Being Outmaneuvered: McCain's Open Flank

Positioning is complicated. You have to take into consideration the shape of the ground and the positions of others: who is at your side, who is above you, behind you and so on. Without studying Sun Tzu's strategy, very few people have a sense for what is involved. As someone who should know Sun Tzu's strategy, McCain should be concerned about moving so far to the center that he leaves his flank to the right exposed. This problem is highlighted by Bob Barr joining the race on the Libertarian right.

Individualism and Positioning: The War Against Babies

Strategy starts with the idea that every single person on earth has a unique position and a unique set of goals. It teaches that we can work together when we share a mission, but it is our individual uniqueness and our individual human creativity that makes progress possible in an infinite number of predictable directions. This is the most magical aspect of Sun Tzu's Sun Tzu's strategy and the deep, vibrant heart of its power. It is also why those who believe in Sun Tzu's strategy must reject the idea that any elite can know what is best for other people.

Every Meeting Changes Positions

The value of thinking in terms of advancing positions is that it allows you to easily clarify complicated question . For example, Sun Tzu taught that every meeting between opponents (even meetings that didn't result in conflict) changed their relative positions. So you avoid meetings that will damage your position and encourage meeting that will help your position. Simple. Right?

War, Diplomacy, Aggression, and Defense

There is a difference between the controlled spaces within organizations and the chaotic regions between them. For both businesses and states, systems that work within do not work without. Living within a society of laws, we mistakenly think that people can always come to agreements without the use of force. But Sun Tzu's strategy teaches that agreement is impossible outside of a framework of shared values and goals. At the very least, opponents must share our fear of loss. This is why Fredrick the Great said, "Diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments."

Problems into Opportunities: Obama's Opportunity

Sun Tzu's strategy teaches that all problems are secretly opportunities in disguise. Converting a problem to an opportunity requires the process of "reversal," which means turning a situation upside down and backwards, looking for the opportunity. This is a confusing idea for most people, but we have a good example. Let us look at Obama's problem with Rev. Wright. Since the problem is about Obama's past beliefs and associations, Obama needs to reverse it and make it about his future actions and associations.

Human Progress

Sun Tzu's strategy teaches that progress is always possible and that we are more likely to have to adapt to change from progress than from failure. On the radio and at public events, I hear from people who are certain that things have never been so bad. As a response, I plan to memorize this paragraph from a recent George Will column:

Avoiding Dangerous Position

We all know the old adage, "Look before you leap." When looking at new potential strategic positions, Sun Tzu's strategy evaluates three dimensions called distances, obstacles, and dangers. The "dangers" dimension consists of positions that get you stuck. This means that getting out of them is difficult or dangerous. The only time to avoid a dangerous position is before you get into it, but danger is often difficult to foresee.

Unhappiness From the News and Getting a Perspective

I went for a haircut today and had an interesting discussion with the person cutting my hair. She was unhappy and frightened. Why? It came down to the fact that she watched CNN. She had a perfectly good life, a good husband, a job, no financial real worries, but she was certain she was worse off than any previous generation of human with global warming, the economy, the war in Iraq, and a million other things that were not a part of her life, but on television. I explained to her that the news media makes their money by scaring people and that she had to factor that in.

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.

Do-or-Die Responses: Clinton in Texas

Most people don't realize that when they are in the final, most desperate stage of a showdown, what Sun Tzu called "deadly" or what we call "do-or-die" situations, they have choices that are not normally available. In this situation, you can take positions that would be foolish in less challenging situations. Since the alternative is failure (or death), you get more freedom in terms of being creative. What would normally be risky isn't that risky any more.


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