Subscribe to Fortune Sun Tzu wrote a bunch of extremely poetic and deep stuff that somebody must have understood, because it was handed lovingly down over the years to those who kill people for a living and is now taught at West Point and sold, in one form or another, in airport bookstores to people in charge of marketing and advertising and even human resources. Why Sun Tzu is appealing to people is a mystery, because his stuff is about as easy to understand as one of those instruction manuals they give you when you buy any product from Eastern Europe. Let me give you an example: "When the enemy is near and still, he is relying on the steep. When the enemy is far and provokes battle, he wishes the other to advance--he is occupying the level and advantageous.
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Subscribe to Fortune Sun Tzu wrote a bunch of extremely poetic and deep stuff that somebody must have understood, because it was handed lovingly down over the years to those who kill people for a living and is now taught at West Point and sold, in one form or another, in airport bookstores to people in charge of marketing and advertising and even human resources.
Why Sun Tzu is appealing to people is a mystery, because his stuff is about as easy to understand as one of those instruction manuals they give you when you buy any product from Eastern Europe. Let me give you an example: "When the enemy is near and still, he is relying on the steep.
When the enemy is far and provokes battle, he wishes the other to advance--he is occupying the level and advantageous. His approach might have been darned good when the job was to tramp a bunch of guys in bamboo ponchos up and down the mountainside, waiting for the optimal time to swoop down and acquire the most advantageous position for the next round of fighting.
Like, we have people we fight with, but armies? Sadly, no. Because he was a sissy. I know that sounds a bit harsh. I want to be rolling up my sleeves and wrapping my tie around my head.
Those who want to prevail in these perilous times had better know how to wage war to win, getting deep down into the field of battle with the stink of sweat and Diet Coke in your nostrils and the tears of big, bald men all over your shoes. But what is war? Of stupidity.
When you and a peer argue about the best way to do something, are you at war with that person simply because he disagrees with you, even in public? But as a rule, that would be unfortunate. Is it war when that same peer goes behind your back and secures the agreement of the executive you both serve, making you look like a lump of spoiled meat in the process?
And when the boss is so pleased he takes that other guy out to lunch and allows him to pick up the check? The pig must die. Not the senior pig, though. That senior pig is your commander. The junior pig, yes--that porker must be bound, trussed, and broiled, served up in public with an apple in his mouth.
There is no point in going to war for insubstantial or silly aims. War is generally begun by a simultaneous act and declaration. They go together. Both show that you mean business. So think about what your first shot is going to be. This is the time, before too much blood has been shed and everybody has forgotten what the whole thing was supposed to be about, when the greatest gains can be made by an aggressor.
Aggressors can win. You can see the difference. Strike early each day, and strike often. The war is to the swift and the mean. Once you have demonstrated aggression and the willingness to hurt other people, you will begin to attract people who want to join you for their own benefit. They are called allies. Aside from consultants, they are the most obvious expression of a diseased social environment. In many cases, in fact, the spy is a consultant. The assumption you should make during wartime is that spies are always working for both sides of the conflict and, in the end, for themselves.
This makes them perhaps the most consistent and trustworthy entities with which you, as a leader and warrior, are likely to deal. You can always depend on a spy to do what spies do, whereas friends, enemies, and subordinates can sometimes do unexpected things. And the unexpected, in a war, is to be avoided at almost any cost.
Think about the way Kim Jong Il, the demented, egomaniacal martinet who runs North Korea, has manipulated the gigantic cultural images that are poured into the understimulated brains of his worried subjects. Streets and flowers are named after him. Operas are written about him. If they had more electricity, just think what they could do. Jesus himself had the four Evangelists, plus, at a later date, Mel Gibson.
Samuel Johnson, a fat, witty guy who illuminated the 18th century, had a talented scribe named Boswell who followed him around and captured his every fatuity. Trump has himself. Every war master controls the story while the whole thing is going on.
You always know that a side has lost a war when they lose control of the press. The thing you need to know about the press, if you have any dealings with the nice, smart people who do that grubby job, is that the thing they want most is a story. If there is no story, still they want a story. Think about it. They have pages of content to frame around their advertising each time they show up at work.
Imagine that. So if you give them a story, no matter how gooshy, fractile, or brain damaged, they will listen. This is terrific for you in your war, because if you are as aggressive in this sphere as you are on the battlefield, you will define the way the war is perceived, and that, my friends, is the whole deal.
War--real war--truly sucks. Even one human life is precious. And what have millions been lost pursuing? What stupidity? And always in the name of right and justice? The business universe pales by comparison.
If you are not a decent person, so much the better for you. This makes you valuable, up to a point. Ultimately, however, people will be disgusted with you, so be careful displaying the fact that you have no conscience about these things. Shape up! This is a more pointed and vicious weapon than you might guess. There is no more terrible thing to witness than two enemies locked in an endless death grip while one humiliates the other until that other can take it no longer.
Corporate behavior is circumscribed. A vendor, for example, may never yell at a purchasing officer, no matter how insulting or damaging he might be.
A campaign of humiliation, conducted correctly, will succeed in complete and total evisceration of the enemy with virtually no danger to the aggressor. Business must be done. The battle must be concluded and other aspects of the war pursued. Be careful. Some executives have been known to do extensive damage to others after they have lost their heads.
Make sure both the head and the body are rendered inert before you move along to the next foe. It may be done to a humiliated enemy, when he or she is weak and almost wants to be hurled, or to the body of an antagonist whose head has long since ceased to work. Slicing through the small fry, one eventually reaches larger fish, and as all true mobsters know, the fish rots from the head.
Cut off the head, the fins will die. There may be other parts of the fish that you want to kill. Now it becomes a battle for the hearts and minds of the people. At this point, once again your PR effort becomes ever more important. Look for powerful, high-profile acolytes to gain you credibility. Following are some famous campaigns and the endorsements that gave them the impetus they needed to get over the top.
But you have to be careful. A great new front can bring in new soldiers, new revenue streams, new meat for your grill. It can also overextend you and make your best-laid plans gang a-gley, as Robert Burns said. In English? After that, it was only a matter of time before Germany, with its resources spread thin over the entirety of Europe, began its slow fall into failure and escape to sunny South America.
Here are some other fronts that have been opened by warriors through the years, for better and in some cases for way, way worse. You, of course, will do better than they. You have successes and failures every day. And good luck!
Sun Tzu Was a Sissy: Conquer Your Enemies, Promote Your Friends, and Wage the Real Art of War
Too much yang is not a good thing. The Enron fiasco had widespread implications for its employees, the stock market and ultimately the economy. Then there is the absolutely truculent Arnold Schwarzenegger. Think about it—Arnold is the governor of California with 32 percent rating his job performance as excellent in a recent poll.
Sun TZU Was a Sissy
Download eBook Since the latter part of the century just past, Stanley Bing has been exploring the relationship between authority and madness. In one bestselling book after another, reporting from his hot-seat as an insider in a world-renowned multinational corporation, he has tried to understand the inner workings of those who lead us and to inquire why they seem to be powered, much of the time, by demons that make them obnoxious and dangerous, even to themselves. In What Would Machiavelli Do? In Throwing the Elephant: Zen and the Art of Managing Up, he offered a spiritual path toward managing the unruly executive beast. And in Sun Tzu Was a Sissy, he taught us how to become one of them, and wage war on the playing field that ends in a dream home in Cabo. Now he returns to his roots to offer the last word on the entity that shapes our lives and stomps through—and on—our dreams: The Crazy Boss. Students of Bing—and there are many, secreted inside tortured organizations, yearning for blunt instruments with which to fight—will note that he has walked this ground before, looking for answers.
Conquer Your Enemies
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