The Empty Fort

The Empty Fort

The Empty Fort Strategy is the 32nd of the Chinese Thirty-Six Stratagems. You are a military general and have led many successful military campaigns, in one case you sent the bulk of the army on an expedition and kept back only a 2500 soldiers for the defense of your fort.  Now, another enemy decides to invade you and your spies inform you that he is coming there with 200,000 soldiers.  Your army is out of reach and all you have is 2500 soldiers.  Your fort has got a lot of supplies and you don’t want your enemy to have them.  How will you handle the situation?

We all might have our strategies, let us see what this great Chinese general Zhuge Liang did when he faced that situation.

Here is a little background of what happened then.

Zhuge Liang garrisoned at Yangping (around present-day Hanzhong, Shaanxi) and ordered Wei Yan to lead the troops east. He left behind only 10,000 (Some say he had only 2500 men against 150,000 of Sima Yi) to defend Yangping. Sima Yi led 200,000 troops to attack Zhuge Liang and he took a shortcut, bypassing Wei Yan’s army and arriving at a place 60 li away from Zhuge Liang’s location. Upon inspection, Sima Yi realised that Zhuge Liang’s city was weakly defended. Zhuge Liang knew that Sima Yi was near, so he thought of recalling Wei Yan’s army back to counter Sima Yi, but it was too late already and his men were worried and terrified.

Zhuge Liang remained calm and instructed his men to hide all flags and banners and silence the war drums. He then ordered all the gates to be opened and told his men to sweep and dust the ground. Sima Yi was under the impression that Zhuge Liang was cautious and prudent, and he was baffled by the sight before him and suspected that there was an ambush. He then withdrew his troops. The following day, Zhuge Liang clapped his hands, laughed, and told an aide that Sima Yi thought that there was an ambush and had retreated. Later, his scouts returned and reported that Sima Yi had indeed retreated. Sima Yi was very upset when he heard about it later.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Here is the video version of it.

A calculated risk by the general to save his men isn’t it?  One might argue that the general in the opposition was too cautious and did not take his chances, but then, one should congratulate Zhuge Liang for creating that illusion and taking a risk.   He saved his men, his fort and his supplies from the impending disaster.  He had a reputation of being a master strategist and he used his reputation to create an illusion of ambush.  It was very well calculated move and Liang was aware of all consequences in case the plan backfired.   He took a chance and the opponent fell for it, finally, Liang came out of it unscathed.  This became a de facto strategy for many other generals later on.

In our day to day life, we too are pushed into situations that demand out of box answers.  These situations ask us to come up with smart and out of box thinking.  We ought to take well thought of and calculated risks that help us and our teams.  Remember, these risks need to be well calculated and one ought to think of all the consequences before going ahead with them.  Read the situations, use your knowledge, leverage on your strengths and then take chances and well-calculated risks, the rewards and learning from these exercises are indeed awesome.

Think Out of Box

Think Out of Box

  • Employee “A” in a company walked up to his manager and asked what my job is for the day?
  • The manager took “A” to the bank of a river and asked him to cross the river and reach the other side of the bank.
  • “A” completed this task successfully and reported back to the manager about the completion of the task assigned. The manager smiled and said “GOOD JOB”

Next day Employee “B” reported to the same manager and asked him the job for the day. The manager assigned the same task as above to this person also.

  • The Employee “B’ before starting the task saw Employee “C” struggling in the river to reach the other side of the bank. He realized “C” has the same task.
  • Now “B” not only crossed the river but also helped “C” to cross the river.
  • “B” reported back to the manager and the manager smiled and said “VERY GOOD JOB

The following day Employee “Q” reported to the same manager and asked him the job for the day. The manager assigned the same task again.

  • Employee “Q” before starting the work did some home work and realized “A”, “B” & “C” all has done this task before. He met them and understood how they performed.
  • He realized that there is a need for a guide and training for doing this task.
  • He sat first and wrote down the procedure for crossing the river, he documented the common mistakes people made, and tricks to do the task efficiently and effortlessly.
  • Using the methodology he had written down he crossed the river and reported back to the manager along with documented procedure and training material.
  • The manger said “Q” you have done an “EXCELLENT JOB”.

The following day Employee “O’ reported to the manager and asked him the job for the day. The manager assigned the same task again.

“O” studied the procedure written down by “Q” and sat and thought about the whole task.He realized company is spending lot of money in getting this task completed. He decided not to cross the river, but sat and designed and implemented a bridge across the river and went back to his manager and said, “You no longer need to assign this task to any one”.
The manager smiled and said “Outstanding job ‘O’. I am very proud of you.”


What is the difference between A, B, Q & O????????
Many a times in life we get tasks to be done at home, at office, at play….,Most of us end up doing what is expected out of us. Do we feel happy? Most probably yes. We would be often disappointed when the recognition is not meeting our expectation.

Let us compare ourselves with “B”. Helping someone else the problem often improves our own skills. There is an old proverb (I do not know the author) “learn to teach and teach to learn”. From a company point of view “B” has demonstrated much better skills than “A” since one more task for the company is completed.

“Q” created knowledge base for the team. More often than not, we do the task assigned to us without checking history. Learning from others mistake is the best way to improve efficiency. This knowledge creation for the team is of immense help. Re-usability reduces cost there by increases productivity of the team. “Q” demonstrated good “team-player” skills,

Now to the outstanding person, “O” made the task irrelevant; he created a Permanent Asset to the team. If you notice B, Q and O all have demonstrated “team performance” over and above individual performance; also they have demonstrated a very invaluable characteristic known as “INITIATIVE”.

Initiative pays of everywhere whether at work or at personal life. If you put initiative, you will succeed. Initiative is a continual process and it never ends. This is because this year’s achievement is next year’s task. You cannot use the same success story every year. The story provides an instance of performance, whereas measurement needs to be spread across at least 6-12 months. Consequently, performance should be consistent and evenly spread.

Out-of-Box thinkers are always premium and that is what everyone constantly looks out for. Initiative, Out-of-Box thinking and commitment are the stepping stone to success.
Initiative should be lifelong. Think of out of the box.



(It is very tough to determine the author of a forward mail Hence I do not know the original author of this article .Whoever wrote this deserves a big applause.)



Leadership lessons from Rahul Dravid

I was 12 when I first watched Dravid play, was bored with his game in the beginning but started loving him later on. I believe he was born in a wrong era, had he been born in an era sans Tendulkar, the love and adulation he would have received from the Indian fans would have doubled or mark my words even tripled.

In the illustrious career that spanned for over 16 years we got see many facets of the “Great Wall”. The perseverance, the adaptability, the selflessness, the attitude of putting the team first …. all of them hold valuable lessons for all of us in our respective career paths. Here are some leadership lessons we can learn from the true legend of Indian Cricket.

For Entry-Level Executives:

Rahul Dravid is more technique than talent. He is a disciplinarian who came first to any practice session and left last, and didn’t miss coaching. Dravid idolized Sunil Gavaskar, another master technician. Dravid in his earliest days imbibed from his coach and his idol that patience, staying at the wicket and a work-horse like approach was the sure-shot way to sustain initial success.

The lessons for entry-level corporate executives are clear: it takes a lot of learning and honing the ‘fundamentals’ of the domain, for an expert to emerge. Dravid also stands for fitness and multi-skilling. They make you more valuable to your employer. A junior manager should think, Dravid kept wickets for India; he needn’t have developed that skill.

For Middle-management:

Early successes spurred Dravid to greater dedication. He went to master newer abilities, the square cut of a turning ball, the glance off the pads of an in swinging delivery and the pull shot along the ground. His success made him more grounded. He adapted to ODIs. But still maintained an unassuming profile. He never minded playing second-fiddle in any long partnership.

The takeaways to corporate managers in the middle to senior levels are plenty. Build on pilot success, each milestone only spells a higher bar for the next, no celebration, in fact no declaration of successes even. And above all partnerships, peer-group respect and selflessness. Dravid put his team first always, but he still ended up as the second-highest run-getter of all times.

For Leadership Executives:

Dravid failed as a captain. The lowest point was the India’s ignominious early exit from the 2007 World Cup. He was sacked as a captain, but he still wrote a letter to BCCI saying he didn’t want to continue. He was removed as a captain by his IPL team owner Vijay Mallya.

Dravid continued to perform as a player. He showed grit and determination not to let his team, its owners and the reputation down. He wasn’t made to be an all-guns-blazing leader his successor M.S.Dhoni turned out be. The lesson for corporate leaders? No matter how well prepared and competent you are, circumstances may give you a rough time. It is the ability to rebound and flourish again that determines the ultimate winner.

Reference:- Economic Times

A Shark in Your Tank

A Shark in Your Tank

The Japanese have a great liking for fresh fish. But the waters close to Japan have not held many fish for decades. So, to feed the Japanese population, fishing boats got bigger and went farther than ever. The farther the fishermen went, the longer it took to bring back the fish. The longer it took them to bring back the fish, the staler they grew.

The fish were not fresh and the Japanese did not like the taste. To solve this problem, fishing companies installed freezers on their boats. They would catch the fish and freeze them at sea. Freezers allowed the boats to go farther and stay longer. However, the Japanese could taste the difference between fresh and frozen fish. And they did not like the taste of frozen fish. The frozen fish brought a lower price. So, fishing companies installed fish tanks. They would catch the fish and stuff them in the tanks.  After a little hashing around, the fish stopped moving. They were tired and dull, but alive.

Unfortunately, the Japanese could still taste the difference. Because the fish did not move for days, they lost their fresh-fish taste. The Japanese preferred the lively taste of fresh fish, not sluggish fish. The fishing industry faced an impending crisis!

But today, it has got over that crisis and has emerged as one of the most important trades in that country! How did Japanese fishing companies solve this problem? How do they get fresh-tasting fish to Japan?

To keep the fish tasting fresh, the Japanese fishing companies still put the fish in the tanks. But now they add a small shark to each tank. The shark eats a few fish, but most of the fish arrive in a very lively state. The fish are challenged and hence are constantly on the move. And they survive and arrive in a healthy state! They command a higher price and are most sought-after. The challenge they face keeps them fresh!

Humans are no different. L. Ron Hubbard observed in the early 1950’s:

“Man thrives, oddly enough, only in the presence of a challenging environment.”

George Bernard Shaw said:” Satisfaction is death!”

If you are steadily conquering challenges, you are happy. Your challenges keep you energized. You are excited to try new solutions. You have fun. You are alive! Instead of avoiding challenges, jump into them. Do not postpone a task, simply because its challenging. Catch these challenges by their horns and vanquish them. Enjoy the game. If your challenges are too large or too numerous, do not give up. Giving up makes you tired.

Instead, reorganize. Find more determination, more knowledge, more help. Don’t create success and revel in it in a state of inertia. You have the resources, skills and abilities to make a difference. *

Put a shark in your tank and see how far you can really go!*

I do not know he author of this wonderful article, I got this as an e-mail forward. I salute the original author as I too draw inspiration when I read this, with due credit to the original author I am sharing this content on this site so that whoever reads this will get benefited.

Salk did not Sulk

Salk did not Sulk

If there was anything that the World feared after the second world war it was Polio.  There were millions of people who were affected by this epidemic.  In 1952 alone some 58,000 cases were reported in the US, of these, some 3,145 people died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis.  If these are the stats of the most developed country of that age, one can only imagine the pain of the underdeveloped world. The pain gets compounded when one realizes that most of the victims are children. Their bright lives were turning bleak due to this disease.

Such was the effect of the epidemic that the then President Mr. Franklin D. Roosevelt founded the March of Dimes foundation to raise funds.  The president of the world’s wealthiest country was asking his people to send a dime to support the research.  Millions contributed their cents to fight this epidemic and many researchers spent their days and nights to invent a vaccine that would bring an end to one of the most dangerous epidemics of the world.  From 1938 till the Salk vaccine was legalized in 1955 this foundation spent approximately $238 million on the research to find a vaccine.

Jonas Edward Salk, son of poorly educated immigrants, a Jew who was discriminated upon, a man who did not get to study the subject of his interest was the unlikely hero who solved this complex problem.

It was not easy for him.  His parents were immigrants, they came to the US from Poland and they were not well educated. However, they wanted him to be educated and make it big in his life.   He wanted to become a lawyer, he wanted to study humanities, he wanted to earn name and fame in an area that dealt directly with people.  His mother, however, did not approve of this and made him take up medicine.  What complicated things further was his religion, those were the times when people of his religion were discriminated upon and that made his prospects bleak.

He completed medicine and became an M.D.   However, he did not get the respect he deserved in his early days, in fact when he chose the line of research he was at times given small laboratories. The facilities he was given were very discouraging.  However, this man did not budge, the only weapon he had was commitment and persistence. With these qualities, he overcame all the odds to become one of the most respected researchers of all times.

Salk persisted through all the oddities and led a team for 7 years (1948-1955) and came up with the vaccine that gave solace to the world.  The fact that the field trial he set up involved 20,000 physicians and public health officers, 64,000 school personnel, and 220,000 volunteers and over 1,800,000 school children speaks volumes about the work this man did.   These trials were a huge success and Salk was the hero of the world.

He could have earned billions had he patented this vaccine, he did not do it.  He wanted this vaccine to be available to every child so that Polio is kept at bay.  He lived a humble life and gave a message with his deeds.

If a man with a very normal background, without getting into a field of choice, without having the options to choose, a man discriminated upon could achieve so much, it was all because of commitment. Salk committed himself to a cause and did not rest till he achieved his objective.  His commitment and perseverance saved the world from Polio.

We all sulk when we face obstacles, don’t we? We blame the world, our parents, our friends, our teachers when we don’t get what we want?  Had Salk sulked when his mother forced her choice on him, would he all this?

If commitment could make such an underprivileged man do wonders think of what it can do to us.  Aren’t we more privileged than that son of Jewish immigrants who was discriminated upon? Aren’t we lucky enough to be born in the era of opportunities?  Can’t we be successful in a field of our choice?

Have a goal and get committed to it, greet failures with a smile and work your way till success knocks your doors. The path has big obstacles in it, but then, the world is waiting for wonders to happen.

You can read more about Jonas Edward Salk here.

Believe and you are half way there

Believe and you are half way there

For many people a trip to New York is not complete without visiting the Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge is a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge in New York City and is one of the oldest bridges of either type in the United States. Completed in 1883, it connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. It has a main span of 1,595.5 feet (486.3 m), and was the first steel-wire suspension bridge constructed.   Since its opening, it has become an icon of New York City, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972.

The Brooklyn Bridge that spans the river tying Manhattan Island to Brooklyn is truly a splendid monument. At the time it opened, and for several years, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world—50% longer than any previously built—and it has become a treasured landmark.  Back in the 1800’s the aerodynamic wind tests for the bridges was unheard of, hence most of the bridges of that time have either collapsed or have been marked unsafe for use. The engineer who designed this, designed a bridge and truss system that was six times as strong as he thought it needed to be. Because of this, the Brooklyn Bridge is still standing when many of the bridges built around the same time have vanished into history and been replaced.

What makes this bridge and its story more interesting is the marvelous story around the construction of the bridge.

In 1863, an engineer named John Roebling was inspired by an idea for this spectacular bridge. However, bridge-building experts throughout the world felt that it was an impractical idea and told him to give it up.  They felt that it was not an idea that was worth pursuing.

Roebling and his son, Washington (who was a young engineer at that time) were fairly convinced that the bridge could be built.  The father son duo drew plans, made the needed calculations and came up with the model to construct the bridge. They dismissed the naysayers and started the construction with their crew.

A few days in to the construction John Roebling sustained a crush injury to his foot when a ferry pinned it against a piling. The injury turned out to be fatal and John succumbed to the injury a few days later. Around the same time, his son Washington came in contact with a depressing disease and that left Washington with permanent brain damage. As a result, Washington was unable to talk or walk.

What seemed to be the death knell for the project was averted because of the unbridled enthusiasm of Washington Roebling. While the disease did cripple him, it was not able to douse his burning desire to complete the bridge. He got his wife involved in the construction of the bridge, developed a code for communicating with her, went through the plans and designs again and again and worked with mission till the bridge got completed.

Here is what Wikipedia says about the tremendous effort the wife and Husband have put in .

Roebling conducted the entire construction from his apartment with a view of the work, designing and redesigning caissons and other equipment. He was aided by his wife Emily Warren Roebling who provided the critical written link between her husband and the engineers on site. Under her husband’s guidance, Emily studied higher mathematics, the calculations of catenary curves, the strengths of materials, bridge specifications, and the intricacies of cable construction. She spent the next 11 years assisting Washington Roebling, helping to supervise the bridge’s construction.

Faith in ones abilities and belief in oneself is extremely important for anyone to succeed.  Many a times we believe in the ability to fail than in our ability to succeed.  It’s important that we believe in ourselves and give our best.  Success is just around the corner.

Believe and you are halfway there.

Cricket Sledging

Cricket Sledging

During the 1991 Adelaide Test, Javed Miandad commented that Merv Hughes looked like a fat bus conductor.

Big Merv dismissed the Pakistani soon after, allegedly running passed the batsman yelling, ‘Tickets please!’

Daryll Cullinan was on his way to the wicket, Shane Warne remarked that he had been waiting 2 years for another chance to humiliate him.

Looks like you spent it eating,’ Cullinan retorted.


Is he really out

In the 1970s the umpires in New Zealand were notorious for being biased towards the home team and almost all team complained about it whenever they toured the country. It was India’s turn to experience it when they toured New Zealand in 1976 and since India used to depend a lot on their spinners, it became harder as most close in catches or lbw decisions went against them. The bowlers were pretty much exasperated at the treatment and so when India’s premier bowler B S Chandrasekhar wrapped up the New Zealand innings in the second Test by getting the batsman clean bowled, he did something that triggers a laugh even now among those who were present there. After the last batsman was clean bowled Chandra, as he used to be called, appealed vociferously for the dismissal. The dumbfounded umpire then asked him why on earth he was appealing as the batsman was clean bowled; that is when Chandra asked a question that summed up the level of umpiring quite admirably. He asked the umpire- “I know he is bowled but is he out?”

Reporters are reporters

An 8 year old boy was riding his bicycle in Ojus, Florida, when he saw his friend being attacked by a large pit bulldog. The boy jumped off his bike, ran and jumped on the dog’s back. After prying the vicious animal’s teeth from his young friend’s body, he put the dog in a choke hold and held on until the dog was dead.

The local newspaper editor happened to witness this feat and after calling for the ambulance on his cell phone, ran over to the young hero and said, “Son that was one of the bravest things I have ever seen. You’re going to make tomorrow’s headlines. It will read: ‘University of Miami fan is a Hero: Risks his life and Saves Young Friend from Vicious Pit Bull Attack.'”

The youngster said, “That’s nice, but I’m not a University of Miami Fan.”

Then the Headline will read, “University of Florida Fan Saves young friend’s Life in Pitt Bull Attack.”

The Young Man said, “But I’m not a University of Florida fan.”

The editor said, “OK, then it will read, “FSU Fan Saves Friend’s Life.”

Once again the young man interrupted saying, “I’m not a FSU Fan, either.”

The editor, becoming somewhat irritated, asked, “Then, who is you favorite team?”

The kid replied with a big smile, “The Georgia Bulldogs!!!”

The next morning, the local newspaper headlines read:


Humor in the air.

Occasionally, airline attendants and pilots make an effort to make the “in-flight safety lecture” and their other announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are some real examples that have been heard or reported:

  1. From a Southwest Airlines employee…. “There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane…”
  2. Pilot: “Folks, we have reached our cruising altitude now, so I am going to switch the seat belt sign off. Feel free to move about as you wish, but please stay inside the plane till we land…it’s a bit cold outside, and if you walk on the wings it affects the flight pattern.”
  3. After landing: “Thank you for flying Delta Business Express. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.”
  4. As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Washington National, a lone voice comes over the loudspeaker: “Whoa, big fella. WHOA!”
  5. After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in Memphis, a flight attendant on a Northwest flight announced: “Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted.”
  6. From a Southwest Airlines employee: “Welcome aboard Southwest Flight XXX to YYY. To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt and if you don’t know how to operate one, you probably shouldn’t be out in public unsupervised. In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with two small children, decide now which one you love more.
  7. “Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but they’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you or your money, more than Southwest Airlines.”
  8. “Your seat cushions can be used for flotation and in the event of an emergency water landing, please take them with our compliments.”
  9. “As you exit the plane, please make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.”
  10. “Last one off the plane must clean it.”
  11. From the pilot during his welcome message: “We are pleased to have some of the best flight attendants in the industry… Unfortunately none of them are on this flight…!”
  12. Overheard on an American Airlines flight into Amarillo, Texas, on a particularly windy and bumpy day. During the final approach, the Captain was really having to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the Flight Attendant came on the PA and announced: ”Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Amarillo. Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the Captain taxis what’s left of our airplane to the gate!”
  13. Another Flight Attendant’s comment on a less than perfect landing: “We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal.”
  14. An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a “Thanks for flying XYZ airline.” He said that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally,everyone had gotten off except for this little old lady walking with a cane. She said: ”Sonny, mind if I as you a question?” “Why no, Ma’am,” said the pilot, “what is it?” The little old lady said: “Did we land or were we shot down?”
  15. After a real crusher of a landing in Phoenix, the Flight Attendant came on with, “Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt up against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we’ll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal.”
  16. Part of a Flight Attendant’s arrival announcement: “We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you’ll think of us here at US Airways.”

On arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport, the pilot announced: “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to report that we have arrived on time since, owing to a stroke of luck, we managed to find the airport at the first attempt.”