Life is a game. Learn how to up your game. Photo by @freepik via @freepik.com
Life is a game and when it is getting tough out there. Learn the Art of War
Life is a game just like any other game. When we play a game, be it a sport like tennis or basketball or a card game like poker, we have fun whilst playing the game and feel good when we win and disappointed when we lose; but whichever way the game goes we know that we will put the game away (it was just a game after all) to get back to our ‘real-life’ made up of our family life, our professional life, our social life, or public life.
Except that life is a game just like all the other games, but we don’t realize it is so. Each of us has made up a set of rules (our values) based on our worldview and our beliefs under which we operate, and we think our rules are right and inherently true and everyone else’s is wrong. On top of our own rules, we have to abide by the laws of the land where we live. There are a lot of rules to maneuver through and knowing how to play that game in a skillful manner would require you to be smart, to think outside the box, to think strategically, just like a general would; and I know of no better general that Sun Tzu to teach us a thing or two about the Art of War.
Sun Tzu was a Chinese General, military strategist, and philosopher in Ancient China. He is the author of The Art of War which is accepted as being a masterpiece on military strategy and the best book ever written on the subject; it is often being cited by generals, scholars, and businessmen. Sun Tzu’s approach to warfare does not put brute force at the center of his strategy, he focuses more on alternatives to battles, the use of spies, the making and keeping of alliances, the uses of deceit, the use of the terrain, the weather and the enemy’s morale as powerful weapons. These days, we call this thinking outside the box.
Life is a game. Learn to up your game by learning the Art of war. Photo by @freepik via freepik.com
“The Art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected”
“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak”.
“Be Extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate”
“If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War.
Life is a game. Learn the art of thinking outside the box
Thinking outside the box is a well-known and well-worn cliché that is being used abundantly in the business world. It seems that everyone is obsessed with this trendy concept. But what does it mean?
Sometimes, we get stuck in our own ways, we like doing things the same way they have always been done, because why re-invent the wheel, right? True, except that if everybody is comfortable operating within the box there is no growth, no evolution just stagnation. Thinking outside the box means confronting problems the unconventional way, thinking creatively and freely, and encouraging frequent challenges to the status quo.
Life is a game. Learn to up your game by thinking outside the box. Photo by @freepik via freepik.com
Thinking outside the box requires that we question the status quo regularly by asking questions such as “Why?”,” What if?’, “How might we …?” Humans do not operate creatively and obediently at the same time: one excludes the other. Obedience demands that you override your own thoughts and act according to an external command or you conform to a standard way of doing things. Creativity is often associated with artistic endeavors, and with certain professions and crafts, but it is more than that. Creativity is about bringing something that was not there before. Thinking outside the box requires unobstructed thinking; it also comes from connecting the dots and having a broader perspective on things. This is how new ideas are introduced into the world.
There are two types of circumstances in which thinking outside the box is required. The first one is when we face a problem that we’ve unsuccessfully tried to resolve through all the logical and traditional solutions at hand. The second type is when there is no imminent need for change or novelty, but they would still lead to an improvement.
The story of David and Goliath is a good example of how one can think and act outside the box
David and Goliath’s famous battle took place in the valley of Elah in the North of ancient Palestine. The Jewish army is facing off against the Philistines they are both entrenched in their positions on opposing hills in a stalemate situation because of the terrain; it would be suicidal for either army to run down one side and up the other, rendering them vulnerable to the enemy.
The Philistines send over their champion fighter named Goliath. He is a giant of a man wearing nearly 100 pounds of armor, carrying a spear, a javelin, a sword, and a shield. He came down the valley to ask the Israelites to send him an opponent to fight in one-on-one combat, the winner would determine which army emerges victorious.
Life is a game. Learn to up your game. Be a David and not a Goliath. Photo by @freepik via freepik.com
None of the Israelites soldiers step forward to fight against Goliath, except a small shepherd boy named David who come forward to volunteer to fight against Goliath for the sake of his people. Looking upon him, King Saul voices his concern that a small boy like him without military experience doesn't stand a chance against Goliath a trained warrior. In response, David insists that he has experience hunting down lions and bears who steal his sheep. Eventually, King Saul agrees to send him to fight the giant, probably because nobody else volunteered, and offers David his own armor; but David refuses.
Goliath thought he was going to be challenging his opponent in hand-to-hand combat. However, David had something else in mind. He knew he had no chance if he fought on the giant’s terms, so he refuses the armor King Saul offers him, saying he can't move quickly enough under so much weight. Instead, David picks up a handful of stones and runs down the valley armed with his sling. When Goliath saw who the Israelites army sent to fight him, he laughs and says to David quickly approaching “Am I a dog that you should come to me with sticks?” Undeterred David swiftly places a stone in a sling, striking Goliath in the forehead. Goliath falls to the ground, at which point David runs to Goliath, picks up his sword, and chops off the giant’s head.
What have we learned from the story of David and Goliath?
Malcolm Gladwell will help us answer this question, he wrote a whole book on this fascinating subject titled “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.” We all think that we have the whole David and Goliath story figured out, i.e., the little guy won against all odds because he had guts and was resourceful. We assume that this story is about the weak beating the powerful with the help of pure blind faith, a few stones, and a sling.
But Gladwell thinks we all have it wrong. It was Goliath who was the vulnerable one. His giant like physique made him slow and clumsy and it is very likely that he was half-blind (double vision is a common side-effect of an excess of human growth hormone). The only way he could beat David and win the one-on-one combat was for him to get his hands-on David; but David was smart and knew that he had no need to go anywhere near Goliath and could strike very accurately from a safe distance, which is exactly what he did. Ancient armies used to contain within their ranks slingers who could be very accurate and deadly from distances as great as 200 yards. David did not fight to abide by the traditional rules of the duel; he capitalized on his skill with the sling, which allowed him to fight from a distance and changed the rules of the duel to his advantage.
The other smart move that David had which gave him the decisive advantage over Goliath was to persuade the Israelites that single combat didn’t need to mean sword versus sword but could be any weapon you like. From this angle, it looks like Goliath had as much chance against David as a man with a sword would have against someone armed with an automatic weapon.
Gladwell’s conclusion is that the strong are surprisingly weak If looked at the whole situation from the right angle, and people who seem weak can turn out to be surprisingly strong.
Don’t be a Goliath, dare to be a David. And this, my dear friend, is your Quest.