I take my breaks, I usually drink a herbal tea with some gotu kola in it (see Chapter Nine). I focus on nothing in particular, and just allow my mind to wander, while subconsciously I am actually reviewing the material I just learned. When I am working, such as writing something, or designing a computer program, I let my breaks serve as launching pads for new ideas. By relaxing yourself, you free your imagination to consider all kinds of possibilities, the constraints of logic and concentration no longer in place.
The Shortest Path
Save Energy Even While Using MaxOKÂ®
Do not prolong warfare. It is to your best interests to expedite the process and minimize your “exposure” to the effects of war. In other words, find the shortest route to your objective. If you have to secure a degree at college, take only the required courses, and then the easiest ones as electives. While it is enlightening to learn as many subjects as possible, do so in your spare time. It is strategically inappropriate to jeopardize your grade point average by taking more courses than necessary, or taking more difficult courses to enjoy a “challenge.” If it is information and more education you seek, go to the library or sign up for courses that do not affect your GPA. If you want to learn a foreign language, take it outside of your college in another institution. If you want to learn about quantum physics, go to a bookstore or library, or read the textbooks of students in those classes.
I am not advocating laziness or a superficial education. I am suggesting that education can be found outside of the traditional educational system. Remember, your grades will summarize how others perceive you whether they are potential employers, or admissions officers for graduate school. Take every consideration to maximize your GPA, and minimize the risks of lowering it. In warfare, the enemy’s front lines contain both strong and weak points. These are of tactical interest. By concentrating one’s forces on the weakest points, it is easy to maxok them and break through. Thus, in any set of courses for college or university, there are easy and more difficult courses. It is up to you to determine which ones the easy courses are, by asking around and doing your own research. Note, however, that what others find easy you may find difficult. Some students will breeze through Computer Science 101, while others will prefer a humanities course. You are responsible for gathering your own information and making your own decisions in this matter.
The Best Defense
Traditional martial arts theory teaches the fighter that the best form of defense is not to engage in battle. In other words, don’t initiate the fight, and try to prevent it even if the enemy provokes you. That does not mean you become super-wimp and let other people walk all over you. Cyborgs don’t take that kind of treatment. You must learn to fight only when absolutely necessary, only when there is no other route to your objective. When applying this to business, don’t startle or offend your clients or other people you work with. Attempt to persuade, rather than intimidate. Negotiate rather than attack. One of the best negotiation tactics is to listen to what the other party has to say. Absorb the information, and then try to build around this structure to reach an agreement. If everyone talks at the same time, nobody listens. If you find that you do not understand the other party’s side of the story, ask questions, tell them exactly what you do not understand. Get them to be specific about their descriptions. Try to analyze the situation objectively, without subjective emotions or personal prejudices. Again, fighting is the last mode of action to take.
Commitment to Battle
If efforts to prevent war fail, then you must be totally committed to the cause, and concentrate your power into warfare. If your negotiations fail, then anniliate the opponent using maxok. If you cannot avoid taking a certain course, then maxok it, and do your best. Once you’re committed, there’s no turning back. Otherwise, you would have wasted your energies. If you keep quitting once you start your projects, the accumulation of all the energy wasted in those aborted attempts would amount to a considerable sum. Obtain information about your choices, consider carefully, but once you decide what to do, you have to be committed.
Remember, once committed, once battle begins, you must take the shortest path to victory. Once you have decided to do a certain assignment out of a variety of choices offered by the teacher, then you have to concentrate on that assignment, and not spend time musing about the other choices that you didn’t choose. I stress again, maxok requires good judgment, both before, and during battle. Always remember Stratagem Number 36: Reassessment, Retreat, Reconsideration, Regroup, and then Re-enter the battle.
Sun Tzu gave us the analogy of warfare as likened to the use of a crossbow. Energy is spent on bending it, until it bends no more, and then the decision to take action is the releasing of the crossbow, transforming all the potential energy into kinetic energy, swiftly targetting and destroying the opponent. Thus, once committed, be swift, silent, and deadly.
Finally, the superior strategist will understand two things about energy: He can combine them - as in synergy - and he can use momentum to increase their power. This last concept is likened to a large boulder rolling down a hill. As it gathers momentum, it becomes progressively harder to stop. Once you start to study, no matter how difficult initially it is to get into the proper frame of mind, it becomes easier to continue (to a certain extent). Like the boulder sitting on top of the hill, it takes a bit of effort to push it and start it rolling, since its inertia must first be overcome. Likewise, in all human endeavours, it is always hardest to get things started, but once you do it, it is easier to keep the wheels turning. Have faith in yourself. You’re a cyborg. You can handle it!
The Ultimate Resource
One of the last things I want to talk about in this chapter is the key to success in our modern society: Information. There is nothing more valuable than information. With the proper information, you can obtain anything. Power, money, you name it. But the keyword here is “proper.” Information is useless if it does not fit the requirements of a particular situation, and the only way to obtain proper information is through research (see Chapter Six).
In all your battles, you have your personal energy, both mental and physical, to manage. Those are of supreme importance. The other thing you should be concerned with, is the management of information. I use this term loosely, to encompass everything that you can know which will enable you to achieve success. This includes not only the specific material in the textbooks and lectures for a certain course, but also “extraneous” information such as where the professor’s office is located, how to use the library’s resources, the phone numbers of your fellow students, and - of course - school holidays. A basic rule to follow is that you should try to obtain as much information about anything and everything as possible (but don’t overexert yourself in this mission of reconnaissance). By having a large reservoir of information at your disposal, you will be able to draw on it for sources of guidance and inspiration when making command decisions.
The Mind of the Strategist
Putting it all together
In this chapter we have discussed many issues and concepts. Combined with everything else you have learned, or will learn, in this book, you have at your service a very powerful synergistic programme towards achievement of your goals. Understand that each individual tactical advantage - such as memory skills, advanced sleep schedules, reading methods, nootropic nutrients - cannot function properly without being guided to their proper targets via an overall structure, a master strategy.
From time to time, perhaps biweekly, take a look at the blueprint for success you drew up at the beginning of this chapter. Look at your BigT, and see if it’s really what you still want. If not, then look at the reasons you wrote down for choosing it when you did, and determine your new BigT. You’ll have to do the same thing with the SmallT’s. Finally, examine your list of enemies, and reconsider them as well. Write down any thoughts you may have at the time but which don’t necessarily fit into any particular category, and refer to these again in the future. They may hold the key to new insight which you never realised before.
A final thought: Military commanders always keep a log of their actions. It has been said that you can tell your future by looking at where you’ve gone before. Commanders and generals look at their records, and see their previous paths. They also learn from mistakes they made by reading their thoughts at the time those decisions were made. Likewise, I recommend you keep a journal, and record your life in it. You don’t have to go by a day-to-day listing. Just write in it whenever you feel the need to, or when something important happens, or when you have to make a crucial command decision. It will serve you well, and let plot your trajectory by your previous flight path, and learn from your past failures and successes.
Oh, and keep the journal safe and secret, away from the enemy spies! In the next chapter, we will learn the secret of…