Today marks the 15th anniversary of the Sonshi Daily, a course that teaches the young and old how to win in life through strategy, planning, and toughness. It has been revised each year every year since its inception, and like clockwork, we have just updated it for the 2017 edition. Give it as a special gift to someone you love or to yourself. Whatever the case, thank you for your support of Sonshi.com as always.
People are usually taught the three R's (Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic) in school and at home, but so few of them were taught the other critical R: Resilience. Too many resort to drugs instead, legal or illegal. We spend millions in college education for our young people, yet neglect to teach them well how to handle emotional stress and building mental strength in everyday life. That has been my life's work at Sonshi.com.
Today marks the 15th anniversary of the Sonshi Daily, a course that teaches the young and old how to win in life through strategy, planning, and toughness. It has been revised each year every year since its inception, and like clockwork, we have just updated it for the 2017 edition. Give it as a special gift to someone you love or to yourself. Whatever the case, thank you for your support of Sonshi.com as always.
Can one be too fond of someone or a group of people? For Sun Tzu, the answer is yes. Why that would be the case is our discussion today, the last of a five-part series of the dangerous traits of a leader. Below is the original quote with links to prior posts:
"There are five dangerous traits of a general:
Sun Tzu was a Stoic and he didn't know it. This is somewhat anachronistic since Sun Tzu lived before Stoicism existed halfway around the world. Universal wisdom is timeless and knows no political boundaries.
The philosophy of Stoicism is a practical philosophy created by a Greek philosopher by the name of Zeno of Citium. However, it was the works of Musonius, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius -- all Stoics -- that have caught my attention for over 10 years now. To boil it all down, the philosophy asks this simple question whenever someone encounters a situation: "Does this belong to you?"
For example, should one be worried about the weather being bad on his or her wedding day? The great Stoics would say the weather is not under your control so do not worry and bother to wish for it to be sunny. Rather, focus on things you can control, such as holding the wedding and reception indoors.
This view is helpful in that it relieves the responsibility of the weather to where it belongs: the weather gods, not the person being affected by it. Same is true when someone comes down with cancer or experiences a horrible event. Yet many people blame themselves for bad things happening in their lives when they should really be asking themselves does the situation belong to them.
Some people even feel ashamed of the physical looks they were born with, where they were born, who their parents were, or the diseases they endured. Yet are all these things something they chose? If not, then how can they be blamed for them? They are thus set free of such blame.
So if someone were to be born ugly, let's say, the thing they can control is how they behave despite that ugliness or even use humor about it to make others around them feel more comfortable. All of the sudden, what was seemingly a liability is more likely a unique and memorable feature that only that person has. As Musonius said, "You will deserve respect from everyone if you will start by respecting yourself."
Thus the answer to what truly belongs to people is what they can truly control: their reaction and actions to what has happened. That is the only thing that a person has responsibility for and deserve the blame or praise for.
So when a leader is fond of the people, he or she might constantly worry about their well-being. He or she would be deeply saddened if they are hurt. However, there are two kinds of worry. One is worrying by taking actions that prevent possible problems from occurring. The other is worrying by fidgeting and nervously talking about what could happen. The former is what a Stoic would advocate, and the latter is what a Stoic would advise against. In other words, do things you can control and do things that actually help the situation, not only to alleviate how you feel inside.
If you try to do things outside of your control, you will either be ineffective and thus you are wasting the time you should be spending on things you can control or it could backfire on you and make a bad situation worse. Regardless, focusing on things that are uncontrollable is useless at best and can be dangerous at least.
The Stoics believe that how you feel inside is manufactured, not reality. If you get into a car accident and damage the fender, you might feel horrible but is the event itself a horrible situation? That of course depends on who you ask. Some other person wouldn't think a second more about it and move on. Therefore, it would seem the event itself isn't something good or bad but how we perceive it to be.
The worry that Sun Tzu was talking about in the quote is the kind of worry that doesn't help the situation and would hinder it. This is the type of worry that discourages someone from taking action because he or she feels down. He or she is paralyzed mentally due to fear. Time is allowed to pass on by. He or she is essentially at the mercy of the situation and allowing other people involved in it to make it better or worse.
Instead of doing the above, Sun Tzu would advise to take the situation into your own hands. You cannot guarantee that you will achieve the result you are seeking for, but you can guarantee that you would increase the chances of your success in a significant way. If you keep doing this throughout your life, imagine the change in life trajectory and where you would end up as a result of such doggedness, diligence, and perseverance.
If you have gone through all of Sun Tzu's five dangerous traits of a leader with me, you can conclude they hinge upon the extremes, even if it seems like a positive trait, such as being fond of people. Too much of anything is bad, and is unsustainable in all situations even if it was good, resulting in something bad.
Sun Tzu's advice for a leader is when in doubt take the middle road, a balance of not being too much of anything. For example, be neither too critical nor too excited. It doesn't mean that he or she can't choose to be either if the situation warrants such actions, but the key is to be in a position that gives you options to best effect the outcome you want.
You don't want to paint yourself into a corner and lose all trust and respect when you have to break your promise. Setting expectations is very much a part of a leader's job because it could mean the difference between cooperation and division.
There is little wrong with being fond of people. Just don't be so fond of them that you would either chase them away by being too controlling or lose them by not taking action to protect and ensure their best interests.
There are many ways we can describe a US Navy SEAL: Elite warrior. Humble hero. Freedom fighter.
How about a few more you don't usually hear: Supportive husband. Loving father.
To sum it all up: Utterly unbeatable.
For Richard "Mack" Machowicz, someone who I call my brother and friend, he is all the above and more.
On or off the air, whether on television or on radio, you can tell Mack is truly in love with his wife and two children. I suppose for someone who has the capacity to earn the SEAL trident insignia -- which some people affectionately call "the BUDweiser" (as in Basic Underwater Demolition) -- that someone would naturally do things in life right to the best of his extraordinary ability.
Mack's company is NDCQ, which stands for "Not Dead, Can't Quit." I bought so many NDCQ shirts, people I meet think I hate vowels.
Starting about four years ago, I can barely punch the heavy bag for more than five minutes. Thanks to Mack's motivational message on my shirt, I persevered and now can do more than one hour non-stop on the heavy punching bag. When people stop to ask me how I achieve my stamina, I simply point to NDCQ on my shirt. I've lost so much weight it's not even funny.
About nine months ago, NDCQ posted the following announcement:
December 23, 2015
Yes I know what you are thinking. Looks like cancer has picked a fight with the wrong guy.
Here is one of Mack's gems: "I can only be beaten in two ways ... if I give up or if I die."
Fact is, Mack isn't going to give up so he's not going to be beaten that way. That's a given.
Another one of Mack's gems goes like this: "Being a warrior isn't about fighting. It is about not quitting until the job is done."
God has put Mack here on this earth to get a certain number of things done. I don't believe he's anywhere close to being done. That's also why Mack doesn't wear a watch -- he decides what time it is.
Sun Tzu said, "Get them to face danger, but do not reveal the advantages. Throw them into danger and they will survive; put them on deadly ground and they will live. Only if the troops are in situations of danger will they turn defeat into victory."
Since Mack is the ultimate soldier, he produces victories like he produces fear in his enemies.
When I contacted him today, his response was classic Mack: Positive. Proud of his family. Encouraging me to continue writing. As always he was thinking about people and things beyond himself.
So I will continue writing. Thank you, Mack. Let me know how I can be of assistance to you for a change. I have your back and you have my heart.
(If any of you would like to leave a message for Mack, please do so in the comments section below and I will pass it along to him.)
Today I discuss the morality of the leader, fourth in a five-part series on the five dangerous traits of a leader. Below is the original quote with links to previous posts:
"There are five dangerous traits of a general:
Is Sun Tzu serious when he says a leader being moral is dangerous? Yes, he is.
You might say, now wait a minute, doesn't Sun Tzu believe in morality? Yes, he does.
Let me explain. Someone who is moral is beneficial in almost all cases. Thus as a default a situation will likely call for a leader who is moral. However, there will be situations where a moral leader isn't as effective as someone who is amoral.
For example, if a leader's principle is to always tell the truth, he or she will put innocent people in danger when he exposes their exact whereabouts. Someone who is amoral will tell a straight-up lie pointing to a location far away from the exact location.
Another example is telling a white lie in order to not hurt another person's feelings in the hopes that long-term improvements are more likely with patient encouragement than trigger-happy criticism.
Therefore, deception is usually a more effective means of achieving advantage than honest brute force.
You might say, now wait a minute, a leader can indeed be moral when he refuses to state the exact location of innocent people without telling a lie. A leader can indeed refuse to answer to avoid telling a white lie. However, is keeping quiet -- which nonetheless exposes the harsh truth through inference -- truly as effective as telling a convincing white lie? Furthermore, your aim is to benefit others, not yourself. So the more effective you are, the more they will benefit.
But I digress.
Sun Tzu specifically mentions possibly an enemy can shame a leader into acting moral even at the expense of the people she is trying to protect and promote. For a leader to be truly effective, she must have a sufficient number of options. If the leader limits her options to value her morals over achieving the outcome with the least amount of cost to lives, suffering, and treasure, then the leader acts selfishly and thus foolishly. She is no treasure to the nation.
This also means she loses sight of her purpose and value to society. History is filled with people who got lost in the forest because they focused too much on the trees.
As the Bible advised, "Be shrewd as serpents but innocent as doves." It means knowing what works and what doesn't in the overall goal of achieving a benevolent result.
Ultimately, if the leader suffers the shame of being amoral instead of appearing moral, then so be it. Let them mock and criticize. However, you know who you are. You don't depend upon others to give you value. The entire world can all call a horse a donkey but the horse remains a horse of course.
So stay the course and refuse to allow people and things distract you from your mission in life. Hurt feelings are illusory and ephemeral, but having the emotional fortitude to help others when they need help -- even when they don't deserve it -- is truly powerful, tangible, and fulfilling.
It has been an incredible five months since I started a five-part series to discuss a leader's five dangerous traits. Several weeks ago, my friend Truthseeker reminded me to complete the series -- thanks, man -- and so I thought to continue the dialogue as promised. The ones I have previously posted entries for have links in the full quote below:
"There are five dangerous traits of a general:
Today I will be talking about being reckless as a leader.
Does it surprise anyone that being reckless can get you into a lot of trouble? So the idea seems simple. However, if you see this principle in practice, recklessness isn't a rarity. In fact, it seems to be a part of life.
The reason why recklessness is a part of life is because emotions are a part of life. Recklessness isn't a rarity because emotional self-control isn't a rarity.
Strong emotions, positive or negative, skew the way we make our decisions. Depending on our moods, we might not be aware of how they affect us. Depending on what just happened prior, we might not be aware of how that motivates or discourages us in our current decision making. Depending on deeply loved or hated the person saying something is, we might not be aware of how our feelings for that person cloud our perception of his or her words.
All the above are examples of recklessness because in a different scenario, our perception and thus our decisions would probably change. If our decision changes, yet the situation itself didn't change, then the difference -- and hence, the problem -- lies within us. That difference is a problem because we are not rigorous enough in our assessment of the world and thus not being fair to how we treat the people around us.
Sun Tzu goes a step further: those who are reckless can be killed. This is true in war and in violent conditions, but in the everyday where killings don't normally take place, they are terminated, rejected, or excluded.
Those who terminate, reject, or exclude are sometimes completely neutral. They simply don't have an interest in either our success or failure because they act in self-interest, which doesn't always align with ours. So they aren't necessarily our enemies when they act they way they do. Where they do harm is when their act is done in cold analysis without a trace of empathy, and they would do so even if it merely gives them some small advantage.
Therefore, when people act recklessly, they open themselves up to others exploiting their clear mistake, or at the very least, cause others to change their minds.
In my experience, recklessness is predominately a matter of maturity. It is an act I see much too often in young people. However, I believe this is perfectly natural. It is perfectly natural that young people act recklessly when they are not mature yet. Older people tend to get upset with young people for making dumb mistakes, but they conveniently forget how they first started out. They, too, needed time to mature and had their share of dumb mistakes. It is also unfair and unreasonable to expect children to act like adults -- especially when the adults themselves aren't exactly role models.
Recklessness can be controlled through controlling your emotions. Impatience, lack of empathy, and reacting in an extreme manner are common culprits.
One good way you can become proficient at controlling your emotions is through consistent practice in tough situations. Develop for yourself a sort of personal training program that involves taking on moments that would leave you feeling impatient, sounding angry, or doing something mean.
When in doubt, don't say or do anything, but if you must say or do something, make them kind words or actions.
I would be reckless to not include another culprit: ego. Sometimes decisions are made that won't help the situation except to stroke the ego, which ultimately helps no one, even the person being stroked. Ego is also synonymous with greed and selfishness. Others might use this to their advantage by baiting a person who is egoistical, greedy, or selfish since he or she is quite predictable in behavior.
The opposite of recklessness is prudence. Prudence can be achieved by examining each situation carefully before taking action. You can visualize taking an object and analyzing every aspect of that object. You are critiquing without being critical. This is what you can do whenever you encounter a person or scenario in life. No one can take advantage of you when you do this because a proper decision can be defended in the highest courts and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times.
Today I want to talk about one aspect of one of my most favorite quotes from The Art of War:
"Those angry will be happy again, and those wrathful will be cheerful again, but a destroyed nation cannot exist again, the dead cannot be brought back to life. Therefore, the enlightened ruler is prudent, the good general is cautious. This is the Way of securing the nation, and preserving the army." Sun Tzu
Yes it speaks about the temporary state of emotions. Sun Tzu's advice is to not allow an ephemeral cause to effect a permanent condition. Though profound, it is simple enough.
Let's dig deeper. The quote could also imply the temporary state that is life itself. You and I are here now but we won't be here for very long. Therefore, to cause pain and suffering to ourselves and those around us is rather presumptuous and laughable given our ridiculously short time and limited scope on earth.
Ultimately the path leads to one focused on caring for each other, if only to make life a little more bearable for another fellow human being. Sadly, some people don't even get this far before they pass away again.
Primum non nocere is a Latin term that means "first, do no harm." This is a famous motto for the medical profession. (In recent history, Google has adopted it as well. They have since become the most valuable public company in the world.) The Hippocratic Corpus states, "The physician must have two special objects in view with regard to disease, namely, to do good or to do no harm."
According to Hippocrates, a prudent and cautious approach is how disease should be handled. To me, a disease is analogous to a difficult problem, namely, an enemy! How you manage your enemy should rest on two options: to do good or to do no harm.
In other words, make sure your strategy will make the situation better, and if it doesn't, then do nothing at all until you find a proper strategy. Don't try to push through a bad strategy because it is a harmful strategy. Active inaction is indeed a viable strategy, even if the only benefit is that it doesn't make a bad situation worse.
Hippocrates lived 100 years after Sun Tzu but resided halfway across the globe. Hippocrates didn't steal his idea from Sun Tzu but both philosophers stole my heart with their wisdom. Universal wisdom can come from anyone, anywhere, and at anytime.
Therefore, go out out there and be prudent, be cautious, and be wise for yourself, for those you love, and even for those you love to hate. Godspeed.
"If a spy's activities are leaked before they are to begin, the spy and those who know should be put to death." Sun Tzu
As you can see in the quote above, what Sun Tzu advised regarding exposed spies might be hard to swallow for some people.
In fact, when we were writing our Sonshi Art of War edition, The Art of War--Spirituality for Conflict, this passage was the most difficult we had to explain. The concept seemed to go against the benevolent warrior Sun Tzu is famous for. It wasn't that we were unaware of the realities of war, especially in ancient China -- it was because we were viewing his advice through our own modern eyes and our modern upbringing.
And why not. If The Art of War is truly timeless, Sun Tzu's wisdom should stand the test of time. So let's examine his verse in more detail.
If the spy is exposed and those who are aware of this exposure are all put to death, I would surmise this decision must prove itself to be more favorable than all other dire alternatives. Sun Tzu thought this way because much like his advice to "lay siege to a city only when other options are not available," he always was inclined to make the least net costly decision. There isn't one example in The Art of War where Sun Tzu advised a more costly path in lives or treasure.
That means, then, the exposure of the spy and those who know would mean the death of more people if they are allowed to live. Given the turbulent late Spring and Autumn period in China, that exposure might very well mean risking the survival of an entire nation.
Let's look at a more modern ethical problem. Should the bus driver transporting soldiers critical to saving a city from attack run over a child who suddenly ran across the street -or- avoid the child but crash into a building killing everyone inside the bus? It is an ethical problem because there is no right answer. Some people would say save the child because no one should purposefully kill an innocent person, especially a child. Some would say run the child over because more lives would be saved.
The key here is to have thought carefully about difficult ethical dilemmas and scenarios in case you would have to face them in real life. You can do this for high potential situations that might arise but haven't happened yet. When you have deliberated upon a likely difficult situation, you can make an immediate decision when you encounter it, instead of trying to make the best decision impromptu.
There are people I know who doubt ethics classes can help people make better ethical decisions. They say it is too late to teach them right and wrong. However, the idea behind these classes isn't to teach people right from wrong. The idea is to allow the student to analyze and deliberate on what best to do in case difficult ethical problems arise.
I believe the reason why people most of the time choose a regrettable path is because they haven't thought about the problem sufficiently prior to making a decision. They are caught by surprise. (Sun Tzu in his Art of War discussed about surprise attacks and would say those caught by surprise are at a clear disadvantage.) Unfortunately once the choice has been made, it is now too late. With ethics classes, he or she would be better prepared.
As evidenced by The Art of War, Sun Tzu thought deeply about what to do in situations of war. In the case of managing spies, it is no different. Such careful deliberation would be beneficial for any person, company, or nation.
Before the US Congress in 2007, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates quoted Sun Tzu: "Do not depend on the enemy not coming, but depend on our readiness against him. Do not depend on the enemy not attacking, but depend on our position that cannot be attacked."
Peace through strength is a useful concept because it is the only way to ensure peace. We should strive to be peacemakers.
East against West. Democrats against Republicans. This army against that army. Our nation against your nation. For once, we should only hope that people with skill and power can convince the rest of the world to move in a different and consistent direction.
The world can start to think East with West. Democrats with Republicans. This army with that army. Our nation with your nation. Only then can the world move on and alleviate its pains. East with West combat terrorism. Democrats with Republicans supported a region hit by disaster. This army with that army shared a meal. Our nation with your nation exchanged ideas to cure cancer.
Two sides can disagree without hating each other. Two sides can behave in different ways without one being good and the other bad. It takes a special person to think this way.
One special person was indeed Sun Tzu. Even in the harsh reality during the Late Spring and Autumn Period when nations attacked others with regularity and seemingly with little more reason than to secure some small advantage, Sun Tzu still had the good sense to advise releasing a retreating enemy and treating well a captured enemy.
The reason behind his advice is clear: anger turns to happiness again, but lives lost cannot be brought back to life. Like fire, anger that is uncontrolled and not stamped out will grow until it is out of control. It will use as fuel anything that is closest to it until there is no more fuel.
So when Sun Tzu listed wisdom, trustworthiness, benevolence, courage, and discipline as desired attributes of a leader, he wasn't kidding. Let's review the five attributes:
Wisdom to view the world as it is, but also having the experience and knowledge of how it works, how to navigate it, and then producing a desired result from it.
Trustworthiness to ensure cohesion and unity among people. This isn't some rah rah speech that would be given from time to time but consistent action to show that the leader cares about people and that his or her decisions have been proven to be generally sound in the past. When someone is right most of the time, people tend to rely on him or her and would tend to follow him or her.
Benevolence to add good to the world that might lack goodness. This sometimes requires sufficient resources. This sometimes requires an honest compliment. In either case, this benevolence moves society and makes the world a better place to live. It is worth noting that changing the world doesn't mean literally changing the world significantly as people seem to understand it to be. As the saying goes, "charity starts at home," which is to say, do your part, shaping your world of influence to make it better. If other people do the same, then in fact the world has changed noticeably for the better. This takes time and consistency.
Courage to keep on going even if the leader feels discouraged. Enough said.
Discipline to do what needs to be done but at the same time to not go overboard. The middle road is the path of discipline and one must stay on this road even when extreme and fundamentalist factions are rattling in their little cages. This ensures fairness for everyone and is the mark of a society based on measured improvement. It is a mark of a society based on mercy and kindness. Mercy and kindness seem contrary to discipline but they are related and depend on each other. Sun Tzu understood this well when he had the discipline to control his anger before ordering his troops to scale a walled city. He understood this well when he proposed a strategy of prevention instead of a show-off display of power -- even if one could display it.
Therefore, I urge more people, especially young people, to read Sun Tzu's Art of War to take a different path in life, a path of wisdom, trustworthiness, benevolence, courage, and discipline. Help me to spread the word. Thank you.
People will never learn. There is no point in continuing. Good bye.
You've been advised by someone wise to read Sun Tzu's Art of War. Maybe you're into self-improvement. Or you're an officer in the military and it's required reading. Perhaps you are LeBron James.
As such, you type in "Art of War" on Amazon and found a softback edition for an amazing low price of $3.99. Looks like it's also the "#1 Best Seller in Military History" says Amazon. And it's FREE shipping! A no-brainer decision, right?
Not so fast. Sun Tzu would not jump at that bait. And neither should you.
You scroll down to the second Art of War edition listed on that Amazon search. If you read the fine print, you would discover it has the same translation as the first except with a different cover. In fact, you would have to scroll down eight books listed -- yes, eight books -- before you could see an Art of War edition with original scholarship in modern times. (That edition just happens to be Dr. Thomas Cleary's, which I personally rank as #1 for someone starting out.)
Therefore, that would mean you'd have the patience of Sun Tzu to wade through and not bite on eight Art of War editions before coming to an original reputable one.
Shockingly, there are many more than these eight rehashed Art of War editions in the publishing world. They represent only a tip of the iceberg. They just happened to be ranked higher than the translation by Dr. Cleary on Amazon. In my estimation, there are probably more than 100 of these copycat editions released over the last 20 years with little to no scholarship value added.
So what exactly is this translation being recycled over and over again? It is the translation by Lionel Giles, M.A., published in 1910. It is also the exact one you can read for free since it's in the public domain.
Giles's translation is actually pretty good in my opinion. You can't beat the price, which is infinitely cheaper than $3.99. Of course Sonshi.com has a free translation too, so there is absolutely no excuse of having to pay to read The Art of War.
Looking at the big picture, I find this whole situation a disturbing trend in the business world today, not only in publishing. From foods to services, marketing has been given higher priority over quality and substance. That's a shame. Instead of proudly proclaiming what the company has done, it has largely come down to convincing people that they have done it. Whether they did or not is now at the risk of the buyer, who currently depends on other buyers' reviews, which are sometimes being manipulated by the retailers and marketers themselves.
Furthermore, too many companies perceived as manufacturing companies aren't manufacturers at all. They are marketers. They let workers in China or Vietnam do the stitching. They let poor Mr. Giles do the translating. They don't make anything except making up stuff. To me, they weave lies. They aren't big lies but lies nonetheless.
Sun Tzu said warfare is the Way of deception but this concept only applies to aggressive enemies who he would sooner treat well than to trick for trickery's sake. His goal was peace. What is a marketing company's goal?
Customers aren't stupid. Over time they will be better educated. Over time they will choose the good over the bad.
Well, let me save you some time. Here is our recommendation for the best Art of War editions based on three decades of experience. Similar to what you'll find out when you're in any hobby: Go for the best you can afford and you won't be tempted to buy more of the rest, even at discount.
By the way, if you indeed purchased a Giles edition in your past, that's OK. I hope you still have the book. Let it serve as a friendly reminder to always do your research. In fact, I wish every mistake in life costs only $3.99.
Back in November, I mentioned that current South Korean President Park Geun-hye -- Korea's first woman President -- reads Sun Tzu's Art of War. According to her autobiography, "Adversity Refines Me," Sun Tzu is a source of inspiration for her diplomacy.
So it comes as no surprise that Korea's first woman military officer Jeong Ji-eun, pictured above, reads Sun Tzu's Art of War. In fact, The Art of War is her "all-time favorite" book. From her interview, it's apparent to me the wise leadership lessons she has learned from the book to mentor her platoon, to earn their trust and respect.
Jeong Ji-eun's personal strength and resourcefulness are apparent, too, as this 5 foot 2 inch commander was the only woman out of 630 soldiers to apply for the U.S. Army Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB). Beating the odds, she was also the only woman to pass and earn the EIB. Only 130 other soldiers received the badge.
Read more about this extraordinary soldier here: http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/article.aspx?aid=3021393
"The leader is wise, trustworthy, benevolent, brave, and disciplined." Sun Tzu
Since antiquity, leaders have been a premium around the world. Although leaders always seem to be in short supply, leadership isn't a mystery. Leadership doesn't even require special talent or skill. Leadership, however, isn't easy and hence its rarity.
When I speak of leadership, I'm speaking of effective leadership and only effective leadership. There is no such thing as bad leadership as there is no such thing as bad Mom's home cooking. There is either leadership or an absence of leadership.
Conversely, good leadership is an inadequate and incomplete description. "Good" is subjective and is dependent upon the situation. One person's good is another person's bad, especially depending on his or her circumstances. But you can describe someone's leadership as effective since only such leadership gets the job done. This is more objective. In essence, that's what leaders do: they enable others to get their jobs done.
Leadership is neither a mystery nor requires special talent or skill because most educated people know what to do but few actually do it. Why don't people do it? Because it's hard.
It's hard to have self-control over one's anger, physical wants, and other weaknesses. Luxury and privilege seem to be the path even smart individuals seek. Unfortunately this path is a perverse yet common representation of what leadership is. Thus it is also common to find these individuals largely ineffective.
It's hard to listen and understand what others want instead of what "I" want.
It's hard to take the time and effort to carefully observe and analyze the situation, to get down into the weeds to learn its intricate details, to step back to see the full picture, and then to create a sound strategy to improve that situation.
It's hard to execute the above sound strategy, even if it's just you doing the work. One might think convincing others is the difficult part. Not always. Often convincing yourself is job one, and once that is sold, then others will naturally tag along. Nobody wants to help you push your stalled car if you're not already outside pushing it yourself first.
It's hard to not procrastinate, to not join in on the fun and gain the approval of others when focus and discipline are necessary to steer the ship away from danger and toward our destination.
"If the general cannot control his temper and sends troops to swarm the walls, one third of them will be killed, and the city will still not be taken." Sun Tzu
Knowledge isn't the same as wisdom, which can be a solution to many of our society's problems. Our blog post wouldn't be a proper Sonshi blog post if it doesn't provide you practical advice on how to make leadership's difficulties less difficult. Here are five leadership tips on how to be a step ahead as a leader each and every day:
(1) Know what you want to accomplish today
Don't let this important day go to waste by not thinking about what exactly must get done. You don't start driving without knowing your destination, so why should your life be any different? If it's a big project that might require multiple days to complete, then let today be a step in the right direction. In short, nothing gets done until you are aware there is a need.
(2) Know why you want to accomplish it today
Are you keeping busy, keeping up with the Jones, or are you making someone's day? Are you making miracles happen even without the help of divinity? Yet, God helps those who help themselves. Leadership begins with the self, and that provides sufficient reason and power to start and to finish.
(3) Set your integrity bar high
Set the bar high enough that it would even impress yourself if you meet it every day. But never at the expense of kindness, empathy, mercy. In short, this is professionalism. People assume selfishness is how the world works. What they fail to realize is that the world works despite selfishness. The world actually progresses when value is created, when people give more than they receive, that integrity produces trust which in turn produces untold efficiencies. Leadership isn't simply taking the tougher path but also taking the path that unlocks the most benefit.
(4) Tired? Good because you're just getting started
Unless you've just come home from the gulag, you can do more. Limits are set not physically but emotionally, and through everyday habit and comfort. Let work be our badge of honor because work is what makes us useful to everyone around us. In short, work is what keeps us alive. Leadership brought about mentally can incredibly unleash physical energy to get things done.
(5) Evaluate yourself by asking: Am I helping or am I hurting this situation?
People often act irrationally because they are irrational, not because they are cognizant of their behavior, much less aware of the consequences of their actions. By stepping back and evaluating yourself, you become more aware of what is happening around you, how you are affecting others, what you are trying to accomplish, and thus what you must correct in order to produce the results you seek. If you're not helping to make the situation better, you must rethink your conduct.
"The leader who does not advance to seek glory, or does not withdraw to avoid punishment, but cares for only the people's security and promotes the people's interests, is the nation's treasure." Sun Tzu
You might notice the five tips above revolve around the self. Leaders can't move thousands of people to a better place if they can't even lead themselves to a better place. Leadership, like charity, starts at home. Treat yourself better not by making it easier but by making yourself stronger and more capable, which means treating yourself sternly yet kindly. Treat your family and friends better not by telling them what to do but by actually allowing them to be better, which sometimes means standing by (for safety's sake) in teachable moments. Then, and only then, can you hope to be a leader to many, who inevitably can have interests opposite from yours.
"Mix the captured chariots with our own and treat the captured soldiers well." Sun Tzu
In essence, leaders take care of followers and non-followers alike. Anyone can be friendly to friends, but to treat enemies well requires self-control and professionalism. It requires leadership, which I believe makes the world a better place to live. I encourage you to shape your world today. I encourage you to embrace your role as a leader.
John Keating from the movie Dead Poets Society:
Now we all have a great need for acceptance, but you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go,"That's baaaaad." Robert Frost said, "Two roads diverged in the wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."
Who is 31 years old, second in line to the throne in Saudi Arabia, and wants to overhaul his nation to not depend on oil in 20 years? Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He has plenty of challenges ahead, but according to an interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, he says he studies Sun Tzu's The Art of War to help turn adversity into advantage. "The opportunities we have," he says, “Are much bigger than the problems." Seems to us like his chances of success are in his favor. Read full article below:
"There are five dangerous traits of a general:
Anger is a killer. It is a killer of people. It is a killer of relationships. It is a killer of progress. In short, it is a killer of anything important in life.
When one is angry because one's temper flares up, he or she cannot think beyond what is making him or her upset. In fact, the word upset means to disturb. When you are thinking rationally, would be you disturbed? When you are disturbed, you would mostly like be thinking irrationally. When you are thinking irrationally, you would be making the wrong decisions. And should you act on those wrong decisions, then the consequences could be detrimental.
When people get angry, how long do they stay angry? Is this angry state permanent? Yet if wrong decisions are made and they are acted upon, the consequences might very well be permanent and irreparable. So we hope you can see that being angry is never a good thing.
Thus, being angry is one of those few emotions that you must control and contain. You plan and practice to defeat it at its very beginning: a frown. A frown on your face is an indication you are upset whether you want to be or not. Be aware of your anger in its infancy because anger at any stage is a formidable opponent -- arguably the most dangerous enemy in the world -- and should never ever be underestimated. Yet we share with you a simple solution if you catch anger early enough. De-escalate the situation by forcing yourself to smile. That's right. Smile. See if you can maintain your frown with your smile. You can't, can you? This is what Sun Tzu mean when he said, "If the enemy is large in number and advances, what should be the response? I say: Seize what he values, and he will do what you wish." Instead of trying not to frown, which would be near impossible if you are truly upset, you can make a smile, even if it's fake. What isn't fake is its effectiveness when you are seizing upon the upside down smile, which the anger emotion depends on as much as its frown. You cleverly defeated anger in this battle by turning it right side up!
Also, a scowl is ugly, isn't it? There are those who scowl to make themselves look serious. They don't need to do that. They can focus more on their words and actions to project gravitas, not simply a superficial facial expression.
There are other strategies for dealing with anger:
Because anger is a temporary state, leave the environment you are in immediately until you calm down again. You can easily be forgiven for leaving temporarily -- nothing happened -- but people can never forget mean words and actions that are exchanged in a heated moment even if they tell you they forgive you.
Another strategy is if you feel like blurting out an angry response, keep quiet. Even if people demand a response, refuse to say anything in anger. It would only make it worse. Anger begets more anger. Starve anger with peace, silence, and if possible, a hug. This is like putting out a fire by taking out wood and air and pouring in cool water.
Lastly, drastically change the direction of the troubled situation. Act completely the opposite of how you behaved before. If you were loud before, whisper. If you were mean before, go out of your way to be sincerely nice. If you dressed in black before, dress in white or in primary colors, even crazy fashion. The idea here is to make the other side break away from his or her rut, too. You are proving in a very clear manner that whatever he or she thought of you before, you are now different in every way. Maybe, just maybe, you aren't so bad after all. This doesn't always work but it allows you a higher chance of success to halt a bad situation and perhaps turn it around.
The reason why many people can't break away from their rut and lift off is because they are weighed down by their bad traits which in turn are perpetuated by their bad habits. Sun Tzu adroitly addressed the five dangerous traits of a leader in the quote above.
They are dangerous because in war these traits can indeed cost the lives of soldiers. For almost all of us, however, they aren't as deadly but are costly to our lives all the same. Therefore, it would benefit us all if we review these five traits in more detail over the next five days. Some are obvious, while others are not.
Today we start with being cowardly. The cost of being cowardly seems straightforward. In fact even if there is gain to being cowardly it is still unacceptable to society, and, I would argue, unacceptable to anyone who has any semblance of dignity or scruple.
Let's not confuse being cowardly with being afraid. Being afraid is quite normal. Being cowardly, on the other hand, is giving in to fear instead of acknowledging it and addressing it directly. When you know you are afraid but face the problem directly, you aren't cowardly but supremely courageous. So you can be both afraid and brave at the same time.
Thus being cowardly means ignoring and/or running away from a problem that could have been faced. Most people view a coward as someone who runs away from danger. This is a common picture of a coward. However, being cowardly can also apply to things far more subtle but perhaps just as dangerous. It could mean not taking care of business and doing things that need to be done in a timely fashion. Procrastination is a much more pervasive and ruinous problem than people think. People think it is no big deal but it is in fact a huge deal.
For example, you can take your loved ones for granted by putting things off by spending time doing things more urgent and "more important." This meeting is urgent! This play off game is important! But are these things really more urgent and important than your loved ones? You know the answer to this question by asking yourself if you happen to lose either one of them, which one would you regret losing more? Don't allow loud demands to overrule your intended plans and priorities. In fact the louder they are, the more you should be wary. Conversely, don't abuse love and kindness just because they can be abused. They need to be protected by Sun Tzu's strategies at all times.
Therefore, the lesson for today is execute your plan and intention right now. You might not feel like it but you must do it. Don't let other people nag at you to get started -- you should nag at yourself and not accepting less than your best effort. Do it and you will always find that extra spring in your step to continue on. Accomplish and finish your task and you will feel a sense of pride, energizing you, not draining you as you would expect.
Tomorrow we will discuss being quick-tempered. Seems simple. But anger is so dangerous, it should be on the FBI most wanted list. Alas it is not and so it runs rampant, killing people literally and figuratively every day. Don't let anger conquer you and we will show you how. See you tomorrow.
Cosmopolitan magazine interviewed one of Ted Cruz's law students, Jason Steed, who back in 2008 took a law class taught by Cruz at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin. At this time Cruz has yet to run for public office. Two main things discussed were how he seemed destined to be in public office and that he really liked Sun Tzu's idea of, "He who chooses the terrain will win the battle" to gain advantage. Below is an excerpt of the article:
As far as the course and what I got out of it, the thing that was most impressive about him was his strategic thinking and emphasis on it. That was a big thing for him, thinking in advance about how to win, which I think is a big reason he's successful as a politician. I'm an appellate lawyer now, and the thing that he emphasized — I'll butcher the quote now — I think it's from The Art of War, is "He who chooses the terrain will win the battle." It was probably Cruz's own phrasing that he adapted from Sun Tzu to make the point he was trying to make. It was his way of talking about the importance of framing the issue in a way that works to your advantage. On appeal, you're asking the court to answer a legal question. You can do a lot to get the answer that you want by strategically wording the question that you're asking. That was the point Cruz was trying to make with his reference to Sun Tzu. And you can see how he does this in the debates too, by the way. When he's asked a question, he'll quickly reframe it so he's saying something that works to his advantage. All politicians try to do this, of course — but it's usually clear that they're just dodging or refusing to answer the question. Cruz is better at it. He can make it seem like he answered the question, even when he didn't. Or he can make you think it was the wrong question to begin with.
Link to Cosmopolitan article: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/news/a56785/ted-cruz-law-professor/
There are things in your life that you want accomplished and accomplished well. Not next week, not tomorrow, but today -- each and every day. That's what the Sonshi Daily (a year-long Sun Tzu's Art of War course) reminds and empowers you to do. The purpose of this post is to inform you that you can now try out the Sonshi Daily free for 10 days to decide for yourself. Let's see what happens! If you have family or friends who might benefit from Sun Tzu's Art of War, share this post.
Link to the Sonshi Daily: https://www.sonshi.com/how-to-win-every-day-sun-tzus-art-of-war-course.html
Tomes have been written about leaders and leadership. I strive to write about leaders and leadership in one blog entry instead. You might notice many books focus more on leaders in the military than in any other environment. The answer is apparent: you need not leadership to have people show up to an air-conditioned office, but it takes a special kind of leadership to have people show up on the front line of a battlefield, bullets flying. And since Sun Tzu is the personification of an enlightened approach to war, I believe that he, more than any other teacher, can provide us a few essential clues about strong leaders and effective leadership. Let's start with the first idea from Sun Tzu:
"The 'Way' is the strong bond your people have with you. Whether they face certain death or hope to come out alive, they never worry about danger or betrayal." Sun Tzu
The leader must have the same goal as the group, organization, community, nation. The methods might be different but the objective is the same. If there isn't this critical connection, then one is not a leader. History repeats itself over and over again when someone tries to push objectives not popular with the people and the result is always the same.
Historically, betrayal is almost never the people betraying their leader. Betrayal is almost always a leader betraying his or her own people. So I find it appalling when Art of War translations and commentators mention the former instead of the latter. Furthermore, would it matter one iota to a real leader whether the people betray him or her? No. A wise one would be quite satisfied if he or she simply held true to his or her duty regardless of what others think.
So what makes a leader? A leader shares in the people's dreams but that's not all. He or she must have and communicate a way worth following. In other words, he or she knows what to do! If a person doesn't know what he or she doing, then that person isn't a leader either. Thus a true leader is rare and there are times when no one emerges except inferior candidates and outright impostors. Below are the five main traits of a leader:
"'General' is wise, trustworthy, benevolent, brave, and disciplined." Sun Tzu
Character, character, character. Talent and skills get you to the game but only character provides you advantage and enables you to win the game. The reason is nobody cheers for a jerk. Nobody works hard for someone they don't like. Nobody wants to help someone who they find repulsive ethically. Entire dynasties and governments have been upended when there are intolerable corruption such that capable people refuse to participate. And those who are the bravest with the most integrity are usually the ones who die or get banished first, something I will come back to later on.
People only go out of their way to support those who they feel can take them and society to a better place, and that only happens when they can trust who they support.
This is a lot harder than it sounds. An individual who wants and decides to become a leader usually doesn't understand the hardship and sacrifice that would be needed. Most leaders don't decide to be leaders -- they simply are. People don't point out about how well fish swim because that's what they naturally do. Leaders become leaders not because they deliberately wanted to be leaders but rather they have to be one. They are often critiqued. They are often belittled. Yet they are often looked upon to get the job done. There is a humbling struggle and desperation about leadership and it's not usually neat, pretty, and glorious:
"The general who does not advance to seek glory, or does not withdraw to avoid punishment, but cares for only the people's security and promotes the people's interests, is the nation's treasure..." Sun Tzu
Leaders are a lonely bunch. There is practically no one they can confide in: not the rich, not the poor, not the lauded, not the hated. Their situation is unique. Leaders, however, fear not because praise, confidence, or confirmation isn't why they push on. They are in it to do the work and complete the mission. It is their duty to act, regardless of reward or punishment, because the act itself is its own reward and not doing one's duty would be the ultimate punishment.
"...He looks upon his troops as children, and they will advance to the deepest valleys. He looks upon his troops as his own children, and they will die with him." Sun Tzu
How would you treat your own children? Would you spoil them? No. Would you make an effort to teach and empower them? Yes. Thus, would you care for them? Yes. Would you do everything in your power, even if it's your last act, to promote their interests? YES. So is it any wonder that once people can see the leader they want to follow and fight with, they would be willing to take a bullet for him or her, and for each other?
Once people understand their common purpose, they don't mind pain, danger, or sacrifice. They might even expect it. But inconvenience them slightly in something they all disagree with and they make bad excuses and complain the loudest.
"A general who understands warfare is the guardian of people's lives, and the ruler of the nation's security." Sun Tzu
Whether you are in the military, business, or politics, the job of a leader is the same: to be knowledgeable in your job, and above all else, protect the people. You protect people's lives by protecting their livelihoods. You protect their hopes by protecting their dreams. This is the melding and integration of knowledge, action, and contribution. This is what integrity means.
What about the leader? What is in it for him or her? Well, dear reader, let us remain in reality: the described famous leaders we read about in the history books aren't necessarily the magnanimous individuals we imagine (want?) them to be. They are often far from the definition of people of enlightened leadership. Real leaders are far more often unknown and unrecognized in their everyday work for their families, local communities, and states. They are often drowned out by those who can market themselves better, and I would dare to say, actually do less in terms of contribution to society.
Sun Tzu disappeared in history after Wu's ruler Ho Lu died and his corrupt son Fu Chai took power. To me, Sun Tzu's abrupt disappearance is as obvious as Ho Lu's finally deciding to choose Sun Tzu as his commander despite both sides' reservations: Sun Tzu's wisdom is only useful and needed if it is applied! There is no purpose for brilliant strategies if those strategies remain in written form even if they are praised. Sun Tzu realized Fu Chai was travelling down the path as any common ruler and so he left. He cared not for fame and in fact scholars are still adamant as to Sun Tzu's very existence. These same scholars pick and choose Sima Qian's accounts, discounting Sun Tzu's contribution and highlighting others. This is quite unfortunate. However, I have a strong feeling that Sun Tzu would not care if people think he never lived. He did what he could and that is enough.
Can I have the luxury of exploring further into the thought above? Could it be the very best leaders of history and today are people we have never met or heard of? Of course there will be a few who slip through. If Sima Qian didn't write about Sun Tzu and Emperor Shenzong of the Song dynasty didn't promote him, Sun Tzu would be nowhere. If Plato and Xenophon didn't write about Socrates, Socrates would be nowhere. If Lucius and Pliny the Younger didn't write about Musonius, Musonius would be nowhere. They all hang by a tenuous historical thread and there is no guarantee they will be remembered in another thousand years. That is because there is no guarantee their wisdom would be considered useful in a future world that might not value character and integrity.
Therefore, could it be possible that countless unknown leaders lived, done their duty without even hearing an utterance of praise or recognition, yet were fully satisfied with their lives when they breathed their last breath? I don't have the definitive answer to that question. One thing seems more certain: they would be least likely to write tomes on leadership, detailing for hundreds of pages on what leaders do, because they were too busy being leaders.
Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan proposes a solution to ISIS by drawing upon the wisdom of Sun Tzu's Art of War
Haaretz Newspaper in Israel published a sensible opinion piece from Jordan's Prince El-Hassan Bin Talal on how to handle ISIS in the Middle East. He refers to Sun Tzu's Art of War several times in the article. What's so special about Jordan is that they have taken in 1.4 million Syrian refugees since 2011. This is amazing considering their entire population is 9.5 million. Jordan is an ally of the US.
Prince El-Hassan Bin Talal mentions the 1949 Geneva Convention which outlines the humanitarian rules of war. I mentioned this in our The Art of War -- Spirituality for Conflict book that Sun Tzu had already set similar rules 2,500 years before that when he advised generals to treat captured soldiers well and to leave a trapped enemy an outlet home. These principles aren't only a matter of humanity but also a matter of practicality. Hatred begets more hatred. Sun Tzu knows better.
I despise these billionaires up there on the podium telling people to go out there and make lots of mistakes. Easy for them to say looking back. So misleading and irresponsible of a thing to say too -- and potentially destructive for some people and their families with far lesser means.
Thus the benefit from making mistakes is overblown because Sun Tzu advises us to avoid making mistakes if we can help it because let's face it: your objective is success, not errors. Learn by planning and anticipating problems, not by fixing problems that could have been prevented. Having said that, however, mistakes will happen and one must get back up quickly from a setback and continue working. If there is one thing that never fails it is persistence.
What is persistence? It is the relentless pursuit of your goal. Success? Keep going. Setback? Keep going. Two left feet? Keep going. Nighttime? Keep going. Weekend? Keep going. Others stopped? Keep going.
You don't need talent. You don't even need advantages. You only need the will to continue the mission when everyone has given up because it is just too hard and difficult. You know you're in this zone when you've forgotten to eat. You know you're in this zone when the only time you must stop is you keep dozing off due to a lack of sleep. Yet your mission is the first thing you think about and the last thing you remember each and every day.
If you're not in this zone, then find an activity you can believe in to get you there. If you think this is unrealistic, then you don't truly understand how short life really is. Don't be in the position of looking back and wishing things could be different. You're here now. You have this chance again. What are you going to do this time around? Please don't say to make a mistake. Not when you can get to work and hit it out of the ballpark, leaving nothing and nobody in doubt.
Someone asked me why I chose the domain name Sonshi.com instead of SunTzu.com back in 1999.
During my youth, I was extremely interested in Japanese culture, especially Akira Kurosawa films. (My favorite Kurosawa movie? Ran.) You have to hand it to Japan for being such a grand promoter of their country. When I compare Japan to Vietnam, where I was born, I find it sad there isn't such a push to promote Vietnam's culture. Let's face it: from their language to their samurai warriors, Japan is just plain cool.
What really made me register Sonshi.com is Gen. Samuel Griffith's Art of War book. He wrote a wonderful section on Sun Tzu's influence on Japan. Or, should I say the Japanese intellectuals' fascination with Sun Tzu -- or "Sonshi," as they referred to him. When I ran across the word "Sonshi" word, it was Eureka! And when you add in sensational characters like Takeda Shingen and Minamoto Yoshitsune, who were both fanatics of Sonshi, it was quite natural for me to choose Sonshi.com.
In fact, I don't think I even bothered to look to see whether SunTzu.com was available. I was quite happy that Sonshi.com was available.
It could be argued that Japan admired Sun Tzu just as much as China ever did. You can even say that Japan for a long time was fascinated with Chinese culture and all things Chinese. Yet Sun Tzu was special. They made Sun Tzu their own. He was Sonshi.
To me, the way Japan adopted Sonshi as their own is representative of Westerners like Americans adopting Sun Tzu as our own. Thus Sonshi.com is a perfect representation of Sun Tzu outside of China, and furthermore, Sun Tzu as a global phenomenon, not just a Chinese phenomenon.
I'll tell you a quick story before I go. Vanderbilt University Professor Peter Lorge in our Inaugural Sun Tzu's Art of War Conference chastised people for pronouncing Sun Tzu's name "Sun Sue" instead of "Schwen Zuh." He missed the part where I gave people license in the conference to call Sun Tzu as "Sun Sue" because that's how an average English speaking person would recognize Sun Tzu. If you say "Schwen Zuh," he or she would say "Huh?" An example I gave at the conference was how few people refer to Confucius as Kong Zi. Nobody except the Chinese would be able to recognize Kong Zi as Confucius. Even Prof. Lorge didn't call Confucius as Kong Zi. He referred to Confucius as Confucius. Hence, Sun Tzu will always be Sun Tzu. And Sun Tzu to his biggest fans will always be Sonshi.
Sonshi may be big in Japan but now he belongs to the world as well. Welcome home, Sonshi.
"I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends." Abraham Lincoln
"Replace the enemy's flags and standards with our own. Mix the captured chariots with our own and treat the captured soldiers well. This is called defeating the enemy and increasing our strength." Sun Tzu