I witnessed an event the other day that brought home to me how appearances in business and financial settings can be deceiving. A group of us were discussing a financial meeting that we had just been to. One of the women, a good friend of mine, who had asked several questions during the meeting, commented, “If I don’t ask questions and clarify what is being said at the time, I would get completely lost.” Later in the parking lot, I overheard one of her male colleagues chiding her for appearing weak in front of the group. He said, “You are a strong intelligent woman, but I see you downplaying your abilities all the time, and you should never do that.”
Ah. . .I thought. . .he hasn’t read ‘The Art of War’.
‘The Art of War’ is a volume of work written in the 6th Century BC by Chinese military tactician, Sun Tzu. It is the standard that all modern military strategy is based on, and it has been used to good effect on the business and financial battlefields.
One of the main points that Sun Tzu discussed is that all war is based on deception. If your enemy thinks your army is strong – then appear weak; bait him, trap him, and conquer him. If, on the other hand, the enemy thinks you are weak, then appear strong, confident – confuse him and overcome him.
Women seem to instinctually understand this. Strong women often dissemble during important business conversations. It is the classic female “crouch”. It is how we become accepted into what has been a traditionally male-dominated arena. And, once accepted, we can then display our power and overcome any obstacles placed in our way.
Weak women often adopt the opposite. They, of the power suit, wage war by feigning strength. Constantly battle-ready, there can be no chinks in the armour. This, however, can be a much more draining and inefficient strategy.
So, what other tenets can we, as women on the road to financial independence, utilize from Sun Tzu’s work?
Firstly, the laying out of plans. If you don’t have a target in mind, you will have no idea how to achieve it. By laying out a plan you reveal the distance to your target, the route to travel, the supplies necessary, and you can identify danger zones. Recognize, however, that plans can – and do—change, and adapt to those changes as necessary.
Next, get in there and fight! Your financial battle starts with your first step. Educate yourself by reading good books. Attend seminars. Start a budget. Plunder the information of people who have gone before you. Don’t wait for reinforcements (i.e., the mythical Prince Charming) to come and rescue you. Winners act, losers react.
Then, tap into your strengths and weaknesses. Know yourself first and you will learn to understand others, then use that understanding to effect winning strategies by attacking their weak points. Learn to make the best possible decisions with the information that you have at the time. Even if these decisions turn out not to have been optimal, you won’t have regrets later if you’ve chosen your battles carefully.