Sun Tzu – Know Your Enemy, Know Yourself

“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles;
If you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one;
If you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”

Sun Tzu was speaking of wartime tactics, however I believe there is something to be learned from this quote that directly relates to aviation. There are two components mentioned here; the pilot and the threats to the pilot. The threats can take the form of aircraft malfunctions, weather, human factors, etc. Obviously, the pilot is you; but an intimate understanding of what makes you tick each and every time you fly is paramount. The better you know yourself (and honestly own up to it each time you fly) and the better you know and understand your threats for that particular mission, the greater chance for success. To know yourself and not your threats lends itself to unnecessary risk taking which reduces the safety margin. To not be aware of who you are and what type of environment you are entering will probably lead to a disastrous situation; one which would be better not taken. Skill can only get you so far. To have “golden hands” but lack the aviation related intellect, that required to recognize and react to the environment around you, will soon find its end. The average pilot with exceptional knowledge of aviation related enemies has a better chance of enjoying a long flying career. We are all heard it said, “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are not old bold pilots”. Perhaps the “old pilots” grasp the idea of knowing themselves and their threats well and then operate within those boundaries.

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