Monday, April 26, 2010

The Art of the Focus (3): Do Easy

Comprehending the big tangible picture enables one to do things quite easy. He or she would automatically recognize the state of the grand settings in terms of the positives, the negatives, the risks, etc. ... Do you know the practice of Do Easy?

Check out the following Gus Van Sant's video titled "Do Easy". The purpose of the video is to describe the state of "Do Easy."

(Please excuse the picture that is being displayed on the Youtube link. It came with the video. The aim of that displayed visual is to demonstrate the flowing action of "Do Easy". )

From the "Do Easy" video
" ... Let us now apply Do Easy to a simple test: the old Western quick draw gunfight. Only one gun fighter ever really grasped the concept of Do Easy and that was Wyatt Earp. Nobody ever beat him. Wyatt Earp said: It's not the first shot that counts. It's the first shot that hits. Point is to draw aim and fire and deliver the slug an inch above the belt buckle. ... That's Do Easy. How fast can you do it and get it done?

It is related that a young boy once incurred the wrath of Two Gun McGee?. McGee? has sworn to kill him and is even now preparing himself in a series of saloons. The boy has never been in a gunfight and Wyatt Earp advises him to leave town while McGee is still two saloons away. The boy refuses to leave.

"All right" Earp tells him "You can hit a circle four inches square at six feet can't you? all right take your time and hit it." Wyatt flattens himself against a wall calling out once more "Take your time, kid. ... "

"How fast can you take your time, kid?

Our experience tells us that doing (things) easy might just help you in an extreme situation. ... The first step is to properly assess the big tangible picture. We presumed that you understand the benefits of "Do Easy." ... Do you know the basics for getting the "big tangible picture? ... "

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Art of the Focus (2): The AoW's Viewpoint

“In order to await the disordered; in tranquility awaits the clamorous. This is the way to control the mind.” -Art of War 7

“It is essential for the strategist to be tranquil and remote, upright and self-disciplined, and able to mystify the eyes and ears of his inner circle and the expeditors, keeping them ignorant. He alters his methods of affairs and changes his strategies to prevent others from recognizing them. He shifts his position and traverses circuitous routes to keep others from being able to anticipate him.” - Art of War 11 (paraphrased from the Sawyer's translation)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Art of the Focus (1): The Basics of Strategy

How can one build or implement a strategy if he or she cannot stay focused?

How does one stay focused? Most of our associates practice various styles of internal martial arts to improve their concentration and to enhance their well being. Staying focused requires an incremental set of skills that takes a few hundreds hours to cultivate.

Performing the act of prioritization and looking at a worksheet of tasks/objectives do not always work. Negative emotional feelings and unanticipated interruption have a tendency of mis-focusing one's concentration and awareness.

Some of our associates recommended the practice of Taijiquan and other internal martial art systems (Yiquan, Aikido, etc.) as a way to stay focused.

To stay focused, the internal martial art systems emphasize the following three points:
  • centering oneself to the ground;
  • feeling relaxed, grounded, calm and whole; and finally
  • extending oneself to a specific target point.
Every professional has their own set of tricks (or mind hacks) that enables him or her to stay focused while avoiding contentment.

What is in your mental tool box of tricks and hacks? What is your "staying focused" strategy?

One can find more information on the topic of internal martial arts at Cook Ding's kitchen, Smiling Tiger Martial Arts ,, The and

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Defining the Expert (2)

The following comment is a continuation of the "Ninja's, Evangelists and Gurus" post

To thrive in the global economy, a mono-focused specialist will not survive. Those days are gone. The abundance of information and the profusion of copycat competition have created an unstable level of uneven parity.

The Expert
The 21st century expert is someone who is proficient in the art of integrating relevant points of various subject matters into one grand picture. This skill also enables him or her to capitalize on major opportunities while mitigating the risks.

Most amateur experts do not possess the insight, the foresight and the perseverance to be the ultra class expert. They usually talk a good game of "what the objective" should be. As the big picture thinker, these experts rely on their network to do the detail work. The results are usually just "good enough." There are no tangible measures or any regard to after-effect consequences.

Following is our perspective of a true expert's:
  • Able to define the tangible dots within their settings;
  • Able to connect them together on time, on budget and on target.
  • Able to staying focused on the target while being mindful of the relevant external points.
The mastery of those three points usually guarantees the client that the expert's strategic advice will be good.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Defining the Expert (1)

Movie ninjas in Golden Gate Park
Picture Source: Jeff Chiu / The Chronicle, 2001

For the non martial arts reader, ninjas are considered to be low-middle tier specialists with limited skills, in the martial arts world, . They are used for extreme mono-focused tactical situations and are quite expendable.

In the modern workplace, some considered them to be Godsent.

I wondered what is the criterion that the news media used for certifying certain people to be experts (and gurus)?

In previous posts, we stated "an expert" is someone who can perform the following:
  • Seeing all of the active variables that are in play;
  • Having the capability to connect one's objective to the greater picture; and
  • Staying focused on the target while being mindfully aware at the grand settings.
In the global economy, those who "connects the dots and reaps the rewards" for the company, are usually the ultra class experts.

It is food for thought time. Ask yourself the following: "Does my local ninja or guru possesses the necessary "small picture to big picture" skills?" and "Is my local ninja or guru a real expert?"


Honouring the Worthy (Tai Gong Six Teachings-Civil Teaching Chapter 9)

King Wen asked Tai Gong:”Among those I rule, who should be elevated, who should be placed in inferior positions? Who should be selected for employment, who to cast aside? What affairs should be banned and what affairs need control?”

Tai Gong said:”Elevate the worthy and place the unworthy in inferior positions. Choose the sincere and trustworthy, eliminate the deceptive and artful. Prohibit violence and chaos, stop extravagance and ease. Accordingly, one who exercises kingship over the people recognizes the ‘six hazards’ and ‘seven harms’.”

King Wen said:“I would like to know more about them.”

Tai Gong said:”For the ‘six hazards’:

“First, if your subordinates build large palaces and mansions, pools and terraces and amble about enjoying the pleasures of scenery and female musicians, it will ‘injure’ the King’s virtue.”

“Second, when the people are not engaged in agriculture and sericulture but instead give rein to their tempers and loitering about, disdaining and transgressing the laws and prohibitions, not following the instructions of the officials, it harms the King’s influence.”

“Third, when officials form cliques and parties - obfuscating the worthy and wise, obstructing the ruler from feeling the pulse of the state - it ‘injures’ the King’s authority.”

“Fourth, when scholars are contrary-minded and conspicuously display ‘high moral standards’ - taking such behavior to be powerful expression of their disposition - and have private relationships with other feudal lords - slighting their own ruler - it ‘injures’ the King’s awesomeness.”

“Fifth, when subordinates disdain titles and positions, are contemptuous of the administrators, and are ashamed to face hardship for their ruler, it ‘injures’ the motivation of meritorious subordinates.”

“Sixth, when the strong clans encroach on others - seizing what they want, insulting and ridiculing the poor and weak - it ‘injures’ the work of the common people.”

“The seven harms:”

“First, men without wisdom or strategic planning ability are generously rewarded and honored with rank. Therefore, the strong and courageous who regard war lightly take their chances in the battlefield. The King must be careful not to employ them as generals.”

“Second, they have reputation but lack substance. What they say and their stand is constantly changing. They conceal the good and spread the bad. They are always seeking short-cuts. The King should be careful not to make plans with them.”

“Third, they make their appearance simple, wear ugly clothes, spouting no regard for office in order to seek fame, and talk about non-desire in order to gain profit. They are ‘fakes’ and the King should be careful not to bring them near.”

“Fourth, they wear strange caps and belts and their clothes are very elaborate. They listen widely to the disputations of others and speak speciously about unrealistic ideas, displaying them as a sort of personal adornment. They dwell in poverty and live in tranquility, deprecating the customs of the world. They are cunning people and the King should be careful not to favor them.”

“Fifth, with slander, obsequiousness and pandering, they seek office and rank. They are reckless, treating death lightly, out of their greed for salary and positions. They are not concerned with major affairs but move solely out of avarice. With lofty talk and specious discussion, they please the ruler. The King should be careful not to employ them.”

“Sixth, they have buildings elaborately carved and inlaid. They promote artifice and flowery adornment, in turn interrupting agriculture. You must inhibit them.”

Seventh, they con people, practice sorcery and witchcraft, advance unorthodox ways and circulate inauspicious sayings, befuddling good people. The King must stop them.”

“Now when the people do not give their best, they are not our people. If the officers are not sincere and trustworthy, they are not our officers.

- Paraphrased from Dr. Ralph D. Sawyer translation of the Seven Military Classics of Ancient China


Friday, April 9, 2010

The Importance of Strategic Assessment

"In planning, never a useless move. In strategy, no step in vain." - Chen Hao

While the effectiveness of one's plan is usually based on one's ability to assess the competition and its contesting terrain, the effectiveness of its implementation originates from the strategic experience of the planner(s) and the operational experience of the implementers.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Edge Over Odds

Following is a rare situation where the participants prevailed over the odds:

Pa. Lottery loses big on 7-7-7-7 win
By Peter Mucha
Inquirer Staff Writer

Talk about your lucky sevens.

Wednesday night, all sevens came up in Pennsylvania Lottery's Big 4 drawing, resulting in a whopping $7.77 million payout to 3,107 winning tickets.

In an added twist, the news came Thursday when the Super 7 jackpot was $7.3 million and Cash 5's top prize was $770,000.

The Big 4 payout was a staggering 1,573 percent of sales revenue, according to lottery spokeswoman Kirstin Alvanitakis. In other words: The lottery has to dish out about $7.2 million more than it took in for that drawing.

"We definitely lost money on the Big 4, that's for sure," Alvanitakis said. "But it's great for our players. People love to play quadruple numbers."

"It's definitely not an April Fool's joke," she said.

A key factor in the large payout is that Big 4's winning amounts are fixed; they're not a cut of cash collected. A 50-cent wager fetches $2,500, a $1 bet $5,000.

Also, 7-7-7-7 is extraordinarily popular. Most Big 4 drawings produce far fewer winners. Wednesday's midday drawing (9-3-5-5) had 104 winners, and Tuesday evening's game (0-6-3-9) was hit by 250 people, Alvanitakis said.

Luckily for the state, winning quadruples - popular with players - are rare. The last quadruple drawn was 2-2-2-2 on Sept. 2, 2008, when 1,236 winners collected a total of $3.09 million.

The 7-7-7-7 combination has come up only twice since Big 4 began in November 1980.

Although the lottery lost money on the drawing, that situation was not unanticipated.

"We operate our numbers games with the expectation that when triples or quadruples hit, we will lose money," Alvanitakis said.

Also, there's a safeguard. "We have a sales cutoff of $10 million for Big 4 for any number combination - including quadruples - to ensure Lottery's liability does not exceed its ability to pay winners," she said.

Despite the big payout, the game made money for March, she said. Proof yet again that the odds are stacked in the house's favor.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or


Lucky Number 7
Posted on March 15th, 2009

Why is number 7 lucky and how did it get that way? Lucky number 7 has its roots in ancient history. The ancient Greeks considered 7 to be lucky and the ancient Babylonians considered 7 to be a perfect number. There are even Biblical references and allusions to lucky seven in several parts of the Old Testament.

The Pythagoreans called lucky 7 the ‘perfect number’ the addition of 3 and 4, the triangle and the square. In antiquity there were 7 known planets and the sun was considered a planet in ancient times. Lucky number 7 features prominently in several ancient religions most notably the Goths and the Romans who believed in 7 deities. Lucky 7 is a sacred number in Masonic symbolism. In ancient Judaism every 7th year was holy and debts were traditionally forgiven.

In modern day New Orleans there are several followers of an African American religion called HooDoo. The lucky number 7 features prominently in this religion as evidences by products marketed as Seven Herb Bath, Gambler’s Gold Lucky Seven Hand Wash, and others.
With its roots in ancient mythology the concept of lucky number 7 has been passed down through countless generations. Almost every culture attributes special qualities to lucky 7. With its ancient history it is no surprise that modern man still believes in lucky 7. Many lottery players consider 7 to be a lucky number. On 7/7/07 many states reported participants playing various combinations of the lucky number 7.

Why is the number 7 lucky? Lucky 7 clearly has a psychological effect. One report cites several marketing campaigns based on the lucky number 7 with very successful results. There is even a web site marketing lucky 7 amulets to bring luck with testimonials from people who say the amulet has brought them luck.

Logic cannot explain the fascination behind the lucky number 7 beliefs but then logic cannot explain everything that takes place in our lives.

No matter what your lucky numbers are several state lotteries may have a pleasant surprise in store for lottery players. Some states are thinking about taking advantage of existing technology and allowing players to buy lottery tickets online. Surveys show that most lottery players would welcome online lottery tickets. Players will be able to avoid weekly trips to a lottery retailer and would be able to check the latest lottery results from their home computers or cell phones. In the not so distant future players will be able to play those lucky numbers from just about anywhere.


We are reminded that those who (the casino) controls the odds, usually win. For every risk, there is a reward.

To prevail in any game, assess the following:
  • the culture and the rules of the game;
  • the history;
  • the players
  • the strategies and the tactics;
  • the trends; and
  • the probabilities and the possibilities for the entire game.
“After estimating the advantages in according with what you have heard, put it into effect with strategic power supplemented by field tactics that respond to external factors. As for strategic power, [it is] controlling the tactical imbalance of power (ch'uan) in accord with the gains to be realized." - Art of War 1

It has been said that the amount of planning and preparation is usually equivalent to one's possibility of winning. Focusing on a progression of incremental wins is what smart strategists do.

Conclusively, the smart strategist always seeks for strategic situations where he has the edge over the odds.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Dao of Strategy: Planning and Scripting Your Plays

The following article is from our archives


Can Mariucci, Walsh coexist?
Thursday, September 23, 1999

SANTA CLARA - Steve Mariucci has lost count of how many television interviewers have heard him say that working for Bill Walsh is an honor. But he knows exactly how many times the quote has appeared on screen.

"Not once," he said after Wednesday's practice. "They always cut it. Always."

Mariucci looked perplexed, as if he had no idea why his message kept getting lost. He couldn't see that any time he pays homage to Walsh, he's bound to sound predictable, maybe even insincere. In fact, anyone who lavishes praise on a boss sounds like a spin doctor at work. ...

But when Walsh became the Coach of the '80s, he was a different sort of creature, too. On the sidelines, he looked as if he had just stepped off the back nine. He had an elitist aura that galled opponents.

I tried to act like Vince Lombardi or Mike Holmgren or Bill Walsh, it would be a big mistake," Mariucci said. "I can learn from all of them, but I can't- be them."

He said Walsh has already taught him a lot about the politics of NFL personnel. During offseason negotiations with agents, Walsh often called in Mariucci and player personnel director Terry Donahue to listen in on the conference calls.

"Just like we script our first 15 plays, he had the whole conversation written out in advance," the coach said. " "If they say this, we say that.' It was like a game plan."

This article appeared on page E - of the Examiner

Side Note
To secure the initial advantage, all smart strategists usually script their starting sequence of tactics for every strategic situation in a moderately predictable setting.   The secret to that approach is that they know the static variables and the dynamic variables for that situation, before the script is ever developed.

Q: In a competitive endeavor, do you ever script your list of tactical plays?

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Dao of Competition: Is Winning Everything?

q: Is sports another extension of life?

March 31, 2010
Coaches Finding No Tolerance for Losing

INDIANAPOLIS — Three years ago, when Royce Waltman was fired as the coach at Indiana State, he gave a memorable and prophetic news conference at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

He opened by thanking the university administration for handling his dismissal with “the deft touch of a 20-mule team.” He continued with a statement so honest and salient that it resonated deeply as the college coaching carousel spun again this week.

“If you get fired for cheating, you can get hired right back again,” he said. “If you get fired for losing, it’s like you’ve got leprosy, so young coaches need to bear that in mind. Cheating and not graduating players will not get you in trouble, but that damn losing. ...”

Waltman, 68, might have lost too often, but he could see the future. He has not been rehired as a head coach, instead working as a part-time assistant at Roncalli High School here.

But this week’s coaching changes brought Waltman’s sentiments to life: Holy Cross fired Coach Sean Kearney after one season on Tuesday for losing too much. And Texas-El Paso hired Tim Floyd, who resigned at U.S.C. in the wake of allegations of N.C.A.A. rules violations. U.S.C. vacated 21 wins and imposed a one-scholarship ban because of what happened under Floyd’s watch. Over lunch at a sports bar here on Wednesday, Waltman sipped a beer and reflected on his 2007 news conference. “It wasn’t a bitter statement,” he said. “I still believe it. I would think that events would bear that out.”

In the nonscholarship Ivy League this season, Penn and Dartmouth fired their coaches at midseason. Cornell Coach Steve Donahue said that in his first 10 years in the Ivy League, he could recall only two coaches being fired.

The Patriot League, of which Holy Cross is a member, offers scholarships but fancies itself as similar to the Ivy League in mission and academic ideal. Holy Cross hired Kearney in June after Ralph Willard left to become Rick Pitino’s top assistant at Louisville.

Kearney inherited a team picked to finish first in the Patriot. It finished 9-22, 5-9 in the league, and advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament.

Holy Cross Athletic Director Dick Regan did not return multiple calls seeking comment. But in statements reported by The Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, Mass., he made it clear that the reason for Kearney’s dismissal was his record.

“What this really says is basketball is very important to us,” he told the newspaper. “I see the ability to win the league championship next year, and I felt I had to do whatever it took to get to that point. There’s a gap in life between what you would like to do and what you think you have to do, and this was one of those latter situations.”

Kearney, reached by telephone on Wednesday, said he was fired for losing. He will be paid the remaining three years on his contract, a sign that there were no off-court issues. “I’m just very disappointed that I was not able to finish this out,” he said.

Around the country, coaches and administrators were baffled by the move. Another Patriot League coach, Fran O’Hanlon, who has coached at Lafayette for 15 years, was irate.

“Someone’s career was just destroyed in a lot of ways,” he said. “Short of a felony, I can’t imagine what could have prompted something like this. I’m just upset with the whole thing. I’m upset. It’s not my school. I’m not running Holy Cross, but I certainly don’t like the way this whole thing was handled.”

Kearney’s old boss at Notre Dame, Mike Brey, spent a lot of time on the phone pitching Kearney to Regan when the job was open. Brey said he did not get a good feeling in dealing with Regan and questioned his ability as an athletic director.

“I was nervous about him going there,” Brey said of Kearney, “but obviously it was a great opportunity for Sean.”

John Feinstein is the author of the book, “The Last Amateurs,” which follows a year in the Patriot League. On Wednesday, he credited Regan for being honest about the impetus behind the decision to fire Kearney — not winning enough. But Feinstein said the firing after one season was a bad harbinger.

“It says nothing good about the school or the league or the state of college basketball,” Feinstein said.

Feinstein recalled a conversation with Father John Brooks, the former president of Holy Cross, who said that the league’s decision to give scholarships was a “slippery slope.”

On Tuesday, Boston College parted ways with Al Skinner, who had reached the N.C.A.A. tournament seven times in the past 10 years but was 15-16 this season.

Norm Roberts, credited with cleaning up an N.C.A.A. mess at St. John’s and stabilizing the program, was also fired last month for not winning enough.

Brey, his voice dripping with sarcasm, said he could not wait to attend a 9 a.m. meeting of the National Association of Basketball Coaches here on Thursday.

“What kind of message does this send?” Brey said. “I’m beaten down, man.”

Waltman, the prophet, shook his head as he talked about the state of college basketball. But his message came across: Cheats prosper and losers get leprosy. Something a young coach might think about.


"Winning isn't everything. The will to win is the only thing. - Vince Lombardi