“When he utilizes combined energy, his fighting men become as it were like unto rolling logs or stones. For it is the nature of a log or stone to remain motionless on level ground, and to move when on a slope; if four-cornered, to come to a standstill, but if round-shaped, to go rolling down.”
Greeting Barbarians! Today, I am to drop some truth bombs so please bear with me. Well if you have matured enough, we all know that life is not easy and is often complicated. We all got bills to pay and mouths to feed, bosses that grill our asses on the daily basis, relationships that we have to maintain, obligations that have to be fulfilled, and believe me when I say that I believe you when you feel a little bit overwhelmed. As you all know, I am currently unemployed and currently going through interview after interview hoping to land a new job (so if you need a PHP programmer, please contact me. HAHAHA! Just kidding). To be honest, it is kind of disheartening; but If you are like me (determined to make it on my own), you’d do any means in order to thrive in this chaos called life. In a perfect and pristine world, no one should suffer and everyone should live in lavish mansions and laugh their sorrows away. But guess what? Life ain’t perfect and so are you, thinking that you are some special snowflake that the world adores. But despite that revelation, there is definitely hope. Remember that a man is made not born, life may be an endless cycle of despair but we can definitely do something about it. Regardless of how tough it is, we have to press on and be stronger each time we do.
Previously, I have talked about the different tactical dispositions in war and in life. The conditions when to attack and when to defend, the true meaning of excellence and the military method. All of which crucial in making necessary adjustments to our strategy, and turn the situation to our favor.
But many of the successful campaigns also rely on the effective management of energy. Believe it or not, life (or war) really is a numbers game: who has the most utilized funds, who has the most number of reliable men, who has procured the largest amount of tools and weaponry. Life is won by the effective use of those numbers, who can manage to get by with less and those who can thrive on less to make it more. In today’s chapter of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, we are going to tackle how to manage such numbers to our favor.
Large and Small
“Sun Tzu said: The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.”
Do not be intimidated by the size and avoid overwhelming yourself; learn how to divide and subdivide, manage and allocate. The last thing you want in life is to doubt yourself due to insurmountable odds, tackle first the quickest if not the easiest of challenges ahead. Not only it will make you a bit closer to success but it also allows you to take stock in your victories and boost your morale. So have the courage and learn to break things down to their most basic principles; everybody else wears their pants the same way as you, one leg at a time.
Direct and Indirect
“In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.”
In Boxing, you lead with the jab in order to feel the distances and it is common that the punch that knocks a boxer out is the punch that he did not see coming. We could pretty much say the same thing about life, we have our primary and secondary cash flows, our short and long term goals and etc. We approach things directly but it is our indirect efforts that grant us our success. Give the illusion of chaos and create disorder. Not only this will conceal our method to our success but it also provides the adversary an opportunity for mistakes for us to take advantage of. Remember that the devil is in the details, learn how to conceal your intentions; not everything should be broadcast to the world.
“In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack–the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers.”
A combination, whether in boxing or in life forces any adversary guessing and keeps them on their toes. Avoid predictability as much as possible, combine your direct and indirect tactics and avoid a linear way of thinking. You can observe this in finance, you have your job which serves as your primary source of income, your side hustle, your short and long term investments; all working hand in hand to provide you with financial stability. It is even apparent in fitness, combining exercise, good nutrition and enough rest yields to a much healthier, leaner, stronger and disciplined you. There are only 3 primary colors yet in a combination of any of the two can result in a different color, learn to combine your methods to achieve your victory. You would be surprised by how many you can be caught off guard with a simple deviation from your pattern.
“Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow; decision, to the releasing of a trigger.”
Be ready to execute any plan; the more prepared you are, the more effective your plan will be. I cannot express enough the importance of preparation in life, remember that life is as volatile as it could be and whatever can happen will happen according to Murphy’s Law. Get your timing right and strike when there is an opportunity, let your decision be firm and profound. Have confidence in your decision, take stock in your preparations. You really cannot expect an arrow to hit its mark without pulling back the bow first, and you cannot expect your plans to succeed without preparing for it. Plan ahead and take everything into consideration, think with the end in mind.
“Amid the turmoil and tumult of battle, there may be seeming disorder and yet no real disorder at all; amid confusion and chaos, your array may be without head or tail, yet it will be proof against defeat.”
When I was in college, my old programming professor once said: “If you cannot convince them, confuse them”. Another one of those old man wisdom that I quickly dismissed back when I was young and foolish. We as humans crave structure, we have an apt in patterns, we have a tendency to favor optimization, efficiency, and order. But it is often that the slightest deviation can topple even the most organized systems, a simple shock can break the most efficient clockwork. Learn to hide in the veil of disorder, conceal your intentions. Allow your adversary to be overwhelmed or underestimate you, look for an opportunity to topple them over.
“Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the move maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy will act. He sacrifices something, that the enemy may snatch at it.”
Whether you like it or not, deception is the key. It has been employed since ancient times, from Sun Tzu to the Spartans. So why is it so difficult to accept now? Much I like a sword or a gun, deceptions are tools much like a hammer that can be used to smash or build. Deception can build a nation from the ground up or burn it down to ashes, the methodologies of deception have endured millennia because it is human nature. So instead of hating on the method, try to look for what is unseen; the madness behind the method, look for the motive behind the lies. Learn how to use deception to conceal and create the illusion of disorder, be more or less than what it seems. Appear unsure when confident, appear weak when strong and vice versa, not only it keeps you elusive from defeat but it also makes the adversary guessing. Opening a window of opportunity from their mistakes.
“The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy and does not require too much from individuals. Hence his ability to pick out the right men and utilize combined energy.”
Never overexert or bleed your resources dry, if a task demands so much from you then it was not probably worth it in the first place. Learn how to be reserved and how to use your resources in synergy. Much like what I have said with combination, you cannot expect to succeed with a linear way of thinking. Combine your resource to yield a variety of results, learn to work with everything that you have together to prevent depleting your resources. Avoid bleeding dry or wearing out, avoid overreaching or forcing things. Instead, position yourself closer and closer to success and grasping it only if within arm’s reach.
Much of the topics in this chapter revolves around management of resources, and approach as well as some details on concealment and deception; which will always be useful in our conquest. Like I always say that War is just a metaphor for life, and pretty much the topic covers up a great deal in term of resources and effective decision making; taking roots to the primary concepts of preparedness and deception.
Overall the chapter is a great read and I found it to be very enjoyable, full of practical insights and that makes sense in war and in life.
And that closes our take on Chapter 5 of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, I hope you enjoyed reading through it and find it informative. Since you have read up to my closing remarks, kindly give this post a like and comment for any suggestions, thoughts and appeal below. You know that I always love to hear your thoughts. If you’re still not subscribed to this, then what the hell are you waiting for? Keep yourself updated with my latest post, it could only take a few seconds of your time. I would speak on behalf of all the content creator and writers out there, your simple support means so much to us. Again, this is your favorite Barbarian reminding you to live your life with STRENGTH and HONOR!
The Art of War Round Up: