This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The 33 Strategies of War" by Robert Greene. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Why is it important to know your competitors? What can you learn about yourself?
Robert Greene, the author of The 33 Strategies of War, says that clearly identifying your competitors is not just a prerequisite for developing a plan to overcome them. Seeing the contrast between you and your competitors helps to unify and motivate your forces. It also can reveal a clearer path to victory.
Read more to learn why it’s important to know your competitors.
Know Your Competitors
When you have a goal, you need a clear picture of who or what stands between you and that goal—in other words, your competitors.
Why is it important to know your competitors? Greene says that clearly identifying your competitors is not just a prerequisite for developing a plan to overcome them: It will also give you a better understanding of what you stand for. This is because the conflict will highlight the contrast between you and your competitors, making your key differences more visible.
For example, maybe you’re running for office against an incumbent politician who supported a controversial tax, so you present yourself as the enemy of the unpopular tax. Or maybe you sell lawnmowers, and your main competitor guarantees the lowest prices in town but has a mediocre customer service record. Instead of trying to beat their prices, you go the extra mile to make sure your customers feel well taken care of. In both cases, comparing yourself to your opponent shows you what to focus on as you work to differentiate yourself.
(Shortform note: Psychologists observe that fighting against an enemy tends to be more motivating than working for a cause because an enemy poses an immediate threat, creating a sense of urgency. Additionally, people feel a common bond with others who are fighting the same enemy. This reinforces Greene’s point: The contrast between you and your enemy helps to unify and motivate your forces.)
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Here's what you'll find in our full The 33 Strategies of War summary:
- How to win the war between you and those that seek to control you
- Insights based on military history, historic writings, and modern-day business dealings
- Why the little guy may actually have the biggest advantage