There is a famous fable from Japan.
A young samurai found himself one day on a ferry with a legendary swordsman known throughout all of Japan. Anxious to prove himself, he sought a duel with the Master. He challenged him with great confidence, shouting, “Either you or I will die!”
The Master did not respond. He had faced many challengers before and was tired of useless battles.
The young samurai was offended and shouted even louder, “Come fight me now and either you or I will die!”
Finally, after many attempts, the Master rose and said, “I accept your challenge, but there are others on this ferry who might be hurt. Let us go to that island so that we may freely fight.”
The young samurai accepted the offer and stood boldly at the helm of the ferry while it moved toward the island.
As the ferry drew close, the Master graciously allowed the young samurai to step off the boat first, and then quickly steered the boat away from the island, leaving a humbled young samurai behind.
There are many battles in our life we do not need to fight at all. If you are wise, you can win without fighting and leave a lot of stuff on the island, moving on to more important things. Knowing which battles we can ignore, then keep them from distracting us from higher purposes, is the essence of the master move.
The supreme art is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
– Sun Tzu