One analogy between combat and business that is very applicable is setting the stage for negotiations. One skill that most entrepreneurs will need to have to some degree is the ability to negotiate. Whether negotiating with potential employees, investors, business partners or customers, negotiation is an inescapable part of running one’s own business. A negotiation, much like a battle, when played well will begin to be executed long before the battle or negotiation actually begins. To use boardgames as a metaphor, the setup of the game board is key. Unlike a game specifically designed to start with a sense of balance, such as chess, where the game board is forced to effectively be the same for both parties at the beginning, negotiation or battle generally consists of so many variables that the game board can be set up to favor one side by manipulation of those variables. Effective combatants and negotiators know this instinctively.
Sun Tzu discussed the idea of setting up the battlefield throughout many of his writings. At Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL school (BUDS), there is a saying engraved over the doors, “The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war”, from Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (1900-1990), an Indian diplomat. I read this as the more we prepare for battle, not just by training but by setting up the game board, the less we will bleed in combat.
There is another great anecdote of Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro, rival samurai swordsmen in feudal Japan. Musashi challenged Kojiro to a duel on the island of Ganryu. Musashi arrived three hours late,
and fought only with a wooden sword (or bokken) that he had carved from the oar of the boat upon which he had arrived. Kojiro was enraged that Musashi would be late, and that he would challenge him with only a wooden sword. Mushashi won the duel, killing Kojiro. One take of this story is that Musashi was so good that he was completely unconcerned about the duel and arrived at his own leisure, with a wooden sword that he fashioned as an afterthought since his opponent was so far beneath him. Another possibility is that Musashi deliberately arrived late to disconcert his opponent, used only a wooden sword to further unbalance him, and used the psychological advantage he created, along with his formidable swordsmanship, to win the duel. Musashi set up the game board so that it was stacked in his favor before his opponent’s sword had even been drawn.
To take the metaphor of negotiation or combat as a game even further, if possible one should not only change the game board, but change the game. If someone is facing a chess master, change the game board to Go, or checkers. In martial arts, if facing a stand up fighter, take them to the ground, and vice versa. In negotiations, if your opponent uses physical intimidation tactics to their advantage, negotiate telephonically or even electronically so that their physical presence is not a factor, in other words, change the game from their game of physical intimidation to one of virtual communication. If they have incredible endurance and try to outlast their opponents, set a negotiating time period that is forced to be very short because of external circumstances or plane flights. One must be careful, however, not to change the game or rules so far as to lose the buy-in of the other party so that they just walk from negotiations. The negotiating term BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) is relevant here. You must predict accurately what the opponent’s BATNA is and ensure that it does not exceed the benefits perceived achievable by the opponent from the negotiation gameboard.
There is a very good book on this style of negotiation called “3D Negotiation”, used by the Harvard Business School for their executive classes on negotiation. I would highly recommend it for anyone who would like to learn to be a good negotiator. 90% of the work of the negotiation should go into the preparation prior, so that the actual work once the negotiation begins is simply continuing to guide the game to its predetermined end.
As with combat, the unexperienced negotiator is often subverted by adrenaline produced by fear, anger, or other emotions. The key to success is to have prepared sufficiently so that the normal biological reactions one experiences are offset through the preparation and setup of a myriad of factors that direct the negotiation to the desired end. Every entrepreneur and business leader should develop and practice their negotiating skills and style until they are second nature. The results will be noticeable in the success of the business.
Interesting contemplation, I would hypothesize thinkers such as Tzu, Aurelius, Musashi, and MacArthur were post objectivists. That is a tough act to follow! But, by the very foundation of the concept, one may not always be a post objectivist—knowledge is always evolving—life changes, how we change with it and our perceptions of it are what give us basis for critical thought.
I have long been a great fan of the works and thoughts of Robert Greene. I have read and reread every one of his books many times over. I am also a great fan of the Do of Bushido and have studied Go Rin of Hanshi Miyamoto Musashi, and of course the Art of War by Sun Tzu. Some of my favorite books include Meditations by the great General (Emperor) Marcus Aurelius, General Patton’s Principles for Life and Leadership (I made it mandatory reading for my entire Squad), and perhaps one of my most favored reads- American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880 – 1964 by William Manchester. That book was almost a romantic novel to me- inspiring to say the least.
I will share with you a thought, it is amazing how so many try in vain to take so much from these works and apply them themselves, often incorrectly; poorly adapted at best. As Sun Tzu instructs, the ground on which we stand must be firm- that ground is ourselves. We are the foundation, on which we build our ideas, our principles, and our beliefs. If that ground is not firm- if it is not true- then no approach based on their principles will succeed. Who we are or who we were is the Alpha, not the Omega- we must constantly evolve.
Jiu Jitsu has taught me a lot about myself and how I look at things- patience, perception, and the purpose of movement. Let there be space when I want there to be space. Let there be movement when I want there to be movement, and only as it benefits my position, for my end goal. The end goal should always be the submission.
Business and Jiu Jitsu have many parallels. In Jiu Jitsu you will be tested, you will test yourself, and you will learn just how hard you are willing to work, how much suffering and struggle you can endure, how much you can sustain, and how badly you want it, the same in business. It is not by chance that people such as yourself are successful in business (or in the Teams for that matter), your mindset was right from the beginning, the foundation from which you have built your business philosophy was sound.
Arigatoo! What a thoughtful and insightful commentary. Thank you for reading, and thank you for sharing your reaction and perceptions.
On the requirement for a basic foundation prior to learning more advanced techniques, I was kicking around an idea for a blog based on the parallels of martial arts and business, and the importance of following the basics before trying more advanced (or risky, or leveraged) techniques. I just used a similar analogy with my sons the other night, specifically that in jujitsu you should know how to do a front and side mount and how to pass the guard before you try your first flying arm bar.
Thank you again, and thank you for reading! I look forward to your future commentary, your thought processes lead me to think of other ideas of topics upon which to write….
Very well said sir!
I look forward to your future postings. I am glad a person in common mentioned your blog to me.