Avoid any war with anyone who has nothing to lose
There was a story of a palm oil seller and a sharp sand seller. One day a long, long time ago which no one living can actually define. The two of them set out from opposite directions to dispose of their merchandise.
After travelling many days by foot, which was the only means of transportation in those days, they met at a narrow path, which only one person could go through at a time. Both insisted on the right of way. They argued until other travelers met them there and a long queue soon formed behind both of them. Still neither the palm oil seller nor the sharp sand seller would bulge.
According to the story, both had a stubborn streak in them. Having failed to pacify both men, some wise travelers suggested a way out – that both men should slug it out, whoever won the contest should have the right of way.
The suggestion was accepted to both men. Quickly each man set his merchandise by the roadside and they squared up one to the other. The battle was ferocious and long, in the end, the palm seller had the better of the sharp sand seller by lifting him off his feet and landed him on the floor.
The crowd roared! But as the sand seller hit the floor, one of his outstretched legs caught the palm oil seller merchandise and tilted it. Immediately, the content gushed out on the bush path. Furious palm oil seller reached out for the merchandise of sand seller and flung it upside down on the road and its content poured out on the roadside.
The sand seller got up from the floor, dusted himself up, ignored the jeers of the crowd who had started hailing the palm oil seller for winning the bragging rights, as soccer fans call it these days, and he began to pack his merchandise (sharp sand0 into his container.
Having done that, he respected the agreement by stepping out of the narrow path for the palm oil seller to have his right of way.
But the palm oil seller stood transfixed on a spot. His own merchandise had been irretrievably wasted and could not be salvaged as sharp sand seller had salvaged his.
The palm oil seller won the contest, but his victory was pyrrhic. Whereas he won the right of way, he had no more trips to make since his merchandise had been wasted. In other words, if you are in a very delicate position, beware of someone who has little or nothing to lose.
Ultimate excellence lies not in winning every battle, but in defeating the enemy without ever fighting.
– Sun Tzu