Know Yourself and Your Enemy

A long time ago I read The Art of War for the sake of reading it as it was one of the top books to read at the time. It’s a very small book written by a Chinese General over 2000 years ago. Recently, while reading a book on mental toughness, I came upon the following quote by that General, Sun Tzu.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

There have been several books written on different topics that have applied the passages from The Art of War. So when I saw the above quote within the context of mental toughness, it made a lot of sense as it can be applied to many situations.

To some who will read the above literally will miss the point entirely. The enemy in Sun Tzu’s case was certainly armies of soldiers. But today, this can be applied to an individual, a sporting event, or any challenges that you may come across in your life.

I’ve found that the quote can be read in two ways. If you don’t prepare, you have a fifty-fifty chance of succeeding. This is essentially the same as a coin toss. But what it can also mean is that you may be entirely ready but are only worried of failure because of the butterflies in your stomach.

Assess the situation and act accordingly. Will failure be the end of the world? Or something to learn from? Are you worried about being embarrassed, or of much worse? You may end up realizing that the enemy is only the pack of butterflies in your stomach.

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