Art of War Quote:
"You must use the path of an invader."
Sun Tzu's The Art of War 11:3:1
"Resistance is a repelling force. It's negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work. Resistance will tell you to do anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify, seduce, billy, cajole,. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that is what it takes to deceive you."
Steve Pressfield, Do the Work
We can never advance our position without overcoming resistance. We must overcome our internal from our character and external resistance from others. Our internal resistance takes many forms, from our natural laziness to fear of failure to simple indecision. When it comes to advancing our position, we are our own worst enemies. External resistance also takes many forms, from the indifference of others to their outright hostility. Even when we aren't working against ourselves, there are plenty of others who are competing against us. This is the very nature of competitive environments. The more we advance our position, the more our inertial and this external resistance grows. In the course of any campaign, these forces always reach their peak just as we come closest to winning our reward. Since our resources our limited, we cannot afford to constantly fight all the forces of inertia and resistance arrayed against us.
The good news is that we can use those forces arrayed against us as our resources. Sun Tzu redefines the idea of "the enemy" is a powerful way. He defines "an enemy" as our best source of resources. We are our own worst enemies, but we are also own best friends. We are full of fears, so we must leverage our fears. The external forces of our environment naturally oppose our advance, but we can leverage their own self-interest to help our advance. Instead of fighting these natural forces, Sun Tzu's system leverages them to advance our position. We must not only expect and prepare for resistance to advancing our positions, but we must embrace that natural resistance and the key to our success.
The following keys define Sun Tzu's system for advancing competitive positions.
- Advancing a position always requires overcoming resistance. The world exists as a dynamic equilibrium. If these was no natural resistance to progress, the universe and our world would quickly collapse into chaos. Resistance is needed to balance progress. Balancing opposites naturally create each other. Once we understand the nature of resistance, we can use it to create progress (3.2.3 Complementary Opposites).
- Resistance aids in our advance because it can obstruct others more than it obstructs us. All competition is comparison. All positions are relative. Resistance doesn't only obstruct us, but it obstruct all of those with whom we are compared in competition. Resistance is our friend when we deal with it relatively better than everyone else. Our advantage comes from understanding the nature and limits of resistance better than others and in having better systems for dealing with it (1.3.1 Competitive Comparison).
- Advancing positions requires overcoming both internal and external resistance. Competitive positions are defined both by external and internal elements. Resistance exists in all the elements of a position. Internally, it comes from conflicting motive, from our character flaws, and from competition within our organizations. Externally, it comes from changes of climate and the nature of our competitive arena. Progress is made in every elemental area by surmounting this resistance (1.3 Elemental Analysis).
- Our relative advantage over others comes from using a systematic approach. Without having a process, we will fail against resistance. Most successful people learn their systematic approach from trial and error, but we see the same basic pattern of listening, aiming, moving, and claiming in all successful advances. We do not advance through our own effort alone, but by learning how to navigate the process (1.8 Progress Cycle).
- We make failure our friend in advancing our position by using a reiterative process. Learning to ride the Progress Cycle is like learning to ride a bicycle. We win some and we learn some. Most attempts at advance fail. We must understand this reality before we start. The goal of each attempt is to learn more so that we can adapt to what we have learned in the next loop of the cycle (1.8.2 The Adaptive Loop).
- Beginning an advance is easier if we force ourselves to make conscious decisions about action and inaction. Most people never reach their potential because they avoid deciding to act. However, working within Sun Tzu's framework, even non-action requires a conscious decision. Too many drift along through their lives at the mercy of events because they refuse to decide. When we see everything we do or don't do as a decision, we remove the choice of indecision (4.2 Choosing Non-Action).
- Advancing a position will seem easier at a beginning of a campaign that at the end. We cannot know what challenges will face until we make our move. Once we make the commitment to start, initial progress can seem deceptively easy. The types of challenges we face through the course of campaign follow a common pattern where the types of challenges we will face grow more difficult over time. If we understand the nine campaign stages and the nine ways we respond to their different types of resistance, the more successful we will be (6.3 Campaign Patterns).
- The more resistance there is to an advance, the greater the rewards are likely to be. The economics of competition follow its own law of supply and demand. The more common a certain type of advance is, the less its value. The rarer the advance, the more its value. When we surmount obstacles that block others, we are better rewarded than when we overcome obstacles that many others overcome as well (8.1 Successful Positions).
Let us look at how positions are advanced from the perspective of a writer who wants to get a book published and read by the public.
- Advancing a position always requires overcoming resistance. Resistance prevents the creation an incredibly large number of very bad books. It also prevents a few great ones.
- Resistance aids in our advance because it can obstruct others more than it obstructs us. 90% of those who want to write a book never do. 90% of those who do never get their books published. 90% of those who get their books published, never get them read by any real audience.
- Advancing positions requires overcoming both internal and external resistance. To get the book written, writers must overcome their internal resistance to doing the work. To get the book published and read, they must overcome the resistance of market competition.
- Our relative advantage over others comes from using a systematic approach. To create a successful book, the writer must learn their marketplace (listen), find a niche that they can fill and others have not (aim), write the book (move), and promote it (claim).
- We make failure our friend in advancing our position by using a reiterative process. The entire writing process is a feedback loop of writing, editing, and rewriting to get the work right. Every first draft is terrible. No work is published in its original form. Only by going through the adaptive loop does the work become valuable.
- Beginning an advance is easier if we force ourselves to make conscious decisions about action and inaction. The decision about what not to write is as important as the decision what to write, but not writing anything is never an option. To get finished, the book must be begun.
- Advancing a position will seem easier at a beginning of a campaign that at the end. Writing is easier than getting published. Getting published is easier than getting read. Even with the writing alone, as the book progresses, more problems with the beginning will appear. Just getting the first draft finished is extremely difficult even when we know it will have to be rewritten.
- The more resistance there is to an advance, the greater the rewards are likely to be. A new idea for a book, say about a child wizard going to school from an unknown author, will seem crazy at first and broadly rejected. After that idea proves to be successful, a thousand imitators will fail by trying to copy it in one form or another.