Tuesday, November 13, 2012


"Appear at places to which he (the enemy) must hasten; move swiftly where he does not expect you. That you may march a thousand li without wearying yourself is because you travel where there is no enemy (Go into emptiness, strike voids, bypass what he defends, hit him where he does not expect you.)" - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

How does one deal with the obstacles in one's life?  I'm thinking particularly here of ones which seem completely unmovable, the ones that we can't seem to change by dint of effort or pleading.  The sorts of things that make you feel ineffective and pointless in your life.

I've tried, trust me.  I've tried to directly go through them.  I've tried to maneuver my way around them.  I've tried to under or over them.  And yet I constantly seem to be rebuffed, thrown back, unable to make any forward progress at all.  Is it because I'm going about it the wrong way?

Observe Sun Tzu above.  He doesn't speak of going directly to where the enemy is waiting; instead, he says go to where the enemy is not; work around him, make him hurry to come to you instead of the other way around. One who strikes at voids is always sure to be able to punch straight through.

Great for a man dead 2500 years.  How does this apply to my life?

The reality is that anyone - or anything - can only defend a certain number of approaches.  No-one can be everywhere defending everything.  And everyone and everything had gaps, holes, things that can be moved through. 

So find the gaps.  Find the holes.  If someone is defensive on one place - very defensive - it is sometimes better to stop there and look around rather than continue.  There is always another path, another way past the obstacle.  Go to a second place, somewhere that there is less passion or concern, and begin there.  The flank will either be turned - or by defending two positions, the overall resistance becomes weaker.

True of things as well.  Can't get through the wall of conceptually writing a novel?  Do a certain number of words a day until you reach the same place you would reach if you just tried to write all at once.  Can't attack the idea of debt or savings?  Instead of hitting the center, nibble at the edges or find another place to start.

There are times that things are simply difficult and we must go through them, that challenges cannot be met except by facing them head on.  But just as armies cannot constantly fight major battles repeatedly, so we will exhaust ourselves continually attacking the center.  Look for the holes, the empty spaces; be where they do not expect you. 

Progress is always possible.  It just may not be quite where we originally thought it would be.

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