One of my favorite books that I’ve read last year is Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. The author did a great job researching and tracking the footsteps of Genghis Khan and his ruling descendants through Mongolia and outside Mongolia.
It was a pleasant experience to discover the complexity and depth of the Mongolian way of life through this book and to see beyond the image in the popular culture, the image of the horde with blood thirsty brute savages.
Conan’s words are supposedly attributed to Genghis Khan
I’m not going to write about that complexity in this post, I highly recommend reading the book and finding for yourself. The purpose of my post is to illustrate winning Mongolian strategies and tactics that have applicability not only on the battlefield but outside of it as well.
Throughout history it’s unity and discipline that usually made the difference between winning or losing. Break the unity of the enemy, seed chaos and you gain the upper hand over him even if he has superior numbers, divide et impera | divide and conquer are winning strategies and were used not only by the Romans but by other victors as well.
The Mongol’s success arose from their cohesion and discipline, bred over millennia as nomads working in small groups, and from their steadfast loyalty to their leader.
There is no honor in only trying, there is no second place, go for total victory and finish what you start:
The Mongols did not find honor in fighting; they found honor in winning. They had a single goal in every campaign—total victory. Toward this end, it did not matter what tactics were used against the enemy or how the battles were fought or avoided being fought. Winning by clever deception or cruel trickery was still winning and carried no stain on the bravery of the warriors, since there would be plenty of other occasions for showing prowess on the field. For the Mongol warrior, there was no such thing as individual honor in battle if the battle was lost. As Genghis Khan reportedly said, there is no good in anything until it is finished.
Use the element of surprise, vary your tactics, reward loyalty and punish treachery, create a few basic but unwavering principles that should become the “religion” of your group of people:
Genghis Khan recognized that warfare was not a sporting contest or a mere match between rivals; it was a total commitment of one people against another. Victory did not come to the one who played by the rules; it came to the one who made the rules and imposed them on his enemy. Triumph could not be partial. It was complete, total, and undeniable—or it was nothing. In battle, this meant the unbridled use of terror and surprise. In peace, it meant the steadfast adherence to a few basic but unwavering principles that created loyalty among the common people. Resistance would be met with death, loyalty with security.
You are invincible until your last dying breath, never give up, keep hope alive, don’t think about death and failure, think positive and think about solutions not the problems.
On and off the battlefield, the Mongol warrior was forbidden to speak of death, injury, or defeat. Just to think of it might make it happen. Even mentioning the name of a fallen comrade or other dead warrior constituted a serious taboo. Every Mongol soldier had to live his life as a warrior with the assumption that he was immortal, that no one could defeat him or harm him, that nothing could kill him. At the last moment of life, when all had failed and no hope remained, the Mongol warrior was supposed to look upward and beckon his fate by calling out the name of the Eternal Blue Sky as his final earthly words.
We know now from neuroscience that each thought we have forms a unique neuronal network in our brains. The more we use that thought the stronger that network becomes and the stronger the connections between the neurons become and the more readily available that neural network becomes to your reasoning process. You are what you think. The limbic system is constantly searching for threats so it can trigger a fight or flight response to the first sign of threat. Don’t feed the limbic system with imaginary threats. You want to see solution not problems. The mind is great at creating imaginary threats, evolution favored individuals with this characteristic. However, the environment has changed, there are not that many potential imminent threats, there are not that many bushes left in the city that have a lion or a serpent lurking in them.
Don’t give in to hedonistic pursuits, once you start following them you start forgetting your focus and goals, you will be no better than a slave:
In keeping with his own sober manner and simple style of living, Genghis Khan warned them against the pursuit of a “colorful” life with material frivolities and wasteful pleasures. “It will be easy,” he explained, “to forget your vision and purpose once you have fine clothes, fast horses, and beautiful women.” In that case, “you will be no better than a slave, and you will surely lose everything.”
As seen, these are the characteristics that make a winning mentality. The Mongol success doesn’t consist only in prowess with the bow and arrow and prowess riding the horse, you also need wise leaders with a winner mentality to funnel collective skill into achieving goals:
“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” Alexander the Great.