The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The 36 Strategies: #13 Beat the grass to startle the snakes

The first six strategies were for situations in which you hold an advantage, whatever it may be:

1. Sneak across an ocean in broad daylight
2. Surround one state to save another
3. Borrow a sword to kill another
4. Face the weary in a condition of ease
5. Plunge into a fire to pull off a robbery
6. Feint east, strike west

The next six strategies are opportunistic in nature:

7. Make something from nothing
8. Cross the pass in the dark
9. Watch the fire from the opposite band of the river
10. Have a sword in a smile
11. One tree falls for another
12 Take the sheep in hand as you go along

These next six are offensive in nature.

13. Beat the grass to startle the snakes

You want to provoke your opponent into a response. There was a famous story of some burglars who ransacked a well to do neighborhood years ago. Over a period of months, on different days of the week and different times of the day, they'd deliberatedly set off burglar alarms.

They were doing experiments and taking measurements. They were seeing how long it would take to respond, and what form that response would take. Once they understood their environment, they robbed several houses, and were smart enough to quit when the responses began to change.

Well, almost. Greed got the better of them, and after a (too) brief lull, they hit the neighborhood again and got caught.

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