BUSINESS LESSONS FROM WORLD'S GREATEST STRATEGISTS
HANZHONG CITY, CHINA, JANUARY 2, 2007 (STAR) BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET By Wilson Lee Flores (If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. – US President John Quincy Adams)
(Those who are skilled in combat do not become angered, those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid. Thus the wise win before the fight, while the ignorant fight to win. – Ancient scholar & military strategist Zhuge Liang)
I’ve always believed that aside from the virtue of hard work, it is also very important to work smart. Whether in private business, politics, warfare, or other professions, strategic thinking and planning can often spell the difference between great success and catastrophic failure. In world history, among the great strategists whom I have studied and always admire are Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, General Douglas MacArthur, Napoleon Bonaparte and ancient China’s magnificent hero Zhuge Liang of the Three Kingdoms era.
In business, the brilliant strategists whom I look up to include America’s Warren Buffett (imagine, he was so smart that he even outsourced his philanthropy to his billionaire friend Bill Gates!), Hong Kong’s Li Ka Shing and Malaysian-Chinese taipan Robert Kuok Hock Nien of the Shangri-La hotel group. In the Philippines, even his archrivals acknowledge self-made taipan John Gokongwei Jr. as a master strategist (even his philanthropic donation during his 80th birthday has become the largest and the most well-organized in the entire history of Philippine business). They not only worked very hard, possessed self-discipline and guts, they also exemplify strategic leadership.
Now that I’m on a one-month vacation in China, whenever I mention to fellow foreign tourists or even local mainland Chinese that I’m taking the train to Hanzhong City of Shaanxi province (from Xian on the way to Chengdu in Sichuan province) they all tell me it’s not a tourist destination. Even the most educated people here tried to dissuade me, saying that there’s nothing much to see there, unlike the Terracotta Warriors of Xian or the Great Wall and Forbidden City of Beijing. When I explained to them that I’m visiting the tomb of Zhuge Liang near the foot of Mount Dingjun – located in Mian County, a bus ride away from Hanzhong – they asked me why.
I disagree with people who only attribute the stunning economic miracle of China to such leaders as the revolutionary Mao Zedong and his reformist successor Deng Xiaoping, or people who only focus their adulation on China’s emperors and generals. I believe the true foundations of this vast civilization’s enduring strength were also built by wise thinkers such as the poor philosopher teacher Confucius, the anti-corruption statesman and poet Chu Yuan, literary geniuses like Tang Dynasty poet Li Po (also called Li Bai), and, of course, Zhuge Liang.
Ask most East Asians, whether ethnic Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese or Japanese, and many of them will know of the almost unsurpassed strategic leadership, nobility of character, chivalry and Confucian values of Zhuge Liang (also known as "Kong Ming") as chronicled in the classic book Romance of the Three Kingdoms or San-guo Yan-yi. The book tells the true-to-history account of three warring kingdoms, all of which sought to replace the fading Han Dynasty. Asian business leaders, from Metrobank taipan George S.K. Ty, Philippine Airlines chairman Lucio Tan, the late realty tycoon Tan Yu, to Singapore’s Wee Cho-Yaw, Malaysia’s Robert Kuok or Hong Kong’s Li Ka Shing, can recount to you Zhuge Liang’s exploits in amazing detail as if they were the NBA plays of Dwyane Wade or Lebron James.
There was the kingdom of Wei ruled by the ambitious Cao Cao (pronounced "Zhao Zhao"), which controlled the northern heartlands; there was the kingdom of Wu ruled by the Sun clan, which controlled the easily defended southeast realm; and there was the Kingdom of Shu, which sought to restore the Han Dynasty and was ruled by Liu Bei with his brilliant strategist Zhuge Liang. These three kingdoms battled and negotiated as they decided the fate of China. Romance of the Three Kingdoms narrates an epic saga that highlights war, love, loss, honor, heroic bravery and loyalty until death.
Zhuge Liang was born in 181 AD during the last years of the East Han Dynasty in Yangdu (in present-day Yishui county), Shandong province. Do you remember Taiwanese director Ang Lee’s mega-hit film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Zhuge Liang was the original guy in history with the nickname "Hidden Dragon" or "Sleeping Dragon" (pronounced "wo-long" in Mandarin), because people often underestimated his genius. He was not only a great statesman and military strategist, he was also a scholar, engineer and inventor with mastery of the sciences and the arts.
Zhuge Liang invented the landmine, the repeating crossbow (an ancient semi-atutomatic weapon) used in war and an early form of the wheelbarrow. He also devised hot-air balloons used for war signals and other technological wonders. He masterfully maneuvered infantry and cavalry formations based on the Taoist book I Ching. Many East Asians know by heart the various strategic victories and inspiring war exploits of Zhuge Liang.
Like many achievers in history, his parents died early in his youth. He was only a kid when his family was forced to flee south due to the Wei Kingdom’s warlord Cao Cao slaughtering 400,000 civilians.
As a young man, he resided 10 years in a thatched cottage in Longzhong (a district in the Wo Long Gung ridge near the town of Xiang Yang in present-day Hubei province), preferring a quiet life as a farmer but still non-stop in his studies of strategic planning and state affairs. A turning point in his life came when warlord Liu Bei, a distant descendant of a royal Han house of minor military distinction, heard of Zhuge Liang’s great wisdom and visited him three times to invite him to become his military advisor. He was impressed by Liu Bei’s sincerity and plans to build up a kingdom – to ally with the Wu Kingdom in the east and to battle Cao Cao of the much larger Wei Kingdom.
Zhuge Liang was then 26 years old and Liu Bei was 47 years old when they established the Shu Kingdom in modern-day Sichuan province. He would serve with loyalty, integrity and strategic leadership as premier of the Shu Han for Emperor Liu Bei (161-230 AD) and his son Liu Chan (207-271 AD), despite the dying emperor once asking Zhuge Liang to take over the throne if his son and royal heir proved incapable.
In 234 AD, Zhuge Liang died on the battlefield during his northern expedition. His death marked the downfall of the Shu Kingdom. Even his most bitter rivals admired his extraordinary strategic leadership, chivalry and loyalty. Now the site where he once drilled his army reportedly still remains in Fengjie County of the Chongqing area. And ever since, Wuhou Memorial Temples (Temple of Marquis Wu) have been built all over China in honor of Zhuge Liang. The most famous temple in his honor is located in the southern suburb of Chengdu City and has an area of 3.7 hectares.
I believe the Biblical question is valid for all of us who are dreaming of and working to attain success, fame, power and wealth. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul? As I mark the start of New Year here in this faraway city of Hanzhong and pay homage to a hero I admire, I remind myself that Zhuge Liang exemplified true success. He was greater than many of the grandiloquent emperors, taipans, generals and politicians in Asian history. I consider Zuge Liang an ideal role model for all peoples of all generations, not only because of his strategic leadership and talents, but also his integrity, positive moral values, nobility of character and unblemished record of selfless service to others.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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