Clausewitz on Overcoming the Annoying Slog of Life

The general, Carl von Clausewitz, wrote in his book On War that “the first and most essential quality for a good soldier is perseverance.” This stubborn acceptance of life’s troubles was the reason why soldiers were able to overcome their enemies. The problem occurs when this principle becomes too rigid; we cannot be persistent at every waking moment of our lives.

Clausewitz on Overcoming the Annoying Slog of Life is a book by German military strategist and philosopher Carl von Clausewitz. It is a collection of aphorisms that he wrote to help people overcome the “annoying slog of life.” Read more in detail here: mental toughness art of manliness.

Life may be a drag at times, man. 

Every day, irritating little piddly things pop up that aren’t difficult to deal with individually but screw with your mojo when they pile up. Your vehicle breaks down, your child becomes ill, an employee misplaces a file, a leak in your roof is detected… and it’s just 9 a.m. 

How do you deal with these little annoyances that wreak havoc on your rhythm? How can you cope with slog-inducing annoyances without allowing them to sabotage your objectives?

Thankfully, in his seminal book On Military, renowned war strategist Carl von Clausewitz offered several principles that apply equally well to the home and workplace as they do to the battlefield. 

Friction, Friction, Friction, Friction, Friction, Friction, Friction,

Everything in battle is easy, yet even the most basic tasks are complex. The challenges mount up and culminate in a kind of friction that is unfathomable until one has been through war.

Friction is Clausewitz’s most durable and perceptive theory in On War. 

Friction explains why a general’s war strategy may seem flawless on paper but break apart in practice. Morale is harmed by friction, and activity is slowed.

Friction is a multifaceted concept. It’s the result of a series of little events. Clausewitz says:

Countless little incidents—the type you can never truly predict—combine to diminish overall performance, causing one to constantly fall well short of the desired outcome. 

To explain friction in combat to his audience, he uses an instance from ordinary life in the nineteenth century that we may still foresee similarities with today:

Consider a tourist who chooses late in the day to complete two more stages before dark. Only four or five hours further on a paved roadway with horse relays: this should be a simple journey. However, at the next station, he finds no new horses or just inferior ones; the area becomes mountainous, the route becomes rough, darkness falls, and he is only too delighted to reach a resting site with any form of rudimentary accomodation after many obstacles. 

As a project’s complexity grows, friction grows as well, since there are just more potential for things to go wrong. The greater the scope and complexity of the project, the greater the amount of friction. 

The involvement of other humans, more than any other aspect, adds complexity and consequently friction. Humans are the ultimate source of friction. Because a battalion is made up of many distinct people who might interact with each other in a variety of problem-producing ways, Clausewitz says that it will face a lot of friction by its very nature. When one soldier becomes terrified and flees, other troops get fearful and flee as well. You’ll have an unanticipated, chaotic retreat before you realize it. Friction, you’re a jerk!

It’s because of friction that life might seem like a grind at times. 

Any attempt, whether it’s throwing a party, creating a company, or just living life, will always meet conflict. Little unanticipated stumbling blocks combine to make what is simple in principle, quite difficult to do in reality. We have a lot of friction in our lives since much of what we do in life includes other people — the Vesuvian volcanoes of vexation.

 

Stay in your home, avoid people, take no action, and remain an isolated, lifeless blob if you wish to escape the annoyances of friction. 

What sort of life is it, though?

So, if friction is unavoidable, how do you deal with it?

Using Romantic Genius to Overcome Friction

To comprehend Clausewitz and his war philosophy, one must first realize that he was a product of German Romanticism in the nineteenth century. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the composer Richard Wagner were both born during this period. 

All successful generals, according to Clausewitz, are Romantic geniuses. They possess a unique set of mental and psychological traits that enable them to force their will on the environment around them. Life, according to Romantics, is an epic battle between good and evil, action and inaction, mediocrity and grandeur. They “seek for techniques of expressing an unappeasable hunger for impossible aims,” as Isaiah Berlin phrased it. These characteristics, as well as others like insight and courage, defined Clausewitz’s ideal Romantic commander. Look no farther than Napoleon for an example of this principle.

Clausewitz argued that a man may skilfully contend with the impediment of friction by utilizing the components of the Romantic constitution. 

Change Your Attitude Towards Friction

Anger and frustration are sometimes caused by a misalignment of expectations. You expected things to go one way – completely smoothly — but instead ran across unexpected roadblocks. Irritation bubbles up in the gap between how you expected things would happen and how they really do; in your sadness over the loss of the imagined scenario; in the effort required to adapt to new circumstances. 

As a result, the first step in dealing with friction, according to Clausewitz, is to accept its actuality and inevitability:

A competent general is meant to have a strong feel of warfare, and a grasp of friction is a big part of that. The excellent general must understand friction in order to overcome it wherever feasible and to avoid expecting a level of performance in his operations that is unattainable due to friction.

To avoid being thrown into a loop by friction, you must moderate your expectations and account for friction while determining what you can actually achieve. Clausewitz claims that making this evaluation, precisely calculating how much friction you’ll face, is a question of instinct, perfected with time and field-testing:

Only the experienced commander will make the proper judgment in important and tiny matters—at every pulsebeat of war—just as instinct becomes nearly habitual for a man of the world so that he always acts, talks, and moves appropriately. The answer comes from practice and experience: ‘this is conceivable, but that is not.’ 

Even while it’s important to acknowledge the inevitability of conflict, it doesn’t have to be a source of resentment. If friction is typical in any attempt, then embrace it and even take joy in it – it’s a sign that you’re doing something, taking action, and participating in life’s epic battle. 

 

Sheer Psychological Willpower Can Help You Dominate Friction

This friction may be overcome by iron willpower, which pulverizes all obstacles… As an obelisk dominates the town center where all routes converge, the proud spirit’s steadfast will dominates the art of battle.

As a result, friction is unavoidable in every process. So, how do you handle it?

Only a general with heroic willpower, according to Clausewitz the Romantic, can withstand friction’s quicksand-like attraction. In his chapter on military brilliance, he defines strength of will as a combination of four qualities: energy, tenacity, endurance, and mental toughness.

For Clausewitz, energy is about feeling. He recognized that action necessitates motivation, which necessitates emotion; Stoicism, however, has its limits. The more activity there is, the more emotion-based animation is required: “Great power is not readily developed when there is no emotion,” Clausewitz adds. Clausewitz considered that the most potent energy-giving emotion in battle was ambition, or the drive to be the best. 

The capacity to remain unfazed by a single setback or failure is known as staunchness. 

Endurance is defined as the capacity to persevere through a sequence of setbacks without faltering. 

“The capacity to retain one’s head in moments of extreme stress and strong emotion” is defined as mental strength. Strong emotions were necessary for a heroic genius, according to Clausewitz, but they couldn’t be allowed to run wild; emotions had to be restrained and directed via self-control.

The combination of these qualities provides a guy the willpower to push through adversity. And he can only get this strength of will by pushing through friction.

Wherever possible, eliminate friction.

Despite the fact that Clausewitz advised future leaders to overcome friction with iron resolve, he acknowledges that “of course [this effort] wears down the mechanism as well.” Willpower is a finite resource, and the more you spend it for one thing, the less you have left for other things.

While some friction is unavoidable in every attempt, you should try to avoid it as much as possible: Not in giving up a goal to escape the conflict that comes with it, but when it serves no purpose — when it emerges as a result of poor planning or just serves as an unnecessary, progress-stifling irritant. 

Redundancies might help to remove some friction. A battalion, according to Clausewitz, may have a strategic reserve of food and ammunition, ready to be accessed if/when logistics failed. You may carry an extra pen to a meeting in case yours runs out of ink; you can plan a Saturday itinerary in case the park you want to visit is closed; you can use a paper map if your phone loses service.

Automation may also reduce friction, particularly when it comes to “life admin” duties like budgeting and organizing your social life. 

Wherever possible, save steps. Simplify your life in every way. De-clutter your electronic gadgets as well as your home. In your kitchen and home office, practice mise-en-place.

To summarize, Clausewitz’s strategy for overcoming the friction that threatens to transform life into a slog is as follows:

 

  1. Accept your life as a Romantic quest for excellence.
  2. Recognize that friction is inevitable; don’t lose your mind over it.
  3. Overcome adversity by relying on your willpower.
  4. Wherever possible, reduce friction.
  5. Take pleasure in the spoils of victory!

 

 

The “i feel like a man” is a phrase that is often used by people to describe the feeling of being overwhelmed. In 1832, the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz wrote about how to overcome this annoying slog of life.

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