Small Victories

Nothing is as settling a grand strategic plan. Whether you are a five-star general, or just a regular person, knowing there is a strategy in place makes the future a little less uncertain. But how do we know a good strategy from a bad one? How can you tell a good strategist from a bossy person?

Napoleon on a horse

Mostly it’s the uniform. And the horse.

A common complaint of leaders is they can win battles, but lack the overall vision needed to win the war. The extent of my own strategic experience was at the patient hands of Age of Empires and Total war. These strategy games taught me about flanking maneuvers, managing resources, and cavalry charges. These games have also taught me that grand strategic visions never work out the way you would like them to. Strategic vision makes us think we can see the future, but we are kidding ourselves. The future is uncertain, no matter how well you plot it out. Good strategies develop over time, and grand plans must bow to the limits of reality.


No one will play long enough for you to win.

Complaining that a strategist or his strategy can win battles but not the war demonstrates a misunderstanding of war itself. While it can become quite sophisticated, conflict is not quite the art form it is often made out to be The truth is, the best way to win is to just win all the time. A general who wins every battle may not be remembered as a scrappy underdog, but he will win his war.

Joan of Arc

Or her war.

Most of us are not soldiers or generals. We will never be called upon to lead a charge or conquer an enemy. At least not in the real world. But that doesn’t mean knowledge of strategy is therefore useless. We are all at war with ourselves. The goal of the war is to become well-adjusted, complete individuals. Some people call this growing up. I call it the War of Actualization. No matter what self-help gurus or nihilist prophets tell you, the way to win that war is to do your very best to win every single battle. Will the civilized adult prevail, or will the inner barbarian destroy everything?

ghengis khan abe lincoln

Even barbarians have to grow up sometime.

Small victories are great, especially when there are a lot of them. Adult life is full of pressures and responsibilities. And for every action good or bad there are consequences. This can all be overwhelming for the weak-willed human. They give up the War of Actualization without even fighting a single battle.

The greatest weapon in the enemy’s arsenal is the excuse. I can’t do X because of Y. I can’t go the grocery store because I’m afraid of traffic. I can’t get a job because the world is out to get me. I can’t tell the truth because Bigfoot threatened to kill me.

Big Foot

Not that Bigfoot. The other Bigfoot.

The more stuff you do, the fewer excuses there will be. The weaker your inner barbarian will become. Soon enough, you will realize that you have won the war. And you might even have some time to enjoy yourself before the end of the game.

I have yet to win my own war of actualization. I come up with excuses no to do things that scare me, and I have been known to avoid responsibility. Occasionally. But my progress is clear. And sometimes the most significant victories are the most mundane.

It has been months since I ran out of toilet paper, because I go to the store and restock on important things like an adult. Small victories lead to great triumphs, indeed.

Toilet Paper

Great, quilted triumphs.