adversarial alchemy ⚗️
turn your enemies into assets
When confronted by an enemy, you have two options:
Extend your hand
Extend your sword
When you extend your sword, your enemy must either defend himself or die. There is no middle way.
To show your enemy your sword is to declare war and to march forward unto death — that of either your enemy or yourself.
A sword forces distance. A sword cuts and kills.
And, when you present your sword to a brave and bitter enemy, the sight of it strengthens his resolve.
However, here’s the thing: the people who hate you most are often the ones who want to be like you, but don’t know how.
In their own twisted way, these people aren’t truly “haters.”
They’re misguided admirers.
There’s only one way to find out what they truly are: genuine haters or misguided admirers.
And that’s to offer them your hand.
When you extend your hand, you open a world of possibilities:
You can guide your enemy out of their own world of darkness
You can lift your enemy to a higher level of being, and therefore a higher status
You can, if necessary, grasp the hand with which they’re holding their weapon of choice, and then turn it against them
You can use their momentum to grab them and throw them into a different fight (or off of a cliff)
You can strike them directly with an unexpected blow
There is utility in all of the above situations.
In the best scenarios, your outstretched hand turns a powerful enemy into an even more powerful ally.
Alternatively, your outstretched hand can increase your enemy’s status, therefore increasing your own, because there are few greater signs of a powerful person than having powerful enemies.
With skill, you can also turn your enemy’s attack against him, doing more damage to him, his reputation, and his cause than you could have with your own offensive actions.
You may, if you prefer, also rile your enemy up and send him off in a new direction, either down a slope to destruction, or into some other confrontation that little concerns you.
And, lastly, if you can get your enemy to underestimate you, you can draw close and terminate him with your bare hands.
Here’s what you must understand:
Entering enemy territory unarmed is not the same thing as going in defenseless.
But, it invites the possibility of peace and alliance — both of which make you more powerful, particularly if you are the orchestrator and the one who sets the terms.
And, as long as you are wise, competent, and bold, you can still defend yourself, even without a weapon.
This meditation is not about physical fights.
Some Tangible Examples
Maybe you have an incompetent boss who never listens to you. You can resist them and continue doing things your way, and when they confront you, you can argue with them and try to prove why your way is better.
Or, you can be tactical about it.
Turn Your Adversary Into A Mentor
Start asking your incompetent boss for advice. This will help them feel comfortable in their authority.
They’ll look at you more as a student and ally than as a challenger, and be more inclined to look the other way when you act independently — after all, they’ve been mentoring you, so they should be proud of what you’re accomplishing.
This works even better if you publicly heap praise on the boss.
Even if you never actually learn anything useful from this person, if you can make them feel like they’re your mentor, you can turn their competitive energy into collaborative energy and use their influence to increase your own status.
Follow A Leader’s Bad Plan Thoroughly — Even To A Bad End
Alternatively, if an incompetent boss tells you to do something that you know is stupid, do it anyway — all the way.
Follow your instructions exactly.
Then, if the bad result that’s likely to happen does happen, no one can say the plan failed because you were insubordinate — instead, they may even commend you for being so loyal and reliable.
And of course, if things work out okay, you won’t be identified as “difficult” or “noncompliant,” and you may even be asked to provide more input on the next plan.
Give Authority — Avoid Ultimatums
If your boss rarely listens to you when you disagree with their instructions, then save your good ideas and bring them to your boss when they’re in a good mood (and not actively telling you what to do).
Then, always present 2-3 of your best ideas at the same time, and say:
“Hey, based on [mention a previous conversation where you asked the boss for advice], I though it might be a good idea to try THIS THING. Alternatively, THIS OTHER THING could work.”
By doing it this way, you make your boss feel like your good idea is their idea, and you give them the ability to make a choice between good options, rather than Yes / No.
This makes it easier for you to get things done without riling the boss’s ego.
What would you add?
“Make use of your enemies.
You should learn to seize things not by the blade, which cuts, but by the handle, which saves you from harm: especially is this the rule with the doings of your enemies.
A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.”
— Baltasar Gracian, The Art of Worldly Wisdom
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