Archive for June, 2011

Walmart and K-Mart: Rivals on the Battlefield

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Sun Tzu writes in The Art of War that advantage / disadvantage and strength / weakness are continually shifting, depending on the circumstances. Business can also be interpreted through the lens of Art of War principles, in terms of  businesses and corporations battling to capture the dollars of the public.

Everyone knows what happened to K-Mart when it did not accurately assess the threat from WalMart. K-Mart rose up in the early 60’s as an innovative marketing idea.  K-Mart built an image and a strategy to present products that matched the middle class consumer.  Unfortunately, due to overspending,  management problems, and lack of experience, K-Mart was eclipsed by WalMart, who all but wiped them out.

WalMart made use of what it had learned about K-Mart’s strengths and weaknesses.  Sam Walton started small, kept the inventory lean, and provided good service.  When WalMart started to get some market share, they began to “attack” some major cities.

In the 1980’s K-Mart recognized that WalMart was a competitor, but thought WalMart was too small to take as a threat. K-Mart assumed it was too big to ever be displaced by the new competitor.  In the end, K-Mart lost the battle, and WalMart is now king of the mountain. Had K-Mart heeded Sun Tzu’s motto of “Know yourself and know your enemy,”they might have survived.

On the world stage today, America stands in the same position as K-Mart did.  America is a superpower whose influence is felt everywhere.  Yet, America’s image started to wane after 1980.  The country, like the consumers living in it, has been overspending.  You can’t use credit cards to pay down debt. Nor can congress use credit to pay down debt. 

It is time to trim the inventory. When our country spends billions of dollars that have been squeezed from the citizens to support corrupt foreign countries, it does not make sense.  Apparently the citizenry of both Iraq and Afghanistan  want the United States to leave their countries. They see the U.S. as basically supporting a form of government that is not yet providing them with safety in the streets. The leaders, who are enjoying the infusion of U.S. dollars, speak mixed messages.

Other superpowers are busy investing in goodwill and business, rather than public dollars, in overseas countries, and may be getting better results than the U.S.  According to the “Dow Jones Theory,” our country’s strength is measured in terms of transportation, property, and energy.  The  American auto market has been losing to Japan, property has been depreciating, and oil has become more expensive. To quote Bonfire of the Vanities, we are “hemorrhaging money.”

American leadership cannot continue to waste time indulging in partisan ideological wrangling that does not address these issues.  It is time for our leaders to “either pee or get off the pot.”  President Obama seems to have taken a wise step in his intentions to bring a large segment of our military out of Afghanistan.

  Equal attention could certainly be given to unnecessary social welfare spending.  America cannot be considered strong if it is in fact being manipulated by its own politicians and special interest groups.  Sometimes “knowing yourself” can be painful.

Much more on the principles of The Art of War and on how they can be applied to your personal business success in my book The Art of War Applied to Wall Street.

Y. K. Wong

June, 23, 2011

Confucius, Sex, and Nature

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

In an earlier blog, I have discussed Confucius, who has unnecessarily been given a bad rap by 20th century critics for not condemning the stratified class system in which he lived. The Chinese Communists have tended to discredit him for this reason.  However, as I have explained previously, Confucius had to function within the society in which he was living 2500 years ago, and he chose not to “fight City Hall.”   He had a greater, more philosophical  message to get across.

One of Confucius’s students asked about the proper role of food and the role of sex in human life.  Confucius answered simply that both are vital to human life. Certainly, no one would argue with that!   All of Nature requires food to support life, as well as continuation of the genetic material. Confucius said, “No food, no life. No sex, no life.”  Seems like obvious common sense.

In reality, Confucius was teaching the principles of connecting with powerful forces that underlie all of life as experienced by all people, no matter what their social class.  His famous principles of  right  human interaction were based on balance and fair play.  Yet few people realized at that time that he  had developed these principles through  observation and insight into the laws of Nature.

Confucius apparently did make some negative comments about women of his time. He said that  they were prone to complaining that their men were away for too long (as a result of the slow travel over long distances in those days, or for warfare),  and then when the men did come home, the women tended to complain about petty things.  From our perspective today, as we consider the very confined and constrained lives of women of the time, it is understandable. 

Sun Tzu taught in The Art of War that it is imperative that we know ourselves and know the others we are dealing with.  In my opinion,  females are the most important element  in the natural world.  Without the female there is no life. In those societies where the females are oppressed and suppressed, there usually is a very static culture that produces little, if any, development in science, art, or technology.  When the natural balance of male and female energy has been upset, it follows that the economics and even the foreign relations of such societies experience much struggle.

Neither Confucius nor Sun Tzu would advocate that we live in the Wild Kingdom. We live in human society.  Right now in our current human society, we are seeing  prominent men suddenly attaining notoriety through the exploitation of women.  We even see women, particularly in the “entertainment industry,” complicit in this.

 There is no record of any further commentary that Confucius may have made on the topic of sexual activity. So therefore, one might turn to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, which was contemporary to Confucius, for some possible insights.  Most of the principles in The Art of War were also derived from observation of the forces of Nature and how they can be  utilized—and respected.  

As those familiar with The Art of War know, Sun Tzu developed precepts that emphasized how important it is to know yourself and to know others.  What are one’s own strengths and weaknesses? What are the  capabilities and potentials of others? 

When one has considered those questions, then conscious choices of right action can be taken.  The key concept, as I see it, is “respect” —of Self and others.  When you really KNOW yourself, you know your own greatness.  And when you take others into consideration, one is led to respect them as well. 

The great lesson that prominent people are bringing out to us in these times is  just that.  As sexual expression is a primary aspect of  Nature, and Nature is balanced, then the lesson is to deprogram ouselves from the imbalances of our cultures and get in tune with the harmonious Laws of Nature.

For more about how Sun Tzu saw the role of great leaders in bringing about harmony and balance of power, read my translation of  The Art of War in my new book,

Y.K. Wong,

June 1, 2011