Aside from the expected, “OH SHIT” moments, the finale of season six of Game of Thrones bought another treasure. This speech from Littlefinger:
“Every time I’m faced with a decision I close my eyes and see the same picture. Whenever I consider an action I ask myself, “will this action help to make this picture a reality?” Pull it out of my mind and into the world. And I only act if the answer is yes.
This is the epitome of how a strategist operates.
They have an endgame in mind. And every action is measured against that endgame. They ask: Why am I doing this? Does it move me closer? Does it contribute? Does it take away? Does it help me? Or help someone that can help me? These are the questions they ask.
A grand strategy is why you’re fighting the war in the first place. In World War I, we were fighting not just for victory over the Germans. We were fighting to attain victory and to make sure they wouldn’t rise up again.
Grand strategy is what you’re angling for after the goals you’ve set yourself. It’s plotted on a timeline measured in decades, not months and weeks. It’s the ultimate aim of all of your thoughts, words and deeds.
As Petyr Baelish describes, it’s a never ending process of action, reflection and decision. It’s recalling the vision, surveying reality and trying to bring them into alignment.
Of course, the corollary to Littlefinger’s idea is that you have to say no. A lot. More than feels comfortable. To do that, to say no, requires patience. But it also requires nerve. You will have to fore-go opportunities that are attractive, but don’t move you towards your ambition.
Which I think is what separates true strategists from everyone else. They see everything and say no to almost everything