Two war strategies for launching your purpose
You’re in a job or career that pays the bills, but isn’t your Authentic Purpose.
You have an idea of what your purpose is, and how to monetize it. But you’re not sure when and how to make the leap from immediate security to long-term purpose and fulfillment.
Consider two possible strategies, as taken from Robert Greene’s book, The 33 Strategies of War:
#1: The death-ground strategy
In 1519 an ambitious Spaniard, Hernan Cortes, landed on the east coast of Mexico with 11 ships, 16 horses, and 500 men. His objective was to conquer the Aztec empire and plunder its vast riches of gold, silver, and precious jewels.
The Aztecs were half a million strong, fierce warriors who ate their prisoners’ flesh and wore their skins as trophies.
Cortes’s men were divided, hesitant, fearful, and untrustworthy.
When a mutiny conspiracy was discovered, Cortes took swift action. First, he hung the two ringleaders. Next, he had his captains bore holes in all of their ships, then announced that worms had eaten through the boards and made them unseaworthy.
He pretended to be upset at the news and ordered the men to carry ashore anything salvageable from the ships.
Then, he faced his mutinous men and admitted that he had had the boats sunk, and now they had a choice: they could hang him and die divided and leaderless at the hands of the hostile Indians, or they could follow him into battle.
Their only choices were to conquer or die.
The men united and fought with a desperation known only to those placed on death ground. Two years later, the Spanish had conquered the Aztecs.
You will never fight so desperately as when you have no other choice but to succeed.
Quitting your job and cutting off your security will force you to take massive, intense, focused action.
This strategy worked perfectly for me ten years ago. After being called to start a window cleaning business in August 2004, I quit my job just three months later. I’ve never had a job since, nor will I ever.
Had I not “sunk my ships” then, I highly doubt my story would have turned out as it has.
But understand that the strategy worked for these reasons:
- I was already generating revenues from my business, and had thus proven market viability.
- I had all the knowledge and equipment I needed to take my business to the next level.
Had I quit my job the moment I received the call, I likely would have failed. This would have been akin to Cortes sinking his ships en route to Mexico.
In short, the death-ground strategy works fabulously when the timing is right.
Use this strategy when:
- You have the resources you need to actually have a chance at pulling it off.
- You’ve proven market viability of your idea/product/service.
- In spite of the evidence that you can succeed, you feel fear pulling you back.
#2: The perfect-economy strategy
When Queen Elizabeth I ascended the throne of England in 1558, the country was severely weakened from civil war and its finances were precarious.
Elizabeth realized that in order to reassert England’s power, she would need to avoid war at all costs and build the economy.
For twenty years she made progress. But in the late 1570s, King Philip II of Spain threatened to wipe out all her accomplishments with his zealous dream to restore Catholicism to England. His plans, which he did not bother to conceal, were to build an immense armada of ships and invade England.
Elizabeth was determined to maintain her economic gains and not squander them in unnecessary war. Although her ministers urged her to go to war, she refused to provoke Philip and kept the peace.
Meanwhile, she saved money to build the British navy. She also worked to damage Spain’s economy by secretly hiring Sir Francis Drake to pirate Spanish treasure ships. The more ships Drake captured, the more money Philip had to borrow, and the higher his interest rate.
Elizabeth bought herself time and continued to build the British economy and military.
In the summer of 1588, after years of delays caused by Elizabeth’s strategies, the Spanish Armada finally set sail. The 128 ships had cost Spain a fortune.
When the Armada anchored in the port of Calais, the British loaded eight ships with flammable substances and explosives and sailed them directly into the Armada. The Armada was devastated and the invasion was called off.
By the time the Armada returned to Spain, forty-four of its ships had been lost and most of the rest were unseaworthy. Almost two-thirds of the Spanish sailors had died. England, on the other hand, had not lost a single ship and lost only about a hundred men.
Elizabeth immediately decommissioned the navy and, contrary to the urging of her advisers, refused to attack Spain. She stayed the course and rebuilt England into a first-rate power.
This strategy means to bide your time, build your assets, and strike at the right time.
Perhaps you have an idea for a digital product, but you don’t have an audience. Don’t quit your day job. In your spare time, start a blog. Build an email database. Publish on a consistent basis. Create a loyal audience who looks forward to hearing from you. Then, unroll your product when the timing is right. (Yes, I’ve also used this strategy with fantastic results.)
Or maybe you want to become a therapist, which requires years of advanced schooling to become licensed. The death-ground strategy in this case would be foolhardy; it would mean certain failure. Keep your job and start taking night classes.
Use this strategy when:
- You’re certain what you’re message and purpose are, but you don’t have a clear path for monetizing them.
- You have an idea for monetizing them, but you haven’t yet proven its market viability.
- You know it will take training and time to be in a position to earn money.
Choosing the right strategy
It takes wisdom, discernment, and courage to choose the appropriate strategy for your situation.
The death-ground strategy can be bold and courageous and launch you into quick success — or it can be overzealous and foolhardy and make you crash and burn.
The perfect-economy strategy can be wise and judicious and completely transform your life in ten years — or it can be fearful and hesitant and cause you to spin your wheels without ever taking you anywhere.
In both strategies, appropriate timing is the key.
Ask yourself this:
- What do you want?
- How bad do you want it?
- What will it take to get it? What resources do you have, and what do you lack?
- How soon can you earn money to make it financially sustainable?
- What do you need to do and build in order to position you for success?
Now choose your strategy and go after it.