T is for Tactical Hell

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A concept from The 33 Strategies of War and The 50th Law. Tactical hell refers to a situation in which you are simply reacting to events and circumstances in life, instead of actually taking control of the situation. Your reactions may be clever (i.e. tactical), but you are only barely keeping your head above water. For example, you may have a sly, witty, or biting retort when a rival says something negative to or about you, but such a retort does little to actually resolve the conflict.

To get out of tactical hell, you must think strategically. You must develop what Greene calls “strategy-in-depth.” This is the ability to see above the fray, about the situation, and get a clear view of where you are going. Here you can decide what battles to fight, what battles to avoid, and how to move forward.

S is for Strategy-In-Depth

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Concept from The 33 Strategies of War. Strategy-in-depth refers to the ability to gain a sense of proportion over your situation by focusing on the bigger picture – what’s going on and where are you headed. Greene opposes strategy-in-depth with what he calls “tactical hell” – a situation where you are just reacting to what life gives – what people say or do, a disruptive event that occurs.

With strategy-in-depth, the idea is to get above the reactiveness and actually gain a sense of control over your situation – by peering into the future and seeing where everything is headed.

G is for Grand Strategy

The Gods on Mount Olympus


Strategy 12 from The 33 Strategies of War. Greene calls grand strategy “the art of looking beyond the battle and calculating ahead.” It involves constructing a plan with a clear goal in mind and adapting to the circumstances while keeping that goal in mind.

Creating a strong grand strategy is one of the toughest, yet most important skills to achieve power. In war, it means differentiating between fighting and winning, between contending for every advantage and being willing to lose some battles for the greater good you’re trying to achieve.

F is for The Fox

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A symbol from Machiavelli’s The Prince. When a leader comes to power, it is important that he or she knows when to act like a fox – cunning, deceptive, indirect. The best time to play a fox is in the face of toughness or aggression – when someone is openly aggressive, or a situation is clearly unfair. Learn the ways of the fox, using deception and indirection to hide your intentions from the people around you and trap them without their knowing.