The Weekly Dream: Balance and Options
“The essence of strategy is not to carry out a brilliant plan that proceeds in steps; it is to put yourself in situations where you have more options than the enemy.”
-Strategy 6, 33 Strategies of War, by Robert Greene
I have always been known as a planner. Growing up, my parents always stressed “have a Plan B, because the only surething is death and Jesus.” I was one of those people who had to have all of the information, formulate contigency plans and a main plan. Because I always hedged my bets (“hoped for the best, but planned for the worse”), I was able to maintain cool and calm in the face of unforeseen circumstances. I only ran into trouble when I had no options and no room to maneuver. I hated the boxed in/caged animal feeling that comes from facing “checkmate” in a particular situation. I also realized that I hate dealing with individuals who had no skills in planning and execution. How does on develop the skill of flexibility in planning and execution?
Lately, I have been obsessed with all things dealing with strategy. This summer, a good friend of mine and I rediscovered the classic game of chess. Every Tuesday, we would meet and play a game, while discussing the business of the week. The first time we sat down, he beat me in three moves. Now as embarassing as this is to admit, I learned an important strategic lesson. Whereas my strategy was to decimate him piece by piece, he focused more on controlling certains squares on the board to limit my options. He had his “strikers” in places where I could not even think of moving.
The Chessboard of Life
Few people realize that life is, at some points, a chess game. We are all implicitly strategists. When the use of force is not an option, then strategy is the fallback. From the child who tries to convince his parents to get him that new toy, to the teenager who wants a new car or curfew, to the adult who wants a promotion, we all have plans of attack for attaining access to scarce resources. It is human nature. It is not evil unless your objective is evil. Hard work is only part of the battle. Mailmen, teachers, waitresses and immigrants all work hard, and often work harder than the majority of people in society. To truly attain our dreams, it is imperative that we work harder and smarter.
There are some basic tenets to being a strategic thinker. The first thing is to know what your objective is and your timeline. Nothing has meaning outside of time. Second, take inventory of your resources. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your constraints? Third, who and what are your enemies? Fourth, how can you use what you have in your possessions to surmount the enemies/obstacles you face? Fifth, take wise counsel. As a man who believes in God, prayer is extremely important to me in my strategic process, because if my plan is not in line with God’s, there is no way it is going to work. A lot of people consult God last, if they consult Him at all, but they ignore a tremendous resource. I also, have my “roundtable” discussions with my committee to cover all of my bases.
Accuracy of information is paramount. Also, It is essential to have more than one approach. Begin to think of various situations and variables that could occur and build that flexibility into your plan and time line. When you do this, you will maintain the presence of mind necessary to focus and execute in the face of opposition.
A favorite and essential technique is what author Harvey McKay calls “digging your well before you are thirsty.” If you ultimately know the process necessary to meet your objective, you lay the groundwork and accumulate the tools before the need arises. You take the initiative before instead of constantly reacting to situations. For example, when looking for a job, there are people who blindly mass mail resumes to employers and pray for a response. The more strategic approach would be to keep your options open and make contacts with people at other companies that may be able to get your resume in front of the right people.
Be Water, Be Wind
Strategic thinking, planning and execution is the highest level of human reasoning because it requires you to act instead of react. We analyze everything else, but seldom do individuals implicitly analyze situations in their daily life. Thinking this way requires a great deal of discipline, diligence and patience-three things most people are extremely short on. However, the rewards are astronomical. Take the military approach. In the military, before the troops take the field, they send out reconnaissance teams to get the lay of the land. From these scouts findings, the commanding officers develop their strategy. After the mission, the officers analyze what happened and debrief. Taking this approach is a great introduction to approaching life. Do your homework, collect the data, analyze, execute and debrief.
But beware of the danger of falling in love with your strategy. Strategy and tactics must adapt as situations unfold. The whole idea is to develop your personal chessboard so that you control the key portions of the board and have any number of options.
I know I have only really glossed over this topic, but you get the idea. Look at your life and objectives with more of a critical eye, and be willing to be strategic about your life. People without options are powerless. Anyway, have fun, before you lies the oportunity to match wits against life, and with the right mindset, you can win.
Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas
Question of the Week: Is the life you live a result of a plan or the result of happenstance?