There are ways to look within, and there are ways to look without. In battle, or in any tactical situation, I find myself balancing the world around me with the world inside me.
I play strategy games, so let’s use that as an example. I’ve found that, in most strategy games, the first step to victory is to find a weakness in your enemy—the world outside—as opposed to what many people seem to think is the path to victory, reliance on one’s strengths—the inside world.
I find that the reason for weakness being the best response is that weakness, incompleteness, is the state of the world. It’s all we know as humans: if we were to understand everything all at once we would be God, if you ask me. Complete, omnipotent, everything. But that’s just beyond our grasp.
In fact, the very nature of war is incomplete. War: two proposed opposing paths. Which one is right?
But the truest path through war is often to find the fault in the opposing strategy, since the nature of war is incompleteness.
By the way that’s not always true. Sometimes it’s best to be right, rather than to focus on your opponent’s flaws. Maybe your opponent has sensed that you focus too strongly on his or her flaws, and has changed his or her strategy—but you may not have noticed this, because you are so intent on what you believe is wrong. This headstrong and mule-like way of thinking is much like being right, and it lends itself to over-analysis and “going too far.”
There’s a “going too far” mode. It’s like the Old Man and the Sea.
The Old Man and the Sea is an old tale of an old man who lived on an island, in a simple fishing community. He was often ridiculed by others who lived near him, mostly because they did not believe that he would catch any fish.
But one day, the old man went very far out to sea. Much farther than was usual. He caught a gigantic marlin in an epic fight—but he was so far out to sea, that on the grueling journey back home, the marlin carcass was eaten by sharks, which the old man fended off with his oar for awhile.
When he got back he had the skeleton, but he was alive.
Understanding that war is always dependent on a set of rules is crucial. If you’re playing chess, you must understand how the pieces move—further, too, you must understand your opponent, how he thinks, how she plays. Can this become a psychological game? Can I bait my opponent into being rash? Can I predict that he will pin my knight, since he loves utilizing his queen every time we play?
Predictability is important. I hope to talk about that and the Cannae Maneuver sometime. Wikipedia it if you want, it’s a cool battle from ancient times.
But other rules, they can be gravity. They can be the fact that your opponent has got 10,000 mounted archers and your army is mostly footmen. You know you’ll be less dexterous. The trick is to work with what you’ve got, to turn the unchangeable into your advantage.
Say you’re coming around a street corner and this 200 pound, 7-11 burger eating, Monster energy drinking, belching, farting behemoth comes trampling your way, tearing up the grass and pebbles with his size thirteens. Let’s say also your weight is less than 150. Do you push him back? He’s got a hell of momentum. You probably step out of the way. Remember: he only hurts you if he can hit you.
You don’t fight him head on, because he’s “right” that he’s big and strong. What you do is you find a weakness, a wrong, in his strategy.
Improvisation and willingness to change and bend to different, new and/or unexpected rules and situations: that is another key. But it’s another key for another time. Adaptation.