I wrote a paper on self-altering (self-fulfilling & self-defeating) prophecies related to North American companies doing business in China, published in Business Quarterly back in the 90s (Abramson, N.R. & J.X. Ai , “Taking the Slow Boat to China”, Business Quarterly, 59 [Winter], 27-36). It seemed that management of companies who perceived themselves to be doing poorly were more likely to give up. So the perception of failure killed managerial hopes and efforts, and were self-defeating. Becomes one of the key success (or failure) factors of doing business in China.
I wonder if that’s all too human. Perception of self becomes reality. What I have learned is that accurate knowledge of self and others, as opposed to perceptions, can be very powerful.
I’ve always believed – learned it in chess I think, and from observing various sports teams (the old Oakland Raiders were good at blowing big leads) – when your opponent thinks s/he’s won, s/he relaxes vigilance and may even adopt a celebratory attitude. If you had a self-defeating attitude when you saw your opponent triumphing, you’d lose hope. I think then it’s the time to throw everything against the opponent, or to engage the opponent in absolutely unbending trench warfare, maneuvering for advantage. S/he’ll think it very unfair and maybe make mistakes trying to sweep you up. When s/he sues for peace, strike harder – don’t be a sucker for acting “civilized”, if they surprise attacked first. Make the opponent suffer. Don’t let the opponent off. S/he’s lost her or his resolve.
Never give easy peace to the person who surprise attacked you. Make them wish they never thought of you. Make sure they never want to try you again.
I learned all this the hard way. Someone surprise attacked me, hoping to get me fired. The boss secretly supported this person, due to that person’s perceived importance. Eventually I could have exposed both of them, putting them both into a difficult position, legal and otherwise, but I let them off. I told myself that they must have learned their lesson. Instead, they tried again, at their first next opportunity.
If someone attacks you, especially if you didn’t deserve it, you shouldn’t let them off easy if you find the way to win. Don’t let them con you into wanting to behave “civilized.” They’re probably only sorry they didn’t “get” you, and not sorry for what they did. They’ll try again unless you make them fight, long after they wished they could just stop – like the North Vietnamese wouldn’t let the Americans off with a “peace with honour” back in the 1970s. Like the Americans wouldn’t let the Japanese and Germans off easy in WWII.
I teach this stuff. It’s Strategic Planning. It’s like Sun Tzu says: If you know just yourself or your enemy, you win half the time. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you never win.
However, if you know yourself and your enemy, you always win.