There are a lot of parallels that can be drawn between war and life. Tactics that are used in war are often also applicable in business, in everyday social interactions, and in achieving any type of goal.
The author Robert Greene has extracted 33 strategies from wars that have been fought throughout history and he has made them applicable to everyday life. These strategies can be used in how you view life as a whole and how you can accomplish each and every one of your goals.
You should read the whole book because the information in it is priceless, but today I’m going to summarize what I believe are the two most important strategies in the book that will completely change your life once you start applying them.
Let's start with the first strategy:
1 Grand Strategy:
99% of people in this world are just continually reacting to their circumstances, simply reacting in the moment and not looking ahead. They always seem to react emotionally to the situation at hand, trying to win every tiny battle they can, afraid to lose the battle of the moment. People get too caught up in the present that they seem to forget that they still have a future.
What you need in life is a larger purpose, a bigger plan, something you know you’re meant to do with your life. You need to make a plan of where you want to be in life, and who you want to be, and you need to keep this at the forefront of your mind in every situation. This will radically change how you view things when they are happening and how you'll respond to situations. By having some bigger goal to strive for, some large ideal, you must always consider if your reactions are helping you to get closer to that ideal, or if they’re keeping you away from it.
Having this larger purpose requires a grand strategy, a battle plan for where you’re going to go in life and how you are going to get there. It requires thinking beyond the moment and seeing what effect your actions have on your future. With every action that you take, you need to ask yourself:
Is this getting me closer to my goals or keeping me further away from them?
Ask yourself this question with every single thing you do.
Contrary to what you might think, this actually makes life extremely easy and predictable. When you ask yourself this question and the answer is that it is keeping you away from reaching your bigger goals, then the decision will be to avoid it at all costs, or at least pay less attention to it.
When it is the other way around and the action that you're taking is getting you closer to your goals, then don’t hesitate to go all out and spend every bit of energy you have doing those things.
It’s that simple.
The important part is that you start asking yourself this question in every single situation you’re going to find yourself in.
Grand strategy will help you think beyond the moment and in terms of a larger purpose. This way you won’t respond emotionally to unimportant things like most people do, you won’t get caught up in the moment and spend your valuable time and energy with nonsense. You know what is important and what isn’t, and you can easily distinguish between the two and make the right decision every single time. If it’s keeping you away from your goals, don’t touch it with a ten-foot pole, and don’t waste precious energy on it. If it is getting you closer to your goal, give it all the time and energy you have available to get closer to reaching the larger goal.
What you need to create your grand strategy is to clarify your life first. Who are you, what are you passionate about, what do you believe about yourself and the world, and what are your talents and the things you do well, plus what are my weak points? You need to answer these questions for yourself first, because this grand plan has to perfectly fit your beliefs and your personality, otherwise, you're not likely to stick it out when things get hard, and they will.
So get a clear image of who you are and what you want in life, make a battle plan, and in everything you do ask yourself if this is helping you reaching the goals you've set, or if it's holding you back. Do the things that help you reach those goals, and avoid anything that doesn't. It sounds simple, but there are no results without action. So now it is important to apply this to your own life, live by it every single day, and make your dream life a reality.
“What have distinguished all history’s grand strategists and can distinguish you, too, are specific, detailed, focused goals. Contemplate them day in and day out, and imagine how it will feel to reach them and what reaching them will look like.”
2 Death Ground:
Everybody nowadays lives way too comfortable lives and this makes us unprepared for war. Comfort has made us soft and lazy, there are going to be moments when you need to be tough and when you need to be uncomfortable.
This is the reason why most us don’t reach our goals. We set goals for ourselves and want to reach them, but these are just wants, not must-haves. They are not things you absolutely need to have, things you couldn’t live without. You are comfortable where we are right now, doing a job you hate and it doesn’t give you a purpose, just so that you can eat pizza and play video games when you're done working.
This is not how you accomplish the things you want.
Everything that is worth something requires sacrifice: to have that new phone, you have to give up a month's salary; to get in great shape, you have to go to the gym every single day instead of laying on the couch and eating clean instead of consuming delicious junk food every day.
Everything worthwhile in life requires sacrifice and most people are not willing to sacrifice anything to get to where they want to be.
This is actually great news for you and me because this means that the competition is extremely low. Most people are not prepared to go through the difficulty and discomfort that is required for achieving great things, and that is why great accomplishments are so rare.
People in good shape are rare because most are not willing to sacrifice the comfort of their couch and delicious processed foods.
Most people are poor because they are not willing to sacrifice and risk finding other ways to make money and they take the safe route, which because of the low risk also has a low ROI. (meaning the rewards are also very minor)
You need to get out of your comfort zone to achieve what you want to achieve. You need to put some pressure on yourself, you know what they say: Pressure makes diamonds.
This can be done in two ways:
1 Set a high standard for yourself and construct a mental model that is going to allow you to get through the discomfort every day and get done what you need to get done. But this is the hardest way, the other option is...
2 You need to put some outside pressure on yourself, you need to put yourself on ‘death ground’. This strategy involves putting some external pressure on yourself, and it is the easiest one to implement, especially if you’re starting out because outside pressure will force you to take action even when you don't want to.
This principle stems from 'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu.
What he found was that when an army has its back against a mountainside with no other way out than going through the enemy, they will fight like hell to win, because it's their only way out. This is precisely what you have to do in your situation but in a different and slightly less dramatic way.
What you need to do is put yourself in a position where you can’t afford to fail, and this can be mentally or physically. You can do this by putting the negative consequences of failing at the forefront of your mind by thinking about what will happen when you fail, who you will disappoint, what you would have missed, and what would happen with the people you could have helped.
Perhaps you could view this as a negative way to look at the world, but I would disagree. Humans are only driven by negative things, we are mostly driven by the fear of loss. We fear losing our comfort so we don’t do anything about it. But if we now flip this and fear losing out on the life we could have had, or losing out on helping a loved one or helping the world. Now we have something to lose, and this will kick us into gear and make us take action towards reaching our goals.
The other way is burning the boats, this is perhaps the hardest but probably the most effective way to achieve anything you want. What you need to do is make sure that there is no turning back, there is no easy way out, there is no shortcut home.
You need to make the consequences of failure so intolerable, so harsh, that you simply cannot afford to fail, you must succeed, or everything goes to shit.
You can do this by giving yourself a deadline and making the consequences immense when you don't take the desirable action. You could also do this by quitting your job, living off your savings for a while, and using that time to build your business until the savings run out.
There are multiple ways that are effective, the important part is that you put some pressure on yourself, some consequence for not reaching your goals no matter what those consequences may be. You need to create some urgency.
Only pressure makes diamonds, so do you want to be a bag of dirt that has never been exposed to any pressure, or do you want to shine like a diamond?
The choice is yours.
“Your days are numbered. Will you pass them half awake and halfhearted or will you live with a sense of urgency?”