“Life is endless battle, and unless you can identify your enemies and keep them in your sight, you cannot fight effectively. With some enemies, there can be no compromise, no middle ground.”
Like it or not, most of the people you meet in the business and professional world are subtle and evasive: more than often disguising their real intentions and motives, they will pretend to be on your side. The same may be said about many of our personal relationships.
What we need in life is clarity
One need to learn to smoke out his/her enemies, to spot them by these signs and patterns that reveal hostility and deception. Then, once you have identified them, when you have them in your sights, inwardly declare war. Why inwardly? As the opposite poles of a magnet create motion, your enemies, your adversaries, your opposites, can fill you, provide you with purpose and direction. As people who stand in your way, who represent what you dislike, avoid the temptation to react against them; they are a source of energy.
THE INNER ENEMY
Life is a constant battle and struggle where we constantly find ourselves facing bad situations, destructive relationships and dangerous engagements. How we confront these difficulties determine our fate. Our obstacles are not rivers or mountains or other people; our obstacles are ourselves. When we feel lost and confused, when we lose your sense of direction, if we cannot tell the difference between friend and foe, we have only ourselves to blame. Think of yourself as always about to go into battle. A shift of perspective, a change of narrative can transform you from a passive and confused mercenary into a motivated and creative fighter. In life, everything depends on our frame of mind and on how we look at the world.
We are defined by our relationship to other people. As children we develop an identity by differentiating ourselves from others, even to the point of pushing them away, rejecting them, rebelling. The more lucidly we recognize who we do not want to be, the stronger our sense of identity and purpose will be. Without a sense of that polarity, without an enemy to react against, you are at lost. Duped by other people's treachery, you hesitate at the fatal moment and descend into whining and argument.
Focus on an Enemy; Focus on an Adversary
Your enemy, your adversary can be someone who blocks your path or sabotages you, whether subtly or obviously; it can be someone who has hurt you or someone who has fought you unfairly; it can be a competitor; it can be a value or an idea that you dislike and that you see in an individual or group. It can be an abstraction: stupidity, smugness, vulgar materialism. Do not listen to people who say that the distinction between friend and enemy is primitive and passé: They are just disguising their fear of conflict behind a front of false warmth. They are trying to push you off course, to infect you with the vagueness that inflicts them. Once you feel clear and motivated, you will have space for true friendship, business associations and true compromise. Your enemy is the polar star that guides you. Only given that direction can you enter any battle.
THE OUTER ENEMY
In your quest for success or you preferred way of life, at every step of the way, to give you the contrast you need, mark out an opponent, someone you dislike, whoever it may be, a relative, a competitor, a business associate, a member of your team, someone plotting against you. This will help you define your image, an image of determination, power and self-sacrifice. Do not let yourself be seduced and attracted by popularity. Popularity is ephemeral, superficial and, more than often, meaningless. Pundits might obsess over popularity numbers, but in the mind of the public, on the daily battlefield, a dominating presence has more pull than likability. Let some of the public hate you; you cannot please everyone. Your enemies, those you stand sharply against, will help you to forge a support base that will not desert you. Do not crowd into the center, where everyone else is; there is no room to fight in a crowd. Polarize people, drive some of them away, and create a space for battle.
Stand Out from The Crowd
Everything in life conspires to push you into the center, the realm of political correctness and compromise. Getting along with other people is an important skill to have, but it comes with a danger: by always seeking the path of least resistance, the path of conciliation, you forget who you are, and you sink into banality and anonymity with everyone else.
Instead, see yourself as a fighter, an outsider, a warrior surrounded by adversaries and enemies. Stand out from the crowd; constant battle will keep you strong and alert. It will help to define who you are, what you believe in. Do not worry about antagonizing people: without antagonism there is no battle, and without battle, there is no chance of victory. Do not be lured by the need to be liked: better to be respected, even feared. Victory over your enemies will bring you a more lasting popularity.
Avoid being a victim of the circumstances: don't depend on the enemy not coming; depend rather on being ready for him.
Keys to Warfare
We live in an era in which people are seldom directly hostile. People hardly ever attack you openly anymore, showing their intentions, their desire to destroy you; instead they are political and indirect. Although the world is more competitive than ever, outward aggression is discouraged: people have learned to go underground, to attack unpredictably and craftily. Many will use friendships as a way to mask aggressive desires: they will come close to you to do more harm or, without actually being friends, they will offer help, assistance and alliance. All these people, friends or not, may seem supportive, but in the end, all what they do or trying to do is advancing their own interests at your expense. Then there are those pathetic individuals who master moral warfare, playing the victim, making you feel guilty for something unspecified you've done.
The battlefield is full of these warriors, slippery, evasive, and clever. The rules of engagement, social, political, and military have changed, and so must your notion of the enemy. An up-front enemy is rare now and is actually a blessing. Today, the word “enemy” has been demonized and politicized. Your first task as a Systemic Strategic Warrior is to widen your concept of the “enemy”, to include in that group those who are working against you, thwarting you, even in subtle ways. Without getting paranoid, you need to realize that there are people who wish you ill and operate indirectly. Identify them and you'll suddenly have room to maneuver. You can stand back and wait and see or you can take action, whether aggressive or just evasive, to avoid the worst. You can even work to turn this enemy into a friend. But whatever you do, do not be the naive victim. Do not find yourself constantly retreating, reacting to your enemies' maneuvers. Arm yourself with prudence, and never completely lay down your arms, not even for friends.
People are usually good at hiding their hostility, but often they unconsciously give off signals showing that all is not what it seems. The point is not to mistrust all friendly gestures but to notice them. Register any change in the emotional temperature: unusual chumminess, a new desire to exchange confidences, excessive praise of you to third parties, the desire for an alliance that may make more sense for the other person than for you.
Trust your instincts: if someone's behavior seems suspicious, it probably is. It may turn out to be benign, but in the meantime, it is best to be on your guard. You can sit back and read the signs or you can actively work to uncover your enemies, beat the grass to startle the snakes. Say or do something that can be read in more than one way, that may be superficially polite but that could also indicate a slight coolness on your part or be seen as a subtle insult. A friend may wonder but will let it pass. The secret enemy, though, will react with anger. Any strong emotion and you will know that there's something boiling under the surface.
Often the best way to get people to reveal themselves is to provoke tension and argument. Use this strategy to ferret out the real position of people around you who refuse to show what side they are on. Suddenly attack their work or take an extreme position, even an offensive one, in an argument. More often than otherwise, provoked associates and people around you will drop their usual caution and show their real beliefs. You have to understand: people tend to be vague and slippery because it is safer than outwardly committing to something. If you are the boss, they will mimic your ideas. Their agreement is often pure courtiership. Get them emotional; people are usually more sincere when they argue. If you pick an argument with someone and he keeps on mimicking your ideas, you may be dealing with a chameleon, a particularly dangerous type. Beware of people who hide behind a facade of vague abstractions and impartiality: no one is impartial. A sharply worded question, an opinion designed to offend, will make them react and take sides.
Sometimes it may be better to take a less direct approach with your potential enemies, to be as subtle and conniving as they are. Whenever you see people around you doing something you see as suspicious, never got angry or accusatory. Instead pretend to go along with them, accepting and approving what they had done. Thinking you are weak, or thinking you are on their side, they will take another step and you will get exactly what you are looking for: a clear sign to yourself and others showing their true despicable nature. Now you can isolate and destroy them. If friends or followers whom you suspect of ulterior motives suggest something subtly hostile, or against your interests, or simply odd, avoid the temptation to react, to say no, to get angry, or even to ask questions. Go along, or seem to turn a blind eye: your enemies will soon go further, showing more of their hand. Now you have them in sight, and you can attack.
An enemy is often large and hard to pinpoint, an organization, or a person hidden behind some complicated network. What you want to do is take aim at one part of the group, a leader, a spokesman, a key member of the inner circle. That is how you tackle corporations and bureaucracies. Focused on specific individuals, individuals that you know would try to shift the blame upward. By taking repeated hits at these individual, you will be successful in publicizing their struggle, and it will become impossible for them to hide. Eventually those behind these people will have to come to their aid, exposing themselves in the process. Never aim at a vague, abstract enemy. It is hard to drum up the emotions to fight such a bloodless battle, which in any case leaves your enemy invisible. Personalize the fight, eyeball to eyeball.
Danger Is Everywhere
There are always hostile people and destructive relationships. The only way to break out of a negative dynamic is to confront it. Repressing your anger, avoiding the person threatening you, always looking to conciliate; these common strategies spell ruin. Avoidance of conflict becomes a habit, and you lose the taste for battle. Feeling guilty is pointless; it is not your fault you have enemies. Feeling wronged or victimized is equally futile. In both cases you are looking inward, concentrating on yourself and your feelings. Instead of internalizing a bad situation, externalize it and face your enemy. It is the only way out.
Conflict is a critical part of mental development. Through battles with peers and then parents, children learn to adapt to the world and develop strategies for dealing with problems. Those children who seek to avoid conflict at all cost, or those who have overprotective parents, end up handicapped socially and mentally. The same is true of adults: it is through your battles with others that you learn what works, what doesn't, and how to protect yourself. Instead of shrinking from the idea of having enemies, then, embrace it. Conflict is therapeutic.
Enemies Provide Many Opportunities
For one thing, they motivate you and focus your beliefs. They make you feel confident and inspired. Enemies give you a standard by which to judge yourself, both personally and socially. A tough opponent will bring out the best in you. And the bigger the opponent, the greater your reward, even in defeat. It is better to lose to a worthy opponent than to squash some harmless foe. You will gain sympathy and respect, building support for your next fight.
Being attacked is a sign that you are important enough to be a target. You should relish the attention and the chance to prove yourself. We all have aggressive impulses that we are forced to repress; an enemy supplies you with an outlet for these drives. At last you have someone on whom to unleash your aggression without feeling guilty.
Leaders have always found it useful to have an enemy at their gates in times of trouble, distracting the public from their difficulties. In using your enemies to rally your troops, polarize them as far as possible: they will fight the more fiercely when they feel a little hatred. So, exaggerate the differences between you and the enemy, draw the lines clearly. Make no effort to be fair: victory is your goal, not fairness and balance. What you want in warfare is room to maneuver. Tight corners spell death. Having enemies gives you options. You can play them off against each other, make one a friend as a way of attacking the other, on and on. Without enemies you will not know how or where to maneuver, and you will lose a sense of your limits, of how far you can go. Your enemies force on you a sense of realism and humility.
There are always people out there who are more aggressive, more devious, more ruthless than you are, and it is inevitable that some of them will cross your path. For most of us, we always have a natural tendency to want to conciliate and compromise with them. Don’t do it! Stop doing it: the reason being that such individuals are often brilliant deceivers who see the strategic value in charm or in seeming to allow you plenty of space, but actually their desires have no limit, and they are simply trying to disarm you. With some people you have to harden yourself, to recognize that there is no middle ground, no hope of conciliation. For your opponent, for these people, your desire to compromise is a weapon to use against you. Know these dangerous folks by their past: look for their quick power grabs, sudden rises in fortune and previous acts of treachery. Once you suspect you are dealing with power hungry individuals, do not lay down your arms or entrust them to someone else. You are the last line of your own defense.
Always keep the search for and use of enemies and adversaries under control. But don’t forget: it is clarity you want, not paranoia. It is the downfall of many tyrants to see an enemy in everyone. They lose their grip on reality and become hopelessly embroiled in the emotions their paranoia churns up. By keeping an eye on possible enemies and adversaries, you are simply being prudent and cautious. Keep your suspicions to yourself, so that if you're wrong, no one will know. Also, beware of polarizing people so completely that you cannot back off. Avoid creating too many enemies and keep repeating the same tactic, especially in situations that called for retreat. Be a master polarizer, always looking to draw a line between yourself and your enemies.
J. Michael Dennis ll.l., ll.m.
King Global Earth and Environmental Sciences Corporation
King Global Earth & Environmental Sciences Corporation is part of the Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services Industry and the Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services sector.