26 March 2016

A Happy Long Life is as Simple as 123 - DaoDeJing 44

What is the secret for a long and happy life? A happy and long life is as simple as 123. First is to know the true values. Second is to be contented and the third of long life comes automatically from a stress-free and satisfied mindset. Lao Zi tells us in DaoDeJing 44, it is contentment and not your fame, nor your wealth and nor your achievements.
Do you know the greatest cause of our stress and unhappiness is something that we don't even want to acknowledge? It is called greed. But we don't think so right?

See the answer from Lao Zi.

Here is Lao Zi's Dao De Jing Chapter 44:

1 名与身孰亲?
Your fame versus your life, which is dearer to you?

2 身与货孰多?
Your life versus your possessions, which matter more to you?

3 得与亡孰病?
Gain/Profits versus death, which is more harmful to you?

4 是故甚爱必大费,多藏必厚亡。
Hence, the greater the desire, the greater the expense.
Greater hoarding will lead to a greater loss.

5 知足不辱,知止不殆,可以长久!
Contentment will bring no shame.
Stopping in time will bring no disaster.
Therefore, you can live a long long time.

The basic cause of our unhappiness, stress, suffering and eventually early death is our greed. We want to have more and more. We want to have the happiness and the life of others. We thought if only we can be like them, owning such big houses, sporty cars, fat salaries etc, then we will be happy. But the greed in us caused us to burn our health, break our relationships, and so some, even through illegal and evil means, to gain those fleeting things. Yet, true happiness and satisfaction can only be found in ourselves knowing our limits and be content with what we already have.

So, we just need to follow the 123 steps:

  1.  Know the True Values - verse 1-4. It is not fame, possessions, nor gains/profits.
  2.  Be contented with what are the true values you have. e.g. life, mind, good relationships, good character.
  3. Long life comes automatically with a stress-free and contented lifestyles.
The call from Lao Zi is loud and clear, put a stop now to all such vain-glory pursues and we can live longer.

Lim Liat (c) 26-3-16 / Updated 24-11-16

15 March 2016

The Most Valuable Lesson from Sun Zi's Art of War - "Lose Not" Kiasuism

If the result of your business and investment decisions have been poor, or at least, not satisfactory, then the answer could most likely be found in Sun Zi's Art of War. But the Art of War is not just about knowing others and self, nor even deception, but rather in a mental attitude of "Lose-Not", or Kiasuism, as we Singaporeans will say. For a starter, it is about don't do SWOT but do TOWS. Read on to find out more ... 
The Art of War is not just about warfare, but it is much more. It is about how to achieve success in life, be winners, by knowing how to analyze a situation and then to figure out the right thing to do at the right time, place and with the people. It also about leadership, on how to develop character, how to lead, how to organize, how to put people at the right job and how to motivate them.

Yet, the most valuable lesson is not "Know Others and Know Self" nor "Warfare is about Deception", but rather it is about the making sure you "Lose Not" or as we Singaporeans will say is as "Kaisuism". The first two are the general approaches, but "Lose Not" is a mental attitude that makes sure we do the strategizing and execution to the very best of our ability and cautiousness that will ensure we have the strong foundation of lose-not and from there to winning.

Sun Zi begins his book by saying warfare is a matter of life and death and has to be taken seriously. Warfare cannot be dependent on luck or chance. It is a matter of collecting intelligence, careful and complete calculations of all factors involved, including the external factors of seasonal trends and terrain advantages, and of outsmarting the enemy, and then arriving at a conclusion of whether one can win or lose. Winners only start a war when he can win whereas losers start a war and then hope to win.

By reading the book carefully and repeatedly, we can slowly draw the conclusion that the valueable lesson from Sun Zi is the mental attitude towards preparation for warfare.
  • Chapter 4 军形篇 Disposition and Shape of Army
    孙子曰: 昔之善战者,先为不可胜,以待敌之可胜。
  1. Sun Zi said: The able warriors of old first make sure they lose not, and then wait for the opportunity to win against the enemy (when situations shift to his advantage or the enemy make mistakes). e.g. “I’ll wait for the next big thing.” Steve Jobs after saving Apple
  2. To lose not depends on us, but to win depends on the enemy (The enemy makes mistakes). 
  3. Thus the able warrior can only make sure he lose not (by following the teaching of Art of War), but cannot be sure he can win. (He can try to lure his enemy to make mistakes).
The  “Lose Not” Kiasuism TOWS Approach
  1. Collect Intelligence.
    Make sure you have all the real facts, intentions, trends and know the truth from the lies, rumors, hearsays etc. Read the real signal from the smokes. Get 1st hand information.
    [13] 先知者,不可取于鬼神,不可象于事,不可验于度,必取于人,知敌之情者也。 Foreknowledge comes not from gods/fortunes telling, nor forecast from events, nor from past experience but from the people, to know the insights of the enemy.
  2. Outside-In
    Outside are the external seasonal trends (天 PESTEL), terrains 地 (markets, supply chains, & your positioning) advantages, and customers 人 desires.
    “Business failed because their Theory of Business does not match reality.” Peter Drucker Inside out fails because you see only what you want to see and miss those signals that you should see.
  3. Threats before Opportunities
    If you cannot overcome the threats, there are no opportunities.
    Investment officers, being paid to invest, are biased towards favoring the opportunities and under-estimating the threats.
  4. Complete Calculations with Max Profits@Min Risks
  5. Ride on Seasonal Trends of the PESTEL factors and Customers’ desires.
  6. Choose where (Markets & Positioning) you have the Advantages & the People’s desires.
  7. Out-Innovate the Competitors in adding value to customers.
  8. Act only if sure of winning.
See also:
The Mind-Map of Sun Zi's Decision Tree

Hope you can use the Sun Zi's Lose-Not approach in making your investment decisions that will help bring you greater returns. It may take longer and you will reject many, but those you have opportunities to invest in may hopefully give you real and better returns.

Lim Liat (c)  15 March 2016

The key message of Sun Zi's Art of War for your life and career is this ...

It is not just about me nor my abilities, but rather it is more about the situation. But most importantly, it is about the match between you and your situation.

Choose the career, the market, when your characteristics, abilities, and traits, match the demand of the situations such that your abilities become strengths, and others strengths become weaknesses, and such that it is easy for you but difficult for others, then you can shine.

Strengths or weaknesses have no meaning outside the situations, where others are there beside you. Always do outside-in evaluation and overcome the threats first before exploiting the opportunities.

For more on Sun Zi, see V Sun Zi and Other Strategists(Gui Gu Zi)

02 March 2016

The Complement to Sun Zi's Art of War - Gui Gu Zi's Diplomacy

The teachings of Sun Zi's Art of War and Gui Gu Zi's Diplomacy complement each other to give a complete work in developing the winning strategies and getting them sold. If you could not find your answer in Sun Zi's work, then Gui Gu Zi's wisdom will likely to be the one that has it. Sun Zi's is very task and mind oriented whereas Gui Gu Zi is very people and heart oriented. It is engineering of SunZi to psychology of GuiGuZi.
Most people, especially of the West, know about Sun Zi's Art of War. Very little is known of Gui Gu Zi's Diplomacy. However, in terms of impact, the two students of Gui Gui Zi, Su Qin, and Zhang Yi were the ones that influenced the politics and warfare of the then period of the Warring States. It was Su Qin that persuaded the six weaker states to unite (vertically) together against the stronger Qin state. It was Zhang Yi who persuaded Qin to use the horizontal alliance to break the unity and eventually conquer the whole of China. This post is the essence of Sun Zi and Gui Gu Zi's wisdom and how they complement each other. If you find Sun Zi's strategic mindset lacking, you will probably get your answer from Gui Gu Zi's teaching and vice versa.

Sun Zi's Art of War
(Calculate & Compare)
Gui Gu Zi's Diplomacy
(Open & Close)
How to win against the enemy
How to win together against others
Partnering - Build Relationships
Development of Winning Strategies
Development & Selling/Persuasion of Your Proposed Strategies
Addresses the Mind ---- IQ
Address the Heart --- EQ and then convince the mind of the proposed strategies.
Task-Oriented with People Analysis
(given the mission, how do we exploit the weaknesses of people)
People Oriented with Situational Analysis
(how do the mission and the desires of people are matched)
Hard Deterministic Planning  TOWS
Soft Handling of Personalities & Uncertainty
If Sun Zi is about economics
Then Gui Gu Zi is about behavior economics - predictable irrationality!

Of course, as they both deals with strategies and execution of strategies, there are overlapping areas. But this post is meant to highlight their different perspectives and orientation. Sun Zi did not cover much about knowing and selection of people. Gui Gu Zi teaches you much about how to know a person and how to make the best use of him. Sun Zi tells you how to employ spies. He says that you need to very wise to be able to use spies. But he did not teach you about this particular aspect of wisdom. Gui Gu Zi will tell how to discover the truths, the very wisdom needed to discern who are the spies and the counterspies.

Lim Liat (c) 2 March 2016