Things are Not Always as they Appear

[July 9, 2019] I fell for the ruse. As a new Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, I made a classic mistake on the “simulated” battlefield. I had ordered my Infantry Platoon to attack an enemy position that was fake and learned, the hard way that things are not always as they appear.

“Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.” – Sun Tzu, ancient Chinese general, strategist, and philosopher

Deception is an important part of success on the battlefield. It is also crucial to survival in the wild. The thumbnail to today’s article is a photograph of an Owl Butterfly wing. You can see in the picture that the wing looks like an eye; larger animals that prey upon the butterfly will pass it by and look elsewhere for a meal.

My maternal grandmother, Bigmama, gave me some common advice like so many grandmothers have done for their grandchildren. She said not to judge a book by its cover. The meaning is, of course, the same. What we see with our eyes or judge with our intellect may not represent reality. It is up to each of us to learn from experience and our own errors that great care is needed to avoid serious lifetime mistakes.

Senior U.S. military leaders have a well-honed philosophy of putting their personnel through a variety of combat simulations. One ingredient is to force those in training to see past any façade or deception so those good decisions can be made. For example, a classic attack will employ a deceptive maneuver to draw the enemy away from the main effort.

I was able to learn that any worthy enemy understands that deception is helpful. It was up to me to figure out where that deception lies and place my Infantrymen in the right place at the right time. To do so is the acme of success on the battlefield, the business boardroom, on the field of games, or in seeking a mate.1




Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

21 thoughts on “Things are Not Always as they Appear

  1. Max Foster

    Such an important topic. I would suggest to all readers of Gen. Satterfield’s blog that this is more of a problem than we first realize. All of us have experience the fact that things are not as they appear. We make assumptions and don’t give them much thought. I think that is why we often make stupid decisions and then feel slighted when things don’t work out. Have a great day, all.

    1. Jonathan B.

      Well said, Max. As usual, you’ve pointed us in the right direction. Keep on being tough and thoughtful.

  2. Yusaf from Texas

    Great article today, Gen. Satterfield. I love the way you intertwine stories from your past into the message of the day. This is one that many young folks seem to have NOT learned. Just take college kids these days who are scared of everything and expect the real adults to do something (anything) about it. They are such twits that I scares me to think that those kids will soon be decision-makers in our society.

    1. Fred Weber

      The Nutcracker. This is the first version we bought for our kids. Join Marie, Fritz, and the intriguing Nutcracker himself on a magical adventure only possible on a night like Christmas Eve. Behold the frightful Mouse King, the elegant Sugar Plum fairies, and the entire Land of Sweets.

    2. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      Thanks for helping bring back childhood memories.

  3. Janna Faulkner

    It is important to look deeper in a given situation. Things may not be what they appear to be. Don’t let what you think you know get in the way of living with an open heart.

  4. Shawn C. Stolarz

    From the Bible In John 7:24, Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

  5. Dale Paul Fox

    Many times things are not what they seem. Usually, it is because of our perspective; how we think about what is going on around us. A part of our growth as humans.

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      How many times have you “read” a person wrong?
      Good question, often asked and rarely answered.
      Keep up writing these articles for us to read, discuss, and think about, Gen. Satterfield.
      Thank you.

      1. Nick Lighthouse

        Several times in my life I remember making false assumptions of what I thought someone said or what I thought they meant through their actions. Of course, I felt stupid. But more importantly, I tried to learn from it. Thanks Willie.

  6. AutisticTechie

    “Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.” quote of Phaedrus

    1. Eric Coda

      The Phaedrus was presumably composed around 370 BC, about the same time as Plato’s Republic and Symposium.

  7. Dennis Mathes

    Enjoyed today’s article especially because it took me back to my childhood memories.

    1. Georgie M.

      My brother collected butterflies and I was always amazed at their genetic makeup of their wing designs.

    2. Harry B. Donner

      Same here. Gen. Satterfield has a way of doing this. And that is one of the reasons I keep coming back to his website on leadership. Leadership, as he notes, and as we know is not easy. But if you read often enough and study it frequently, you might actually learn something.

  8. Army Captain

    As a kid, I learned about butterflies and how their wings made them look like a predator. The birds would avoid them because they were afraid of being eaten. Great stuff.

    1. JT Patterson

      Thank you for your service, Army Captain. As always, I appreciate both your service and your comments.

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