Monday Marketing – Sun Tsu and The Art of War

I’ve never read The Art of War by Sun Tzu. I suppose as a history major I should have, along with my reading of Machiavelli…but my college history department at the time didn’t have much related to Asian studies, let alone economics. So when I stumbled on this from Dumb Little Man, I was interested.

Hmmmm…..Five Factors for Life-Hacking Domination. Whoa – kinda strong when you think about marketing…but maybe not. Let’s explore this further. Something that has been around since the 6th century BC probably has something to teach us.

Life-Hacking – getting to the essence of life and making it work for you. Most of us struggle with this until we realize life is short and we need to get the most out of it before it’s too late. On a marketing level, most of us don’t know how to market our art, and we need to before we are left behind.

Teaching 1: The Moral Law

Sun Tzu said: “The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.”
Whoever is our ruler, spirit, creator, God – we must live in harmony with that. For me all my decisions have been predicated on the “do no harm” and “do unto others” principles. The same has to be true for me to be successful with my art and my business. What is the best possible product that is true to who I am, that is environmentally responsible, and that will bring me and an art buyer happiness? This can only be a great morality to live by.

“Every eye forms its own fancy.” from Mrs. O’Malley, Irish proverb, from “Native Wisdom for White Minds.” We all see what we want to see, or what we’ve been trained to see, and hence we miss whatever else we’ve not been taught to understand. Our reality isn’t the only reality…can we be open to other possibilities in our art and in our life that will serve us well?

Teaching 2: Heaven
Sun Tzu said: “Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.”
To Sun Tzu, Heaven is a consistency and a variable, all at the same time, and not necessarily religious. We know where we are going, we have a plan laid out, but we need to be aware of possible changes, pitfalls, opportunities. In this current economy, how are we reacting to sales and the health of our art business? What are our contingency plans till people start buying art again? Are we still making art, planning, creating product, connecting with others, teaching ourselves new skills? Above all, we need to be flexible: study the environment and decide how we can make it work (great advice from Tim Gunn…).
Teaching 3: Earth
Sun Tzu said: “Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.”
I’m quoting Dumb Little Man here: “Those entrenched in the status quo make the obvious and socially-acceptable choices – regardless of how ineffective and/or inefficient those choices are. They don’t take the time to observe the ground beneath their feet. Hence, they are incapable of seeing and feeling the optimal way forward. The life hacker thinks and acts unconventionally. She looks for the paths of least resistance, the 80/20 shortcuts, and the hidden passageways through life.”

That’s a huge mouthful, and one most of us will not consider. Having always been accused of “unconditional optimism,” I think I am quite prepared for this one. Everything has a solution; it may be one we haven’t thought of, one that is uncomfortable for us, or one that forces us to seriously change our paths. A sluggish economy is a huge problem, one that will take extreme  courage and innovation to survive. Are we ready?

Teaching 4: The Commander

Sun Tzu said: “The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness.”
This ties in to all morality. We must all take the higher path, and I editorialize here that in this economy – and our lives in general – I don’t see this. There is so much incivility the ugliness among us that I think we’ve lost our courage and sincerity. Living by a moral code can only help us be better individuals, more productive citizens, and better artists. We do art not for the short-term gain but because it feeds our soul and hopefully those around us. We do art because we must, not because we have found the secret to making great riches. We can’t sacrifice our virtue and integrity.
Teaching 5: Method and Discipline
Sun Tzu said: “By Method and Discipline are to be understood the marshalling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure.”

This is marketing. How are we building our business? How are we preparing for sales? A personal story here: we did a number of demos of our marbling in the past, to some critical success. People loved what we showed them. But we missed a CRUCIAL piece – we had no product with us to sell. We had plenty of examples of what to do with marbling but nothing for people to buy. No sample fabrics, no remnant bags, no cards, no digital work. We totally missed the “buying” piece. Needless to say, we don’t make that mistake any more.

Think about everything you need to do to build your business. Do you have a plan? This is “method and discipline.” I need to take my own advice and be sure that I continue with the blogging; this is discipline, and this is focus.

Well…..I didn’t expect this to turn into an essay, but I guess it did. I had read the piece initially and felt it would be good for a post on marketing, but with the writing came analysis and lots to think about. Ultimately I feel validated, in that the moral life and the decisions and turmoil that come with it are the way to go. I am interested in your comments….what resonates with you? What method do you most follow? Leave me a comment below.

Native Wisdom for White Minds

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