- Recognize you’re playing a game. Don’t judge, don’t preach, don’t criticize. Recognizing that you’re in a game, observe the other players, and act accordingly.
- Look at people’s actions, not their words. Actions are the only things that matter. Words are not real. Never take what a person says at face value: look at what they do and how they talk.
- Understand your own morality. Know the limits of what you are willing to do or let happen, and what you’re not. This way you have a better sense of your options, of what you’re willing and not willing to consider when interacting with people.
- Know thy enemy. The clearer your idea of who your enemy is, the easier it will be to fight him or her. Sometimes your enemy may be a friend. Sometimes the enemy is yourself. But before taking any action, know who you are fighting.
- Aim to win, not to fight. The question you should be asking yourself is not where do I fight, but where do I win? And will fighting here or here get me there? So often we needlessly waste resources because we don’t want to take the time to consider our real goals. Don’t go after cheap victories; they end up costing more in the long run. Instead keep your eye on the ball.
- Learn on the ground, reflect in the tower. In the everyday grind, that’s when you should be observing, taking notes, gathering intelligence. Then, each day, take a step back and assess. What are my options? What are my goals? What should I do next? Then go back to the grind and act accordingly.
- Never fight the last war. Never rely on what you’ve done on the past. Study your situation, figure out who your enemy is, reassess your morality, keep reflecting on your goals. Keep your mind open and question your assumptions.
I have these seven rules written on a piece of paper and taped onto my wall where I can read it everyday. They serve as a reminder. In a world that is changing dramatically, that is becoming more and more competitive, more globalized, more dangerous (politically, economically, internationally, etc.) than ever before, these rules help keep my mind sharp and prepared.