"Persistence isn't using the same tactics over and over. That's just annoying. Persistence is having the same goal over and over." Seth Godin
"Study the five factors of warfare: Way, Heaven, Ground, General, and Law. Calculate your strength in each and compare them to your enemy's strengths. 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
On this spirit-filled Christmas day, I would like to share with you the big secret to world peace. It is big because the alternative is destruction, suffering, and stagnation. It is a secret because few seem cognizant of it.
The big secret to world peace is achieving peace at home.
The definition for home would depend on where the leader (you!) is. That is to say, if he or she doesn't have peace in his or her nation, he or she must focus a level down, which is to achieve peace in the region. If not, then narrow it down to the city. If not the city, then look into the neighborhood. If still not the neighborhood, then the business and household. If there is not peace there, then the starting point is the self.
In other words, if there is peace in the nation, then there must be peace in the region, city, neighborhood, business, household, and self. Now we see why peace in the world is so difficult to achieve throughout history. It all starts by focusing and educating the many selves on how to instill peace within themselves. We teach everyone reading and arithmetic, but gaining the skill of how to handle life's everyday emotions is also important if not more so.
A common problem that causes a person to lose peace is trying to control things that don't belong to him or her. It might belong to other people, who are also doing what they think is beneficial to them. The only thing that truly belongs to an individual is his or her own actions. If one tries to control the actions of others, and when others don't go along, then that is the cause of much grief and unhappiness.
That is not to say that one cannot educate and convince others on why they might want to change direction to better accomplish their aim. People will do what they think is right to them. If they fail to accomplish their aim, and if someone shows them a better way, then they might very well change their mind. As a result, the leader has instilled the Way, where everyone is more learned and is of one mind and direction, much like the agreement that 2+2=4.
The Way (the Tao) is the right way -- the divine, most spiritual way -- because it aligns with the universe. And because it aligns and thus works with the universe, people can gain strength and can fulfill grand goals such as peace on earth.
That is why Sun Tzu lists the Way first in his five factors of winning in warfare. To Sun Tzu, the best win in war is not defeating the enemy 100 times in battle, but defeating the enemy 100 times without ever fighting at all. Some people believe war is inevitable, as if war is part of human nature. Is war truly inevitable when peace is extended indefinitely each and every time conflict flares up, even if it flares up 100 times? Sun Tzu teaches us that extending peace is possible, making war obsolete and foolish in practice.
Going back to the idea of peace at home. Can a world leader be a peaceful leader if he or she is not peaceful at home? It is not possible. So if one wants to win without fighting, he or she must first aim at the heart of the problem, not at its peripheral symptoms.
Too many leaders mindlessly refer to the actions of the past to only solve the symptom and not the cause, and so wars rage on -- as if this was good standard practice. In short, if there is no benefit, stop. Sun Tzu advises us to do just that.
Sun Tzu said people see how victories were won but cannot duplicate the result by copying past actions because they don't understand the underlying wisdom. That's because every situation is different and thus a leader cannot be effective by following in other people's same footsteps. He or she must study and understand the principles and wisdom first and foremost, and then critically think for him or herself in each new situation.
For example, instead of the same old threats and coercion tactics, why not also consider offering an olive branch. This plants a seed of peace in the opposition's mind. It is a surprise that he or she is completely unprepared for. Therefore, this seed can go through walls where battering rams cannot. If it fails to sprout and is rejected, one would not lose anything but a show of strength and sincere kindness. And don't be afraid to accept that olive branch if it is returned. Peace is then extended. Don't automatically fight harder; think harder. Try something new, different, innovative, enlightened.
Anybody can achieve peace at home if he or she puts his or her mind to it. For yourself, at any time, you can simply decide to be kind and pleasant. Unlike other valuable skills, there is no training involved in this decision, only a shift in continual focus. It can be accomplished immediately but it takes effort to maintain. Do not underestimate the challenge here, lest it defeats you and makes you fall back to what's more familiar. Unlearn old knowledge and gift yourself new habits this Christmas.
If there is conflict with other individuals around you, and they are entrenched in their positions, Sun Tzu advises that to make people move, attack what they value most. What is it that would make them more open and peaceful with you? Influence their behaviors by changing your own behavior. If it doesn't work the first time, don't give up -- timing is also critical according to Sun Tzu. In due time, they too will develop healthier habits and see the benefits of them. This is leadership and you are acting the part of the leader.
Like a ripple in a pond, your own actions would have an effect on the actions of others. They in turn will create their own ripples. With much luck, wisdom, and hard work, it will eventually turn into whole waves like in all the oceans of the world.
World peace might start with a leader but it is not the job of the leader, no matter how powerful and magnanimous; it can only be achieved if everyone can begin to see the Way and decide to walk along its path, too. It involves plenty of education and resources. If this sounds too costly in time, toil, and treasure, then we can continue to spend the same amount engaged in fighting wars with even less to show for it in the end.
What a Christmas it would be in the year when we can say "Peace on Earth" and truly mean it. We would mean it when it is not merely a wish but something that we have worked so hard to earn. We must not make the same mistakes of yesterday hoping that things will work out. We must show leadership and make a deliberate decision today for the sake of tomorrow.
"To achieve a hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the highest excellence; to subjugate the enemy's army without doing battle is the highest of excellence ... Winning battles such that the whole world cries 'Excellent!' is not the highest excellence." Sun Tzu
As announced yesterday, we have acquired the domain name NoWar.com, which was originally registered in 1998, a year earlier than when Sonshi.com was founded. I still can't believe how we ended up with the name and can only attribute our luck to the heavens.
The phrase No War has tremendous significance to me because it represents Sun Tzu's ultimate goal and mark of the "highest of excellence." No War also challenges the common notion that war is a viable option. Instead, a war is a sign that things have been poorly managed by those in power.
According to Sun Tzu, a leader must be so adept at handling conflicts that the conditions from which wars get started could never take hold. That is because prevention is his or her focus, when conflicts are easier to manage. This skill requires a keen sensitivity to tackling small issues before they become larger ones.
Leaders can see what others cannot, and thus can do what others cannot. If problems are such that everyone can see them, then that is when we know the people in power have failed the organization, community, or nation. A small problem solved clumsily is vastly superior to a big problem solved efficiently. (Imagine how much more costly if large problems are mishandled!)
Therefore, the wise understand that there is no glory in fighting a war. To the general populace, however, there is no glory in preventing a war either, for they can't possibly fathom what never transpired. That's ok, because students of Sun Tzu can't possibly fathom doing anything different regardless. The benefits themselves are good enough.
Thank you so much for your support and confidence through the years.
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." Jesus
[Before we begin, I would like to make a quick announcement. Today we have acquired the domain name NoWar.com. This name is important to us because of Sonshi.com's purpose. Like ☮.com, NoWar.com represents Sun Tzu's highest accomplishment. I hope you join us in the cause.]
Recent headlines in the news have brought to the forefront the need for me to discuss the topic of power, namely the abuse of power.
In 1887, British politician Lord Acton wrote, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
The key phrase Acton used was "almost always," to which he had plenty of empirical evidence to back up his general belief, yet astutely left himself room for rare exceptions to the contrary.
So let's talk a little about power and why it likely leads to corruption.
When people see a person caught in a crime, it isn't unusual for them to express shock and disdain. "We would never," they would proclaim, "do such a terrible thing."
But is their statement entirely true? For how would they know for sure they wouldn't do such a thing if they aren't in this person's position? If given the same circumstances, would they fall into the same trap? What are the chances that this criminal is sufficiently different from the rest of the population?
In other words, is it possible that people don't do bad things not because they are necessarily good people but that they simply don't have the opportunity? Lord Acton would seem to agree with this sentiment.
I don't blame those who have this cynicism. They probably have seen it too many times in life where bad people succeeded. When morals aren't considered a factor in effectiveness, wouldn't it make sense to only focus on the tactical and technical aspects? There are books written where morality isn't even a factor but how cunning the strategies must be. To consider morality would seem naive.
Fortunately, Sun Tzu disagrees. Of the five factors of victory in war, the very first is the Tao (or Way): the alignment of the leader's interests with the people's interests. In contrast, corrupt people in power don't share the interests of others.
Furthermore, Sun Tzu discusses the winning five attributes of the leader: wisdom, trustworthiness, benevolence, bravery, and discipline. Abusive people possess little to none of these attributes since they cannot go beyond their impulses and selfishness.
When people with power abuse their position, they can nonetheless be effective for some time. They are able to continue their abuse as long as they benefit the right people around them. They share the interests of a relative few, not all.
However, as the saying goes, the only constant in life is change. Historical records prove that no matter how powerful, entire dynasties were toppled over and over again, never mind one abusive individual. For example, Sun Tzu mentions in The Art of War two dynasties that started out benevolent but their own people enabled their destruction after the rulers became corrupt:
"In ancient times, the rise of the Yin dynasty was due to I Chih, who served the house of Hsia; the rise of the Chou dynasty was due to Lu Ya, who served the house of Yin." Sun Tzu
Abuse and corruption are initially allowed, tolerated, and then abruptly banished. Abuse and corruption go through this plateau-to-cliff cycle because of conflict and competition, both of which are agents of change and inevitable in life. Once conflicts or competitors appear, wise leaders appear, and people have viable options that are more aligned with their own interests:
"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
Therefore, the forgotten law of power is that only the wise and benevolent can ultimately prevail because they are the only ones imbued with the principles found in Sun Tzu's The Art of War.
Their success lasts because they are "the nation's treasure." A treasure isn't something that people simply tolerate but something they don't want to lose and want to hold on to as long as they can.
The forgotten law of power isn't held by the leader who wishes to stay in power as long as possible -- which is rather quite petty and common -- but that power is remarkably held up by countless followers who wish for him or her to stay in power.
Yet playing the role of the leader isn't easy:
"It is important for a leader to be calm and remote, upright and disciplined." Sun Tzu
The standard bar that leaders clear is significantly higher than what is expected of the average person. The training to be able to clear such a hurdle is long and difficult, a steep price that people in power "almost always" aren't willing to pay. Lord Acton is correct in more ways than one.
In what ways are leaders extraordinary? Leaders don't call themselves out as leaders, and so they are hard to identify. They get satisfaction from the results achieved, not the praise or recognition from others. They can pass tests of hardship as competently as tests of pleasure. Throwing punishment or luxury in their way would matter little. They are still human and indeed feel perturbed and tempted ever so slightly, but they too strong to be taken.
It is such strength that is required to win without fighting and achieve lasting peace. It is such wisdom that followers believe they did it themselves and even enemies feel they have won, too. It is such benevolence that no war is possible around the world in due time.
"Even in the midst of the turbulence of battle, the fighting seemingly chaotic, they are not confused. Even in the midst of the turmoil of battle, the troops seemingly going around in circles, they cannot be defeated." Sun Tzu
If decisions are made with a flip of a coin, pure randomness can achieve a 50 percent chance of being correct. But it is difficult to be completely random because it is human nature to meddle in situations where too often we have no practical knowledge. So it would not be unusual to be wrong more than 50 percent of the time because the opponent isn't one side of a coin but rather a skilled and experienced competitor.
Therefore, only make a move when there is a gain to be had, and only make that move when we know exactly what we are doing. If not, stop. Take the default position of defense to gather sufficient strength and avoid unnecessary risks. As such, one can operate in a chaotic situation and not fail to secure safety.
The direction and unity of movement are important. If each team member does his or her part, albeit small in comparison to the total, there will be progress toward the goal. If each team member does his or her part, although chaotic in total when compared to the clear individual tasks that must be done, victory will be achieved.
In summary, strategy is the leveraging of randomness where we can actually tip the odds in our favor, if only by a little. If we were to run at 51 percent, and do so consistently over time, who do you think will win the race?
Sun Tzu's The Art of War can be read in an afternoon but without guidance can take a lifetime to fully understand. Take for instance Sun Tzu's seemingly clear principle of deception. Yet it is far from obvious.
I see many people quoting Sun Tzu regarding deceptive tactics but what a rare sighting it is to see them used in their proper context and perspective.
What is their proper context and perspective?
Sun Tzu's sole aim on employing deception is to avoid outright confrontation. Deception isn't used for its own sake. To Sun Tzu, it is used to create formlessness in difficult conflict and competition, minimizing loss and grief for himself and his enemies. In other words, he planned to not only prevail but also prevail with as much gain as possible because All-Under-Heaven would be intact.
In our modern world, this is analogous to Lebron James going for a lay up in basketball. Due to his size, he could knock people down but he would probably get a foul and still fail to achieve his goal. Plus, he's much more skilled than to simply take the obvious path. The more elegant and effective solution would be to deceive his opponents to move to the right when he goes to his left and then straight to the basket untouched.
Other examples might include a parent coaxing his or her child to eat vegetables shaped like dinosaurs, a teenager pretending he doesn't want those new Nike shoes because his single mother can't afford them, or a friend emphasizing a small improvement for encouragement and so purposefully left out the rest.
Therefore, deception isn't always bad and is applied in countless benevolent endeavors that are considered skillful, intelligent, and humane.
Sun Tzu's ultimate goal in warfare isn't to win 100 battles but to win without fighting. To transform the most violent human activity into a peaceful one would seem to require a little bit of magic, which itself is a matter of deception that often produces many smiles and cheers.
And more smiles and cheers are sorely needed in a world that can barely take care of itself much less have time and resources to waste on fighting and destruction. With both heart and mind engaged, we can all think beyond the obvious and become more effective.
My last blog entry discusses Musonius, a stoic of impeccable reputation and logic. Unlike many of his peers -- ancient Roman men, wise and refined themselves -- Musonius supported advanced education for women. Wouldn't a husband, he argued, want a wife who is smart and capable of making the right decisions in life?
In other words, Musonius implied that only a man who is weak and insecure would want a woman who is uneducated in philosophy and thus can't think for herself. Men who are of superior stock would naturally want women who are superior as well.
Since the founding of Sonshi.com in 1999, we believe that the readers who would benefit most from Sun Tzu are women. Because women are usually in disadvantaged positions, Sun Tzu's The Art of War teaches them how to leverage what they already have and think more strategically to win the challenges they face. With calmness and consistency, victory isn't out of reach for those inclined to work hard and persist through the ups and downs of life.
It is with that belief that Sonshi.com is powered by ♀.com, which means we are not giving up anytime soon.
Of course Sun Tzu can be of assistance for men and minorities in similar disadvantaged positions. Timeless philosophy like The Art of War helps everyone level the playing field. Although Sun Tzu doesn't guarantee a win, because as any good student knows that victory lies in the hands of the competition, Sun Tzu does guarantee that you will be at your best if you study his lessons well.
And being at your best, which is entirely under your control, is good enough. There is little stress when there is logical strategy.
No, Sun Tzu and the Stoics isn't the newest rock band that has just hit the music scene. Both philosophies -- The Art of War and Stoicism -- are over 2000 years old. Although the former comes from the East and the latter from the West, they share much in common regarding the understanding of human nature and how to handle life's everyday problems with aplomb.
Let me first talk about the Stoics. The four major Stoics ranked by popularity are Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus, and Musonius. While most modern students of Stoicism focus on Marcus Aurelius and Seneca, I am partial to Musonius and his student Epictetus. If I were to choose one Stoic who exemplified Stoicism the most, it would be Musonius. He is the least known yet arguably the most important of them all.
Musonius, a Roman aristocrat, not only taught Stoicism but lived it. From what I was able to gather from historical accounts, Musonius was not only physically strong but also mentally strong. Despite his environment and surroundings, his reputation was beyond reproach according to not only later prominent philosophers but also his contemporaries. He practiced what he preached and thus earned people's respect. People can disagree with his advice but they cannot disagree with his logic on why it would be beneficial since he was a living example of that benefit.
So it would not be surprising that Musonius's student, Epictetus, a former slave, would be another philosopher who exemplified Stoicism in life application. The always stern and critical Epictetus rarely praised anyone except Socrates, Diogenes, Chrysippus, and Musonius. Given that rather short list, it is also telling that Musonius was the only one Epictetus knew personally.
While major Stoics are excellent with crafting fine words, Stoicism unequivocally demands that Stoics go beyond fine words and apply those words in everyday life. With this in mind, I conclude that only Musonius and Epictetus applied Stoicism in real life with authority and without mistakes and hesitation (qualities that would meet Sun Tzu's own standards). Therefore, it would be in the reader's best interest to read and study the words of Musonius and Epictetus if they truly want to understand and benefit from Stoicism.
Like Socrates, Musonius wrote no books but his teachings can be found from secondhand accounts. Thus, very few materials from Musonius survived, probably contributing to his low popularity among the Stoics. But like a skilled doctor who prescribes the least amount of medicine to effectively treat a disease, in Musonius's case it's not the quantity that is important but the quality.
Since Epictetus learned Stoicism directly only from Musonius, one could surmise that much of what Epictetus taught was passed down from Musonius himself. And what Epictetus taught in his Discourses -- as transcribed by Arrian, a renowned student of Epictetus -- was pure brilliance.
Epictetus's Discourses is such a masterpiece that I could say it is on par with Sun Tzu's Art of War in wisdom and is a must-read book for all life learners.
There is an obscure but splendid concept in the Discourses that tells of how a philosopher can always win in life's endeavors. How that is accomplished is quite simple yet insightful. If he or she can ascertain daily what truly belongs to him or her, then he or she cannot lose.
Boiling it all down, what truly belongs to a philosopher is how he or she behaves -- the only thing that he or she can control. Everything else doesn't belong to him or her. Everything else includes the countless variables that happen in life such as other people's actions -- things that are outside of your control. In other words, there is no shame in being an innocent victim but there is shame in being the perpetrator.
There is another wonderful concept in the Discourses that tells of how a philosopher can be confident in things outside of his control but he or she must be cautious about his or her own actions. Again, the idea is the duty lies in our own specific actions and reactions, and not the behaviors of others because they don't belong to us.
Now, I want to overlay a few of Stoicism's finest principles just discussed above with one of Sun Tzu's finest:
In ancient times, those who are skilled in warfare gained victory where victory was easily gained. Therefore, the victories from those skilled in warfare are not considered of great wisdom or courage, because their victories have no complications. No miscalculations mean the victories are certain, achieving victory over those who have already lost." Sun Tzu's Art of War
When we are cautious about how we behave when confronted with even multiple difficult situations, this actually frees us from trying to control anything else but things we ourselves can control. If we are careful and cognizant to do this relatively straightforward task, who can logically blame us for doing things wrong?
Furthermore, if our only duty was to choose the path that we can control, how can miscalculations be made unless we choose to miscalculate? Therefore, a philosopher (such as Sun Tzu, Musonius, and Epictetus) would never fail. He or she would be successful in all of his or her dealings in life.
The purpose of today's blog entry is to share with you a little bit about Stoicism, which like The Art of War, contains universal wisdom that transcends both time and place. Perhaps such wisdom can be useful and relevant for you in your own situation right now and in the future as well.
You can learn more at the Genius of Love blog.
"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
Sun Tzu gave five factors that determine success in war, and the very first factor listed is called the "Way," the unspoken bond the leader has with his or her people. Thus, the leader breaking the people's trust in him or her would prove fatal, and few matters break people's trust more than harassment.
Simply put, harassment is the abusing of someone. This is the opposite of strategy, because it is a cruel, selfish, and thoughtless method. Harassment is rash and takes no planning whatsoever. The result would inevitably be devastating, especially for the abused. As Sun Tzu said, "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."
Sun Tzu further connects anger with calamity here: "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. This is the kind of calamity when laying siege to a walled city."
As if that wasn't enough, Sun Tzu clearly sums it up by including anger as one of the five dangerous traits of a general: "He who is quick tempered can be insulted ... [and would be] disastrous in warfare."
Instead, the leader must be "wise, trustworthy, benevolent, brave, and disciplined."
Recently in the news, Harvey Weinstein has served as an example of harassment in the workplace. The consequences for his actions have been his dismissal out of the company he co-founded and expulsion from the Motion Picture Academy, which gives out the Oscars.
Although that all seemed like justice, the fact remains that Weinstein admitted to having sexually abused women for decades, and the consequences didn't transpire until his wrongdoings were exposed in The New York Times.
Anyone who has ever worked for a company in his or her lifetime would likely know firsthand harassment in the workplace, whether it be verbal, racial, sexual, etc.
Most perpetrators are not as famous as Harvey Weinstein, and thus their abuses would never be in the news. What often happens is the incident is reported to the company's Human Resources department (HR) or Legal department where in too many cases it functions as a protector of the company than of the victim reporting the abuse.
Harassment in the workplace is further clouded by otherwise good people who look the other way when harassment happens before their eyes. Perhaps people don't want to jeopardize their own jobs. Maybe they don't feel it's their place to get involved in a conflict between two individuals. Or they think to themselves, "Why bother because things wouldn't change for the better anyway."
After the Weinstein story broke, more people came out to expose individuals who abused their positions or who condoned their behaviors. So it would seem the problem exists, only the timing of us knowing about it is delayed.
Since individual behaviors are difficult to predict and prevent, harassment in the workplace will probably continue in the foreseeable future. However, society's acceptance of such behaviors is something that must stop.
Just because something is common doesn't mean it's right. Just because something has been done in the past doesn't mean it's right. Just because a person is more powerful doesn't mean he or she is right. We must think critically. We must think for ourselves and not depend on others to think for us.
Words of support are beneficial but insufficient. Only actions taken to hold those abusers accountable would make a difference. The difference would be in the number of occurrences and the longevity of those occurrences.
For example, actor George Clooney said after the Weinstein story, "There are a couple of good things that have to come out of this, because something good has to come out of this. One of those things is that victims have to feel safer to come out and tell their stories without the fear of losing their jobs, and they also need to be believed, which is a very important element of this. Also, this should be a shot across the bow that people in places of power cannot abuse that power, and if you do, you’ll be outed publicly, shamed, and even prosecuted ... this isn’t a right or a left issue; this is a moral issue. We’re all going to have to be more diligent about it and look for any warning signs. Before, people weren’t paying enough attention to it. Now we have to. This is the moment to start scaring people like this into not acting this way anymore."
All sounds good, right? It is so good that I agree with everything Clooney stated above. But unfortunately for Clooney, actress Vanessa Marquez, who worked with him during the television show ER in the 1990s, had this in response:
Marquez went on to state she has witnessed and/or experienced racial and sexual harassment on the set of ER on a daily basis:
Clooney subsequently responded, "I had no idea Vanessa was blacklisted. I take her at her word. I was not a writer or a producer or a director on that show. I had nothing to do with casting. I was an actor and only an actor. If she was told I was involved in any decision about her career then she was lied to. The fact that I couldn’t affect her career is only surpassed by the fact that I wouldn’t."
Like Clooney, I take her at her word as well; I believe her story. What is glaringly missing from Clooney's statement was his lack of denial that such harassment existed on the ER set. Instead, he chose to abstain himself by claiming he was "only an actor."
I asked Marquez for further clarification. According to her, Clooney's role was more active:
Marquez's claim that Clooney had power (hence, not "only an actor") seems aligned with the immense influence and popularity he enjoyed by the time he departed ER as reported on CNN on February 19, 1999: http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/TV/9902/18/clooney.departure/.
Unless Clooney disputes that no harassment existed on ER, a reasonable person would presume that harassment on the set of ER was at the very least ignored. And ignorance is the direction we as a society must not settle on. We must actively fight against it each and every day.
If you see wrongdoing in the workplace, speak up. It is not only moral to do so, but also practical. If the abuser can do it to someone else, he or she can do it to you! Stick together and stick up for each other. Ultimately, even if you were fired due to your speaking up, do you really want to stay and help an immoral company succeed?
For top management:
What kind of company do you want to lead? Even if you succeed financially, would you be proud of what you built, achieved, and later leave behind as your legacy? Sun Tzu advised that a general must treat his soldiers as if they are his beloved children, and they will follow him to the deepest valleys, even to the valley of death. Are you truly doing so in your company? It is the job of leaders to unlock people's potential, because with good leadership, anybody can bring value to any company. But not anybody would bring value to a company that abuses people.
People want to do a good job. Make "Way" for people's success by not being in their way. Only then can we achieve success that lasts.
UPDATE! (October 16, 2017)
Looks like actress Vanessa Marquez has been telling the truth all along. Here is a fellow actress who corroborated her story:
According to Names.of.London, an already cool domain boutique in one of the coolest places in the world, has come out with the top ten coolest domain names on the planet. Our moniker, ☮.com, made the list. How cool!
Today is August 12, 2017, and it is Sonshi.com's 18th birthday! Many thoughts have transpired since our founding in 1999, but we have three today.
Thought #1: Share your wisdom
Current events regarding North Korea have brought up one important issue I have neglected to remind you all in a long time. Someone mentioned that Kim Jong-un, North Korea's leader, studies Sun Tzu's Art of War. My response? I hope so!
Why? Because in terms of people reading Sun Tzu's Art of War, I believe the more the merrier. If you have read and studied The Art of War, you would know that it teaches wisdom, caution, patience, practicality, and compassion. Do not attack when angry. Treat captured enemies well. The highest skill isn't to win 100 battles but to win without fighting.
If Kim Jong-un had read and understood those principles, then he would at the very least not take action, knowing he is outmatched and there is no practical gain for doing so. In other words, he would know when to fight and when not to fight.
People often view Sun Tzu's Art of War book as if it's a secret. Don't be like that. Share the work with everyone. Tell them to look beyond the title and read it in full before making judgment. Your friends will now understand you better, and your opponents will act more rationally and might even see you as a friend in time. You became wiser because of The Art of War, why not share it with others for the benefit of themselves, yourself, and the world around you?
Thought #2: When in doubt, choose kindness and patience
As a dad, I have learned that the number one most effective teaching tool has been being an example. It's amazing how closely kids observe you and copy you. For example, don't be surprised if your child doesn't read the book you assigned him or her if you don't read yourself.
Children also respond well to kind and patient people. I remember when I was a kid, the people I try to avoid and refuse to listen to are always the mean and impatient ones. Nobody can do things perfect the first time; don't expect it from kids either.
And believe it or not, kids do try to please their parents. One major problem is the communication between parent and child isn't always clear, so we parents must be cognizant of this and try different approaches if the first attempt is unsuccessful.
Sun Tzu's principle of treating people like our own beloved children applies here as well. We don't treat people like children but treat them like our own children -- meaning our love for them is true. People would "advance to the deepest valley" with the leader and in the case of warfare, "they will die with him." That is leadership.
Thought #3: Invest in cool things
If you have been following Sonshi.com, we have recently acquired the domains ☮.com and ♀.com, not only because they are both in alignment with Sonshi.com but they are wonderfully short and simple ways for more people to learn about us and thus Sun Tzu's Art of War.
We like these "emoji" domains so much, we have opened up a gallery to display the very best at Punycode.com. There are only 33 in existence and we have 10 of them. Check it out.
Until next time, take care of yourself and take care of each other.
"Winning battles such that the whole world cries, 'Excellent!' is not the highest excellence." Sun Tzu
At the footer of every Sonshi.com page contains the above quote by Sun Tzu. It is by far my favorite from The Art of War.
The reason why I like the quote so much is because it reminds me of the harsh reality of everyday life. Universal praise is seen as good but is it really? Would the sun need to validate itself that it is bright? Does the moon need feedback from others to know it is round? What is true would be so apparent and obvious, it would almost be embarrassing to point it out. Like body odor, nobody needs to say anything to prove it is there.
Thus praise is often a sign of flattery, usually to gain favor. But in Sun Tzu's case, it is worse than harmless brown nosing. It can actually be dangerous. If a military general wants praise, he or she would wait for conflicts to ensue so the general can "save the day." After many lives lost and treasure spent, the best case scenario would be a war won. Yet what exactly was won?
In contrast, if a general doesn't care for praise but only results, he or she would try to prevent battles from starting in the first place. In such a scenario, there would indeed be no praise from others, nothing that people can point to that would confirm how skilled that general really was. You can't compliment something that never happened.
"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
If you are such a leader, the only type of approval you would receive is self-approval. You would gain self-respect, which is the highest level of respect you could possibly earn.
Why stop at the leadership level? Expand such a trait to everyone else, and you can see the power such an idea can make, and the seemingly limitless progress a community, company, and country can make:
“The best rulers are scarcely known by their subjects;
Therefore, it would be quite impossible to rank the truly best military general from historical records. What we could easily discover are the ones who had to fight grand wars and thus gained glory after many lives lost.
What we won't easily discover are the countless generals who didn't have to fight wars because those wars were proactively averted. There was no war, but there was no glory. There were no lives lost, but there was no praise. Yet is there any other worldly matter more glorious and praiseworthy than preventing a war, i.e., "winning without fighting"?
So similarly to how we venerate the Unknown Soldier who died for our safety, we too can recognize the Unknown Leader who made sure that his or her soldiers came home safely to their spouses and children. That is truly the highest excellence of all.
Dear readers of Sonshi.com,
When Sun Tzu wrote his Art of War book in 512 BCE, he had no idea it would survive 2529 years later, much less be read, studied, and applied by countless leaders from countries all across the globe.
Whether pacifying an upset teenager, managing a billion-dollar corporation, or preventing terrorist attacks, it would seem every practical situation could benefit from Sun Tzu's strategic lessons.
Since 1999, Sonshi.com has been at the forefront of the application of Sun Tzu's principles by individuals, organizations, and nations. The path we took during the last 18 years has been challenging to say the least, but not without significant successes.
Next week, on August 12, is the date the domain name Sonshi.com was registered. It is the date of "the start."
When I registered Sonshi.com, it was simply to share my excitement about Sun Tzu's Art of War with others on this new platform called the World Wide Web. The Sonshi name came from General Samuel Griffith's translation where he discusses the legendary Minamoto Yoshitsune, one of Japan's most famous strategists. When Yoshitsune was young, the monks in charge of his education could barely make him sit still -- except when Sonshi was read to him. Then he was all attention. I was that young Yoshitsune.
Legend would also have it that after being betrayed by his allies, Minamoto Yoshitsune sailed to mainland Asia and emerged as none other than Genghis Khan.
Likewise, Sun Tzu's philosophy sailed to distant shores while still remaining useful and relevant over the centuries, bridging both time and space. Sun Tzu has not only defeated the Grim Reaper but has made a friend of Father Time.
So what ageless secrets would Sun Tzu share in the next 2,529 years? There is no need to wait. They aren't secrets at all, but open wisdom that can be learned and implemented today by those who are in need. Sun Tzu would serve as a good friend indeed and in deed.
Quintus Ennius wrote [3rd century BCE]: 'Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur.' This translates from the Latin as 'a sure friend is known when in difficulty.'
Thomas Huynh, founder
Whenever we show people the photo above, inevitably we get responses like, "That's crazy! She's going to die!" However, what they see is only what is obvious. What they see is an enormous bull about to attack a harmless girl.
But are we all certain that is the case?
"Perceiving a victory when it is perceived by all is not the highest excellence ... For lifting an autumn down is not considered great strength, seeing the sun and the moon is not considered a sign of sharp vision, hearing thunder is not considered a sign of sensitive hearing." Sun Tzu (Chapter Four)
A good litmus test question is: would you bet your house on who would win in this battle between the bull and the girl?
Because what is not obvious is actually more relevant. What is not obvious is the girl's strategy. What is not obvious is the bull's state of mind. What we don't see is what or who is behind the girl. (This is similar to our Art of War book cover with the sole piece on the chessboard surrounded by numerous opposing pieces.)
Consider another principle in The Art of War:
"In warfare, numbers may not necessarily be an advantage; do not advance aggressively." Sun Tzu (Chapter Nine)
The Art of War usually advises the reader. But in this case, the above quote applies to the bull, not the girl. With strategy, the girl is confidently standing firm as if tempting the bull to make an aggressive move. If angry, aimless, and easily moved, the bull takes the bait, would it be a good result for him? We wouldn't bet on it.
The bull might have the "numbers," as in strength, but what good is strength if he is controlled by others?
So hopefully your viewpoint of the above photo now becomes clearer. And the lesson we can learn from it becomes clearer as well -- that no matter how seemingly formidable the problems we face, it is with this little girl's level of care and strategic thinking that we all need to employ if we want to win each and every day of our lives.
"Look upon your soldiers like beloved children, and they willingly die with you." Sun Tzu's Art of War
Liu Ji, a military strategist and top adviser to the Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang who founded the Ming Dynasty, used the the same Sun Tzu quote above to tell of a story of Wu Qi. Wu Qi was a Wei general during the Warring States period. He was widely feared by his enemies because of his fearless army.
Wu Qi wore the same clothes and ate the same food as his lowest-ranked soldier. He did not use a mat when sitting and did not ride in a carriage when traveling. Like his soldiers, he walked when traveling, carrying his own supplies and belongings. Essentially, he experienced the same toil and hardships as his army.
Once, when Wu Qi noticed a festering wound on one of his soldiers, he sucked the pus out of it. When the soldier's mother heard this, she mourned. Wu Qi personally cared for her husband in a similar manner, and as a result, he died in battle advancing without taking a single step backwards. She now wonders where her son will die.
Liu Ji noted, "It was because Wu Qi was strict with himself while impartial toward others, and had won the hearts of his soldiers that a Lord of Wei had made him military governor of West River."
There is no such thing as good leadership, sound leadership, or effective leadership. There is only leadership. It's either you have it or you don't. And so leadership demands taking care of those who take care of you.
Alexander the Great not only cavorted with his soldiers, he also fought and led them from the front in battle. Creating one of the largest empires of the ancient world, Alexander did not lose one single battle in his lifetime.
World War II German General Erwin Rommel not only had a reputation of treating his foot soldiers well -- often giving his officers an earful for failing to do so -- but also showed "consistent decency in the treatment of allied prisoners [which] earned him the respect of many opponents, including Claude Auchinleck, Archibald Wavell, George S. Patton, and Bernard Montgomery."
Sometimes military leaders can treat their soldiers well even when they aren't human. During an intense build up to an important battle during the US Civil War, General Ulysses Grant spotted a teamster beating a horse in the face with the butt-end of a whip, trying to free up a wagon stuck in mud. The usual calm Grant was so outraged that he ordered the teamster be tied to a tree for hours, presumably to allow him to think about his cruel actions.
In an activity such as warfare, where the outcome is so critical, it would seem inevitable that humanity takes a backseat to success. Sun Tzu disagrees. He believes that treating people on all sides with humaneness and victory in conflict are one and the same. Ensuring the success of a strategy means ensuring the success of others. Thinking about strategy means thinking about everyone. Taking care of strategy means taking care of even the lowest among us.
I don't speak for every father with this blog post, but I know what being a dad is like. Thus, I believe I can speak for more than a few dads on what we would like for Father's Day.
First of all, let's define a father.
A father, biologically, provides his child 23 chromosomes. The mother provides her child 23 chromosomes as well, thus making 23 pairs of chromosomes. But what makes a father unique is on the 23rd chromosome set, he can give his child either the Y or the X chromosome, which determines the child's gender as being male or female, respectively. The mother on the 23rd can only give her child the X chromosome.
During this entire process, there's a lot of chromosome re-shuffling and re-combination that takes place. However, that Y chromosome is handed down unchanged from father to son, whereas the mitochondrial DNA is handed down unchanged from mother to child, regardless of gender.
If a son grows up into a man and has a baby, he is also a father. But he isn't always a dad. There is a difference. So let's define a dad.
A dad isn't perfect. Unlike a father who always hands down that Y chromosome to his son unchanged, a dad isn't always that consistent. He will make mistakes. He will lose his cool. He will make petty, unreasonable demands. But what a dad will always do is that he will always think about his children.
Even when he makes a mistake, it was trying to do what's best for his daughter or son. Even when he loses his cool, it was because he was frustrated that things didn't go right for the child. Even when he makes petty, unreasonable demands, it was to protect his boy or girl from harm.
Yes, a dad can spend a lot of time away at work. He needs to bring home the bacon. And if he's a stay-at-home dad, he can still spend a lot of time making dishes like Tartiflette from the bacon brought home. Essentially, if there's bacon, dads will spend a lot of time.
But when the bacon dealing's done, dads have a listening ear, if not a keen sense of analyzing the environment to make it better. He knows when a child is down, and so will offer to play catch outside. He knows to hold his tongue when his teenage offspring is telling him he doesn't know much about life. He even knows when to let his children fool him from time to time, allowing them to learn life's lessons themselves.
All dads want to be the greatest dad in the world. We are not humble in that one aspect. Trouble is, sometimes intentions don't always translate to actions or results. Sometimes we come close to our dream, often we fall short. That doesn't stop us dads, however, from trying. To make a day successful for a dad, it would take the strategic mind of Sun Tzu to pull it off. So The Art of War should be on every dad's library if he wants to accomplish his mission of getting his children to shout out, "You're the best, dad!!"
Therefore, the best gift a dad can receive for Dad's Day is his children's happiness. That would mean, of course, our one day of the year would turn into Children's Day. And for us dads, Children's Day is every day.
"To achieve a hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the highest excellence; to subjugate the enemy's army without doing battle is the highest of excellence." Sun Tzu's Art of War
We at Sonshi.com are proud to announce today that we are now the stewards of ☮.com! To say we are honored is an understatement.
☮.com is one of the first three emoji domain names ever registered on the internet. For those not familiar with emoji, they are "ideograms and smileys used in electronic messages and Web pages. Emoji are used much like emoticons and exist in various genres, including facial expressions, common objects, places and types of weather, and animals."
Sonshi's emoji is ☮.
As students of Sun Tzu, we understand the objective of understanding warfare is peace. Even when we are forced to do battle, we want to end it quickly. If possible, it is best to prevent fighting altogether. There are few symbols that represent peace and are as recognizable as ☮.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, ☮ will speak in one image what Sonshi's mission is all about. Therefore, ☮.com will be an integral part of Sonshi.com from now on. Stay tuned for some exciting future developments!
Peace around the world seems impossible, but it is indeed possible if it starts in each and every corner of the world. Continue with us on the journey to make the world a more peaceful place, one corner at a time. Thank you for all your support and encouragement over the years.
[04.02] Those skilled in warfare can make themselves invincible, but cannot necessarily cause the enemy to be vulnerable. Therefore it is said one may know how to win but cannot necessarily do it.
It is often misunderstood that Sun Tzu said victory would be assured if you know yourself and you know your enemy. A more accurate understanding of his advice is knowing yourself and knowing your enemy might ensure your safety but it doesn't guarantee defeat of the other side. The other side might be led by someone wise. It would thus only provide you opportunities in the future for victory.
Guarantees in life are rare, especially when interests clash. And so it is not surprising to learn that guaranteeing victory in a combative situation isn't easy; it cannot be accomplished by securing only two variables: you and your opponent. According to Sun Tzu, it would also require a clear advantage in the environment you and your competition operate under. For example, the environment can represent the current legal, political, and social shifts that are in your favor. Otherwise, Sun Tzu advises, achieving success based on only knowing yourself and the competition would still depend on a little bit of luck, perhaps with odds not much better than a toss of coin:
[10.21] If I know the troops can attack, but do not know the enemy cannot attack, my victory is half.
Therefore, by not knowing the landscape and securing a strong position there, the odds are not in your favor. And for a matter as grave and serious as warfare, it would be downright evil to act without making sure that you are capable, the enemy incapable, and the environment are conducive to your cause, strategy, and effort.
If there are relevant variables that affect a critical outcome for you, it would be a waste if you neglect to first gain advantages in them all before committing valuable and limited resources. Although you cannot control everything since not everything is controllable, you must be superior in those factors that are manageable or under your control.
By not trying to be fully prepared and ready, there are times when being halfway can leave you vulnerable:
[09.02] After crossing a river, you must stay far away from it. If the enemy crosses a river, do not meet him in the water. When half of his forces has crossed, it will then be advantageous to strike.
There are times, then, you must be patient and not move before you are proficient. Because if you take action before you are able to produce a positive result, you will end up further behind than you were before. This is worse than staying still. Work hard to prepare and tie any loose ends, and go the extra mile necessary to outcompete your competition.
[04.06] Perceiving a victory when it is perceived by all is not the highest excellence.
Due to the extraordinary care you put into your efforts, overcoming problems along the way and achieving your goal would be that much sweeter and satisfying. You gain more than a goal. You gain tremendous pride and self-respect. Therefore, don't stop halfway if you want to go farther. Don't pause when you can continue on your path to complete victory, the highest excellence of all.
Making mistakes in life is common, a mark of growing up and a passage to maturity. Most mistakes aren't fatal and are lessons in tolerance, creativity, and gratitude. When a boy named James accidentally breaks a leg of his favorite giraffe toy, it is no longer new, but it is still a toy nonetheless. A three-legged giraffe can stand tall just the same as a four-legged one.
Furthermore, when matters are sufficiently in place, despite them not being perfect, we must take action and not be afraid of making mistakes. “The only man who makes no mistakes," Teddy Roosevelt once said, "Is the man who never does anything."
However, there is this other extreme perspective, a philosophy centered on a motivational, shoot now and aim later, "not giving a f---" bent. Not only are mistakes expected, but they are also encouraged, and if necessary, even manufactured. Rich and famous people are often quoted to promote such behavior without context or background.
"If one gains victory in battle and is successful in attacks, but does not exploit those achievements, it is disastrous. This is called waste and delay." Sun Tzu's Art of War [12.07]
Sun Tzu indeed advocates speed and gaining a first-mover advantage. But that isn't the same as acting before planning. The people and companies that promote actively making mistakes can usually afford to make mistakes because they have surplus and vast resources. People and companies that are starting out with limited resources following such philosophy will not likely survive. Sound strategies depend on caution.
"No miscalculations mean the victories are certain, achieving victory over those who have already lost." Sun Tzu's Art of War [04.10]
Especially relevant to those from a disadvantaged or precarious situation, Sun Tzu's advice to only fight the battles we can win will ensure we will survive another day and deliberately grow stronger in the process. Without such prudence and given our position or situation, one mistake could be our last. But even if we are strong and in a favorable position, his advice remains beneficial because it prevents us from taking things for granted and allowing a competitor to later gain an upper hand.
"Those skilled in warfare establish positions that make them invincible and do not miss opportunities to attack the enemy." Sun Tzu's Art of War [04.11]
To Sun Tzu, safety comes first, even when he's talking about opportunities. Opportunities come and go, but being careless and impatient could prove fatal. No amount of reward is worth that price.
"Therefore, a victorious army first obtains conditions for victory, then seeks to do battle. A defeated army first seeks to do battle, then obtains conditions for victory." Sun Tzu's Art of War [04.12]
When emotions are high, we can't help but want to get started. While it's possible that we can somehow manage the situation as it happens, it is less likely that we will prevail when our opponent is better prepared for that situation than we are. And since we cannot assume the competition will not be prepared, it is always an unwise decision to enter into an endeavor without planning and practice.
"One who knows when he can fight, and when he cannot fight, will be victorious." Sun Tzu's Art of War [03.18]
If a goal is worthwhile, it would be crazy to not put every ounce of effort and resource into making it a success from start to finish. We read the tedious contracts and manuals from cover to cover. We try to anticipate the possible questions and concerns of others. We go the extra mile to make even a small improvement and impression. With such a hefty investment, we would naturally know whether or not we are ready and able to challenge the competition. It is only when we don't put in the effort would we have the audacity to be reckless because we haven't much to lose. Just as well, because there wouldn't be much to gain.
"A smaller army that is inflexible will be captured by a larger one." Sun Tzu's Art of War [03.12]
Being cautious and conservative doesn't necessarily mean being rigid. To ensure safety, it is always wise to flex with changes in the environment so we don't fall behind the curve and leave ourselves exposed to unnecessary risks. Analogous to Sun Tzu's quote above, only a large tree is strong enough to oppose the wind, but grass and plants need to flex with the wind lest they break.
"To march over a thousand kilometers without becoming distressed, march over where the enemy is not present." Sun Tzu's Art of War [06.05]
"Contemplating the advantages, he fulfills his calculations; contemplating the disadvantages, he removes his difficulties." Sun Tzu's Art of War [08.08]
"On difficult ground, I press on quickly." Sun Tzu's Art of War [11.52]
The leader should be allergic to mistakes as he or she is to entering into difficult situations. There is no glory in prevailing in a tough situation when it could have been prevented in the first place. It is not easy to identify and avoid trouble. We must pay close attention and extrapolate the significant effects from the seemingly insignificant causes. In other words, we strive to alleviate frowns so that wars could not take root. All the while, we conserve energy, build strength, and most importantly, we don't create unnecessary grief and suffering for ourselves and those around us.
"An army does not have constant force or have constant formation. Those who are able to adapt and change in accord with the enemy and achieve victory are called divine." Sun Tzu's Art of War [06.35]
"Do not thwart an enemy retreating home. If you surround the enemy, leave an outlet; do not press an enemy that is cornered." Sun Tzu's Art of War [07.26]
Alexander Pope wrote in An Essay on Criticism, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” Sun Tzu's benevolence is doubly sharp. On one side is a wisdom so impervious that failure is practically impossible; there is no discussion on how to cope with failure in the entire Art of War book because it is a given one does not fail if the principles are truly followed. On the other side is a wisdom so spiritual that failure for the competition is also impossible; the winner is divinely chosen to take care of All-Under-Heaven, even for those who oppose you. There are no enemies, since no one can compare to your strength in force, fortitude, or philosophy.