Posts Tagged ‘war’

Know Thy Enemy

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.
–Sun Tzu

War is nothing but a duel on an extensive scale.
– Carl von Clausewitz

It has been fashionable especially in the past decade to use military metaphors to describe business situations. Students of Sun Tzu or Clausewitz (famous Chinese and Prussian military theorists) have taken their philosophies and derived business principles from them, teaching us how to crush our competitor, to “render him incapable of further resistance.” (Clausewitz)

I think Sun Tzu and Clausewitz got it right. But I think those well-intentioned folks who write the business books got it wrong— they haven’t figured out who is the real enemy.

The warfare metaphor assumes a limited supply of scarce resources for which we must compete. Only one side can win. Steven Covey calls this a “scarcity mentality.”

An “abundance mentality” leads people to solutions that provide more for everyone. In business, the term “co-opetition” (first coined in 1913 by the Sealshipt Oyster System) describes this idea of cooperative competition, or cooperating with competitors for mutual advantage.

With an abundance mentality, my competitor (whom I can admire, respect, and serve) is not my enemy. There are enough resources to meet everyone’s needs.

Paul of Tarsus writes in chapter 6 of the Epistle to the Ephesians about the spiritual perspective on the battles we engage in every day, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…”

The real enemy is poor character. If we want to ruthlessly crush something, how about attending to those aspects of our character that prevent us from selflessly serving those around us?

Laziness. Complacency. Entitlement. Selfishness. What would happen if we were able to consistently overcome those enemies?

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Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Professional soldiers have their own vocabulary, and it is frequently inscrutable to outsiders. “Winchester” means out of ammunition, or almost out of ammunition. The term comes from the single-shot lever action of a Winchester firearm. When down to the last rounds of ammo, soldiers may fire single shots to conserve what little they have.

Have you had a struggle when you thought you were winchester? With your endurance flagging and with nothing left to contribute to the fight, have you felt like you were out of options?

General A. A. Vandergrift, 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Medal of Honor recipient, wrote that, “Positions are seldom lost because they have been destroyed, but almost invariably because the leader has decided in his own mind that the position cannot be held.”

One Marine illustrates this point particularly well. Major General Ray “E-Tool” Smith, USMC (retired) is a decorated combat veteran. Smith earned his unusual nickname in Vietnam: an “e-tool” is a small, foldable shovel, or “entrenching tool.” At one point, joined in close combat with enemy forces, when his firearm was no longer up to the task, he resorted to his e-tool as a weapon to dispatch an enemy soldier. To paraphrase MGen Smith, “Unlike a rifle, a shovel doesn’t jam.” Physically, Smith was Winchester. Mentally, he was not.

If you have decided that the fight cannot be won, it cannot. But Smith, whose courage in the face of likely far worse odds than you or I will ever face, found a way to keep fighting. Perhaps you are done and have no fight left.

Or perhaps there is an e-tool nearby that will do just fine.

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