In 52BC, the Romans, under Julius Caesar, were facing a Gaul army of 60,000.
Both armies were the same size and Julius Caesar expected to win.
But the Gaul army wouldn’t fight in the open.
They sheltered in the fortified town of Alesia, and waited for Julius Caesar to attack.
But he didn’t attack.
Instead he thought, if I was my enemy what would I do?
I’d stay safely inside the fortifications and let them camp in the open.
I’d get rest and food while they got cold and tired.
Then, when my men were stronger than theirs, I’d go out and fight.
So Julius Caesar didn’t do what his enemy expected.
He did the unexpected.
He built another set of fortifications around Alesia, so no one could get out and no food could get in.
The fortifications were 10 miles long, a mass of ditches and spikes and walls, it took his soldiers three weeks.
Now if the Gauls attacked they would be the ones facing fortifications.
And the Gauls did attack, most were killed but a few escaped.
Caesar knew this meant another army of Gauls would soon be coming.
Which meant Caesar now had two choices.
Stand and fight them in the open when they came, or leave now.
Caesar didn’t like either choice.
So he did the unthinkable.
While he was waiting for the larger force, he built another fortified wall outside his first one, this time 13 miles long.
The Romans would now be fortified on both sides.
It took three weeks until the larger force of 100,000 Gauls arrived.
The Gaul leader was expecting to fight the Roman army in the open.
But he was faced with a situation he wasn’t expecting.
He would have to attack the Roman fortifications and his men would be out in the open.
The leader of the Gauls was confused.
He had the initiative taken away from him by Julius Caesar.
Caesar had given the Gauls no choice, they would have to attack.
And when they did, Caesar took 6,000 Romans behind the Gauls and attacked from the rear.
The already confused Gauls thought it was another Roman army.
They broke and ran in panic.
And they were massacred by the Romans from the front and rear.
The Gauls inside the fort saw their last hope of rescue cut down.
They knew they had no choice, they surrendered.
At the end of the battle the Romans had lost 13,000 men.
The Gauls had lost 150,000 men.
Julius Caesar went on to conquer all of Gaul.
He eventually became emperor of the entire Roman Empire.
Caesar knew, your best move is to think like your enemy.
Be your own harshest critic.
Don’t just assume your idea will work, and plan for success.
Spot the weakness before the other side does.
At best, you’ll never need your backup plan.
At worst, you’ll be totally prepared if you do.
A great idea should hurt the competition so much they’ll be forced to react.
Be prepared for when they do.
Then, whatever they do, they play into your hands.