The Illusion of Control

Occasionally I get email from those who express the firm belief that the world is controlled by some menacing force, but Sun Tzu’s work was suppressed in China to maintain the illusion that life is or can be controlled in this sense. The Chinese emperors and many governments today don’t want their people to realize that, no matter what our position, we can rise or fall in the world by our own actions. Sun Tzu's strategy teaches that we have no control over the larger environment but that we can adapt to it and use it to reach our personal goals. Since most of us grow up in controlled environments (home, school) and start our careers under someone's control in companies, we think that everything is controlled all the way up, but the truth is that very little is. We are taught to fear the real and quite chaotic nature of the actual world, which is this dynamic, confused environment that is too large for anyone to comprehend, much less control, so we will seek the illusive safety of controlling organizations with the hopes, perhaps, of someday taking the reigns of control ourselves. The truth is both more liberating and challenging. We must take responsibility for our own position in the world, not by control but by making constant progress toward our goals, because nobody else will or can.