In his famous book “The art of War” Sun Tzu wrote: “If you don’t know yourself and you don’t know your enemy, you lose the battle. If you know yourself, but you do not know your enemy, you have 50% chance of winning the battle. But if you know yourself and you know your enemy, you win the battle…
What Sun Tzu is saying is if you want to enter a battlefield and wage the battle, not only you need to know the rules of the game, but you also need to understand the thinking processes of your “enemies”. You have to know their strategies, understand their strong and weak points, so you can apply appropriate tactics which will enable you to win the battle. In other words, in order to defeat your enemy – you need to become just like your enemy.
Research has shown that the transformation you go through while analysing your enemy is not just temporary. By observing the behaviour of another person, or by focusing on someone’s way of thinking, our brain creates new neuron connections. Our brain literally becomes (re)programmed to what we observe, to what we think about or what we give our attention to – therefore by analysing another person, little by little we become just like that person.
Have you noticed how much you actually resemble your parents, with the way you behave, or the way you think? You might disagree with them in many aspects, but in fact, you are not much different from them.
If, for the purpose of winning – in corporate, emotional or any other battlefield you give up on yourself, if you apply strategies of those whom you are fighting against, and if for that reason you become like somebody else, you are actually defeated at the very beginning, no matter how victorious your feats may seem. Many women, in order to progress in the corporate world still dominated by men, assume masculine models and principles of behaviour, giving up values and qualities that are genuinely inherent to women, such as cooperation, assistance and support. These qualities and principles surely take more time to be recognized, but their effects are definitely more enduring and are sustainable in a long run.
Warriors are not born. Warriors are made.
From the early childhood, we are trained to become warriors. This is how we are raised by our parents, trained at schools and universities, in corporations, in life… The entire philosophy of Western society, its entire value system is based on competition. We have a constant need to compare ourselves to others and we constantly try to do better – in schools, in corporations…when it comes to social status, beauty, intelligence, corporate branding, etc.. But any battle that we wage, in our lives (or in our heads), even when we are formally “winning”, always reflects the opposite. By definition, no battle has a win-win outcome, because when fighting, at least one party is defeated. In what way – it is only a question of instruments, values or moral principles which we apply in the battle. In essence and in a long run, both parties are defeated.
The Enemy never sleeps.
When we seek battles – we attract battles, and with more battles, we also attract more enemies. We constantly experience attacks, and constantly have to defend ourself. We can never be at peace, and can never relax – because the enemy (real or imaginary) never sleeps. Most corporations, in order to survive on the market, have to monitor moves and actions of their competitors, and in doing so they can never rest.
In our attempts to defend and maintain the position of the winner we will have to invest a lot of energy, and will eventually exhaust ourselves, little by little we will become dependent upon battles. We will be incapable of functioning outside the battlefield, and will create the battle where it doesnt even exist. After a while, everything will be a battlefileld.
Unfotunately, no matter what we do, and no matter how hard we try to maintain the position of the winner, it is only a question of time when instead of victories, we will start making defeats, because in the world of polarities that we live in, this is simply so. Victory is just another side of defeat (and vice verse), it is not permanent, and if we don’t know when, where or how to stop, it may take us to the path of no return.
Have you ever asked yourself why so many top sportsmen have difficulties in accepting defeats, and why after they stop being actively involved in sports they go through the identity crisis, sometimes with detrimental consequences? Most probably because they are not able to function outside of the identity of a winner, and because they experience defeats in their heads if not exposed to a constant dose of challenges and stimuli.
Stop when on top.
One of the ways to prolong your victory is to stop competing when on top. There will certainly be less adrenaline if you do so, but from there, you will go straight to a legend. Naturally, this is not an easy thing to do, because it is difficult to resist to the sweetness of the glory…Leaving at the top requires an exquisite power of mind, and most people are not able to do it, thus, in their attempts to prolong their titles of winners, they make series of mistakes, which speeds up their own dethronisation.
For the victorious departure from the top, one also needs to recognize the right moment, and this moment is usually more obvious to others than it is to a person in question. If you leave the moment later (which usually implies doing it in the wrong manner), along with yourself, will also pull all your greatness…
Don’t be good. Be authentic. Thich Nhat Hanh
Real and permanent victories, those that do not require waging battles to which we are used to, and which do not require comparing ourselves to others are possible only if we succeed in recognising the difference, uniqueness and authenticity in ourselves – and these are the qualities hidden in every human being. When instead of looking at what others are doing and adjusting our behaviour depending on others; when we live what we truly are, allowing our true potentials to grow – instead of suppressing them, then there is no fight, and there is no battle, because there is no competition. Then, developing and advancing our true talents and the skills that support them, instead of skills that we need to win the battles – we only compete with ourselves. But then, it is not really a competition – it is our personal expansion and growth.
Certainly, there will be many challenges along that path. But these challenges are only few glitches on the road of our self development, and if we get up, learn the lesson and persist in our growth we will soon see all the beauty of the road which we have taken, and taking that road is a victory by definition.