“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle”
Recently I had the pleasure of reading the novel, The Pilgrimage, by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho—also the author of international best seller The Alchemist.
In the novel, Coelho’s fictional self takes on a physical and spiritual quest to find his mystical sword on a pilgrimage from the south of France to a small town on the west coast of Spain called Santiago de Compostela.
I’m going to paraphrase a huge lesson that Coelho learned while on his journey.
The only way to deal with our physical enemy or the sometime enemy that lives within, is to accept him as a friend and listen to the advice and lessons that he teaches us, never allowing him to dictate the rules of the game. But if we are to keep the enemy from dictating the rules of the game; First, it is necessary to know what you want, and Second we must to know the enemy's face and name.
In life, in art (hell, even in business); we’ll always have “enemies.” But we must see the enemy not as some tragic inevitability but as an opportunity to: learn a lesson, build more stability, create sustainable art, refine ourselves as human beings.
Before we can learn the lesson we have to know two things:
- We have to know what we want from our art or our current life’s purpose. Know what the big picture looks like to you and fill in as many details as you can, allowing for the inevitable change that life and/or the marketplace brings.
- We must be honest with ourselves and know our enemy. Is it some invisible script within telling you that you’re not smart enough or powerful enough? Is it a physical person who is stifling our creativity, or is it a bad partner?
By learning about our enemy, we learn about ourselves and we use our enemy’s strength as a weapon against itself and we in turn become a powerful force to be reckoned with.