Jordan Peterson is unfortunately less known for the content of his work than he is for his sometimes controversial political views, but I personally was attracted to the content in these lectures that were based on his first book Maps of Meaning.
I summarized the most important ideas of each lecture because many are truly worth remembering.
We cannot derive an is from an ought. There are too many pathways you can arrive to from scientific truths, you have no way of knowing which scientific truth should be most relevant without invoking your subjective interpretation. That is the postmodernist problem – there are too many facts to be able to coherently determine values.
What we learn from this talk is that there are two different ways of thinking about happiness. The father of behavioural economics and Nobel Prize in Economics winner, Daniel Kahneman, explains this dichotomy well.
Before explaining what the Experiencing and Remembering Selves are, it is worth quickly reviewing the history of happiness. It would not be merely for our own benefit, but perhaps also to the benefit of others.
First, it is possible to move by standing still, it is possible to become happier by merely re-evaluating your own beliefs about happiness. It is not sustainable over the long-run, because things need to be done. But this only gives us more reason to try to understand what happiness really is!
If only a portion of the picture of happiness is visible to your mind, then you have no idea if the concept you hold is the most accurate concept. You could be striving towards goals that ultimately make you unhappy, you could be teaching others the wrong values. In other words, you may be engaging in both deception and self-deception.
We take it for granted that we know what happiness is, but there are many different definitions most of them are in conflict. We have no unified definition of happiness, and yet it is what we all claim to be after – it is what many people (if not most) believe to be the purpose of life.
soon notice that your ideas converge to some definitions of happiness more than
others. If you’re honest with yourself, if you assess your past behavior, and your
beliefs in a fair and reasonable way, you may even find a mismatch between what
you are doing, and what you believe. You may believe in the pursuit of
happiness, but you may not be living in a way that will moves you forward in
the ambiguity of the idea of happiness and the mismatch between your own
beliefs and actions are good reasons to try to better understand what happiness
is, and how you can achieve it.
A History of Happiness
Self-actualization, the fulfilment of one’s highest potential, ought to be the goal of every individual. At least that’s what the humanist psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers believed. There are parallels between this idea and ancient Greek ideas about happiness, such as Eudaimonia.
is about fulfilling one’s highest potential. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of
needs, after the individual has figured out life’s basics: food, shelter, security,
social life, he ought to proceed (if he would like to fulfil his highest
potential) to attaining knowledge, earning recognition for his competence in
his chosen domain, and developing an aesthetic sense for beauty, order, and symmetry.
This is very
similar to the Greek concept of Eudemonia, which refers to the good life or the
happy life – but it is not equivalent to the modern definition of happiness,
which just refers to a pleasant state of mind. Eudaimonia describes the things which
would make us happy if we knew of them, but it is not necessarily true that we
do know of them. Eudemonia is not merely subjective.
If a father thinks he is loved by his children, but he is not, then the father is not Eudemonic. It isn’t his subjective opinion that matters, but rather what is objectively true. The children either loved or didn’t love their father. That is, even if everyone in society (including the father) falsely assumed that the children loved their father, then the father was no Eudemonic. A person who is Eudemonic lived a truly virtuous life, and this is largely judged by the society in which he lives in. Was he virtuous, just, honest, or was he sadistic, deceptive, and destructive?
If you feel this definition is ambiguous, you needn’t worry, since Eudemonia meant different things to the Greek philosophers – even they could not agree. Plato thought that you needed justice to achieve Eudaimonia, that Eudaimonia consisted of happiness and justice, but that justice was more important. According to Socrates, it is better to have a pure soul and no wealth, rather than have wealth, pleasure, and a poor soul. Epicurus thought that virtues like justice were instrumental means to one central end: pleasure – but he believed in maximizing one’s long-term pleasure, not merely the engagement in immediate pleasure (in case you were thinking about labeling yourself as Epicurean).
The Stoics distrusted pleasure, they believed that Eudemonia can be achieved through a life of self-restraint, simplicity, and self-discipline. External sources of happiness such as wealth and health were not important to the Stoics. And this idea was shared by the Cynics such as Diogenes. There is a famous story that describes a moment when Alexander the Great went to visit Diogenes of Sinope, and promised to grant him whatever wish the philosopher desired, to which Diogenes replied, “Stand out of my light.”
The politicians and commanders that surrounded Alexander laughed in unison, Alexander was impressed with Diogenes’ answer, and told his comrades, “If I was not Alexander, I would want to be Diogenes.” To which, the latter replied, “If I was not Diogenes, I would want to be Diogenes too.”
The Remembering Self vs the Experiencing Self
Going back to Kahneman, It is important to understand that he is not proposing to have solved the problem of happiness – which from the time of the Greeks, has continued to haunt civilization, but rather to become disillusioned by the uni-dimensional way happiness is currently being discussed. Indeed, the number of books that purport to teach their readers how to truly be happy is astounding. It isn’t that none of these books are useful for anything, they certainly do advance some notion of happiness, but most of them ignore an important part of the picture, and could be very misleading. One example is Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh or Osho.
Osho’s self-help books taught people to forget about their values, and to pursue a life of unbridled pleasure. He was well-read, spoke with a sharp tongue that masterfully carved out profound sounding sentences which managed to convert many people all over the world to his brand of philosophy. So powerful were his ideas and charisma that many families were torn apart after being exposed to his teachings, and many individuals destroyed their own lives to pursue the conception of happiness that Osho believed in.
to say that Osho actively tried to deceive his followers, he may have truly
believed in the ideas he preached. There’s an episode in Seinfeld where George
tells Jerry, “Remember Jerry, it’s not a lie, if you believe it.”
Further, I think people tend to gravitate towards ideas they already agree with. Those who embraced the philosophy Osho was espousing may have been convinced beforehand but were not brave or articulate enough to act on their beliefs. Osho may have been a trigger rather than the cause. Regardless, the human capacity for being led astray by bad ideas, whether self-generated, or externally imbued, is well-documented, and so it is important to never subscribe to any philosophy, whether it is Stoicism (which has achieved recent popularity, or any other fad philosophy, but rather, to be aware of the various ways in which people have chosen to live, and to explore modes of living that are harmonious with your own nature.
the human mind into two systems in his book Thinking:
Fast and Slow. System 1 is the reactive, automatic part of your brain that makes
fast calculations, and knows instantly what two plus two is equal to. System 2
is the slower, methodical, deliberate part of your brain, it comes online when asked
to solve a much more complicated maths problem that you don’t automatically
know the answer to.
us to another dichotomy that is relevant to the subject of happiness, and it is
the disparity between two different agents within us that experience life differently
and have conflicting ideas of what happiness is.
Self is the first agent. Imagine listening to your favorite music for an hour
before hearing a loud screech (you own a record player) at the end. You
instantly are turned off and feel your entire experience has been ruined. This
is a story that was told to Kahneman and what it shows is that a part of, the
Experiencing Self, was having a wonderful time appreciating the music, while
the Remembering Self, the part of you that will store the memory of this event,
has an entirely different interpretation. The Remembering Self remembers this
as a negative experience, because of the loud screech in the end despite the
beautiful experience that preceded it.
used to believe that the Experiencing Self was all that mattered but came to
realize that it was the Remembering Self instead that people built their lives
around. If you have a bad experience, but it ended well, you will look back
fondly at this experience, and will likely do it again. However, a good experience
that ends badly will be avoided in the future.
Think of a
vacation – to the Experiencing Self, the longer the vacation, the better. To
the Remembering Self, a two-week vacation is not much different from a one-week
vacation given that you have not done many different things.
examine your own life, think of which Self you give more priority to. Think of which
definition of happiness you subscribe to.
Are you living in a way where pleasure takes precedence over achievement, do you value experience or memory more? Are you living well, are you Eudemonic? Perhaps you are more Stoic, perhaps you think of pleasure as trifling matter, and are too high-minded and well-disciplined to think about base amusements?
you are an Epicurean, and like Epicurus, you acknowledge pleasure as a good-in-itself,
and all of your actions are motivated by the need to experience pleasure, whether
in the short-term or in the long-term?
Maybe you are more Nietzschean, as opposed to Socratic, maybe you believe that justice and conflict are not fit for men with great powers for it only limits them as the story of the magical ring of Gyges suggests.
George Carlin once said (roughly): “People who read self-help books should be killed. Life is simple, you wake up, go to work, eat 3 meals, shit, and sleep. You don’t need a book for it. And why is it called Self-Help? You’re reading someone else’s advice. It should be called “Help.””
But really, why should anyone read self-help books? Surely, beyond a certain point, self-help books become redundant, it’s the recycling of the same material that essentially tell you to try harder. Most people already know that they should be more organized, not procrastinate, set deadlines, work smarter, get feedback, and constantly challenge themselves etc… So why not just do these things instead of reading books about it?
I’ll try to answer that question.
I have read a few self-help books in the past. I’ve read the classics like “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, “The 48 Laws of Power”, “Getting Things Done Fast”, “The Power of Habit”, “The 4 Hour Workweek”, “12 Rules for Life”.
After a certain point, reading these books gets boring. There’s more to life than habit formation, and findings smarter ways to work, but that isn’t to say these books aren’t useful. Cultivating good habits is very challenging, since bad habits are much easier and much more fun. The good self-help books (very few) do a good job of giving you clever ways of changing your behavior, and not just stating the obvious.
Here is what a good self-help book should do.
1) Providea Coherent Philosophy for Why Improving is Important
Do not take it for granted that improving your life is obvious. It may be to you if you’re lucky, but to a lot of people, it isn’t. There are many reasons to be nihilistic, because in the end, things are unlikely to go your way. The odds are stacked against you. You can try as hard as you like, but your destiny is determined by things that are outside your conscious control. You can make a good argument for living a life with less responsibilities, less stress, and less disappointments. The best self-help books are the ones that give you a philosophy against nihilism, they push you towards thinking more positively about your future, not only because things would be better if you tried harder, but because they would be far worse if you didn’t.
2) Explain How your Brain Works
There are many good books about willpower, habit formation, and productivity out there. These books help you understand how your brain works, and how different thought-patterns are reinforced by behavioral routines. Once you understand that your brain is plastic and that new experiences can physically change your neural wiring, you will take your actions a lot more seriously. You will be much more wary of the dangers of your bad habits and will more actively try to fix them.
3) Suggest Different Strategies for you to Implement
There isn’t one way to think about life, there isn’t one way to live life, and there isn’t one way to build good habits and get rid of bad ones. What works for some people may not work for you. Good self-help books help you find strategies that match your personality, goals, and capabilities well.
4) Change the Way You Perceive The World
There’s a book by blogger Mark Manson called “The Art of Not Giving a Fuck.” Another one is by news reporter Dan Harris, it’s called “10 Percent Happier.” These books aren’t trying to give you actionable steps to change your life, but they try to get you to see things differently. Sometimes, caring too much is a bad thing. Making your personal success a priority is generally a good thing, but this isn’t always the case. It’s easy to sacrifice too much for the attainment of a goal.
The value of a thing sometimes lies not in what one attains with it but in what one pays for it–what it costs us.-Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
If you can get at least that out of spending a few hours reading self-help books, it should be worth the investment. There are more frivolous things you can do with your time than reading about how to improve your life. And if you live a chaotic life, and things aren’t going your way, these books will do a lot more for you than for someone else who’s a lot more organized and focused.
To find what works for you, you must experiment. Figure out what smart people are doing by reading these books and try different routines. Some will be more intuitive than others, you will feel they are much easier to sustain. Focus on those habits and ignore the rest.
The best thing I’ve ever learned from reading these books is the 80/20 rule, or the Pareto principle: 80% of your results will come from 20% percent of your efforts. What this means is that most of your work is practically useless. Find out what you can eliminate to get the most out of your time – including self-help books. Don’t read all of them, there is a lot of bad advice, and badly worded advice. Stick to classics, the books that have stood the test of time. If they managed to endure in a highly competitive industry for this long, there must be a good reason. Never read about the same thing. If you want to understand how habits work, don’t pick up 10 books about habit formation, find the best 2.
Finally, never take anyone’s advice too seriously. Most people don’t know what they’re talking about, and a lot of them are just trying to sell their brand. No one knows what you should do better than yourself.
Self-improvement and time-management might be your worst nightmare. There’s no point in making yourself feel guilty if you don’t manage to follow through with the resolutions your promise to make in your life. It just means that you weren’t ready yet, or that you don’t want it badly enough. In either case, self-hatred is not the antidote to your problems.
Not just self-help books, but take all books with a grain of salt. I think the point of reading should be the opposite of indoctrination. Reading should be only one source of information that is going to be balanced by many other sources of information that come from real life. The more you read, the more you will be exposed to different ideas and ways of thinking. This will make you more independent, because it is more difficult for you to take any single idea too seriously.
But I don’t want to say that reading will make you more independent minded. People who are more independent minded are unlikely to be satisfied with a few sources of information. And to be independent minded means to not fall for schemes, charlatans, swindlers and the like. It means your judgement can be trusted, both by yourself, and by others around you. it’s more important to aim for that, than to aim for more knowledge. More knowledge can be misleading, and dangerous, but being discerning and critically minded will allow you to make the most out of the little knowledge you do have.
The costs of battle are often great, especially when you are over-committed. There are many people who sacrifice everything for a cause, business, or project – only to realize that the costs they had incurred were far too great. It is easy to be blinded by your own ambition, to lose your sense of realism. When this kind of tunnel vision occurs, you are defenseless, since you will only become more invested with time (more sunk costs).
Tarentum was an Italian city that was prosperous and powerful. It was southeast to Rome, and at the time, in 281 B.C, Rome was going to war with many of its neighbors. The Romans wanted to avoid war with Tarentum – since the latter had enough wealth to finance a campaign against Rome. But when the Romans infiltrated them by sea, they Tarentines fought back, killing the Roman fleet’s admiral. War was now unavoidable. Tarentum had a problem, while they did have wealth, they did not have a powerful army of their own. They could solve this problem by hiring Greek armies to fight for them. The Spartans were occupied and could not help. Finally, they called King Pyrrhus of Epirus, “the greatest warrior king since Alexander the Great.”
Nicknamed the “Eagle”, King Pyrrhus defeated the Romans in
the first battle at Heraclea. He used elephants when he realized he was
outnumbered. This secret weapon forced the Romans to retreat – they had never
encountered elephants in battle before. News spread of the victory across Italy
and many cities – as a show of allegiance to King Pyrrhus against the Romans,
they sent reinforcements to make up for the lost troops in the first battle.
But King Pyrrhus was not without trepidation despite the
victory. He observed how powerful the Romans were – how organized they were in
battle. He continued the fight, but also aggressively pushed for peace, and
offered to share the Italian peninsula with the Romans. But the latter proudly
refused and prepared for the next battle in Asculum. This time, no side had a
numerical advantage, and while the Romans started well, they were lured into an
unsuitable terrain by the strategic master, King Pyrrhus. The Romans lost
But this victory was even more costly than the first. King Pyrrhus
lost his best generals, and he was badly wounded himself. He may have achieved
victory against the Romans, but he his resources were exhausted. The Romans were
inexhaustible, they had more soldiers, more resources, and going to battle
again was not a problem for them.
King Pyrrhus had achieved victory in battle but had lost the
war. This is where the phrase ‘Pyrrhic victory’ came from.
Understand your limitations and wait for the right time to strike.
Fight with perfect economy, pick your battles. If you choose to spread yourself
thin, you will lose every war, no matter how easy. But if you fight with economy,
you will outlast any enemy, you will win every war, no matter how difficult. Victory
comes from longevity, from lasting longer than others, from surviving, not by
securing quick, risky wins that come at too large a cost.
He whom the ancients called an expert in battle gained victory where victory was easily gained. Thus the battle of the expert is never an exceptional victory, nor does it win him reputation for wisdom or credit for courage. His victories in battle are unerring. Unerring means that he acts where victory is certain, and conquers an enemy that has already lost.
THE ART OF WAR, SUN-TZU, FOURTH CENTURY B.C.
Having limitations and scarce resources is not always a bad
thing, it can make you more focused and creative. The key to warfare is not about
having enough resources but knowing what to do with what you do have. Some
people with plenty of wealth squander it and accomplish nothing, while others
with very little build an empire. Making use of your strength, and choosing
your battles wisely are the keys to warfare.
You know, I am sure, that not numbers or strength brings victory in war; but whichever army goes into battle stronger in soul, their enemies generally cannot withstand them.
Xenophon (430?-355? B.C.)
In this chapter, Greene turns our attention
to team motivation. To successfully build a winning army of any kind, you must
know how to appeal to their psychology. If you can do that, you have a tool that
is more powerful than money.
The most important psychological target you can aim for is to unite your army with purpose – to give them a vision that will make them feel they are working towards something greater than themselves. Fulfill this human need for them by giving them a purpose, but to do so, you must lead by example. It is not enough to communicate your vision, but to show them that you truly believe in it. When Lyndon Johnson was an ambitious 23-year-old who wanted to enter politics, he demonstrated a keen ability to earn the loyalty of his troops.
An unexpected gesture of kindness was his first powerful move. He recruited two of his ex-students to help him communicate with his initial base of supporters, but previously, he had unexpectedly kept in touch with the after the course was over. This created a sense of loyalty in them. When they joined him, they worked 18-20-hour days, constantly trying to earn his approval. He didn’t pay them well, in fact, he was exploiting them to their human limits, but they didn’t turn against him. He showed them that he was willing to sacrifice as much as they were, working endless hours without complaining. They believed in him and were sure that he was destined for great things – they were ambitious too, and they thought of him as the perfect ally to help them achieve their goals.
Eventually, Lyndon Johnson won the American vote and became president, and his two ex-students rose with him in politics. They were always preferred to new faces – and as assistants on a much larger scale, they still competed for his approval. Johnson’s rise in politics was not due to money, but his leadership. He understood how to motivate his men, to give them a calling rather than a vocation. He rewarded them with acts of generosity, but never spoiled them with too much. He knew that if he did not strike this delicate balance, he would either be taken or granted, or would be resented.
A small army that is focused and disciplined is worth more than an army that is magnitudes larger, but disaffected and disinterested. And an army that is united with purpose, where dissenters are not tolerated, and where those of strong character and self-sacrifice are favored over those with impressive resumes and experience, is the strongest kind of army.
THE WOLVES AND THE DOGS AT WAR
One day, enmity broke out between the dogs and the wolves. The dogs elected a Greek to be their general. But he was in no hurry to engage in battle, despite the violent intimidation of the wolves. “Understand,” he said to them, “why I deliberately put off engagement. It is because one must always take counsel before acting. The wolves, on the one hand, are all of the same race, all of the same color. But our soldiers have very varied habits, and each one is proud of his own country. Even their colors are not uniform: some are black, some russet, and others white or ash-grey. How can I lead into battle those who are not in harmony and who are all dissimilar?’ In all armies it is unity of will and purpose which assures victory over the enemy.
It has been a
long-held belief that adolescence is a time of emotional turmoil. There is no
shortage of people who have confirmed this claim. The first notable mention can
be traced back to 1904, when the first president of the American Psychological
Association, G. Stanley Hall referred to adolescence as a time of “storm and stress.”
In 1958, Anna Freud, daughter of Sigmund Freud, stated that experiencing
emotional distress during your teen years was normal. In fact, if you didn’t experience
emotional distress during these years, there was something wrong with you, and
you were more likely to suffer from psychological problems in adulthood.
like Phil McGraw (Dr. Phil) have contributed to the propagation of this belief.
On his television show, he warned viewers that “the teenage years can be a
parent’s worst nightmare.” Numerous films, including Ordinary People (1980), Kids
(1995), Thirteen (2003) have focused on the “stormy” decade of adolescence.
evidence shows that some teenagers experience stress and emotional distress,
but certainly not the majority. Further, studies have shown that the experience
of stress during adolescence is largely determined by culture, since non-western
participants reported experiencing much less emotional turmoil than adolescents
in the west.
Peterson argued that most people who think they are atheists don’t act out their atheism. Writing a book is acting out the logos (Susan is an author). Writing is an attempt to illuminate the world, and that is based on the Judeo-Christian tradition – it is based on the culture of the word, the revelation of the true mode of being through written form.
Susan Blackmore is contributing to the Christian mission despite what she says. Indeed, what one says and what one acts out are often entirely different, and the latter is much more telling of a person’s true beliefs according to Peterson.
I decided to find out more about “logos.” Where did it come from? And why does Peterson claim that Christianity has a monopoly over the written word? Wasn’t there a democracy in ancient Greece? What about Plato? Surely, Plato was not a Christian, and yet he tried to illuminate the world, and he did so through the written word. Was he unknowingly a Christian?
‘Logos’ translates to ‘reason’ in Greek. The
term originated in ancient Greece in the sixth century B.C with Heraclitus, who
linked the logic of the cosmos with human reason. The Stoics defined the logos
as an “active rational and spiritual principle that permeated all of reality.” To
them, the logos was providence, god, nature, and the soul of the universe. But
this term has permeated many traditions, with ideas about it found in Indian, Egyptian,
and Persian philosophical systems.
In the Biblical Gospel
of John, Jesus Christ is identified as “the Word” (logos) incarnated or made
flesh. This idea has its origins in the Old Testament. The frequently used
phrase “the Word of the Lord” symbolizes God’s activity and power, and the
Jewish idea that wisdom is the “divine agent that draws man to God and is
identified with the word of God… In the same way that the Jews saw the Torah (the
Law) as preexistent with God, so also the author of John viewed Jesus, but
Jesus came to be regarded as the personified source of life and
illumination of mankind.”
Early Christian theologians and apologists tried to express the Christian faith in terms that were familiar to the Hellenistic world and to convince them that Christianity was superior to the best of pagan philosophy.
“Thus, in their apologies and polemical works, the early Christian Fathers stated that Christ as the pre-existent logos (1) reveals the Father to mankind and is the subject of the Old Testament manifestations of God; (2) is the divine reason in which the whole human race, so that the 6th-century-BC philosopher and others who lived with reason were Christians before Christ; and (3) is the divine will and word by which the worlds were framed.”
That is the basis for
Peterson’s argument – the presupposition that anyone who has ever engaged in logic
was a Christian, because there is no difference between reason and the
incarnation of Christ since Christ was the logos.
But Harris, Blackmore, and other atheists probably don’t believe that Christ is the eternal logos. Jordan Peterson’s argument would work only if you had Christian presuppositions. That is, if you did believe that Christ was one with the logos. This leads me to suspect that Peterson wasn’t trying to convince Harris or Blackmore that they were wrong but was trying to appeal to Christian listeners.
A dishonest tactic, but in the words of comedian Ricky Gervais, when asked about his controversial behavior as a host during the Oscar ceremonies “Why would I pander to audience of 200 wealthy celebrities in a room when there are 200 million people at home watching?”
Many people are familiar with the idea
that getting babies to listen to Mozart will turn them into geniuses. This news
was also reported in China in 2001.
how did it start? A study in the early 90’s showed that performance on one task
immediately after listening to Mozart improved. But this does not say anything
about the long-term effects of putting on Amadeus on repeat. Another mistaken
conclusion comes from confusing correlation with causation. People with high
musical ability are more likely to be intelligent. But this again does not
prove that listening to music will make you more intelligent.
Mozart’s music might influence performance, but anything that causes emotional arousal can have the same effect – including coffee. There is no basis to the claim that adults or children will experience any significant improvement in their cognitive ability over the long run if they listen to Mozart or any other type of music.
Many people are well-trained to speak and to write well, but few are trained in the art of listening. Covey tells us that empathetic listening is something that is seldom practiced and because of this, a barrier is created between individuals.
If you went to an optometrist and he gave you his own glasses when you told him about your problem, you probably wouldn’t go back. What works for some people doesn’t work for everyone, and yet there are many people who try to push their ideologies on others without trying to understand where the other person is coming from.
If you want to help someone, change the way you listen to them. Don’t try to manipulate or coerce them into subscribing to your philosophy, but try to understand what they are trying to communicate.
Distance yourself from your own preconceptions, listen to their words calmly and try to see their perspective. When you do that enough, people will trust you, and they will seek your advice. More importantly, you will realize that the world is more complex than it first appeared to be. The truth is not black or white, and many people often have good points that you previously chose to ignore. Once you appreciate that the truth is more nuanced, your own attitude will shift. You will be more understanding.
But if you try to shove your opinion down people’s throats and make no attempt to listen carefully, they will not listen to you or follow your advice, even if what you have to say is important, and will benefit them greatly
People often look for strategies in life because they fear independent thinking. They seek out a fixed formula that they can apply with success. They want to eliminate uncertainty, but unfortunately, no such strategy exists. Instead, the lesson from history is that it is better to always have options, to never be married to a single way of doing things.
Napoleon Bonaparte managed to defeat an
army of tens of thousands of people by diving his soldiers into many smaller
groups. Instead of concentrating his forces, the way traditional armies fought,
he broke the rules. The Austrians were caught off guard and could not comprehend
how quickly the French encircled them. They were paralyzed, they could not move
in any direction without Napoleon’s unconventional groups cutting off their
Before Napoleon, Genghis Khan divided his
army in a similar way. They seemed to fight with such great coordination and purpose
that some remarked that his army was possessed by demons. But Genghis Khan
trained his men to fight in this way. He divided them into small groups and had
them battle wild animals. The training exercise was known as the Great Hunt –
it was a three-month operation that was spread along the Steppes of Central
Asia, and involved intricate coordination to trap and eventually kill animals.
Patton’s philosophy of command was: “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
PATTON: A GENIUS FOR WAR, CARLO D’ESTE, 1995
In war, speed and adaptability are critical.
And in the modern world, it is difficult to achieve either. When information is
abundant, and things are moving fast, it becomes more difficult for you to
match its speed, to find useful information quickly, and to manage and
coordinate teams. Delegation is necessary, when you entrust more responsibility
to others, you can expect better results from them. Don’t underestimate the potential
of teamwork, you don’t have to do everything on your own.