Thousands of years ago, a famous Chinese general had a reputation for being an astute and cunning leader.
One day, at the end of a long campaign, the General decided to stop and rest in a stronghold.
He kept a small battalion of soldiers with him and sent his main fighting force ahead to rest elsewhere.
Meanwhile, one of his enemies caught wind of the General’s location and decided to march his army of hundreds of thousands of soldiers on the General’s all-but defenseless position.
In the middle of the night, the General was shaken awake by one of his men:
“The enemy is close. They’ll be here before daybreak. Our tiny band of soldiers in the stronghold will be no match for their numbers.”
Hearing this, the General sat up and thought quietly, letting the full effect of his man’s words set in.
He then instructed his soldiers to stand down, open the gates, remove the banners from the walls, and hide.
The General then removed his armor, threw on a cloak, and sat in the middle of the battlement, serenely playing a mandolin. as he gazed out at the approaching army that covered the horizon like a black wave.
The enemy leader soon arrived, his horse and men barely visible from the dust clouds they created as they galloped closer and closer.
As his horse drew closer, he immediately recognized the General and ordered his forces to halt.
The enemy leader stopped to think. He knew this General better than anyone, including his reputation for wily deeds and setting deadly traps.
He waited some more.
The presence of this infamous General, sitting there with such nonchalance, made him question himself. “Was the information he received false? Was the General luring him and his army into a trap?”
“Or was it a double bluff? Was this a ploy to make him question himself, and the General is, in fact, as defenseless as he seemed?”
He waited some more, but the General didn’t move. The notes of the mandolin floated eerily over the now halted army.
Finally, the enemy leader ordered his forces to retreat.
The Moral of the Story:
First, your reputation, which is the strength of your brand, is the highest form of currency. It can carry your business through the roughest waters, create a competitive advantage, and show your competitors your muscle.
Second, never underestimate the importance of using great strategy to achieve your goals. Never assume it takes sweat, blood, and tears. There is always a better route to achieve the same results, faster.