LEARNING THE DIFFERENCE

STRATEGYTACTICS

WHY WE DON’T ACHIEVE WHAT WE WANT

Do you know any person that achieves everything that they want?

Probably not.

How about achieving what they deserve?

That seems more reasonable, doesn’t it?

The truth is, that we, as human beings, have this amazing mental capacity to set a goal and we can actually achieve it.

Most of us want to achieve so much, that we don’t even know with which goal to start with.

Left or right? This one or that one? Which is right, which is wrong?

When we tax our brain with all these questions, it almost turns itself off from logical thinking.

Our brain is not comfortable making hard decisions, as I covered in this blog post.

When it sees too much complexity, it goes into hibernation.

You could also call it procrastination.

We all know about it.

The problem is that most of the time, when we want to achieve something, we jump right into it and then, real life happens. It seems harder than expected. 

At this point, you probably tell yourself “What is THIS? I wanted a challenge, not a problem!”.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one.

Remember how we sometimes can’t find something in our own house? Some people have problems with their keys.

We start looking everywhere for them.

We open the drawer, we check all the tables, we look under the tables, we look under the chairs, we look in our bed, we check our shoes, we check the bathroom.

We still can’t find it, so what do we do?

We go back and look in the same places, again.

Isn’t that crazy?

Are the keys going to magically appear in the same place we already checked?

Did you ever see someone looking for their glasses, just to find out it was already on their nose?

I think we can both agree that our brain sometimes doesn’t seem that brilliant.

Which raises the question, how could we make our brain more efficient when it needs some help?

The answer is simple.

We have to help it by using strategies and tactics.

STRATEGY VS TACTICS

Many people don’t know the difference between strategies and tactics.

They jump into each situation and hope for the best.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

You don’t need to be reactive.

You need to be proactive.

This means that you have a plan. You don’t just let your mind and body react on its own when something happens.

This is essential if you want to be efficient.

Of course, you could tell me that we’ve been doing so many things in our life by just relying on intuition. 

The problem is that our instincts are primarily focused on survival, not intelligent decisions.

What does usually happen when someone attacks us verbally? Most of the time, we go into a fight or flight response, isn’t that right? We either take the “flight” option and don’t say anything, out of fear, or we take the “fight” option and attack back, out of anger.

The main issue here is not the actual response, both can be good in different situations.

The issue is if you let your emotions dictate your action each and every time.

Which raises the question, how else could we act?

It’s true that thinking on the spot in such a situation is not a solution. You don’t really have time to think “should I do this? should I do that?”, and I know how difficult it is to think clearly and make the best decision.

However, there is one thing we can do.

We all know that at one point or another we will have arguments.

If you say you don’t have any, you are either keeping the biggest secret from humankind or you’re leaving alone under a rock.

But let’s be honest, even when talking with ourselves, we still have arguments, because we always have different options and try to decide which would be the best one.

We always find ourselves in a situation where we have a different opinion and at that point, usually, all hell breaks loose.

The answer to this problem?

Strategies and tactics.

It’s not as complicated at it may seem.

Here is the simplified version.

IF [this] then [that]

Let’s put it in practice so you understand clearly.

IF [I get into an argument] then [I try to make it a conversation]

See how easy it is to apply it?

You don’t have to think on the spot on how you’re going to react.

You already know how you react in these type of situations.

This is your strategy.

You don’t have to think to do this. That’s because, at one point this is who you are, this is how you behave, you don’t have to even think of it.

But then what’s the tactic?

Well, the tactic is what comes after you have the strategy.

Let’s apply the same rule of “IF [this] then [that]”

IF [I try to make an argument a conversation] then [I use a friendly tone and tell the other person that I can understand that point of view]

Did you notice the difference?

When you have a strategy you know WHAT you will do.

When you have a tactic, you know HOW you will do it.

As you see, there is a clear difference between the 2 of them.

But knowing the difference is not enough.

Don’t we all know the difference between a car and a bicycle?

That doesn’t automatically mean that we also know how to use them.

So let’s have a look at each of them.

WHAT IS A STRATEGY

A strategy is a set of neurological impulses organized into a specific syntax which shapes emotional biochemical responses to such an extent that the stimulus-response is consistent.

Does it make any sense?

If you’d try hard enough, it probably would, but this is how someone who doesn’t know how to teach would tell you.

Just a basic definition and then good luck figuring it out on your own.

Let’s look at a better way of defining strategy.

STRATEGY = specific way of organizing your resources IN ORDER TO consistently get specific results.

I put an emphasis on “consistently” because we don’t want those results just once in a while.

That’s called a lottery.

Now, what is a resource? Nothing more than what you are using to get that result.

Do you want to clean your house? In order to do that you need to organize your resources, which in this case is your time and energy IN ORDER TO get a result, which is a clean home.

RESOURCES are basically what you have, in order to achieve that result.

If we want to go even deeper, time and energy are just 2 simple resources I mentioned for this example, but they are not alone. How about your emotions? Won’t you probably have a better time cleaning if you will be feeling good rather than angry at that time?

With what kind of emotion would you clean your home if you’re friends would be coming in 30 minutes, rather than you cleaning 2 days before they are coming, without the stressful time constraint?

Most people are unaware of what their strategy is.

Most people have an excellent strategy for having too much month at the end of the money, isn’t that right?

If you don’t have a strategy, your chances of having positive results are greatly diminished.

If you have a strategy, do you think that the probability of what you want going your way increases significantly?

Let’s look at nutrition since so many people have a hard time in this area.

If you have a strategy, you know:

  • WHAT you eat
  • WHEN you eat
  • HOW much you eat

If you don’t have a strategy, you’ll just wait for McDonald’s to tell you what’s new in their menu or ask the waiter what he recommends. Hint, he doesn’t care about your health or weight as much as he cares about the profit on the dish.

Let me give you one last example which involves both of us.

Let’s imagine, you and I, both work at the same company and we both receive $1000 in our pocket for making ourselves more productive. The winner also receives a pay raise as a REWARD.

That sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

Time to look at how we both approach this task.

Well, I’m so excited about this that I immediately buy a new printer, a new scanner, a new camera, a new chair, a new tablet, even a new special drawing tablet and I still have money left. So I buy some expensive coffee because I drink coffee anyway. It should help with productivity.

You, on the other hand, buy just 3 things, a journal, colored pens and a standing desk. You spent only half of the money since you decided this was everything you required to maximize productivity.

Guess who wins the productivity contest?

Yeah, it will be you.

Why?

Because you had a strategy.

I purchased so many things because I thought that they can help, but guess what, I just made my life harder. I have to learn to use all the devices and it will take away from my productivity to switch between all of them. Even picking the more expensive coffee is a bad decision. It has the same amount of caffeine as the cheaper one, so I just paid extra for a boost of personal confidence, which usually doesn’t last anyway.

On the other hand, you knew yourself and what would really make the most impact. You purchased a standing desk because it helps you get the blood flowing when you feel less energic. The journal and the colored pens? They are the only things you need to keep yourself organized and have a visual image of what has to be done.

See how much of a difference strategy can make?

We had the same resources, but we used them differently AND we produced different results.

What do you think, is making a strategy worth it?

At the end of the day, the strategy is the plan you make before taking the action, by knowing what you want to achieve.

Strategy means you have a plan for what you want and know what you want to put in your suitcase for that situation.

  • Going to hold a business training? You want to give the best training by engaging the people directly through games or participation, so you decide on bringing some physical items and prepare some engaging material.
  • Going to a family reunion? Your strategy is to make everyone feel better by making something personalized for them, so you decide on bringing a letter for each person.
  • Going to dinner with your beloved one? Well, I don’t know what your strategy is for this one, but imagine one.

Strategy is not that hard to understand, is it?

Think about what should you do and what do you need in order to achieve that goal?

What should you put in your suitcase in order to accomplish what you want?

This is what strategy is.

WHAT IS A TACTIC

The tactics are the tools, that you will actually have to use.

During the strategy phase, you prepared your suitcase with the necessary tools, but now, it’s time to put them to good use.

Tactics don’t work, unless you do.

If we go back to our example of being more productive, the strategy was to buy a few items that would improve our productivity.

So what were the tools that were purchased?

Let’s ignore what I purchased because that wasn’t a good strategy, actually, there wasn’t any strategy there.

Let’s look at what you purchased.

  • A standing desk
  • A journal
  • Colored Pens

These 3 are the tools.

Were they effective? It seems they were because you had a plan for selecting these specific tools.

In order to bring the right tools, you need to do your research.

  • Do you have a business contract to sign? The tactic is to say this and that during negotiations in order to achieve the result you want.
  • Do you have a family reunion? The tactic is to give them the letters and a few compliments, supposing you love them.
  • Do you have a date? The tactic is to dress in a specific way, use some compliments and buy a drink.

As you can see, tactics are specific.

There is not much ambiguity regarding them.

If we have to compare them, we could say that tactics are more important than strategy when it comes to achieving something.

It means that even if the strategy is bad, good tactics might still help you achieve that goal.

But we have to remember.

  • Strategy is done above the shoulders, with your head.
  • Tactics are done below your shoulders, with you actually having to move and take action. 

Strategy is short-term.

Tactics are long-term.

As you can see, there are some significant differences, which means that we should handle each, in a different way.

A strategy can be achieved through many different tactics.

After you picked a good strategy, you should stick with it.

On the other hand, to achieve that strategy, you should be open to testing different tactics.

Since tactics are short-term, you can see the results much faster and pivot if necessary.

  • The screwdriver doesn’t work? Take a hammer.
  • The hammer doesn’t work? Bring a wrecking ball.

Tactics don’t have to be set in stone for a long time.

If you are going to the gym and doing 2 hours of cardio, 5 days a week, but you notice that you feel too tired after 2 weeks, do you think it might be a good time to change the tactics?

Your strategy of losing weight by going to the gym 5 days a week might be good, but doing 2 hours of cardio each session might not be the best tactic.

This would be a good time to reevaluate your tactic and search for a new solution, such as doing 60 minutes of weight lifting and most probably feeling better and actually getting better results.

Tactics need to be tested.

This is the mindset that you have to adopt at this level.

Everything sounds good and looks simple on paper, doesn’t it? Or better said on screen, since I don’t think you printed this blog post on paper, did you?

But as you know, all theory has to be applied in order to really help us.

It’s time to look at how we can apply everything that we learned on the most important playing field, real life.

HOW TO USE THEM IN THE REAL WORLD

The challenge is this.

Knowing is not enough.

Initially, we all get pumped when learning new things.

Our brain is thanking us for feeding it with such wonderful new concepts.

But then life happens.

You get up from your chair, you go to the bathroom, you see a new notification on your phone, and the brain lets you know that we can keep the concept for later. Who is in a hurry after all? 

Well, let me tell you one thing, if we put something up for “later”, and we don’t know when that “later” is, then we’re ignoring exactly what we talked about here.

We are ignoring the strategy.

How many times did we get excited about something, said we are going to do it later, but that later never came?

This means that whenever we find a good piece of information, we should write it down, and put it on our to-do list. This is one strategy to go about it.

Now, if we look at how we can apply strategies and tactics in our real life, we need to understand their roles in our life.

Let me give you an example.

You want to get a new job.

Imagine 2 scenarios.

 

Strategy

1. Your strategy is to contact as many companies as possible so you get a new job fast.

2. Your strategy is to contact only companies that offer you an attractive benefits package, even if it takes you more time.

 

Tactics

1. Your tactics will rely on sending as many messages as possible, so you will use the same standard message, where you only change the name of the company you reach out to.

2. Your tactics will rely on sending well-crafted personalized messages to each of these companies, even if it takes you more time.

 

Can you guess the outcome?

1. In the 1st scenario, you land a job at a big company that pays you $50k a year. Not a bad deal, isn’t it? Big companies are usually a safe place for job security as well.

2. In the 2nd scenario, however, you landed a job at a fast-growing startup that pays you $80k a year, for a better position, with more opportunities and more flexibility.

Both strategies worked.

Both tactics worked.

In other words, you got what you aimed for.

At the same time, the results are significantly different, wouldn’t you say so?

We could say that the main difference in those approaches was that in the 1st scenario there was more of an urgency to get a job, while in the 2nd scenario there was more patience.

How about if both scenarios took the same amount of time? 30 days.

But the 2nd scenario seems to have +$30k/year + more benefits + more future opportunity + more flexibility.

This is the power of strategy.

Which raises the question.

How to pick a good strategy?

At the end of the day, it’s up to you.

You first need to decide the specific goal that you want to achieve and then pick a strategy for it.

Ask yourself.

What do you want?

What would you enjoy pursuing?

There is nothing more powerful than a good question.

Your strategy should be based on your own desires.

When you decided what your goal is and you want to decide what strategy to adopt, it would be important to actually make it possible.

To do that, we can use other questions, that further help us decide how to approach it.

Can I make this strategy simple but effective?

If this strategy doesn’t work, can I change it?

Can I gain anything from this experience, even if my strategy is not good enough?

It’s important to ask yourself questions that eventually get you to the right answer.

Some people might say this is too simple.

Is this really the secret to a good strategy?

Well, let me ask you one question.

Why are personal coaches or consultants paid so much?

Do you know what most of them do?

Exactly this. They are asking questions until they get that AHA moment from you.

Yes, they do have the knowledge, but we all have the knowledge, don’t we?

Tell me 1 or 2 pieces of information that we wouldn’t be able to find on our own if we’d search on the internet.

Unless it’s a connection or another person, you have access to all the information in the world.

Can you find a strategy to lose weight?

Can you find a strategy to improve your memory?

Can you find a strategy to read faster?

Of course, you can. 

This is why the best way to find a good strategy is to ask yourself the right questions.

Each of us might use different questions but the goal here is to attach them to our personal desires and our own situation.

Tactics are even easier.

There are so many ways to go about doing anything nowadays that we actually have a hard time choosing. I wrote more about this issue in the blog post about Paradox of Choice which you can read by clicking here.

As I mentioned previously, tactics should be tested and even if they work, they should be questioned.

Ask yourself.

Is there a better alternative?

Could I do this same thing faster?

What are other people using for doing the same thing?

These are just a few questions that can help improve the tactical side as well.

The key to success here is being open-minded.

Does it always go as planned?

That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Sometimes, it barely goes 10% as you planned.

That’s exactly why using strategies and tactics can help you feel more in control.

If you have a plan, if you are willing to find solutions and if you are open minded, you are well prepared for almost anything life can throw at you.

If you have a strategy, you know how you’ll approach your goal.

If you have tactics, you’ll be ready to start working on that goal.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

After everything we went over, which would you say it’s more important?

Strategy or tactics?

One could argue that it’s strategy because of the job example and many others you could think of.

But the truth is that you have to give both of them just as much attention.

Let me tell you why.

If you pick a good strategy but you use bad tactics you will fail in achieving your goal.

If you pick a bad strategy but you use good tactics you will achieve that goal, but it won’t be the right one.

We don’t have to compare them, that is not the right mindset.

First, with the strategy, you define that you want to get from point A to point B during a period of time. 

After that, with the tactics, you will decide how you will get there. Taking into consideration your resources, how do you want to get there? With a slower or faster vehicle? With a smaller or bigger vehicle?

In this graphic image you can clearly see how the goal, the strategies and the tactics line up.

To make a quick summary, here are the 7 key takeaways you can leave with and take action on.

#1 Set a goal and create strategies and tactics around it.

#2 Ask yourself what you want to achieve. (goal)

#3 Ask yourself how can you achieve it. (strategy)

#4 Ask yourself what will you do to achieve it. (tactics)

#5 Check the results as you go.

#6 If you are not satisfied, be open to first change the tactics and then the strategies.

#7 Rinse and repeat.

Really, that is all.

There is no need to add complexity when you can simplify.

Do you agree?

If you know where you want to go, trust me, you will find a way.

Remember when you had a difficult challenge in your past, but you still managed to solve it?

With the right questions at each stage of this process, it’s almost guaranteed that you will find the right answers to your goal, to your strategies and to your tactics.

On a final note, I want to congratulate you if you got to this point of the post because this means that you are ahead of more than 90% of all the other people in the world.

We all know that the more you learn, the more you earn. Be it financially, spiritually, emotionally or physically.

Don’t get me wrong, you have to LEARN and then USE what you learn, but if you are the type of person that is reading this kind of long-form blog post from start to finish, there is no doubt in my mind that you are also aware of this simple fact.

Because this blog post was about strategies and tactics, I want to leave you with a few other articles of mine where you could actually see how I’ve used different strategies and tactics in the past and also how you could improve your skills in these different areas.

1. Why what you do is x10 more important than how you do it – the importance of picking a good strategy in life.

2. How I select my courses as an Erasmus studentwhat was my strategy  when selecting the University courses.

3. Simple guide to learning anything the smart way – how to learn anything faster by using simple strategies and tactics .

4. Making better decisions by understanding buying behavior Part 1 – an in-depth look at how you can make better day-to-day buying decisions and how to improve your decision-making skills.

Let me know what are your thoughts on strategies and tactics.

I look forward to a discussion in the comment section down below.

If there’s anything on your mind, don’t be shy, you have the comment box down below ⇩⇩⇩ Promise I won’t bite ⇩⇩⇩