How, you might think, is a book about waging war relevant to your career? Here are a few things everyone can from “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu.
“Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.”
Imagine if you prepared for every situation, job interview, resume writing, discussion you’re your boss, conversation with your co-worker as if your life and the lives of the people around you depended on it. You would go into every situation, having thoroughly researched what’s going on, and armed with a meticulous plan. If that was the case, you would never find yourself in trouble because you would be prepared for all contingencies. Knowledge is power and always has been.
“To be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues.”
That means exactly what it sounds like. Always have a backup. When pure knowledge isn’t enough, have a way around whatever problems that the world flings at you. Never be caught in a weak moment of not knowing what to do. Always have a plan A and a plan B and if necessary, a plan C
“When one treats people with benevolence, justice and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders.”
This is advice for someone in a position of some kind of power, but it is a good reminder for your professional life in general: always treat people with respect.
If you show faith in the people around you, they will work harder to deserve that faith.
Be prepared, have a backup plan, treat people as best you can
Essentially you should prepare for life and your career by educating yourself, having a backup plan and treating people in the best way possible.
These three tips just barely skim relevant wisdom in an ancient book The Art of War is one of those books everyone should read at least once.
If you look up the definition of courage in the dictionary it won’t say A lack of fear or The ability to push forward no matter what the obstacles.
It will say, The ability to do something that frightens one. And, Strength in the face of pain or grief.
There’s a lot to be afraid of
Some people go forward in life with no fear, but the vast majority of us are afraid of doing something for the first time. We’re worried about failing in front of others. That we are not capable of doing whatever it is we set out to do. Fear is natural. It’s beneficial. Fear forces us to try harder. It makes us double, triple check our work.
Accomplished professionals still afraid
People aren’t only fearful the first time they do something. Even those who are professionals in their field still face fear. We all know even the most famous actors have to deal with stage fright. A cliff diver who has dived off untold numbers of cliffs during their career probably still feels a twinge of – something right before leaping headfirst into a faraway pool of blue.
Most of us aren’t facing crowds of thousands of people or life-threatening leaps of faith, but our fear is just as real and just as relevant to us. It is also just as surmountable.
Great success of trying
There is a great feeling of self-worth and accomplishment when we push through and try despite our fears. If we succeed it’s fantastic, but it’s still great even if we fail. That’s because failure is a beginning. It’s a first step toward trying again and possible success in the future. Never trying is sure-fire failure. Saddling up despite our fears can take us to exciting new vistas.
Imagine you’re walking along the beach and a twinkle of something washing in on the waves catches your eye. You reach down and grab it up before the current drags it back out to sea. It’s a conch shell, but like none you’ve ever seen before.
You use the tail of your shirt to rub the sand and salt off the gleaming purple exterior and a wisp of smoke billows out from the end. Swirling in the wind, the wisp gains speed and substance and whirls into a genie! An – I will make all your wishes come true type genie.
So, what are the chances you are going to find a magic conch on your next walk on the beach? About the same as your chances of wishing your dreams into reality.
Planning around a wish
We all have all kinds of wishes and we spend lots of time thinking about them and planning around them and visualizing them. When my wish comes true and I have achieved (fill in the blank) I will do/have/be (fill in the blank). Planning around a wish takes time and energy and is about as effective as looking for magic conchs on the shore.
Plan for a wish
Planning for a wish is a different thing altogether. Planning for something means creating a roadmap to get you where you need to go. Looking at the big picture starting with where you are now and ending at where you want to be. Writing out achievable goals with definite start/end dates along the way.
You are your own magic genie. Although you might not be able to make all your wishes come true, you can certainly make a push for them. You will achieve goals along the way and each one will be a wish come true in its own small way.
It’s easy to keep your head down at work and do a decent job. To do enough to keep you from getting fired, and maybe even secure a promotion down the line. Some people feel like that’s all they really should do. There is an old saying, “the nail that sticks out the most, gets hammered.” It gives people the idea that if they try something and fail, or suggest something new, they’re likely to be singled out and ostracized.
Getting the Fruit
The truth is, if you never try, you’ll never succeed. Like this Will Rogers quote suggests, the best fruit is often a little out of our comfort zones. It takes a leap of faith to see what the rewards of our actions will be.
You need to have confidence in yourself and your ideas in order to try them. You might fail. The branch might snap, or there might not be any fruit at the end of the one you reach for. The thing is, you’ll never know until you make the grab.
Or Staying Put
If you’re happy where you are and have no desire to grow in your profession, it might be a good idea to stay close the truck of the tree. But if you want to grow and succeed, you’re going to need to go out on a limb once and while to try something new, something risky, something outside your comfort zone. When you do, you’ll find, sooner or later, that the fruits of your labour are there waiting for you.
So push through the fear you may have of “getting hammered” and find the fruit that grows out on a limb.
You know how some days you feel like you could take on the world? You are inspired and motivated and can’t wait to get to work. Having no doubt about your eventual success, you remind yourself that it’s just a matter of time.
When motivation wans
Then there are the other days when even attempting to work on your goals seems completely pointless because success is something that only happens to other people. You’ve been working too hard and too long on this thing and it’s obviously just a waste of time. How could you have ever thought you could make a success of it?
Positive leads to positive, negative leads to negative
Although some days you truly do feel extremely motivated and other days you actually do feel distinctly unmotivated, most days fall somewhere in the middle. The thing that influences how motivated you will be is how motivated you were the day before. And that will depend on the day before that. Once you get into a groove it’s easy to keep going. As you see progress on your initiatives you are motivated to see more progress and you intensify your efforts.
The opposite is also true. A day of no progress is de-motivating, which leads to another day of no progress, which leads to a distinct lack of motivation.
If your motivation isn’t coming from the inside, find it on the outside
Whether you feel motivated or not you need to work on your goals everyday. Otherwise you run the chance of getting so stuck you will never get unstuck.
If your negative attitude is the stopping block that’s keeping you from getting back on track you need to find ways to re-inspire yourself. That might mean watching inspiring videos from people you admire. Or people who have succeeded in your field. Maybe it means looking at pictures of your goal in its completed stage. Perhaps you could write a letter to yourself reminding you of why you decided to pursue this thing in the first place.
Give your motivation a fighting chance. Accomplish a little every day.
In your quest to accomplish things you will hit upon many closed doors. Hitting such a door, you might be inclined to hang your head in despair and go home. If only you’d kept your head high you might have noticed other doors in the vicinity that were not locked. With a little effort those doors could certainly be opened.
Opening a closed door
Six years ago, I heard a call out for ideas for radio shows from our local radio station. I had an idea! It was a scripted radio drama. I started by writing the first two scripts of the six-episode show. I wrote the proposal and waited. Finally, the radio station got back to me. Good proposal they said, but we are no longer producing radio dramas.
I was crestfallen. By then I had fallen in love with the show and the idea of sharing it with the world at large. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much the show had come to mean to me. Then I realized just because the radio station said no that didn’t mean no for the show.
The world wants to help those who want to help themselves
I began auditioning and hiring actors. In the meantime, I started a fundraising campaign and raised enough to record it. I had never produced an audio drama before, but I found people who could help me with different aspects of the project. They became as invested in the show and as excited about getting it out there as I was. Six months later I had a show on iTunes.
Find Another Way
The good people at the radio station who were no longer producing audio dramas said no to me. Many other people said yes. When faced with rejection or negative responses you can take it as a dead stop or you can find another way.
All of us have things in our lives we wish we had done differently. Times we should have turned right when we turned left. People we wish we’d spent more time with. Others we wish we had steered clear of altogether. Opportunities we believe we should have pursued. Chances we should have taken and ones we shouldn’t have. Sometimes we call them regrets. Other times learning experiences.
Learning experiences and just experiences
Other things are just experiences– either ones we could have done without or ones we embrace with our full hearts.
Every day we go forward adds more regrets and triumphs to the reservoir that makes up our past. As we’re trying to go ahead and create our future, the past is like a small child tugging at our shirt sleeve for attention. The regrets imploring us to be wary and pursue with caution or not at all. The triumphs crowing over their glory.
Those are a lot of demands for our attention. The thing is, the past has happened. There is absolutely no changing it, no matter how much we dwell on it. There is no re-living it, regardless of how much time we spend there. One of the most important things we can do in our lives is learn to stop giving the past attention it doesn’t deserve.
Leave the past where it is, In the past
In regards to regrets, remind yourself you did what you thought was right at the time. It simply didn’t work out. The real regret from today’s stand point is every moment wasted dwelling on what was. Pledge to never take those same steps again and move on.
The glories of our lives are great–in the moment they’re happening. The time spent remembering them or reliving them afterwards are just about as debilitating for our future selves as the time spent dwelling on regrets. Either you will beat out those glories with better ones or you won’t. Regardless, the most important moment is now because it’s your chance to do what you’re here to do. Live your life appreciating each moment for what it is while striving towards the great ones.