No one starts a courtship--or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so--without first being clear
in his mind what he intends to achieve by that courtship and how he intends to conduct it.

from my ebook, Clausewitz: On the Winning of a Woman

Carl (Karl) von Clausewitz is famous for his book, ON WAR which is considered a classic, and perhaps the most influential work on military strategy in the Western world.  Called VOM KRIEGE, in the original German, it has been translated into every major language and has been used in military academies, influencing people in the business world, as has been studied by Eisenhower, Patton, Kissinger, Mao, and many other leaders.  Whether "business" is "war," and whether "war" is "politics," and what's "real" war and what's "true" war is not nearly as compelling to the enlightened reader, as the concepts of strategy that Clausewitz understands so well.  What it is, and what it is not. As Jack Welch put it, strategy is not a long action plan carved in stone, it must evolve to meet continually changing circumstances.  The best laid plans of mice and men, often go astray.


Can you learn to strategize?  That's like asking can you learn leadership.  Both can be learned, all things being equal.  I teach both.   

My #2 Strength on the StrengthsFinder(r) is Strategic.According to the Gallup people, whose assessment this is, this is an INNATE talent. 

LET ME HELP YOU PLAN THE WINNING STRATEGY (and then revise it!) - email or call 817-734-1471.

    <--Here is a good secondary source to read.

From Jack Welch:  "Von Clausewitz summed up what it had all been about in his classic On War. Men could not reduce strategy to a formula. Detailed planning necessarily failed, due to the inevitable frictions encountered: chance events, imperfections in execution, and the independent will of the opposition. Instead, the human elements were paramount: leadership, morale, and the almost instinctive savvy of the best generals.  The Prussian general staff, under the elder von Moltke, perfected these concepts in practice. They did not expect a plan of operations to survive beyond the first contact with the enemy. They set only the broadest of objectives and emphasised seizing unforeseen opportunities as they arose. Strategy was not a lengthy action plan. It was the evolution of a central idea through continually changing circumstances."

Sadly, many people apparently think the most important statement to come from On War is "war is merely the continuation of policy by other means."  For instance, John Keegan, in his classic, A History of Warfare, seemingly devotes hundreds of pages to this; while, at least to this reader and coach, that statement is one of the less interesting things Clausewitz makes.  It could even be a mistranslation, given the complicated German in which the original is written; so complicated even modern-day Germans prefer to read an English translation.

Friction, for instance, is a far more important concept to understand. 

There are many fascinating things about this man, Karl von Clausewitz, who started soldiering at the age of 13, including that his lifelong love affair with his wife was considered legendary

Strategy is all, and the intelligent use of its application.

 In my ebook, "Clausewitz: The Strategy of Winning a Woman" I take a look at how his theories of strategy for war apply to the winning and keeping of a woman, the most important conquest of all.  (And Clausewitz says that a strategy without a heart, is no strategy at all.)

To order the ebook, Clausewitz: The Strategy of Winning a Woman, click here.  Let us begin with a paraphrase:   “No one starts a courtship--or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so--without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that courtship and how he intends to conduct it.”

They are almost a compendium of Emotional Intelligence. 

- "The activities characteristic of war may be split into two main categories: those that are merely preparations for war, and war proper. "

- "Tactics teaches the use of armed forces in the engagement; strategy, the use of engagements for the object of the war."

- "In tactics the means are the fighting forces . . . the end is victory."  "The original means of strategy is victory -- that is, tactical success; its ends . . . are those objects which will lead directly to peace."  Strategy . . . confers a special significance . . . on the engagement: it assigns a particular aim to it."

- "Earlier theorists aimed to equip the conduct of war with principles, rules, or even systems, and thus considered only factors that could be mathematically calculated (e.g., numerical superiority; supply; the base; interior lines).  All these attempts are objectionable, however, because they aim at fixed values. In war everything is uncertain and variable, intertwined with psychological forces and effects, and the product of a continuous interaction of opposites."

- "Theory becomes infinitely more difficult as soon as it touches the realm of moral values."

- "Thus it is easier to use theory to organize, plan, and conduct an engagement than it is to use it in determining the engagement’s purpose."

- "Theory then becomes a guide to anyone who wants to learn about war from books; it will light his way, ease his progress, train his judgment, and help him to avoid pitfalls."

- "Theory ... is an analytical investigation leading to a close acquaintance with the subject."

- "Defense is the stronger form of waging war ...[D]efense has a passive purpose: preservation; and attack a positive one: conquest. . . .  If defense is the stronger form of war, yet has a negative object, if follows that it should be used only so long as weakness compels, and be abandoned as soon as we are strong enough to pursue a positive object."

 - "A major battle in a theater of operations is a collision between two centers of gravity; the more forces we can concentrate in our center of gravity, the more certain and massive the effect will be."

  - “No one starts a war--or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so--without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.”

 - "The acts we consider most important for the defeat of the enemy are . .
   --- Destruction of his army, if it is at all significant
   --- Seizure of his capital if it is not only the center of administration but also that of social, professional, and political activity
   --- Delivery of an effective blow against his principal ally if that ally is more powerful than he."

- "Time . . . is less likely to bring favor to the victor than to the vanquished. . . An offensive war requires above all a quick, irresistible decision. . . .  Any kind of interruption, pause, or suspension of activity is inconsistent with the nature of offensive war."

- “A defender must always seek to change over to the attack as soon as he has gained the benefit of the defense.”

- "Two basic principles . . . underlie all strategic planning. . . .

            1.  Act with the utmost concentration [trace the ultimate substance of enemy strength to the fewest possible sources; compress the attack on these sources to the fewest possible actions; and subordinate minor actions as much as possible].
            2.  Act with the utmost speed [every unnecessary expenditure of time and every unnecessary detour is a waste of strength; take the shortest possible road to the goal]."

-  "War is also interrupted (or moderated), and thus made even more a gamble, by:  the superiority of defense over offense; imperfect knowledge of the situation; and the element of chance."

- "Genius refers to a very highly developed mental aptitude for a particular occupation. . . .  The essence of military genius . . . . consists in a harmonious combination of elements."

- "War is the realm of danger; therefore courage is the soldier's first requirement"

- "War is the realm of physical exertion and suffering. . . .  Birth or training must provide us with a certain strength of body and soul."

- "We come now to the region dominated by the powers of intellect.  War is the realm of uncertainty . . . .  War is the realm of chance. . . .  Two qualities are indispensable:  first, an intellect that, even in the darkest hour, retains some glimmerings of the inner light which leads to truth; and second, the courage to follow this faint light wherever it may lead.  The first of these qualities is described by the French term, coup d'oeil; the second is determination."

- "Presence of mind . . . is nothing but an increased capacity of dealing with the unexpected."

- "Energy in action varies in proportion to the strength of its motive."  Of all the passions none is more powerful than ambition.

- "Staunchness indicates the will's resistance to a single blow; endurance refers to prolonged resistance."

- "Strength of mind or of character" is "the ability to keep one's head at times of exceptional stress and violent emotion."

- "Firmness cannot show itself, of course, if a man keeps changing his mind."  It demands sticking to one's convictions.

- "If we then ask what sort of mind is likeliest to display the qualities of military genius . . . it is the inquiring rather than the creative mind, the comprehensive rather than the specialized approach, the calm rather than the excitable head."

 "Many intelligence reports in war are contradictory; even more are false, and most are uncertain."

- "Everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult.  The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction. . . .  This tremendous friction . . . is everywhere in contact with chance, and brings about effects that cannot be measured, just because they are largely due to chance. . . .  Moreover, every war is rich in unique episodes."

"The good general must know friction in order to overcome it whenever possible, and in order not to expect a standard of achievement in his operations which this very friction makes impossible."

"Is there any lubricant that will reduce this abrasion?  Only one . . . combat experience."

"Strategy is the use of the engagement for the purpose of the war.  The strategist must therefore define an aim for the entire operational side of the war that will be in accordance with its purpose. . . .  The aim will determine the series of actions intended to achieve it."

"Results are of two kinds:  direct and indirect. . . ."

"If we do not learn to regard a war, and the separate campaigns of which it is composed, as a chain of linked engagements each leading to the next, but

"The strategic elements that affect the use of engagements may be classified into various types:  moral, physical, mathematical, geographical, and statistical."

- "The moral elements [everything that is created by intellectual and psychological qualities and influences] are among the most important in war.  Unfortunately, they will not yield to academic wisdom.  They cannot be classified or counted. . . .  The effects of physical and psychological factors form an organic whole.   In formulating any rule concerning physical factors, the theorist must bear in mind the part that moral factors may play in it."

- "The principal moral elements . . . . are:  the skill of the commander, the experience and courage of the troops, and their patriotic spirit."

- "An army that maintains its cohesion; . . that cannot be shaken by fears . . ; [that] will not lose the strength to obey orders and its respect and trust for its officers . . ; [that] has been steeled by training in privation and effort; . . that is mindful of the honor of its arms -- such an army is imbued with the true military spirit."

- "There are only two sources for this spirit. . . .  The first is a series of victorious wars; the second, frequent exertions of the army to the utmost limits of its strength."

“In what field of human activity is boldness more at home than in war? . . .  It must be granted a certain power over and above successful calculations involving space, time, and magnitude of forces."

- "In war more than anywhere else things do not turn out as we expect. . . .  Perseverance in the chosen course is the essential counterweight."

"The best strategy is always to be very strong; first in general, and then at the decisive point. . . .  There is no higher and simpler law of strategy than that of keeping one's forces concentrated."