Friday, November 22, 2013

Lessons from the Master, Part 2

"Not by speeches and votes of the majority, are the great questions of the time decided, but by blood and iron." - Otto von Bismarck
            Otto von Bismarck said this during a time of great changes happening in Europe. He would go on to lead the Prussian Empire to become the top leader in German Unification and rise of the modern German state (mid 1800s). The main changes that he saw happening all around him were happening too quickly for the old men to argue over. He understood that the leaders of Europe were reorganizing their armies and updating all their tactics and equipment. He understood how effective the tactic of divide and conquer was. Germany was in Central Europe and was extremely vulnerable to the rulers finding a way to culturally divide the German princes. He knew the German princes were going to all argue till the other nations acted fast and hard. He knew that swift action would be needed if Germany was to become a united country against the modern armies of other European countries. He knew that if everything was hammered out by letting old men argue, then they would face the blood and iron of other countries. This might mean enemies on all fronts sensing weakness and wanting their cut. So, he decided to act swiftly in all areas instead of waiting. He politely listened to whatever others thought and gave the illusion of letting people think they had power, but constantly and relentlessly acted with what he thought was best.

            Life is hard, and sometimes we make it harder by giving enemies time. Humans have a nasty habits of wanting what others have, which could mean anything from your corner office, your nice new apartment, etc. Jealousy is a nasty and constant trait in our world. However, we make it worse by sitting on our gut feelings and waiting to think through every detail. Granted, you should always think before you act. However, sometimes wasting time (giving an opponent time) can be just as dangerous as rethinking what your gut is telling you. Otto von Bismarck became the master of politics by thinking through every move, then acting on it relentlessly once his believed he knew the answer. He was willing to make changes along the way, but never stopped going toward his goal. Sometimes letting your opponent come to you can be good (see Lesson from the Master, part 1), but in a time of rapid changes it is dangerous. Letting your opponent come to you can be good when you can keep them at arm's length and guessing, but Otto von Bismarck was dealing many enemies on multiple borders. Waiting for one enemy would just give the enemy on his other border time to encircle him. He thought through every move, then acted swiftly and constantly kept changing the game faster than his opponents could counter. He robbed them of the time they needed to encircle him by making alliances with greedy foreign leaders, then swiftly acting one step ahead (not just thinking one step ahead). He would politely listen to people over thinking everything and giving advice. This gave others the illusion of being involved and his ally, but he was already secretly acting on his next move.   

1 comment:

  1. A great blog of a brilliant strategist. This has defiantly peaked my interest into the man and nineteenth century European politics.