Teaching Yourself To Think

“nobody in their right mind would hold back making revenue if it were available.” – comment on TechCrunch

There are two reactions to that comment. It either makes complete sense or you can’t even comprehend someone believing it. If a company’s goal is to make money, why would they ever turn it down? Well that’s like saying that no general would ever withdraw when they could advance. Why would they ever not take territory? A quick look at history shows us that they do that all the time:

Pericles in the Black Sea. Stonewall Jackson at Shenandoah. Themistocles at Salamis.[1] In some cases it’s even got it’s own name, Tactical Retreat

Smart companies, like smart generals, know that money is just money unless it has strategic value. You can get revenue anywhere, especially an innovative place like Google. So that’s not the question. It’s “what does this revenue bring me and am I better off for it?” If it doesn’t have strategic value, then it’s not worth going after.

It’s really easy to latch on to aphorisms or take for granted commonly traded assumptions. Getting yourself to the point where you can think strategically – deeply and counter intuitively – is difficult. It takes a lot of work. It would be easier if things fit in nice little logical boxes but they don’t. There’s this messy middle ground between ignorance and critical thinking that’s discouraging to navigate.

Ultimately, though that’s YOUR JOB. And if you don’t do it, if you don’t want to, then don’t expect the benefits.

[1] Pericles and Stonewall examples from 48 Laws of Power Law 47 (pg 416) and Law 17 (pg 127) respectively.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.