“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die Discover that I had not lived.”

- Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862

When Death is Certain, They Will Live

After a victorious battle, a group of soldiers asked the general, ” according to the art of war, we are told have a hill to the right rear, or a river of mash on the left front. You on the contrary ordered us to draw our troops with the river to our rear. How do you manage to gain the victory?

The general replied “I feared you gentlemen have not studied the art of war with care. Is it not written there? Plunge your army into desperate straits and it will come off in safety. Put them in deathly peril and they will survive. Had I taken the usual course I would not have been able to bring my men out alive. If I have not put my men in a situation of live and death and leave each men to fight for their lives, there would have been a general discretion and it would be impossible to do anything with them.”

This is a psychological method derived from observations that when common man is being thrown into desperate situation, they will exert maximum effort. The scenario also exemplifies many of the failures of our modern day strategies. When performing strategic planning, many corporate thinkers uses tools such as ‘scenario planning’ to map out all possible methods of execution of their forthcoming plans. From there, they will seek the best strategy.

But when they encounter an obstacle or challenge in their executions, often due to their ‘paralysis through analysis’, their first thought would be to switch to an alternative plan. Often time, it is the degree of effort into a executing strategy that fails, not the strategy itself. Once a strategy has been chosen, the leader should focused and ensure that ‘all bridges’ are burned and all efforts are focused 110 percent onto a perfect execution. Wondering about the enemy’s reaction and pondering to change as enemy responses, will often lead to poorly executed maneuvers.

In business, unlike in war – sometimes it is not about the killing of each other in order to declare victory. You will win when you deliver unsurpassed value innovation to your customers. You will win when you delight your customer by being able to solve their problem or deliver a solution they need at the right price. These may be simple strategies. But observation shows that many large multinational businesses fail despite a showcase of fancy and carefully planned strategies. Whereas, in the cases of desperate entrepreneurs, a simple strategy will be defended and executed to death, leading to success.

The secret lies in ensuring that once a strategy is formulated, it is followed through at 110% without looking back. Even if another competitor turned copy cat emulate the exact formula, the response should be to move full charge ahead and out do him. Often in life and in business, it’s the one single degree of efforts that made all the difference. When you have sunk all your ships, depleted all your rations and find yourself in fatal enemy terrain facing certain death, there is no other possibility but to fight your way out. Failure will not be an option. In such situation, you will perform and survive.

It is the micro seconds of a 100 meter race that makes the world champion. It is the one degree of extra heat that turns water into steam to power locomotives. One of the most applied, simplest and most successful strategies of all, to burn all bridges and force full steam ahead. When you have no other options, you will fight beyond what you thought was possible. And by this, unconsciously you are generating efforts that will outdo most people who thought they have options. False options.

The question to these people is - what good are your options if they are only second best?