“If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it. Your doubts and hesitations will infect your execution. Timidity is dangerous: Better to enter with boldness.”
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
“Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action comes, stop thinking and go in.”
Sometimes you have to overthrow.
My last several posts have focused on overcoming inertia, or the things in life that weigh you down and keep you from achieving your goal. In particular, I’ve been discussing how to deal with haters. Haters, and other people who negatively influence motivation, will bring you down in subtle ways. Most often, they will try to hijack your emotions or sabotage your actions indirectly. But sometimes these people will attack you directly. Occasionally, a hater will step out into the open and declare that he wants to hold you back from achieving your goal. Exposed, this person will do whatever it takes to stop you. When this happens, your only options are to engage and overthrow, or concede and roll over.
Grand strategy is the union of purpose and influence. It is the art of seeing the end before the beginning and working backwards to achieve your goal. This kind of strategy comprises the purposeful employment of all the influence you have at your disposal. In order to fulfill your purpose in life, you will have to launch an overarching campaign. You will have to think like a leader. This includes mapping out a clear path to your goal as well as preparing for unexpected obstacles along the way. These obstacles include other people, limiting circumstances, and yourself. Your ability to generate influence, improve confidence, and develop leadership skills will offset this inertia. Regardless of the obstacle, there is one eternal lesson that with help you conquer it. This lesson, or technique, is referred to as “Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick”.
Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick is a style and a sequence. It is a way of thinking and an order to act in. This technique will not only bring you closer to achieving your goal and fulfilling your purpose in life, it will help you improve confidence and develop leadership skills. For almost 800 years, the Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick method has been used to overthrow obstacles and establish leadership influence. The best example of this method in action involves Genghis Kahn’s historic invasion of Khwarezm in 1218. Kahn, the leader of the Mongol army, defeated the more powerful Muhammad II, the Shah of Khwarezm, starting with a series of small deliberate attacks that looked like losses, followed by more serious and speedy attacks that led to a crushing victory. Khan’s army was almost entirely cavalry, making it incredibly mobile. In The 33 Strategies Of War, author Robert Greene writes that each Mongol rode one horse trailed by several other riderless horses. Once the first horse tired, he would mount a fresh one. The horses were all mares, light and fast. Kahn’s genius lied in his ability to leverage his fast-moving army against well established empires that were backed with many more men and resources. Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick was the secret to his success.
Prior to the Mongol’s invasion of Khwarezm, Kahn prepared meticulously. He studied the land and the mentality of the Shah in great detail, planning out his victory all the way to the end. Kahn’s relentless preparation helped him improve confidence in his campaign and develop leaderships skills that would help him in battle. This was the first “Slow”. Kahn also captured one of the Shah’s guides, who had great knowledge of the desert. This guide led the Mongols north through a series of oases. In the summer of 1219, the Mongols approached the southern end of the Syr Darya, a river with two headstreams in current day Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Kahn sent a weak army into the Shah’s territory, prompting the Shah to respond with a large force, under the command of his son Jalal ad-Din. After a fierce battle, the Mongols retreated. Jalal ad-Din reported to the Shah that the Mongols were weak, their horses were emaciated, and their warriors were incapable of winning in battle. This was the second “Slow”.
A few months later, a new Mongol battalion showed up in the north, out of nowhere, and attacked the city of Otrar. The Shah was stunned and could not understand how Kahn had reached Otrar without him knowing about it. The Mongol army immediately launched a full-scale attack, sweeping south and destroying every major city along the Syr Darya. This was the first “Quick”. Eventually, a fraction of Kahn’s army rode northwest towards Transoxiana, near present day Tajikistan. The Shah responded by sending the entirety of his army to the city. He was annoyed by the Mongol raids and wanted to end their insolence once and for all by demolishing them in Transoxiana. To the Shah’s surprise, the Mongol’s crushed his army. They used arrows dipped in tar to create smoke screens, allowing riders to breach the Shah’s front lines. The Shah had one option: retreat west to the city of Bukhara. As the Shah was making preparations, he learned that Khan himself was already outside of the gates of the city. Bukhara fell within days. This was the second “Quick”.
The Shah couldn’t believe it. How did Kahn get to Bukhara so quickly? How did Kahn know the Shah would retreat to Bukhara? Many historians believe Kahn’s appearance at Bukhara was the greatest military surprise in history. After his defeat, the Shah fled to an island on the Caspian Sea where he eventually died of hunger. Meanwhile, Kahn and the Mongols went on to build the largest land empire the world has ever known. By using the principles of Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Kahn was able to establish lasting leadership influence.
Most people’s idea of grand strategy is to implement a muddled version of Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick. Instead of preparing, these people wing it. Instead of executing, these people posture. Understand: no one ever winged his way to the top. There’s no way to improvise your purpose in life. You can’t wing it. You have to prepare. Preparation takes physical action. Whether its studying a video of your next athletic opponent, going through your presentation a dozen times the night before, or reading everything you can about your client’s business, you have to act. Guessing and worrying are not preparation. Preparation requires engagement. You have to gather relevant information and actively filter out the useful from the useless. First, study your goals. Collect data that is relevant to your purpose in life. Then, execute. Bait, attack, and finish. Stop obsessively posturing. Most people would rather appear strong than be strong and have their strength tested. When the average person faces an opponent, he is almost appalled that he has to compete. Instead of doing battle, he wants the other party to simply recognize his significance and roll over. Instead of striking, he talks. Instead of taking action, he tells everyone how deserving he is. He alerts other people of his importance and hopes for the best.
Big obstacles accompany big opportunites. These obstacles include other people, difficult circumstances, and your own negative emotions. No matter what comes against you, the principles of Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick will help you overthrow it. Whether you’re goal is to get a raise, keep a client, win a big account, nail a speech, or beat an athletic opponent, this method will help you. Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick ensures that you will be supremely prepared for whatever you are facing. At the same time, it guarantees your actions will have irresistible force. The first Slow, involves meticulous planning. For this step, Kahn studied the terrain and the Shah ruthlessly. He also found a guide who knew the desert exceptionally well. In the same way, invest you time and energy upfront to understand your obstacle. Do not completely disregard the process of learning about your problem. Preparation is critical to improving leadership skills.
The second Slow is used as a set up. This step gets your opponent to lower his guard, lulling him into complacency. Kahn baited the Shah by sending in a weak army. This loss not only distracted the Shah, it overinflated his pride. If you are competing with other people directly, this step is crucial. A half-ass attempt to seize a secondary prize will avert their attention from the grand prize. Lose something small to gain something big. Temporarily displaying yourself as weak will double the force of your next actions. Even without direct competition, the second Slow can be used to your advantage. This is especially true in business and entrepreneurship. Don’t be afraid to lower people’s expectations. It is better to under promise and over deliver than to over promise and under deliver. Under promising, or appearing weak, then following through strongly on the backend is always a welcome surprise. It leaves people impressed instead of let down. Zappos, the online shoe shop, used to offer free delivery in 7-10 business days, which was average or below average compared to what other online apparel companies offered (Slow). What Zappos didn’t tell their customers, was that every order would be sent overnight free of charge. Imagine these people’s surprise when they woke up the next morning and found their new shoes waiting for them on their doorsteps (Quick).
Quickness conquers. The second part of Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick requires two sudden blows. The first Quick involves a full frontal attack. For this step, throw everything you have at your obstacle. Strike without warning and without mercy. Kahn suddenly launched a full-scale attack, sending the best of his army into Otrar before sweeping south and attacking every city along the Syr Darya. Very few people give 100% effort towards anything. They always keep something in reserve. Or, they spread themselves so thin that they can only give half of their energy to any one thing. The key to overcoming any obstacle is to give it your full attention. Strike it again and again and again with actions that are bold, productive, and organized. Quickness and hesitation do not mix. You can’t be quick and hold back at the same time. The reason that most people hold back is because they are either afraid of failing, or they are lazy. Launching a less-than-full-scale attack gives people an excuse to fall back on if they fail. It also conserves energy. This is why most people obsessively posture. Posturing is safe and easy.
The second Quick is used as a finishing blow. This step requires a doubly swift strike from a completely unexpected direction. Kahn and a reserve Mongol battalion suddenly appeared before the gates of Bukhara. In the same way, you can use surprising actions to destabilize your obstacles. Catching people and situations off guard is the single best way to seize victory. The problem is that most people telegraph their exploits. They feel the need to alert their opponents prior to taking action. These people do not telegraph their actions out of the goodness of their hearts, but out of fear and pride. What they are really doing is stressing their significance in a last ditch effort to win the battle without fighting. Secretly, they are hoping their opponents will back down or stop them before they have the chance to strike and potentially fail. Enter you actions boldly. Boldness is a magic elixer that will help you improve confidence, generate influence, and develop leadership skills all at once.
When it comes to achieving your goal and fulfilling your purpose in life, do not plan rapidly and act methodically. This is the reverse of what you should do. Instead, plan slowly and act rapidly. Of course, you’re aim is not to overthrow a country, but to overthrow the limits from your life. If you have a goal, stop talking about it and start taking it. Use the Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick technique to overcome the things standing between you and your purpose in life. In my next post, I will discuss how to be the master of your own emotions.