Concrete your forces

 In China in the early sixth century B.C., the kingdom of Wu began a war
with the neighboring northem provinces of the Middle Kingdom. Wu was
a growing power, but it lacked the great history and civilization of the MiddIe Kingdom, for centuries the center of Chinese culture. By defeating the
Middle Kingdom, the king of Wu would instantly raise his status.
The war began with great fanfare and several victories, but it soon
bogged down. A victory on one front would leave the Wu armies vulnerable on another. The king's chief minister and adviser, 

Wu Tzu-hsiu, wamed
hirn that the barbarous state of Yueh, to the south, was beginning to notice
the kingdom of Wu's problems and had designs to invade. The king only
laughed at such worries-one more big victory and the great Middle Kingdom would be his.
In the year 490, Wu Tzu-hsiu sent his son away to safety in the kingdom of Ch'i. In doing so he sent the king a signal that he disapptoved of
the war, and that he believed the king's selfish ambition was leading Wu to
ruin. The king, sensing betrayal, lashed out at his minister, accusing hirn of
a lack of loyalty and, in a fit of anger, ordered hirn to kill hirnself. Wu Tzuhsiu obeyed his king, but before he plunged the knife into his chest, he

 "Tear out my eyes, oh King, and fix them on the gate of Wu, so that I
may see the triumphant entry ofYueh."
As Wu Tzu-hsiu had predicted, within a few years a Yueh army passed
beneath the gate of Wu. As the barbarians surrounded the palace, the king
remembered his minister's last words-and feit the dead man's disembodied eyes watching his disgrace. Unable to bear his shame, the king killed
hirnself, "covering his face so that he would not have to meet the reproachful gaze of his minister in the next world."
The story of Wu is a paradigm of all the empires that have come to ruin by
overreaching. Drunk with success and siek with ambition, such empires expand to grotesque proportions and meet a ruin that is total. This is what
happened to ancient Athens, which lusted for the faraway island of Sicily
and ended up losing its empire. The Romans stretched the boundaries of
their empire to encompass vast territories; in doing so they increased their
vulnerability, and the chances of invasion from yet another barbarian tribe.
Their useless expansion led their empire into oblivion.
For the Chinese, the fate of the kingdom of Wu serves as an elemental
lesson on what happens when you dissipate your forces on several fronts,
losing sight of distant dangers for the sake of present gain. "If you are not in
danger," says Sun-tzu, "do not fight."

 It is almost a physical law: What is
bloated beyond its proportions inevitably collapses. The mind must not
wander from goal to goal, or be distracted by success from its sense of purpose and proportion. What is concentrated, coherent, and connected to its
past has power. What is dissipated, divided, and distended rots and falls to
the ground. The bigger it bloats, the harder it falls.
The Rothschild banking family had humble beginnings in the Jewish
ghetto of Frankfurt, Germany. The city's harsh laws made it impossible for
Jews to mingle outside the ghetto, but the Jews had turned this into a
virtue-it made them self-reliant, and zealous to preserve their culture at
all costs. Mayer Amschel, the first of the Rothschilds to accumulate wealth
by lending money, in the late eighteenth century, weIl understood the
power that comes from this kind of concentration and cohesion.
First, Mayer Amschel allied hirnself with one family,

 the powernd
princes of Thurn und Taxis. Instead of spreading his services out, he made
himself these princes' primary banker. Second, he entrusted none of his
business to outsiders, using only his children and close relatives. The more
unified and tight-knit the family, the more powerful it would become. Soon
Mayer Amschel's five sons were running the business. And when Mayer
Amschel lay dying, in 1812, he refused to name a principal heir, instead setting up all of his sons to continue ·the family tradition, so that they would
stay united and would resist the dangers of diffusion and of infiltration by
Once Mayer Amschel's sons controlled the family business, they decided that the key to wealth on a larger scale was to secure a foothold in the
finances of Europe as a whole, rather than being tied to any one country or
prinee. Of the five brothers, Nathan had already opened up shop in London. In 1813 James moved to Paris. Amschel remained in Frankfurt,
Salomon established hirnself in Vienna, and Karl, the youngest son, went
to Naples. With each sphere of influence covered, they could tighten their
hold on Europe's financial markets.
This widespread network, of course, opened the Rothschilds to the
very danger of which their father had warned them: diffusion, division, dissension. They avoided this danger, and established themselves as the most
powerful force in European finance and politics, by once again resorting to
the strategy of the ghetto--excluding outsiders, concentrating their forces.
The Rothschilds established the fastest courier system in Europe, 

them to get news of events before all their competitors. They held a virtual
monopoly on information. And their internal communications and correspondence were written in Frankfurt Yiddish, and in a code that only the
brothers could decipher. There was no point in stealing this informationno one could understand it. "Even the shewdest bankers cannot find their
way through the Rothschild maze," admitted a financier who had tried to
infiltrate the clan.
In 1824 James Rothschild decided it was time to get married. This presented a problem for the Rothschilds, since it meant incorporating an outsider into the Rothschild clan, an outsider who could betray its secrets. 

James therefore decided to marry within the family, and chose the daughter of his brother Salomon. The brothers were ecstatic-this was the perfeet solution to their marriage problems. James's choice now became the
family policy: Two years later, Nathan married off his daughter to
hissing at everyone
who passes by, you
bring upon yourself the
derision of all behold·
ers. I confess that I am
only formed to move
upon the ground; but
how graceful is my
makel How weil turned
my limbs! How highly
finished my whole
body! How great my
strength! How astonishing my speed! I had
much rather be
confined to one
element, and be
admired in that, than
be a goose in all! "
1 747-1 822
Beware of dissipating
your powers; strive
constantly to concentrate them. Genius
thinks it can do whatever it sees others
dOing, but it is sure to
repent of every illjudged outlay.
LAW 23 1 73
1 74 LAW 23
Salomon's son. In the years to come, the five brothers arranged eighteen
matches among their cbildren, sixteen of these being contracted between
first cousins.
"We are like the mechanism of a watch: Each part is essential," said
brother Salomon. As in a watch, every part of the business moved in concert with every other, and the inner workings were invisible to the world,
which only saw the movement of the hands. While other rich and powerful
families suffered irrecoverable downturns during the tumultous first half of
the nineteenth century, the tight-knit Rothschilds managed not only to preserve but to expand their unprecedented wealth.
The Rothschilds were born in strange times. They came from a place that
had not changed in centuries, but lived in an age that gave birth to the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution, and an endless series of upheavals. The Rothchilds kept the past alive, resisted the patterns of
dispersion of their era and for this are emblematic of the law of concentration.
No one represents this better than James Rothschild, the son who established himself in Paris. In bis lifetime J ames witnessed the defeat of
Napoleon, the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy, the bourgeois monarchy of Orleans, the return to a republic, and finally the enthronement of
Napoleo \ IH. French styles and fashions changed at a relentless pace during all trus turmoil. Without appearing to be a relic of the past, J ames
steered his family as if the ghetto lived on within them. He kept alive his
clan's inner cohesion and strength. Only through such an anchoring in the
past was the family able to thrive amidst such chaos. Concentration was the
foundation of the Rothschilds' power, wealth, and stability.

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