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10 lessons from the battlefield, Part 1

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Some businesspeople attend college to advance their careers. And then there are those, such as businessman and author David M. Smith, who go to infantry school.

“The Army provided me with more fun and interesting experiences and principles than college. Most students in MBA programs nationwide will never have that military experience.”

Here Smith shares 5 of his essential principles of winning:

1.    Play offense. Defense alone cannot win. Many have attempted to build “impregnable” defenses to repel invaders, but none has succeeded. In both war and business, victory demands offensive action.

2.    Fall back as a last resort. If defense is the only option, fall back with a plan (and while continuing to fire upon the enemy). The best defense is offense.

3.    Know your FPL. Know what your last-ditch option is, known in the military as FPL, or “final protective line.” Your FPL will call for you to deploy every weapon in your arsenal.

4.    Launch a counterattack. If you can return to an offensive position right away, do so. You don’t want to stay in an undesirable position, so gather your forces together and counterattack.

5.    Make sure you’re adequately staffed. Having enough troops is essential. Military strategist or middle manager, you need to marshal your resources wisely. In the civilian world, this may mean avoiding purchases outside your budget.

6.    Be wary of the enemy’s weakness. Sometimes, in war, showing your weak front is actually a ploy to encourage an attack and then trap the enemy. In business, some proposals seem too good to be true. Be on guard when the competition shows weakness.

7.    No sleeping on guard duty. Snoozing at work is akin to napping while on guard duty—an unforgivable sin. Vigilance is the key to surviving and winning a war, even during lulls in the action.

8.    Don’t be too cautious. The general cannot listen only to the quartermaster, who supervises the supplies, or the troops will never deploy. Of course, it’s necessary to maintain your supplies, but the victory belongs to he who is willing to take a risk.

 9.    You need a primary and a secondary objective. In the military and in business, it’s helpful to have a well-defined central objective recognized by all. If it’s essential to have a subordinate objective, make sure it’s pre-designated, not hastily settled upon during the heat of battle.

10.    “Clean the lint off the helix.” This quote refers to a clothes dryer’s lint trap. Taking short cuts, such as not cleaning the helix, can ruin an officer’s uniform. Details, when overlooked, can prove costly.

As you face off against your rival, keep these principles in mind, and victory will be yours.

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