Being outnumbered, coming from behind, being low on funds, these don’t have to be disadvantages. They can be gifts. Assets that make us less likely to commit suicide with a head-to-head attack. These things force us to be creative, to find workarounds, to sublimate the ego and do anything to win besides challenging our enemies where they are strongest. These are the signs that tell us to approach from an oblique angle.
In fact, having the advantage of size or strength or power is often the birthing ground for true and fatal weakness. The inertia of success makes it much harder to truly develop good technique. People or companies who have that size advantage never really have to learn the process when they’ve been able to coast on brute force. And that works for them . . . until it doesn’t. Until they meet you and you make quick work of them with deft and oblique maneuvers, when you refuse to face them in the one setting they know: head-to-head.
You’re acting like a real strategist. You aren’t just throwing your weight around and hoping it works. You’re not wasting your energy in battles driven by ego and pride rather than tactical advantage.
Use Obstacles Against Themselves
Gandhi didn’t fight for independence for India. The British Empire did all of the fighting—and, as it happens, all of the losing.
Sometimes you overcome obstacles not by attacking them but by withdrawing and letting them attack you. You can use the actions of others against themselves instead of acting yourself.
Every positive has its negative. Every negative has its positive. The action is in the pushing through—all the way through to the other side. Making a negative into a positive.
This should be great solace. It means that very few obstacles are ever too big for us. Because that bigness might in fact be an advantage. Because we can use that bigness against the obstacle itself. Remember, a castle can be an intimidating, impenetrable fortress, or it can be turned into a prison when surrounded. The difference is simply a shift in action and approach.
Channel Your Energy
Instead of giving in to frustration, we can put it to good use. It can power our actions, which, unlike our disposition, become stronger and better when loose and bold. While others obsess with observing the rules, we’re subtly undermining them and subverting them to our advantage.
Think of an athlete “in the pocket,” “in the zone,” “on a streak,” and the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that fall in the face of that effortless state. Enormous deficits collapse, every pass or shot hits its intended target, fatigue melts away. Those athletes might be stopped from carrying out this or that action, but not from their goal. External factors influence the path, but not the direction: forward.
What setbacks in our lives could resist that elegant, fluid, and powerful mastery?
To be physically and mentally loose takes no talent. That’s just recklessness. (We want right action, not action period.) To be physically and mentally tight? That’s called anxiety. It doesn’t work, either. Eventually we snap. But physical looseness combined with mental restraint? That is powerful.
Seize The Offensive
At certain moments in our brief existences we are faced with great trials. Often those trials are frustrating, unfortunate, or unfair. They seem to come exactly when we think we need them the least. The question is: Do we accept this as an exclusively negative event, or can we get past whatever negativity or adversity it represents and mount an offensive? Or more precisely, can we see that this “problem” presents an opportunity for a solution that we have long been waiting for?
In many battles, as in life, the two opposing forces will often reach a point of mutual exhaustion. It’s the one who rises the next morning after a long day of fighting and rallies, instead of retreating—the one who says, I intend to attack and whip them right here and now—who will carry victory home . . . intelligently.
The obstacle is not only turned upside down but used as a catapult.