6 Steps to Developing a KILLER Instinct

As 2012 has flown by and we eagerly await the "apocalypse", I've decided to spend some time evaluating this past year and also reading books that provide fresh perspectives. In November, I wrote in my post 7 Steps to Enduring Any Setback about some rather unique principles I learned from a book entitled "Thick Face Black Heart" by Chin Ning Chu.
With a title like that combined with Sun Tzu's Art of War strategies, I was sure I could trust it to shed some light on surviving and thriving in a ruthless world.
I've now learned more strategies and saw how useful they could be for anyone wanting to approach 2013 in a smarter and more efficient way.

Often time we hear of those with "killer instincts" and the ability to listen to their intuition. This instinct often often plays a leading role in those make or break moments in life that lead to your success or failure. There are and will be times during cold calling, networking, interviewing and through out the course of your career that you will definitely needy killer instincts. So what exactly is the killer instinct and how can we go about honing the necessary skills?

Take a look at the steps listed here to developing your Killer Instinct:

Taking Instinctive Action

To succeed in life, you must have the courage and tenacity to finish the job quickly and cleanly - that is the killer instinct, the root of Black Heart. Every great man/woman and every great villain has it

One of the most documented rivalries in Chinese history was between Liu Bang and Xiang Yu in the second century B.C., battling each other for the control of China. Xiang Yu began with the most troops, most of the China already under his control, and he was a great warrior and brilliant strategist. When Xiang Yu eventually captured Liu Bang, the throne was well within his grasp. However, in acknowledgement for Liu Bang as a great warrior and according to his own sense of a soldier's honor, Xiang Yu honored his defeated foe by granting him living quarters instead of executing him. Liu Bang escaped and returned with his regrouped forces to conquer Xiang Yu's army.

How many times have you conquered someone or something (perhaps a vice or time consuming bad habit) only to let them continue to take up valuable real estate in your life? Developing the courage to finish the job by ridding your life of someone or something quickly is the smart way to obtain a killer instinct.

The Importance of Instincts

The Killer instinct has ensured man's survival against the hostile elements of nature, as well as from one another, since the time of the caveman

In successfully accomplishing your life's objectives and ambitions, there is a direct relationship between the scope of your ambition and your ability to to tap deep into your killer instinct. The greater your ambition, the more able and willing you must be to exercise your killer instinct. Since Xiang Yu's aim was to be the emperor of China, he should have been totally willing to kill or be killed. As Chu pointed out, Chinese history has proven that only those who are willing to go the distance in exercising their killer instinct see the final victory. If your aim is to be a successful Investment Banker at a bulge bracket firm, you have to battle every single one of the "elements" to attain the final result.

Philosophy of Instinct

If we have any hope of correcting our timid nature, we must not turn our faces away from the dark side of reality

The killer instinct is not solely reserved for the vicious and cunning; it can benefit the virtuous and righteous as well. The following story demonstrates the concept of facing the dark side of reality. Kung Ming, a great military strategist and benevolent leader, lived around 200 A.D. He has been praised by some Chinese historians as possibly being the wisest man to have lived during the 500 year Chinese history. Kung Ming was very fond of General Ma, one of his talented young generals. In one of his decisive campaigns, Kung Ming ordered General Ma to a battle instructing him specifically to occupy a certain small town. Ma ignored these instructions and was quickly defeated. Upon General Ma's return, Kung Ming ordered his execution. Some of the older respected elders advised Kung Ming not to waste the talent. Kung Ming responded, "In order to keep the discipline of the troops, I must set an example". While weeping, Kung Ming beheaded General Ma.

If you really want to succeed, you have to battle perhaps even while "weeping" as you fight your timid nature, cold call and face multiple rejections. All while accepting the reality that your chances of succeeding are very small.

As the sixteenth-century Japanese sword master Miyamoto Musashi said "Whatever state of mind you are in, ignore it. Think only of cutting."

Applying Instinct and the Need to Confront

If our enemies are incorporating the killer instinct and victimizing us, we do not have the luxury of avoiding the topic.

In our civilized world, most of us do not kill anyone in order to secure our personal interests. The tools for achieving one's goals have changed but the guiding spirit remains the same. However, we cannot ignore the fact that the outcomes on the victims is deadly. In America, wealth bestows a halo of dignity on those who posses it, and they are placed in the esteemed company of the most respectable entrepreneurs and dignitaries. In the last decade, it seems to be that Wall Street has become the ideal incubator, nurturing those who posses some degree of the natural killer instinct and eventually turning into "perfect killers". Think of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme and billionaire Rajaratnam's insider trading. Further more, for everyone that is caught, there are 10 more out there. We often deify those who become wealthy and while it may be rather unsettling, the truth is that the one who possesses and is willing to use a perfect killer instinct is, was and always will be a bankable commodity.

Figure early on in your career a few of these things. How badly you want the success, how long you are willing to wait for it, if you are willing to sell your soul to the devil along the way to speed up the process and if you are able to deal with the repercussions?

As the great military strategist Sun Tzu said "Know yourself, know your opponent, one hundred battles, one hundred victories."

Duality

"I must be cruel, only to be kind"

A big question that came up is "while we are dealing with all this talk of killer instinct and think only of cutting, when do we stop exercising the killer instinct and express our inborn human compassion?" It is much easier to be compassionate and and provide for the nameless and faceless needy persons than for our loved ones. Strange but true, we often abuse those who support and love us the most.
However, you should never stop exercising your compassion. Have love in your heart but be smart and express your compassion with restraint and detachment. Remember that out of your desire to be kind, you expose yourself without a protective shield. Take notice of people your feel bad for or pity at work or school. Evaluate what your thought process is and if you are getting played. Some people play up on your compassionate and kind nature to get what they want out of you, be it money, time or getting you to pick up their slack.

While working as a server in college to pay for school, I learned a valuable lesson. We had a rule that parties of 6 or more would include gratuity but we had to have a manager add the gratuity onto the check so that servers couldn't randomly "grat everyone's ass" as we jokingly referred to it. Early in my life as a server, a party of 6 sat in my section. They were really nice to me throughout the night and even bought me a drink. I trusted them and foolishly failed to get the manager to "grat their check". They stiffed me with a $10 tip on a $200++ check. Had I been more "cruel", I would have been kinder to myself and my team who split the tips each night.

In order to be kind, we have to be cruel. A Thick Face, Black Heart practitioner learns the necessity of restraint and controls his desire to be overly expressive of his compassion. Compassion is a state of mind, not a blind competition over how much you can do for others. Often in order to be kind, we have to control our desire to do too much.

Being Present and Aware

The truth of life is hidden everywhere equally.

Remember when you first leaned to flip a pancake in a frying pan?
When you are too timid and concerned about whether the pancake will fly too high and miss the pan, the result is that your pancake will go up in the air a few inches but won't have the height to turn. When it lands, you'll have a mess inside that pan. On the other hand, when you are too concerned that the pancake will not turn over, you use too much force, and the result is that your pancake will probably land on the stove, outside of the pan.

Carefully observe your inner state, watch for the moment just before you throw the pancake high in the air to make that perfect landing. When you find that state of mind, recreate it often. It will help you to cultivate your perfect killer instinct.

Learning to flip a pancake seems easy and particularly profound. Yet the truth of life is hidden everywhere equally. It is not about the pancake per se, but about being in touch with that something inside of you that provides you with the courage to overcome your inner timidity and considerations. It is about tapping into the state of perfect strength, perfect control and perfect detachment in fulfilling your objectives.

Never forget that the killer instinct is the power that propels us to take proper actions in spite of ourselves, keeping us on the path to our objectives. The killer instinct is within each of us as part of our genetic coding.

//www.wallstreetoasis.com/blog/7-steps-to-enduring-any-setback

Comments (10)

 
Dec 22, 2012 - 2:49pm

This was well written, thanks. I believe the comparisons of business to war are usually too extreme. However, I see basic mistakes of people being 'too nice' in the office that actually hurts people on the team, including these:

1. Believing that co-workers are your friends
2. Not firing low performers, which can often demoralize others and always takes money from their pockets (like your #5)
3. Trying to treat everyone the 'same'
4. Not confronting problems for the sake of team unity

I'm sure there are tons more examples.

Also, I don't really care for the examples of Bernie Madoff and Raj Rajaratnam in #4. There are plenty of other examples of people who are successful and even ruthless who still play by the rules. Plenty of people in PE are pretty ruthless and most of those guys use only legal tactics. Ruthless does not have to mean stealing in the business world.

 
Dec 22, 2012 - 6:38pm

Love it. Also, agree with SirTradesaLot above especially on the ruthless point; being ruthless does not necessarily mean illegal.

Last SB left for you ... Merry Christmas.

Maximum effort.
 
Dec 23, 2012 - 1:36pm

Are you really saying that Bernie Madoff and insider traders are "perfect killers" who should be deified? There are a few good points in this post but I think you are taking this book a little too seriously. You can be happy, moral and competent at the same time. No need to harbor cutthroat paranoia and cynicism to be successful.

Ugh the FBI still quotes the Dow... -Matt Levine
 
Dec 23, 2012 - 5:13pm

Good stuff, but most of it is philosophical, not really how to develop a killer instinct. Most of this is why a killer instinct is good/necessary etc.

To the starving man, beans are caviar
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