The fine art of managing your enemies
Like it or not, sometime in your life or career, you’ll meet enemies. Generally, enemies are bad. But, enemies can do you some good, too.
Guy Kawasaki thinks there are two types of enemies. “Conceptual enemies are forces such as ignorance, inertia or conservatism. Tactical enemies are companies, organizations or people.”
If you’re selling personal computers, Apple, IBM or Dell can be your tactical enemy. People’s ignorance about what computers can do to improve their lives is your conceptual enemy. Conceptual enemies are harder to fight. Fighting tactical enemies can be messy and tiring, but often rewarding. You can coalesce with tactical enemies and they help you defeat a common conceptual enemy. Depending upon your choice, you can endear yourself to the public by fighting a high and mighty enemy. Read about David and Goliath in the Old Testament and you’ll understand why.
Why choose enemies
There’s a saying, “Choose your friends wisely, but choose your enemies more carefully.” Like it or not, your enemies can define you. If you’re not careful, your friends’ enemies can be construed as your enemies, too. How you choose your enemies can also define your strategies and tactics.
Here are some thoughts about managing your enemies:
Never fight someone uglier than you. You gain nothing by fighting someone who has nothing to lose. If you fight a sure loser, a 20 to one underdog, it’s a waste of your time and talent. If you’re an adult, there’s no sense in fighting a three-year old child over a piece of lollipop, perhaps unless you’re Kojak. There’s no point in arguing with an 86-year old grandmother about good manners and right conduct – whether yours or hers. Thomas Watson, Jr., founder of IBM, said, “Make no little enemies – people with whom you differ for some petty, insignificant, personal reason. Instead, I would urge you to cultivate ‘mighty opposites’ – people with whom you disagree over fundamental convictions. And that fight, I can assure you, will be good for you and your opponent.”
Choose an enemy that can generate more allies for you. Frank Herbert wrote, “Enemies strengthen you. Allies weaken you.”What truly joins people together is not the sharing of fortune, but the sharing of misfortunes and enemies. John Updike likes to have enemies, “It’s great to have enemies – it sharpens you.”
Make sure that you get something out of fighting the enemy you choose. Baltasar Gracian suggests, “A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.”
The enemy to be feared most has the face of a friend. Be watchful always. People around you who have the face of a friend can betray you and turn out to be your most hideous enemy. Aesop reminds us in his Fables, “A doubtful friend is worse than a certain enemy. Let a man be one thing or the other, and we then know how to meet him.” Be always wary about fence sitters or those who want the best of both worlds. Try hard to know the convictions of people in your group, and don’t be fooled by appearances that can be deceiving. Watch your back always.
You cannot befriend everybody. Sooner or later, you will be an enemy of someone or some people. In a letter to Madame Lousie Colet on June 14, 1853, Gustave Flaubert wrote, “You can calculate the worth of a man by the number of his enemies, and the importance of a work of art by the harm that is spoken of it.” Plato wrote in Lysis, “Many men are loved by their enemies, and hated by their friends, and are the friends of their enemies, and the enemies of their friends.” You just can’t please everybody. Just stop trying to. As Paul Newman wrote in his autobiography, Paul Newman: A Life in Pictures, “A man with no enemies is a man with no character.”
Don’t let enemies consume your life. Don’t focus all your energies on your enemies. Whatever you do, they’ll be there anyway. Have a life. You got friends and loved ones to devote some time, too. When your enemy gets the better of your consciousness, you tend to become like the worst in your enemy.
If you manage well your enemies, you’ll get smarter, happier, less worried, more agile and better prepared. If you have no enemies, don’t worry – friends come and go, but enemies increase. Like Mario Puzo said, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”
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