Today is the 14th anniversary of my retirement from full-time employment. I take special delight in this annual observance because my retirement capped a subtle campaign to arrange the end of my employment on terms very favorable to me. The success of the campaign brought a profitable end to my tense relationship with my boss.
I liken the campaign to fly-fishing: I reeled in a big fish by accurately casting an irresistible lure then playing the fish into my net. I have long wondered if my boss ever grasped what I had done and how I had done it. The key was patience; more than a year passed between my casting of the lure and the netting of the fish (early retirement with a financial sweetener).
Without going into the details of my “fishing expedition,” I can translate them into the elements of success in any major undertaking:
- strategy — a broad and feasible outline of a campaign to attain a major objective;
- intelligence — knowledge of the opposition’s objectives, resources, and tactical repertoire, supplemented by timely reporting of his actual moves (especially unanticipated ones);
- resources — the physical and intellectual wherewithal to accomplish the strategic objective while coping with unforeseen moves by the opposition and strokes of bad luck;
- tactical flexibility — a willingness and ability to adjust the outline of the campaign, to fill in the outline with maneuvers that take advantage of the opposition’s errors, and to compensate for one’s own mistakes and bad luck;
- and — as mentioned — a large measure of patience, especially when one is tempted either to quit or escalate blindly.
Patience is not a virtue that accrues to amorphous masses, like nations. It can be found only in individuals or groups of individuals who share the same objectives and are able to work together long enough to attain those objectives. Whether such individuals or groups lead nations — and lead them wisely — is another matter.
Related post: A Grand Strategy for the United States