“The highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans, the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces; the next is to attack in the field, and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.” – Art of War
Updating the wording of these ancient concepts and applying it to the modern competition we end up with something like the below.
Your order of operations should be:
- Outmaneuver or out-think opponent.
- Have better timing or speed.
- More disciplined execution.
- Out endure.
Let’s make this order of operations more concrete with examples from business, sport, and history.
In the late 1800s, a young financier named Jay Gould was in a price battle with the established Cornelius Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt, who had much deeper pockets, was lowering his rail prices to drive Gould out of business.
Gould outmaneuvered “the Commodore” by getting into the cattle business and moving large amounts of cattle at Vanderbilt’s rock-bottom prices.
2/ Timing or Speed
Timing is everything.
George McClellan, general of the Union Army in the eastern theatre during the US Civil War, could have ended the affair much earlier. He famously stalled “waiting for the right moment” to attack while the enemy forces, as Sun Tzu put it, “junction”.
3/ More Disciplined Execution
Vince Lombardi was one of the greatest football coaches of all time.
He would give a presentation that could last hours…on one play: the power sweep.
There was no surprise, his team was prepared to execute better than their opponent.
4/ Out endure.
Often the most inspiring, but the ugliest outcomes come here.
Going punch for punch, like the trench warfare in WW1 or the fighters who like to brawl.
Drop your email in the box below to receive an update when I post my weekly blog. Typically musings on philosophy, fitness, or personal finance. You can also follow on Twitter for other shenanigans.