Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is the art of outdoing an opponent, knowing that the opponent is trying to do the same to you. All of us must practice strategic thinking at work as well as at personal level. Business persons and organizations must use good competitive strategies to survive. Politicians have to devise campaign strategies to get elected, and legislative strategies to implement their visions.

Soccer coaches plan strategies for the players to execute on the field. Parents trying to elicit good behavior from their children must become amateur strategists (the children are the pros). For seventy years, superpowers’ nuclear strategies have governed the survival of the human race.

Good strategic thinking in such numerous diverse contexts remains an art. But its foundations consists of some simple basic principles – an emerging science of strategy. The science of strategic thinking is called game theory. This is a relatively young science – less than seventy years old. It has already provided many useful insights for practical strategists. But, like all sciences, it has become shrouded in jargon and mathematics. These are essential research tools, but they prevent all but the specialists from understanding the basic ideas.

Many books have already attempted to develop ideas or frameworks of strategic thinking for particular applications. Tom Schelling’s writings on nuclear strategies, particularly The Strategy of Conflict and Arms and Influence, are justly famous. In fact, Schelling pioneered a lot of game theory in the process of applying it to nuclear conflict. Michael Porter’s Competitive Strategy, drawing on lessons of game theory for business strategy, is equally famous.

Also, tracing to the Asian’s ancient history, one will come across Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Japan version of Book of Five Rings which focuses on the underlying thoughts & behaviors of strategic thinking. Other more special tactical principles such as Thirty-Six Stratagems of ancient Chinese are also commonly infused into the mix when conducting business practices in Asia.

What then is Strategic Behaviour under the context of Strategic Thinking. This answer does not deal with ethics or etiquette. Thus, it is important that a younger person needs “adult supervision” before engaging in strategic thinking as the boundary is limitless if it is not moderated by proper value systems. Nor do I claim to compete with the philosophers, preachers, or any religious leaders.  The theme, although less lofty, affects the lives of all of us just as much as do morality and manners. This writing is about behavior underlying strategic thinking. All of us are strategists, whether we like it or not. It is better to be a good strategist than a poor one, and it is important one spend time to improve one’s skills at discovering and using effective strategies.

Though I did teach ‘strategy sessions’ in the past and since evolving into impart lesser known ‘divinatory strategy’ for fellow practitioners, I am mindful of its ramifications on my participant-learners. Work, even social life, is a constant stream of strategic decisions. What career to pursue, how to manage a business, whom to know, how to bring up our children, what projects to take on, whether to run for a particular office, are just some examples of such fateful choices. The common element in these situations is that one does not act in a vacuum. Instead, one is surrounded by active decision-makers whose choices interact with yours. This interaction has an important effect on one’s thinking and actions.

To illustrate the point, think of the difference between the decisions of a lumberjack and those of a general. When the lumberjack decides how to chop wood, he does not expect the wood to fight back; his environment is neutral. But when the general tries to cut down the enemy’s army, he must anticipate and overcome resistance to his plans. Like the general, you must recognize that one’s business rivals, prospective spouse, and even one’s child are intelligent and purposive people. Their aims often conflict with ours, but they include some potential allies. One’s own choice must allow for the conflict, and utilize the cooperation. Such interactive decisions are called strategic, and the plan of action appropriate to them is called a strategy. Thus, it is a good cultivation for one to be able to think strategically, and then to translate these thoughts into effective actions.

The branch of social science that studies strategic decision-making is called game theory. The games in this theory range from chess to child-rearing, soccer to corporate takeovers, from marketing strategy to nuclear arms control.

Playing these games requires many different kinds of skills. Basic skills, such as shooting ability in basketball, knowledge of precedents in law, or a blank face in poker, are one kind; strategic thinking is another. Strategic thinking starts with one’s basic skills, and considers how best to use them. Knowing the law, one must decide the strategy for defending one’s client. Knowing how well one’s football team can pass or run, and how well the other team can defend against each choice, one’s decision as the coach is whether to pass or to run. Sometimes, as in the case of superpowers contemplating an adventure that risks nuclear war, strategic thinking also means knowing when not to play.

The aim is to improve one’s strategy I.Q. It is essential for one to get familiar with the different ideas and principles of strategic thinking; to apply them to a specific situation one face and to find the right choice there. When there are conflicts with each other, evaluate the relative strengths of different arguments.

As each ‘case’ will play out its own particular set of circumstances and you shall apply the different principles rationally and in measured impact. Also, there are times when there is no clearly correct solution, only imperfect ways to cope with the problem. Thus, accumulative learning curve will help to sharpen one’s strategic thinking skills to deal with more complex problems as one gain more experience over the ‘cases’. For now, embrace strategic thinking as a way of life and see the rewards unfolding.

Garrett Lee
Founder & Consultant
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Auspicious Dates Selection

It is a commonly heard practice among the older generations of Chinese to choose an auspicious date and time to perform certain rituals such as bathing of a child during their first month of birth to mundane matters such as taking a road trip for whatever important or quasi-routine significance. The most commonly available resource or tool is that of the Chinese Almanac or Tong Shu which the Cantonese-speaking readers preferably called it “Tong Sheng” ( literally translated as Total Victory )

For the illiterate of the past, the most commonly adopted approach would be to choose the Red print text printed therein as “safe date” to use and avoid the Black print text therein. However,this quick and dirty method is severely flawed and that Red print text dates are only good for certain events or matters and not suitable for others. This is the little known caveat that majority of lay people are not aware of till today. Thus, a good understanding of its significance is important whether it is safe to use it or otherwise. The same analogy applies to Black print text dates.

I have come across Red print text dates used by my friends and clients experienced unfavourable outcome and the damage is life-long until today. The rest is history now. It is meaningless to elaborate on it. But a big lesson learned for them and for me personally.

The commonly available Chinese Almanac typically produced in areas where there are strong Chinese Community who are still pro-Almanac referring ritual come from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and not to mention the dwindling appreciation in western-oriented Chinese in Singapore . If one were to compare their different editions, one will realize the variations in information provided therein. There are often contradictions and misprint of information leading to more confusion and compromised on its quality and accuracy due to its low-cost of producing it by just following the age-old formula faithfully since it was made available from the imperial palace to the common people then who were largely farmers-oriented population.

These commoners and farmers used it then to identify when were the changing 24 sub-seasons and such as when to harvest including the knowing when are the different dates of Chinese oriented festivals and remembrance days such as Tomb-Sweeping day, Dumpling festival, Mid-Autumn festival, arrival of summer solstice, winter solstice and the beginning of spring where the Chinese celebrates the Lunar New Year.

Inside the Chinese Almanac, there are host of different methods printed therein for the readers to use. However, it can be very confusing if one do not understand the merits and demerits of each system presented therein.

To illustrate, there is the 28 Constellations method. Though it is useful for multiple purposes, it is outdated as it had not been calibrated to reflect the shifting axis of the earth revolution around the sun since it was first observed and then established the standard formula to calculate the division of time with their respective deviation over the course of the 28 constellations progression patterns. However, the good news is that such updates are conducted by NASA ( National Aero-Nautical Science Agency ) and provide a five yearly review to ensure that all the navigational and communication are synchronized to compensated for the shifting axis of Earth revolution relative to the Sun position. This planetarium updates are available from NASA but one has to incorporate it into the calculation methodology to obtain true local time.

In modern times, people have introduced day-light saving time during summer period and then return to normal standard time in winter period. Also, the whole world have been divided into 24 different time zones for standardization purpose or averaging the time within each time zone for convenience and ease of communication.

For political and economic reasons, countries have even moved forward their time or backward to ensure a level playing field and/or to secure their competitive advantage if the ends justifies its means. For example, Singapore had moved to the same time zone as Hong Kong by artificially moving forward by one zone though the true local time remains as the Sun will not cooperate with any countries for that matter or for a particular country to meddle with its true local time. Thus, if your watch shows 12 O’Clock noon, do look up the sky if the Sun is really right over your head at that point in time. A good chance is that it is not in sync with your artificially calibrated watch / clock time.

Since the Chinese Almanac are meant for general purpose usage, it is not its primary focus to be adopted for individual customized usage. An analogy of its general usage as presented in the Chinese Almanac is : One’s Man Meat is Another Man’s Poison. To get customized application, a further appreciation of the different dates selection methodology and its merits and demerits of each system must be fully understood to achieve the desired results as intended.

Experienced Practitioners of Feng Shui will know what methods are available at their disposal such as renovating a house, putting a nail on wall to hang a picture, re-arranging the home inner landscape and furniture to tap prosperous energies, implement water features in auspicious locations, installing auspicious feng shui cures will require auspicious date and time to implement them appropriately and auspiciously.

In my view, Auspicious Dates Selection is a science to be mastered but it is also viewed as an art because the outcome varies from individual to individual and the different methods adopted will yield a variant of outcome which in turn depends upon the auspiciousness of the site and desired action under consideration plus the current destiny influence of the person seeking benefits from its implementation.

Garrett Lee
Founder & Consultant

Kwa Geok Choo ( aka Mrs Lee Kuan Yew ) passed away during the Metal Month, Metal Day, Metal Hour…

After hearing the news of Madam Kwa Geok Choo ( aka Mrs Lee Kuan Yew ) passed away on the 2nd October 2010 at 5:40pm local time, I feel sad for the Lee family as this is a woman of substance and high intelligence who was always behind the scene helping to build a young and thriving nation and strong support to her family. Those in the Chinese Metaphysics field will attest to it as it is reflected in her blueprint.

I thought it will be good to share my humble research and perspective on understanding one’s luck cycle & timing and so we could plan ahead for the future.

Her Birth Date : 21st December 1920

Passed away on : 2nd October 2010 at 5:40pm

It is interesting to observe that she passed away in the Metal Month, Metal Day, Metal Hour and not to mention there is a serious elemental clash on the year pillar itself this year. I also observe similar signs on her elder son ( PM Lee Hsien Loong ) blueprint ( aka Four Pillars or Eight Characters DNA Chart ).

Kwa Geok Choo ( aka Mrs Lee Kuan Yew ) – Eight Characters DNA Chart

From the chart above, one will see she was born on a Water Day. This Water Element signifies the general attributes of the person for the rest of her life span. According to the Five element ( Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, & Water ) principles, there is also the Yin ( Passive, Subtle in approach, … ) and Yang ( Active, Direct in approach, … ) aspects of the Five elements where there is the Yang Water and the Yin Water considerations. From her chart, she is Yin Water person.

Generally, a Water Day person has intelligent either implicit or explicit in nature depending upon the surrounding configuration of the Eight Characters DNA chart. Yin Water ( Gui in Chinese Character ) tends to be introvert and appear fragile but has a gentle and calming disposition. However, they have pervasive and substantial influence. Also, the Yin Water person tends to be uptight and worries unnesssarily. As in all the Five elements, there are always two sides of the coin and there is no right or wrong. It is how one appreciate others and vice versa under different circumstances.

Right below the Yin Water Day is the Yin Earth ( Chou ) element and it is also her spouse palace. In the ancient text, this means that the spouse is in the right position or palace. According to the ten deities concept, Yin Earth is spouse ( or husband element ) to the Yin Water Day person and the spouse ( or Husband element ) is correctly resided in it. Another aspects to interpreting it depending on the issue at hand is that the Yin Water Day person has hidden power as derived from the spouse palace.

Also, this Yin Water Day person is born in season. This means that this person can make independent decisions without consulting others if this person chooses to. As this person is strong from an elemental perspective, the nature of water is that their mind is very active and likes to move around a lot such as travelling, researching, curious for knowledge and so on.

So much on the nature of water. Now let’s focus briefly on why this person passed away during the Metal Month, Metal Day, Metal Hour….

A) For Yin Water ( Gui ) person born in the Zi ( December Month ), there is a “self-penalty” during this current luck period of Mao. This means the hidden sickness will manifest suddenly without early warning.

B) Also, there is a corresponding clash of the luck period Heavenly Stem Ji against the Yin Water ( Gui ) Person. This luck period begins in 2005.

C) This year, there is a serious clash between the Birth year Shen ( Monkey – Yang Metal ) and the Current year Yin (Tiger – Yang Wood ). This means Lung, Legs, Feet, Bone are subjected to injury, accident, and so on.

D) From the above three points observed, this already indicates that the foundation of the person’s Eight Characters DNA chart is severely compromised and Metal Month ( You ) , Metal Day ( You ) and Metal Hour ( You ) signifies the sickness stage of this person.

Though there is a possibility that this person’s sickness could drag on to next year, however, there are certain factors that there are still not within the control of the earthly beings. At best, the Chinese Metaphysician ( aka Feng Shui & Destiny Consultant or Practitioner ) could predict events with up to 80 to 90 percent accuracy. Unless spirituality is factored into the equation, could one alter the outcome to a certain extent.

It is always difficult to accept our loved ones parting us. But if we have done what should be done and accepting this parting is a natural thing to do when the time comes, there will be peace and calm within us.

With that, my deepest condolences to Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his family.

Garrett Lee
Founder & Consultant
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Feng Shui or Kanyu ( Book of Burial aka Zang Shu )

During the time of Wei-Jin period there was a grand master of Feng Shui known as Guo Po ( AD 276 – 324 ), who was an astrologer, geographer, diviner, and magician. He was not only a Kanyu master but an expert at locating underground springs. He wrote extensively on geography, mythology, divination, Taoist magic, and ancient Chinese poetry.

After his mother’s death, Guo Po chose a place in Jiyang to bury her, this place is surrounded by water, the people worried the place would be flooded if the water level was raised, so considered it not good, but he presaged that the water would dry up. And soon after tens of kilometers of land surrounding the grave became fertile farmland when the water receded, thus made Guo Po very famous and he was considered as the founder of Feng Shui because of his Book of Burial ( Zang Shu ).

An important stage of evolution of the Feng Shui schools was by Guo Po’s book, Zang Shu, “Book of Burial” and Form aka Landforms school principles of siting became well established in Chinese writings.

A famous but somewhat mystical personage, Guo Po, is said to be have collected all the ancient traditions concerning Feng Shui and published them in a book, still extant, the Zang Shu, which is to present-day one of the principal sources of references for the students of Feng Shui. Many Geomancers aka Feng Shui Masters call Guo Po the founder of modern Feng Shui, but they have no evidence to show in favour of this assertion beyond the simple fact, recorded in history, that Guo Po was an adept in geomancy ( Feng Shui ) and lived during the Tsin dynasty.

Even the Zang Shu ( Book of Burial ) classic itself which treats Feng Shui with special reference to the forms and outlines of nature, cannot be satisfactorily proven to be written by Guo Po. For it is not mentioned in the catalogues of literature produced during this period.

Tha Zang Shu ( Book of Burial ) is first mentioned in the catalogue of the Tang dynasty ( AD 618 – 905 ); but even here no author was assigned to it, no mention of Guo Po to whom only the catalogue of the Sung dynasty ( AD 960 – 1126 ) ascribes the authorship of this classic.

Fast forward to today, the word Feng Shui – “Wind” & “Water” enters into everyday English speech, this Chinese cosmological concept is experiencing a transformation. People talk about Feng Shui in home decoration, gardening design, landscaping, and even in business transactions. An attempt to understand the historical context of its transition is, therefore, timely and appropriate. After all, Feng Shui is a philosophical concept – a quasi-belief system – as well as a practice that has been fundamental to Chinese culture for at least four millennia. A unique expression of Chinese culture, it is syncretic in nature, integrating philosophical concepts, everyday practices, elite and popular cultures, and imported as well as indigenous beliefs. It is practised in political and military events and in the rituals of daily life – such as births, weddings, particularly burials, and other ceremonies.

The questions of when Feng Shui became recognized as both a theory as well as a practice and how it became integrated into Confucian ritual has long lacked adequate academic attention.

The Book of Burial ( Zang Shu ) that defined Feng Shui for the first time, is thus intended to be a first step toward making accessible the text and context of this important cultural concept and practice.

When looked at by insiders as well as by outsiders, particularly in this age of globalization, Chinese culture seems to have presented to the world some exotic and unusual traditions ( e.g. Footbinding and Feng Shui ). We might well ask : What is it in Chinese culture that has enabled it to survive and prosper for so long ? What has allowed the peoples and ideas from vastly different parts of China to remain a relatively cohesive cultural and political unit over millennia ? How different are the Chinese people from people of other cultures ? And, for our purposes, what has been the role of Feng Shui in Chinese Culture and how has that role changed over time ? There are many different answers to these questions as there are scholars who have pondered them.

Bringing Auspiciousness To Many Generations of Descendants…
Garrett Lee taking auspicious measurement on the Headstone.

Although it is considered to be the earliest classic on residence by the Yellow Emperor or to be formed in the Han Dynasty, the Huang Di Zhai Jing ( Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Residence ) might well have been formed some time in the Song Dynasty.

There is another way to look at the evolution of the idea of Feng Shui. Since practice changed from divining for a location for an altar and place for the emperor to selecting a place or city for the common people that would not be subject to natural disasters and warfare, then to divining for residences for the dead, we may conclude e following : Feng Shui evolved from a practice performed on behalf of the kings, emperors, and nobility as a privilege to a practice performed on behalf of ordinary folk; and it simultaneously changed from divining to avoid natural disasters ( a passive action )  to divining to actively search for good fortune. Indeed, it is this active search for good fortune through Feng Shui practice that embodies the core belief and behaviour in Chinese culture which, in turn imbues this practice with vitality.

In the history of burial ritual in China, we see that Zang Shu has played a crucial role. The major source that has influenced burial ritual practice in China in the past millennium is the book Zhu Xi Jia Li. From Zang Shu ( Book of Burial ) numerous variants developed, but the core ideas remained unchanged; selecting a good grave spot directly relates to the prosperity of the descendants of the deceased; making great effort to select such a spot demonstrates the primary of all virtues, filial piety; and doing so strengthens the relationship within the family and the community

Garrett Lee
Founder & Consultant
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What is Yin and Yang ?

The ancient Chinese philosophers called the time before the world was created Wu-Chi, which translated in English language to mean ultimate nothingness. This is slightly misleading when after its translation because how can something come out of nothing? A better paraphrase would be chaos. Wu-Chi was a state of disorganized formlessness, which is about as close as our finite minds can get to describe it. It is like trying to view something through a steamed-up window – you know the object has form but you cannot make it out, it is a hazy image of confused vagueness. As you clear the window, you can begin to perceive the form more clearly, you can tell where it begins and ends, you can tell its shade and colour and that of the background. You are beginning to perceive yin and yang.

Chinese creation theory states that out of Wu-Chi was born Tai-Chi and from this came yin and yang. The Tai-Chi symbol is now very well known but its true meaning is less well-known. Many people think it is just the sign of martial art of the same name but it is much more than that. It is the symbol that describes the creation of the universe, the innermost workings of that universe and it is a pictorial representation of the dynamic interaction of the yin and yang.

Tai Chi Symbol aka Yin Yang Symbol

When a room is empty, it can likened to the state of Wu-Chi. As soon as people enter the room, the state of Tai Chi begins. The people interact, some are dynamic and extrovert whereas others are quieter and more introvert. The differences between people can be described in terms of yin and yang. Extrovert people are more yang and introvert people are more yin. In general, the characteristics of yin are feminine, cold and still. Yin and Yang appear to describe opposites. Day is yang and night is yin. The sky is yang and the earth is yin and so on. Most people do not have any problem understanding this concept. The problem occur when they ask a question such as ‘Is a cold man running on earth during the day yin or yang?’ The answer is both, as I will now explain.

Yin and yang are not absolutes but transient states of being. Water boiling in a saucepan provides an excellent example. The water at the bottom of the pan, nearest the heat source is hottest and rises ( yang ) and this allows the slightly cooler water at the top to fall ( yin ) where it is heated and rises (yang). Although the water is boiling, it is in a constant state of flux and therefore exhibits both yin and yang qualities, as do all things in the universe. Absolute yin and yang do not exist. Everything in the universe is forever changing, nothing is truly still, and the only constant is change.

Yin and yang do not exist unless there is someone there to perceive them. If one fills three bowls with cold, warm and hot water respectively and then places the left hand in the hot water and the right hand in the cold water, the left feels hot ( yang ) and the right hand cold ( yin ). If after 30 seconds both hands are placed in the bowl of warm water, to the left hand the water feels cool ( more yin ) and to the right hand the water feels warmer ( more yang ). So the question arises ‘Is the bowl of warm water yin or yang?” Again the answer is both and totally dependent upon the point from which you perceive the bowl. Comparing the cold water and warm water, the cold water is yin and warm water is yang. Comparing the warm and the hot water, the warm water is now yin and hot water is yang. Finally, comparing hot, cold and warm water, the hot water is yang, the cold water is yin and the warm water is the balance between the two. You see, it all depends upon the point from where you perceive the phenomenon.

Yin and yang are ways of comparing one set of characteristics. Going back to our original question of the cold man running on the earth during the day, one can describe each of the aspects as yin or yang but one cannot compare non-related aspects such as coldness and maleness. One can only describe them in terms of yin and yang separately.

On a simple level, taking healthy living as an illustration, one shall eat foods that keep them in balance with the environment, i.e. in a hot ( yang ) climate, more cooling (yin) foods are eaten and vice versa. On a deeper level, it is aiming to live every moment of every day in balance and harmony with everything. Let us now look closely at some perspectives to further appreciate the principles of yin and yang.

1. Yin and Yang are two poles of the infinite pure expansion.

This means that the whole universe (‘the infinite pure expansion’) can be described in terms of two opposite and complementary forces – yin and yang.

2. Yin and yang are produced infinitely, continuously, and forever from the infinite pure expansion itself.

This means that the universe goes on forever and that anything that manifests out of that universe can be yin and yang.

3. Yin is centrifugal; yang is centripetal

This means that yin things produce expansion, lightness, coolness, and that yang things produce compaction, weight and heat. In terms of foods, fruit with its juiciness and cooling nature is considered yin, and root vegetables with their compactness and warming nature are considered yang.

4. Yin attracts yang; yang attracts yin.

This is usually where people become confused and say things like ‘ That means that if I think good thoughts, then I’ll attract bad things to me. which doesn’t make sense’. They are forgetting that you can look only at one thing at a time in terms of yin and yang. They are trying to compare good and thoughts with bad and actions. How it works is that thoughts are yin and actions are yang; so good, positive thoughts will attract good, positive actions. This then agrees with that old saying ‘ What you sow (yin), you will reap ( yang )’.

5. All things and phenomena are composed of yin and yang in different proportions.

This means that nothing exists that cannot be described in terms of yin and yang jointly. With regards to our original experiment with the bowls of water, the hot bowl can be described as being most yang (therefore least yin) , the warm water can be described as having yin and yang in balance, and the cold water can be described as most yin (least yang).

6. All things and phenomena are constantly changing their yin and yang components. Everything is restless.

Nothing is static. A chair that appears still and solid is actually made up of millions of moving atoms and it rests on a spinning planet that is circling the sun in a spinning galaxy. Everything is always changing and therefore the yin and yang components in everything must be forever changing.

7. There is nothing completely yin or completely yang. All is relative.

Returning once more to our experiment, the hot (more yang) water can always be made hotter (even more yang) and therefore must always have a yin component.

8. There is nothing neuter. There is always yin or yang in excess.

Because everything is changing, perfect balance between yin and yang can never exist. Things that appear balanced are in a state of dynamic ( moving ) equilibrium.

9. Affinity or force of attraction between things is proportional to the difference of yin and yang in them.

Everything is proportional; so the more good, positive thinking you do, the more good, positive actions you will attract. And, of course, the reverse is also true.

10. Yin expels yin, yang expels yang. Expulsion or attraction between two things yin or yang is in inverse proportion to the difference of their yin or yang force.

Opposites attract, like repels is well known even in Western society from social and scientific circles and it stands to reason that more opposite two things are, the more they will attract.

11. Yin produces yang; yang produces yin.

Thoughts lead to actions, which in turn lead to more thoughts.

12. Everything is yang at its centre and yin at its periphery ( surface )

This naturally follows on from the number third point made above.

You can see that although yin and yang are simple, they are also infinitely complex. If you want to see this in action then I can suggest studying mathematical formulae which requiring no more than addition and multiplication, which produce ‘pictures’ that are of infinite complexity and infinite size.

I hope the perspectives shared above will provide you a better understanding of the principles of Yin and Yang and get you started to appreciate its relevance to our daily life.

使 ,

hui shi bu zai jia hao fu , feng liu bu yong zhuo yi duo

One who spends money wisely need not be rich; One who looks smart and attractive need not wear fine clothes. ( Fine feathers don’t make fine birds. )

Garrett Lee
Founder &Consultant
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Competition Is About Monopoly

Conventional wisdom says that business is about producing better products at lower prices than other companies…about seeking sustainable advantages… about winning away customers from companies around the corner or around the world. Business, in short, is about competition.

But if we turn conventional wisdom on its head and say that business is not about competition, but about monopoly? You will be surprised! When we do, we begin to uncover the hidden realities of business – the Monopoly Rules. The Monopoly Rules offer radically new insights about why some companies are successful, and why others fall behind; about how once-great companies often ignore opportunities in their own backyards while upstarts seize them to achieve industry dominance; and about the little-known factors that really determine the market value of a company.

In Economics 101, one probably learned that monopolies are unnatural, illegal, and rare. Wrong!. In fact, monopolies are often natural, usually legal, and surprisingly common.

A simple example to illustrate my point.

Replacements for ink-jet cartridges used by my Hewlett-Packard Printer is a monopoly; so is Microsoft Windows unless you use I-Mac. Also, Word Processing, Worksheet, Powerpoint application bundled under Microsoft Office package basically designed to shut out the weaker competition either through merger or voluntarily close it down to preempt future losses. It is true that we usually don’t think of these businesses as monopolies. To most people, the word monopoly means something like government owned or linked companies such as utility, transportation network system like Mass Rapid Transit.

But I like to focus on are monopolies in the only sense that matters: Their customers have only one choice – to pay the price demanded, or go without.

What I am trying to convey here is that every enterprise that wants to enjoy lasting success and large, dependable profits must have a monopoly of some kind. What it means is that for example, using an off-brand ink-jet cartridge didn’t void the warranty on my HP printer. In fact, most great companies benefit from some form of monopoly. The conventional explanations offered for successful businesses are often superficial: “They have a powerful brand,” “They design good products,” “They’ve got smart management,” or “They keep their costs low.” Dig deeper to find out what kind of monopoly the company owns, and you get insights that are very different and ultimately more meaningful.

For example, Dell Computer is highly efficient at manufacturing and selling personal computers. But so are many other companies. Dell’s unique success is based on its ten-year monopoly – a decade when it was the only PC maker selling made-to-order PCs directly to corporate customers.

Thus, a business leader / owner will need to ask the fundamental question, “What kind of monopoly can our company own ?” rather than concentrating on strategies for product development, finance, marketing, or sales, in hopes that they will ( somehow) lead to profits. Those strategies may be valuable in the short term, but only as tools for achieving the real objectives – monopoly control, which guarantees a company’s long term profitability and its continued existence.

Recognizing the importance of monopoly is especially vital in today’s over-supply market place. These trends cannot be blamed solely on bursting stock market bubble, terrorism, internet piracy, or a prolonged recession. They are harbingers of the most far-reaching, devastating changes to global commercial order since the Industrial Revolution.

Taken together, these changes are ushering in an era I call the “New Competition.” In the New Competition, traditional sources of monopoly such as natural resources, regulation, collusion, or proprietary technologies are rapidly losing its effectiveness.

Most natural resources monopolies have already been taken; governments are deregulating, not handing out new, regulated monopolies; and collusion is virtually impossible, as well as being illegal.

Finally, proprietary technologies are leaking away, being copied, or being replaced by newer technologies faster than ever before. The New Competition is ruthlessly squeezing the profits out of the old monopolies! In this Darwinian environment, understanding monopoly is not just useful – it’s essential.

If you recognize your own business’s monopoly and know how to exploit, nurture, and protect it, you will have a shot at earning good profits for the foreseeable future. If you don’t, you will become someone else’s dinner – and probably sooner rather than later.

But there’s good news, too. Even as the New Competition is destroying many old monopolies, it is creating opportunities for new ones. Many of the potential new monopolies are springing up in otherwise mature, slow-growing industries with pitifully narrow profit margins.

To capitalize on these opportunities, you won’t need unique products or technologies, or even conventional advantages based on scale, scope, or the experience curve.

What you will need is vision and imagination : vision to anticipate how monopolies will emerge as customer needs and industry capabilities change, and imagination to determine how best to seize and hold the favoured competitive positions.

Garrett Lee
Founder & Consultant
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Eight Basic Trigrams – Ba Gua (八 卦)

As has been mentioned, the eight trigrams that form the basis of the Yi Jing (Book of Changes) each have a list of various meanings and/or attributes attached to it. These meanings and/or attributes are then used in the Yi Jing (Book of Changes) as metaphors to explain the character and meaning of the hexagrams they make.

For example, each trigram represents a family member. Heaven trigram represents the father. Thunder trigram represents the eldest son. If the hexagram is made up of the eldest son above the father ( thunder above, heaven below ), then part of the image will be of the son being more powerful than his father, having gained a level of power that is greater than his father through the lessons life has given him. Indeed, the name for that hexagram is Da Chuang/The Power of the Great.

Let us now look further at the symbolism contained within each trigram.

Qian /Heaven is the father. Qian is creative, active, firm, without limit. It represents the head and corresponds to strength and endurance. It also represents head, ice and the fruit from a tree.

Kun / Earth is the mother. Kun is receptive, passive, enfolding, gentle, fertile and modest. It represents the stomach and corresponds to dedication and fulfilment. It also represents the tree trunk and a larger cart or cloth which can be said to carry all things without distinction.

Dui / Marsh is the youngest daughter. Dui is joyous, inviting, and tender but having a hard cover. It represents the mouth and lips and corresponds to sensuality and pleasure. It also represents mist and sorceress.

Li / Fire is the middle daughter. Li is clinging, bright, hollow, dry and clear. It represents the eyes and corresponds to beauty and intelligence. It also represents lightning and the sun.

Xun / Wind is the eldest daughter. Xun is gentle, flexible yet tough. It represents the thighs and corresponds to progress, perseverance and justice. It also represents wood and its characteristic of flexibility yet toughness is particularly comparable to the willow tree which features so much in Chinese literature and art.

Gen / Mountain is the youngest son. Gen is keeping still, quiet and calm. It represents the hand and fingers whose tight grip can hold things still and corresponds to a door or opening and to withdrawal and meditation. It also corresponds to the hermit who has, in Chinese tradition, always been a mountain dweller.

Kan / Water is the middle son. Kan is abysmal and fearless, that which penetrates. It represents the ear and corresponds to erosion, desire and difficulty. It also corresponds to rain and the moon.

Zhen /Thunder is the eldest son. Zhen is arousing and violence. It represents the leg and corresponds to determination, energy and spontaneity. It also corresponds to earthquakes and volcanoes.

As you can see, the images are very strong and evocative. When two trigrams are combined, the images help to create a picture of what the hexagram is about. The full version of the Yi Jing (Book of Changes) begins with a judgement as to the core meaning of each hexagram, which is then followed by a description of the image to further amplify the meaning. People have in the past had difficulty understanding where the images have come from and this stems from a lack of understanding of the eight trigrams that make up the Ba Gua (八 卦).

The correspondences given above are by no means an exhaustive list. The trigrams have many other correspondences and a whole book could be written just about the eight trigrams – Ba Gua (八 卦).

Garrett Lee
Founder & Consultant
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