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Bing Hangs Tough

The work of Stanley Bing, who learned all he knows working for an unnamed but presumably vicious corporation, first appeared in Esquire magazine in 1984. He gives cold-blooded career advice.

He is the author of "Throwing the Elephant: Zen and the Art of Managing Up" and "What Would Machiavelli Do? The Ends Justify the Meanness," and of the novels "Lloyd: What Happened?" and "You Look Nice Today."

Bing says that the level of rage in our society is at an all-time high: cell phone rage, waiter rage, road rage. He says, "We need to be tougher and meaner in this world. We need to accept the fact that we work in a tough, competitive war-like environment and that there is going to be a certain level of nastiness. We've got to live in that and we've got to win."

Sun Tzu thought that the best way to wage war was to be prepared for war so you wouldn't actually have to engage in battle. Bing doesn't agree with this. He holds that you need to be prepared for war and engage in the battle.

He points to the recent election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a good example. He says, "We need to be aggressive. What made Arnold the governor of California? Was it that the people who voted for him thought he had good sound policies? No."

Bing believes voters liked Arnold because he was going to, at least, enter into battle to solve the problems. The world is increasingly difficult to manage and we like it when someone at least appears to be willing to take it on.


Here is an excerpt of Sun Tzu Was a Sissy by Stanley Bing

Beyond Yin and Yang:

The Secret of Yinyang

Fate is both yin and yang. It is ice. It is fire. It is winter

and spring, summer and fall, and then winter again.

Go with it. Go against it. That is victory.

Sun Tzu

You can't win if you don't play.

Poker aphorism

War is hell. War is glory. You've got to have the ability to sustain small losses between major victories. But like it? No. Take it in stride? Only if you're a loser.

In battle, attitude is all. And true warriors are united in the fact that they hate to lose even more than they love to win. They're nuts about it. Sometimes that hatred of being on the wrong end of the beefstick makes them do nutty things, of course. It pays to think about that for a moment, before we go on.

I don't like to pick on Martha Stewart, because I believe she is, in the end, a teeny newt who has been treated shockingly in comparison to the enormous, gray toads whose crimes far, far outstrip hers and who are now all writing books somewhere waiting for Forbes to do a positive retrospective on them.

But Martha had a chance, at the very beginning of her ordeal, to admit that she kind of screwed up, acted rather badly for someone who is both a genius and a former stockbroker, take whatever tepid punishment the pleased, appeased, and publicityhungry Feds were of a mind to dole out, and then, sadder but richer, soldier on.

Instead, because she couldn't bear to lose to the press, the Justice Department, or anyone else, she brought herself a world of grief and, even worse, lost a lot of money pursuing her dream of perfection.

That's too much Yang.

On the other side, there's Jerry Levin of Time Warner, perhaps pound for pound the biggest Tzu-head of the last few decades. So strategic was this teeny warrior that he strategized his entire company out of, like, 60 percent of its value in the merger with AOL. Come on, he told the ragtag bunch of scrabbly Internet dudes who couldn't find a corporate infrastructure with both hands, take us. We're yours. He assumed the position. And it took his proud empire years to undo the damage wrought by his intelligence, foresight, and pure, unadulturated Yin.

Yang never drops its sword until death has made its decision who to take.

Yin hopes that the other guy will die of a heart attack while he's stabbing you.

As you prepare yourself for the eternal struggle that is the life of the warrior, you must cultivate both not consecutively, but in unison. You must reach for both inside yourself and merge the two into the warrior attitude of both strength and flexibility, aggression and strategy, anger and the ability to swallow that anger and make a deal that will enable you to fight another day. Too much Yang makes you stupid. Too much Yin makes you a wuss.

What you need is the combo of both. You need Yinyang.

Yinyang is the point where the irrational will to power merges sinuously with the willingness to be reasonable. This mix manifests itself in a variety of ways, and is the determinant of success in war.

Too much Yang gives you war in Iraq. You get an idea in your head and nobody can turn you off it. It happens to executives all the time. You may work for one of them. If you do, you know what I'm talking about. The kind of guys who said the car would never replace the horse, that cable was a flash in the pan, that it was a good idea to build a nuclear power plant over the largest fault line in the United States or at the east end of Long Island, where it takes two hours to go down the road and buy a blueberry pie on the weekends -- a fact that might have some bearing on evacuation plans? No way. Too much Yang.

Next down the chart are the executives who have just a little too much testosterone for their own good. You can be one of those. It means you will win for a while, and then lose playing the game that got you there.

At the other end of the scale, right after Time Warner, is Estonia, which has been taken over by every invading army since the invention of beer.

And in the middle is Warren Buffett, the perfect mixture of Yin and Yang, the apotheosis ofYinyang. Yinyang is never saying Yes to failure. But never being too proud to listen to reason.

Yinyang means in the face of Yes there is no No. In the face of No, there is no Yes. There is only what you are fighting for. But if Maybe appears ... not being too big a stiffy about it to listen.

Yinyang is power. Yinyang is money. Yinyang is more than power or money. It is Winning. The feeling ofWinning flowing within you and outside you, mussing your hair, if you have hair, and if you do not, mussing the memory of your hair.

But Yinyang is also waiting, patiently, for Winning to come along.

It is Oneness, Sureness, Obnoxiousness. It is your warrior attitude. Beyond Yin. Beyond Yang. That's so Old School.

It's Yinyang.

Get some.

The foregoing is excerpted from Sun Tzu Was a Sissy by Stanley Bing. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022