“Winning the peace”: Success defined


So-and-so “won the peace,” my wife says to me. We say that often to each other. It has become part of our private spousal language, a shortcut to an expansive world of meaning. The context? Life, and success of the genuine, authentic, meaningful sort.

When I introduced Carl von Clausewitz as part of a little mini-series on strategy, I explicitly said that, in my forthcoming book and on this blog, I’m only using war as primal metaphor for the rest of life.

Failure is often the result of succeeding at the wrong thing (eg, choosing the wrong “battles” and “wars” to win, as Pyrrhus did). Ironically, success is therefore often the result of failing at the wrong thing, and thus having an opportunity to “return” to the right things.

But Success, capitalized, tends to be about being clear about what matters, about the ends you are ultimately pursuing in life, and then using little successes only as means. Means and ends. In short, it is about strategy as taught by Clausewitz. Those who Succeed in Life “won the peace”.

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7 thoughts on ““Winning the peace”: Success defined

  1. Andreas – very much looking forward to reading more about your “win the peace” strategies.

    An obvious (though oft neglected) reason to consider winning-the-peace strategies – is that usually (even in most literal wars) you have to live with the people on the other end of your metaphor. And most things in life are not a zero-sum war-game. Though sadly our language embeds that bellicose metaphor too widely.

    Do you know George Lakoffs work on metaphors (or meta-metaphors)?
    And how they non-consciously shape our thoughts?
    Good summary from Pinker (courtesy of google books) http://bit.ly/UhpoZ in which he discusses “love is a journey” and ‘argument as war’ metaphors.

    That last one is interesting for the way we practice intellectual and political ‘arguments’ . The unproductive elevation of combative rhetoric as the dominant style – has contributed to our unhealthy warring pundits public discourse.

    PS – Pat Benatar was wrong.

    • You really do point us to jewels, Jag.

      I’ve got a Lakoff book here (given to me) about Pink Elephants or something like that. But have not read it. But Pinker has it right. These overused and stale war and journey metaphors have, ahem, lost their punch, gone in the wrong direction. They’re always fighting the last war and going down one-way streets.

      Seriously: I HATE casual war metaphors. Even in The Economist, I can’t count how many times an editor has felt the need to dramatize an article by me about, say, a boring corporate merger with something like “the battle for X…”

    • <i."……I HATE casual war metaphors…….."

      I particularly hate “battle” or “battling”, as in the still ubiquitous “…….John So and So died yesterday after battling (name the illness of your choice)……….”.

      I’d like to think that your own Economist now avoids like…….well………the plague, this most irritating use of “battling”.

  2. Thanks for the comment on my potential thesis. The research question still needs some fine-tuning but it’s a start. Also, I’ll be following your blog for more tidbits such as this Pyrrhus story. And I look forward to your book.

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