AoW: Ch 3. Attack by Strategem: Forage on the opponent’s resources

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. Sun Tzu, Art of War

Chapter 3 is one of the most influential chapters in the book. It has so much to think about, I will break it into several parts, for my own clarity on the text. This part deals with using the opponent’s strength to supplement your own.

Original text:

1. In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to capture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them. 2. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting. 3. Thus the highest form of generalship is to baulk the enemy’s plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

14. Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy. One cartload of the enemy’s provisions is equivalent to twenty of one’s own, and likewise a single picul of his provender is equivalent to twenty from one’s own store. 15. Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards. 16. Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more chariots have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the first. Our own flags should be substituted for those of the enemy, and the chariots mingled and used in conjunction with ours. The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept. 17. This is called, using the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength. 18. In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.

My interpretation for daily life:

When confronting your competition, it is best not to destroy their assets, but strive to take over them intact. Destroying assets that someone else built requires little skill or strategy. Do not try to rush into every battle. Do not try to win by force. A much better strategy is to make the opponent give up ground to you without any struggle.

For a strategist, the highest form of strategy is to take make the enemy change their plans in the direction that you want them to change it. The second best is to prevent them from increasing their strength against you. The worst strategy is to try to prevail in the power struggle by starving them out of their resources or to destroy them by force.

A wise strategist makes a point to find ways to forage on the competitors’ own resources. Resources obtained by foraging on someone else’s strengths are worth many times than the ones obtained by your own efforts because they cost you much less to use.

If you are leading a team, they will need to be motivated to move in coordination with you. They need to have their own advantages from your victory. Whenever significant victories have been made, make sure to reward that person who brought the effort to fruition.

Those people or resources that are currently aligned with your opponent should be not pushed away but convinced to join your efforts, and treated with respect and generosity. Their resources should be made part of your resources. By doing this, you grow your own strength by using your opponent’s resources.

Above all, when planning a strategy, make victory you objective, and not the maneuvers.

This brings me to the following questions to ponder when contemplating a strategy:

  • Who are our competitors?
  • What kind of resources do they have that we could forage on?
  • What kind of strengths do they have that we can utilize to grow our own?
  • Who are their allies whom we can turn into our allies?
  • With whom (their allies or opponents) we can join strength?
  • How can we reward those allies in case they bring us victories?
  • How can we use our competitor’s success to grow our victory?

AoW: Ch 2. Waging War

He who is prudent in life and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious. Sun Tzu, Art of War

Sun Tzu spends an entire chapter on the dangers of waging a prolonged war, due to the cost of each day of war weakening the State.

My biggest takeaway from this chapter is the following paragraph.

2. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardour will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. 3. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. 4. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardour damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue. 

5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays. 6. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. 7. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on. 8. The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply-waggons loaded more than twice.

My translation of his warning is this:

When developing your strategy, take care to get the best possible estimation of the total financial costs and other strains on resources that will start to accumulate over time.

The longer is the victory in coming, the more likely that the resources needed to carry on will become too exhausted, or that your enthusiasm will diminish. Once your resources are depleted and your enthusiasm is diminished, others who might be looking for an opportunity to take YOU down will see a convenient timing to do so. No matter how good is the initial plan, if it takes too long to achieve the goal, you may run out of strength for it, and jeopardize your position in other fields as well.

Therefore, although hurried decision-making is never a good idea, long delays are even more dangerous to the overall success. Skillful strategists make proper plans on short-term victories to replenish their resources, but also make a proper outlay of needed finances ahead of time. Plan to find ways to start making money and replenishing other resources on intermediate achievements, so that your activity is self-sustaining

Questions to consider when designing a strategy:

  • What kind of resources will be needed to accomplish my goal?
  • How can these resources be depleted?
  • How quickly can they be depleted?
  • Can I accomplish what is needed without running out of resources? How?
  • Can I sustain my passion and my team’s passion for a prolonged period of time? How?

AoW: Ch 1 Laying Plans

Here is the original text:

Sun Tzu said: 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.

The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one’s deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field. 4. These are: (1) the Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) the Commander; (5) method and discipline. 5. The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger. 6. Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons. 7. Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death. 8. The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness. 9. By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure. 10. These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.

While heeding the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules. 16. According as circumstances are favourable, one should modify one’s plans.

My translation:

The art of strategy of obtaining victories is of the supreme importance to individuals and organizations. This art is the difference between continued success and failure.

The strategy is governed by five invariable areas of interest:

  1. The big WHY, which is values and ideology
  2. The Divinity/Air element: Time, timing, seasons, natural rhythms, exterior climate or circumstances, the balance between the rest of the activity, etc
  3. The Earth Element: The terrains and distances, risk and rewards, security and danger, survival and prosperity
  4. The capability and character of the leader
  5. Methodology and discipline, which include proper handling of operational issues like proper division of labor, control of logistics, budgets, staff, etc

The strategies hold in most predictable circumstances. However, if some unexpected favorable circumstances take place that do not fit into your strategy, do not hesitate to deviate from the strategy to take advantage of unexpected gifts.

Further, Sun Tzu said: 

17. All warfare is based on deception. 18. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. 19. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him. 20. If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. 21. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. 22. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. 23. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.

26. The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose

My interpretation:

The art of war is the art of deception.

  • When you are close to the goal, pretend to be far away, and vice versa
  • When you have plenty of power or resources that you preparing to use against your opponent, pretend to be weakened, and vice versa
  • When you are in the middle of trying to seize some opportunity or to strike against the opponent, pretend like you are distracted with something else, that he is not your focus
  • If the opponent is secure in his current position, come up with a bait to lure him out if his security. If he is irritable and impatient, keep irritating him. If he is strong and arrogant, appear weak and insecure, it will trigger his desire for a quick victory.
  • Be prepared to defend yourself once he comes out. Start by appearing helpless and retracting. Then, quickly trap him from several directions and crush him.
  • See where the obvious attack points are and do not attack there (but pretend that you would). Instead, look at the least likely attack angles and attack there. Make an entry from the angle that no one is thinking about.

Strategy is like playing chess. Calculate your opponents moves before the game starts. The more combinations you can foresee and prepare for in advance, the more likely you are to win the battle.

From the text above, I derive several questions that I could use to brainstorm my own strategy. An opponent in this case is some kind of a rival force that prevents me from obtaining my goals. Can be a rival team, a rival organization, a rival in a competition, etc

  • Who is the opponent? What goals do I have? What goals does he have?
  • Which are the most likely entry points into those parts of his territory which I want for myself? Which are least likely?
  • How could I make an entry from any of the less likely points?
  • Is my opponent pretty secure in their position? If so, how can I lure him out in the open? What kind of bait would lure him out into a less certain territory?
  • If he is not in a hurry, how can he be hurried?
  • If he is holding some ideas that help him now to be strong, how could those be ideas be forced to change?

Art of War (AoW) by Sun Tzu – beginning of chenggong fu

I am captivated by the book. Before this book, I never really thought about strategy, except as in some small endeavors, and every time i just came up with a strategy that felt right. I never thought about studying strategy. This book changed everything.  I could not read it fast enough, hanging on each word like it was an ancient scroll containing a treasure map.

After reading it a few times, I decided to “translate” it into something that my brain can translate easier into everyday situations. I did this by removing military terminology from it and substituting it for “competitors” or “opponents” to see what happens when we apply this book to the business environment or to politics (school, office, family, group, etc).

At the end of each chapter I will also try to write up questions that might help me to use the text in ordinary situations.

I will also create a new area of study and a new hashtag that I will call “chenggong fu,” #chenggongfu, which I assign the following meaning “the art of success”

Brainstorning on how to brainstorm better

Brainstorming by yourself, with no one else’s input

I plan to spend the next 30 days creating one new idea to bring in business per day. Hopefully, at the end of 30 days, I might have one worthwhile idea that will prove practical.

But after coming up with a couple of pretty “low-hanging-fruit” type of ideas, I feel stuck. So, how do I brainstorm for the next 28 days? As usual, YouTube is my first stop (I am very visual).

This is from YT channel Vertical Measures. His suggestions:

  • Mind mapping (relate terms to ideas, correlate ideas to one another)
  • Right-braining with incomplete pictures of related concepts that you are thinking about. Each new concept is incomplete in some way. Incompleteness of the picture will bring out ideas on how to complete them. The take different images and start combining them in several different ways to see if any new original idea might come up
  • Provocative action – do provocative things, change your physical surroundings, like turn the furniture in your office upside down and write upside down
  • Break and build – break down an idea into smaller pieces of info, or, on the opposite, build it up to reach a broader viewpoint; solution usually appears while in this thought process;
  • Pessimist v optimist discussion – have the pessimist bring up problems and the optimist suggest solutions. this helps to bring ideas into focus;
  • Randomness – come us with a random word and describe the object in detail; see if any of the words in the description fit into the general idea
Rumi: Look for the answer inside of your question

DFW Cyber Security & Compliance Professional Organizations

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Organization Web site Membership Meetings
ISSA North Texas paid 3rd Thursday, Plano
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Organization Web site Need membership?
Women in Security NTXISSA Supposedly, but you can attend some events for free
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