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Strategy 22: Know How to End Things (The 33 Strategies of War)

The Soviets needed control Afghanistan for strategic geopolitical reasons, they installed a puppet dictator, and tried to counter the rise of the Islamic fundamentalists. But the U.S backed the Islamists, and ultimately, the Russian ploy to get the Afghans to accept socialism failed. The Afghans fought the Soviets with tens of thousands of men and with U.S and Arab support, they freed themselves from Russian control.

The difference between a risk and a gamble, according to the German general Erwin Rommel, is that risks are necessary, and they don’t put you in a situation you can’t recover from. Gambles, on the other hand, do exactly that.  

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a classic gamble. They were lured by the prospects of winning but ignored reality – the mujahideen and world powers had too much at stake to allow the Soviets to take over Afghanistan. But the Soviets gambled anyway, and since the stakes had been raised, and their reputation was on the line, they lost many troops and lost popular support at home. They should have never invaded in the first place, and now there was no good way out. Their best bet was to cut their losses and leave, but gambling is a game of emotions – it became too difficult to retreat.

To go too far is as bad as to fall short.

Confucius (551?-479 B.C.)

Never end anything badly – slowly or painfully. Doing so will make you averse to conflict next time, and will leave you bitter and angry. Before entering action, calculate your exit strategy with precision. Don’t let your pride or reputation pull you in deeper. A defeat in the short run is better than a disaster in the long run. Wisdom is knowing when to stop.

Aut non tentaris, aut perfice (Either don’t attempt it, or carry it through to the end).

OVID, 43 B.C.-A.D. 17

Any venture that gets you thinking about winning or losing, success or failure is dangerous. Emotions will dominate your actions; you need a more strategic and fluid outlook. Nothing really ends, until you die. How you finish something determines what you will do next. In life, everything is a transition.

There are three types of people in the world. The first type is the dreamer – most of his grand ideas stay in his head, he talks a lot, but does very little, he starts many projects but finishes few (if any at all) . The second type starts project and carries them out till the end but in the final stages, loses vitality, energy, and enthusiasm, and the finished product fails as a result. The third category is the person that accepts the hardships and tribulations along the journey, but never loses sight of the primary goal, and maintains the same energy and passion he had in the start – this person creates the masterpieces, the unforgettable works that truly last.

When it comes to relationships, and meetings with people, leave when things are going well, don’t wait until the energy fizzles out. Leaving at peak moments leaves a better impression. You should never overstay your welcome; you should make others look forward to seeing you the next time around.

Knowing how to end. Masters of the first rank are recognized by the fact that in matters great and small they know how to find an end perfectly, be it at the end of a melody or a thought; of a tragedy’s fifth act or an act of state. The best of the second rank always get restless toward the end, and do not fall into the sea with such proud and calm balance as do, for example, the mountains at Portofino–where the bay of Genoa finishes its melody.

THE GAY SCIENCE, FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE

Read The 33 Strategies of War

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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