The Art of Digging Ditches

How do we stack the deck in our favor?

Sulla was a master of the battle tactic of digging trenches.  It was once of the strategies he used in the Social War to defeat Samnite rebels, and he used it in Greece to defeat superior foes as well.  When the hostile Roman commander Fimbria threatened dogged resistance and refused to surrender his camp, Sulla dug a ditch around it.  Fimbria changed his mind.

Ffor a general, to build earthworks, to dig a ditch or heap up a wall, is to question the assumptions of the battlefield.  Does your adversary have superior cavalry, chariots, tanks?

We face so many fields of contest in life, and often leave the assumptions unquestioned.

Does your competition have a bigger marketing budget?  Well, can you redefine the market landscape?  “We aren’t even selling the same kind of product.”  (The well known “Blue Ocean” strategy).

Is your negotation counterpart comfortable digging their heels in, because they have all the leverage in the upcoming deal?  Well, what would happen if you took them out to lunch at a nice restaurant as a show of good will?  Don’t even talk about business.  Might they let down their defenses a little?

Need to have a difficult conversation with your “stubborn” partner, or spouse, or kids?  How would it go at the ice cream shop instead of in the living room?

Too often we fail to bring the entire field of possibility into the game we’re playing.  We get stuck in ruts because “that’s what’s done.” Or maybe we get tunnel vision, because we’re not even sure what the rules are, and we’re afraid of being exposed as amateurs.  We forget the effects and advantages of the landscape.

Do you feel the odds are against you?

Time to get out the shovel.

Stay Ancient,


P.S. listen now to the Life of Sulla episode 1 if you haven’t yet!