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May 25th, 2021
There’s a specific little seaside down in the north east of the United State of America that employed a clever strategy during the revolutionary war with Britain. The British naval fleet was no force to scoff at and it was a critical danger to the United States forces, especially those little sea side town. But luckily, the scrappy fishermen devised a clever solution when they saw a British frigate on the horizon, approaching from Boston. When the British frigate got close enough, they saw the local fort and realized that it was heavily harmed with dozens of canons. From the British point of view, it would be suicide to get any closer, and so they turned and left. The rather amusing bit of this story is that the fort actually had only a couple of cannons. The rest were logs the fisherman had painted and mounted to look like canons.
Just as a threat can be hollow, so too can be an effective defence. It’s a bluff, like going all in during a poker game in an attempt to psych out your opponent. Take this image for example. Let’s say your an entrepreneur of little resources and someone with a bit more resources sues you. That can be tough, emotionally, and it can potentially end one’s efforts. But let’s say you don’t back down. You can manage to hire one lawyer who can navigate the initial proceedings of a courtroom, but in addition to this, you hire (or goad several friends) to pose as additional assistance of the legal team. They dress up in formal attire, don very somber and serious expressions and show up to court and sit with you and your own lawyer. Think about the visual this creates. Your bitter opponent assumes that perhaps they’ve over estimated your resources and realizes that they might be actually be pounding on a cement wall with a de-clawed cat paw.
In chess, the phrasing for this is that a good defence is also a good offence. Of course it also extends beyond chess. Often when some unexpected life event throws us on our back foot we think solely in terms of defence and fail to think of that defence in terms of a counter-offence. By being on the defensive we seem to automatically assume we are somehow weaker or less resourceful than if we were trying to mount an offence, but the difference is merely one of perspective, and shifting perspective while on that back foot to one of an offence is likely far more effective for devising an effective response, even if the threat is a hollow one.