The Importance of Being Smart

I recently watched the movie Red Cliff II. It’s about a famous battle in the Three Kingdoms era in China. The battle was between Cao Cao who had about 800,000 soldiers and Liu Bei – Sun Quan alliance who had less than 100,000 soldiers.

Despite being greatly outnumbered, Liu Bei and Sun Quan eventually won the battle. One reason for their success was the role of an advisor named Zhuge Liang.

Again and again, Zhuge Liang devised tactics that cleverly turned the situation around. One of my favorites is when he was asked to provide 100,000 arrows for the alliance. He was given ten days to complete the task but he confidently asked for just three.

After two days, he didn’t make a single arrow. All he did was sitting beside the river, watching the weather, and waiting for some boats he asked.

When the boats arrived, he took them to attack the enemy. The river was foggy so the enemy couldn’t see clearly how many boats were attacking them. Zhuge Liang attacked first with some archers, but the enemy – being far stronger – fought back fiercely. They overwhelmed Zhuge Liang’s boats with arrows.

Guess what? All Zhuge Liang’s boats were covered with straw so he got all the arrows shot to him. When he eventually went home after “losing” the fight, he brought with him 100,000 arrows as requested – and he didn’t make even one of them.

Watching this movie makes me understand what a difference being smart can make. Those who are smart can achieve much more – with much less effort – than those just work hard.

Photo by Esparta


  1. Don, brilliant post. Very insightful.

    it’s posts like these that make me grateful I have brains rather than brawn.


  2. Fantastic post you have here. I’ve talked about this same point on my blog and I completely agree with you. Working smarter, not harder is the key.

  3. hahaha .. smart n creative 🙂

    i think success people needs to be creative in solving a problem. solve it out of the box n out of the rules / tradition 🙂

  4. Nate @ Money Young,

    …I have brains rather than brawn.

    I like that 🙂


    Working smarter, not harder is the key.

    Yes. Unfortunately, it’s much easier to just follow the crowd rather than working smarter.

    Well, you should watch the movie. There are still other smart tactics by Zhuge Liang.

  5. Very interesting read, brings me back to when I was a small boy when my father told me the story.

    I have something to add to being smart. It’s about beginning with the end in mind.

    The objective was to acquire 100,000 arrows, which is not the same as making 100,000 arrows. Most of us would have framed the challenge as “making 100,000 arrows” instead of “acquiring 100,000 arrows”.

    No amount of smartness can outsmart the need to begin with the end in mind.

  6. Yeah, the story of 3 kingdoms is really good. However i believe the movie that was shot by John Woo is actually not as original as the original novel / history. Lots of things in the movie are made up.

    Perhaps you can read the original 3 Kingdoms novels and will be amazed by Zhuge Liang’s intelligence. 🙂

  7. Best article I have ever read, thank you for this wonderful idea. This is going to change my reading habits forever.

  8. I really need to see this movie now…
    🙂 Think first is a great way to be smart. Define your values as well, as if you know what you like, do not like. And by having an image of your future, it will all add up to giving you the tools to be smart. And lazy people seem to be smarter, as they use a lot of brain energy on finding an easier way to do stuff.

  9. Paradoxically, the more we think about solutions, letting our mind go, versus frantically striving, all the while aware of the possibilities of failure and catastrophy, the more easily and plentifully they come. I am working to become more future focused, solution oriented, and confident, whenever problems come my way.

  10. Chew,
    That’s a very good insight. You’re right. People often make assumptions about a problem that unnecessarily limit the solutions.

    I do plan to read them 🙂

    Yes, it is.

    So you are planning to read smarter? How exactly are you going to do that?


    And lazy people seem to be smarter, as they use a lot of brain energy on finding an easier way to do stuff.

    I agree with you. It seems that thinking like a lazy person is a good way to think smart.

    I’m also working to become more solution oriented. Just I need to be careful not to limit myself the way Chew said in the comment.

  11. Brilliant, Bob Proctor tells a story of a fly trying to get through a closed window, no matter how hard he try he never will, next to him is an open door. If the fly changed his strategy just a little he would succeed with much less effort. You can achieve more with less.

  12. I love movies that provide insights like that. This sounds like it would be a good one for my teenage son to see. He’s always looking at things differently and studying how to think better. I think he would really appreciate the way that was accomplished.



  13. Yeah…, Great Post!!!

    ‘That’s EXACTLY what
    it’s all about!’

    This is definitely the stuff that Fred Gratzon Writer of
    ‘The Lazy Way to Success’ is talking about!

    If you go to:

    Scroll down a little at the leftside
    of the Blog under the Header:

    ‘Highly Recommended’

    You will find a Banner-link with more info about this
    brilliant Must Read.

    All the Best,
    To your Happy Inspiration,

  14. and do you know Zhuge Liang read a lot of book before he became adviser for Liu Bie 😉
    Much love

  15. Cody,
    I love the story 🙂

    Yes, I think this is a good movie for your son to see. What I wrote here is just one of the many clever tricks in the movie.

    It seems that The Lazy Way to Success is a good book. I definitely want to read things that help me achieve more with less.

    Best Linh,
    Did he? I don’t know that 🙂

  16. […] are some interesting comments in the post The Importance of Being Smart and here I’d like to discuss one of them. It’s a comment by Chew: I have something to […]

  17. […] watching Red Cliff (which led to me writing The Importance of Being Smart), I decided to read Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the historical novel upon which the movie is […]

  18. Very good article. I working smarter has been a goal of mine this year. I have found cutting out the small stuff and focusing on the bigger projects more beneficial and try not to work so much over time.

  19. BunnygotBlog,

    …try not to work so much over time.

    That’s good because that helps you maintain your life balance. You will be more productive in the long run.

  20. […] By Donald Latumahina (follow me on Twitter) , November 14, 2009 Advertisements In The Importance of Being Smart, I wrote how smart people can achieve much more – with much less effort – than those who just […]

  21. Nabila Bte Salam
    Nabila Bte Salam

    I love all your newsletters that comes in my way! Very inspiring and it always kick start my day with a positive mind set! Continue the great work and spread the happiness!

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