Recognizing Limiting Situations

Do you recognize a limiting situation and know how to manage it? One of the nine common strategic situation, a limiting position is vulnerable because it depends on a limited base of support. You move into a limiting position only when you have no other option AND you can keep your situation a secret because limiting positions are easy to attack.

Talk, Action, and Position

Sun Tzu spends most of his ninth chapter, Field Position, explaining how to interpret the difference between people's words and their actions. When your actions contradict your words, you always betray your real position. This is especially a problem for elitist leaders, who often think that they can preach one set of rules while living by another. Europe with its long tradition of class distinctions often expects its leaders to act like elitists, but America has a very different tradition.

Leaders Must Be Trustworthy

While Sun Tzu's strategy teaches us how important it is to control perceptions (and understand how others are seeking to control perceptions), Sun Tzu also teaches that a leader must be trustworthy. Do these two demands conflict? This article entitled "Should you trust the government?" by Arnold Kling in TCS daily discussions many of the issues. The difference between successful "high-trust" societies is that we trust strangers while in low-trust societies, trust is only extended to those we personally know.

On-Going Progress or Coming Apocalypse?

One gets a certain perspective from studying ancient wisdom. If nothing else, you learn how little the human beast has changed, especially in our continual over reaction to everything. As I get older, being cursed with a good memory, every new media panic seems to me more and more like a boring repeat. This article by the recovering apocaholic, Gary Alexander, may give younger readers a little perspective.

Perspective and the Nature of Relativity

Sun Tzu teaches that all positions are relative. You need to develop a broader viewpoint so you can see your position in a broader perspective. People judge you by your breadth of perspective and your ability to focus on the things that they consider relatively important from THEIR perspective. A simple example: at the top of Drudge today, we see two headlines today, what to these headline say about the perspectives of the two groups (Democrats and ABC News) involved?

The Perfect Society, Danger, and Discovery

Perhaps there has never been revealing future than the one envisioned by Aldous Huxley in his book Brave New World written seventy-five years ago (described in this New Atlantis article). In it, Huxley describes a world where the only goal of society is the perfect happiness of its citizens. However, in reading his description of that society, we are left with a feeling of horror, emptiness, and dread.

Complementary Opposites: The Law of Unintended Consequences

One of the least intuitive aspects of Sun Tzu's system of Sun Tzu's strategy is what we call "complementary opposites." According to bing-fa, all of nature exists, not as a steady state, but as a tension between opposing conditions. The climate and the ground, strength and weakness, offense and defense, male and female, emptiness and fullness, standards and innovation, group action and individual decision, knowledge and ignorance are all complementary opposites. Each condition not only creates its opposite but is a necessary condition of its opposite.


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