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5 Reasons Why It's Good To Have Intelligent Enemies

5 Reasons Why It's Good To Have Intelligent Enemies

Libertarian Country |

Most of us can think of reasons why it may not be good to have intelligent adversaries. Indeed, a more intelligent rival can easily defeat us, and nobody wants that, right?

But a wise man once said, "it is better to have an intelligent enemy than a stupid friend."

There are reasons why it's vital and beneficial to have intelligent foes. Here, we will explore some of those reasons.


1. An Intelligent Opponent Will Keep You Sharp

In high school in the late 90s, my friends and I were into philosophy, art, politics, punk rock and rebellion. When the school posted signup sheets for extracurricular activities, joining the chess club was the most punk rock thing we could think of.

I knew how to play chess but wasn't good at it. The teacher who led the club was a cool guy who was into history and philosophy, so chess often became a background activity for more serious political discussion. Nevertheless, the game interested me, and it soon became an obsession.

Afterschool chess was more a misfit social club than an opportunity to develop game strategy, so I created an account on what was then a technological revolution: Yahoo! Chess.

Playing chess online with strangers was fascinating and frustrating; I lost every match. Determined, I played persistently but kept failing. My losing streak inspired me to buy a copy of Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess I found in a thrift store. I read it intensely.

Then something amazing happened; I won my first game on Yahoo! Chess. Then another, and another. Before long, I was beating players with much higher ratings than me. Sure, I would still lose games (I was no Bobby Fischer), but I was winning, too. My chess rating skyrocketed.

I had a revelation, a euphoric epiphany as a teenage rebel. Fighting more vigorous opponents was the most efficient way to become strong. I wouldn't have bought the book if I didn't lose those games. If I weren't playing worthy opponents, I would've failed to see my mistakes and never would've honed my skill.

As time passed, I moved on to new obsessions, but chess was (and will always be) a game I respected and admired. Some years later, in my mid-20s, we started meeting up at a coffee house to socialize and play chess.

I was a bit rusty, but interestingly, I had maintained much of my former skills. I wasn't any better, but I wasn't much worse, either. Our chess nights at the coffee house were a short-lived revival, but it prompted some newbies and inexperienced players to learn the game.

As such, I began training someone who had never played chess before. I'm impatient, and being a chess teacher was agonizing at times, but I was determined. We played game after game until they were the only person I played chess with.

At the next coffeehouse chess meetup, something strange happened. My opponent was someone who I had beaten countless times before--only this night, I lost the game. I didn't just lose; I got my ass kicked pretty damn bad. My penchant for slaughtering worthy chess opponents was enfeebled.

A new epiphany struck me hard. Playing exclusively against the newbie did not only obstruct my progress and hinder my growth; it was making me weaker. Much weaker.

A good lesson was learned from all of this. To become skilled and proficient, you will benefit greatly if your opponents are stronger than you. Take delight in having intellectual rivals. As they say, iron sharpens iron.


2. Having Intelligent Enemies is a Testimony of Your Worth

It is better to be hated than to be ignored. If you profess that all of your enemies are morons and far beneath your level of intelligence, I would invite you to reconsider announcing that factoid, for it is a testimony of worth to have intelligent adversaries.

If an intellectual observes your arguments and concludes they are unworthy of serious attention, it is more insulting than if they would've dashed them to pieces. Like how chess experts won't play intermediate players, the intellectual has relegated you to an unworthy status. Ouch.

All great philosophers had rivalries with other great intellectuals, even if their views were in diametric opposition. Losing debates, like chess matches, is how you develop skill and precision and form a more potent strategy.

If a rising star in the boxing world attracts the attention of champions, they will enjoy praise and honor, even if they lose the title bout. In business, if your competitors are fortune 500 companies, it's a testimony to your success. The level of your competition is a tool to measure value.


3. Worthy Opponents Make for Sweeter Victories

To the victor goes the spoils--but not always.

If an adult barges their way into a middle school, grabs the weakest-looking kid they can find and pulverizes him into a bloody mess, not only will he be doing some serious jail time, but the dishonor he has earned will forever outlive him.

There's a good reason why bullies have a bad reputation. Bullying is weakness, an exhibition of cowardice. A true warrior desires worthy adversaries. A black belt doesn't want to compete against a white belt, for there is no honor or joy in their victory.

Every David needs a Goliath. The stronger the opponent, the sweeter the victory--and who doesn't love a good win?


4. There Can Be Honor in Defeat

You can't be top dog forever.

In the movie The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Buster Scruggs is the fastest gun in the west until he meets his demise at the hand of a young, black-clad cowboy during a high-noon duel.

Once defeated, the young gunslinger kicks dust at the feet of the late Buster Scruggs. While this may seem disrespectful, according to cowboy lore, it was the ultimate sign of respect.

The young cowboy was quick and proficient in gunslinging. He was a worthy adversary--the best of the best. There is no shame in losing against the best. It would've been a humiliating disgrace if Buster Scruggs lost against a drunkard with average shooting skills.

Showdowns between two worthy opponents are the rivalries that capture our focus. They are the games we want to see. If you're watching football and your team is crushing it, you may feel yourself yawning or flipping through the channels. A close game will keep you on the edge of your seat, biting your fingernails.

Keep your spectators on the edge of their seats. Challenge those who are more educated, intelligent and skilled than you are. You may lose, but the bitterness won't taste as bad if the match was fought valiantly. We will all lose eventually, but there is honor in a sound defeat.


5. Intellectual Rivalries Advance Civilization

Much can be learned from studying rivalries. Many heavyweight debates have existed in academia and the intellectual world for centuries. Developing mathematics, science, economics, business, technology, philosophy and critical thinking depends on competition.

Friedrich Hayek clashed with John Maynard Keynes, refining economic theory for decades. Leonard Susskind fought the Black Hole Wars against Stephen Hawking, improving our understanding of astrophysics. Hitchens and Dawkins debate endlessly with theologians, sharpening our collective philosophical and theological minds.

Whether it's academia or the combat fields of war, we as a civilization learn from rivalries. Competition and conflict are how we grow and evolve. It's essential. So before you start wishing all of your enemies were stupid or weak, consider how you're learning and becoming stronger from those rivalries.

Not all rivalries are between enemies. Friends can be intellectual rivals as well. In fact, most intellectuals respected and admired their competition.


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