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It’s the Waiting that’s the Hardest Part, Yet It’s the Most Important

Jan 14, 2021 | Organizational strategy, Short-form

Reading Time: 3 minutes

For those of you like my family, you’ve probably been experiencing a general sense of foreboding for nearly a year now. And while regular Americans are huddled around their dinning room tables this week, urgently talking in hushed tones, you and I have seen our current dystopian nightmare coming for a long time.

Maybe not in every detail, but you probably came damn close to it. At least, my family did, and especially as the past year unfolded, we were able to stay a modest step ahead of the game. Amusingly, my wife reported a conversation this week from some other (but very liberal) soccer moms, nervously talking about how to get silver and gold, plus a host of other prepper-type items.

Soccer moms are going survivalist in 2021! Who could have seen that coming?

Still, every month seems to bring a new challenge. And even I can admit that I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about where we are and what the best course of action is to any particular development. And like you, I worry about the world being thrust upon us, if only for the sake of my children. But even more importantly, you may have also considered something else, and something that’s equally been on my mind.

And that’s what part am I supposed to play in this grand historic game?

Your answer, if it’s anything like mine, depends greatly on so many factors. For some, it might mean that you’re spending extra time in the gym right now or hitting the running trail for the first time. For others, it might be reading books on strategy or sharing information on how to truly communicate privately. Some will choose to speak out confidently and others will practice civil disobedience.

Even so, the answer for each of us will likely be different.

But men, in particular, are compelled forward with this question by ideals of honor and glory. Not even the decadence of our age can completely smash away how men recognize and respect each other. Or how they value justice or integrity. But also, most importantly, how they hunger for decisive action.

And that’s what makes right now so difficult, the waiting for an answer.

Instead, we desire a sign to show us whether now is the moment to act or whether we should wait a little longer. Is one course of action better than another? Or do you hold off and take a different path? At the very least, we want clarity that our direction is strategically and logistically sound. And for many men, the rallying cry from a bold leader would be a welcome development.

But instead, we wait. And in waiting, we become tired or distracted, perhaps even apprehensive.

Still, while every fresh MBA knows his Sun Tzu, the military strategist’s comment on waiting may be apt for how some of you are feeling. And provide an answer to your question.

Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment – that which they cannot anticipate.

Although you too may be uncomfortably feeling this sense of foreboding, it does serve a purpose. On the one hand, you can look around you and see how regular people are getting wise to the plot that the elite have in mind. They might not be all the way there yet, in understanding the gravity of our times or what to do about it, but they’re getting closer. On the other hand, as Tzu expounds for us, waiting is more than simply a diversion or only an act of patience.

In fact, it is a fundamental part of competition and of waging war. In it, better men draw out the subtle machinates of their foes, paying mind to the rhetoric and reactions of their adversaries. The small variations can often mean the difference between victory or defeat, on the sports field or the battlefield.

But such men also quietly allow enemies to occupy themselves with the veneer of control.

Yet, there is never complete control, not even in our day of total ideological warfare. And there are always those extraordinary moments, the ones that cannot be accounted for, not even by scheming or manipulating. If anything, that veneer of control makes them more difficult to anticipate simply because your adversary lacks a certain flexibility or humility.

And perhaps, extreme shows of control betray this reality.

More essentially, in waiting, you gain the ability to discern those extraordinary moments. And their historic importance. But if you’re looking for an answer on what part you have to play in our times, the answer is rather simple. Of course, it goes without saying that you must hone your strengths. And you probably already know them well.

But for any man worth his salt, you also must patiently wait until waiting has served its purpose.

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