Perhaps the most frustrating, subtle, and brilliant strategy ever devised in human relations is the “The Aiken Solution”. Everyone uses it, but few realize how powerful and universally applicable it really is.

George Aiken was an old-school, state’s rights, conservative Republican from Vermont. He counseled both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon on Vietnam, but they never listened. “Declare victory and get out,” he said.

Declare victory and get out. The simplicity is astounding. You can’t argue with it because of its illogic.

It does not have to be a lie….though it is certainly a reshaping of the truth. It can snatch victory from defeat, except unlike REALLY snatching victory from defeat… this case you are INVENTING victory from defeat.

To use a sports analogy…..if you win the Super Bowl on a last second field goal after an unlikely interception, then you snatched victory from defeat. You celebrate big: uncork the champagne, smoke the cigar, have the parade, get the trophy, etc. etc.

But what if you missed the last second field goal after an unlikely interception? And you celebrate big: uncork the champagne, smoke the cigar, have the parade, get the trophy, etc. etc.

The two paragraphs read similar. You still had the parade. You still drank the champagne. You still have the trophy. In a few years, who will remember that the score seemed unfavorable at the time? All that matters is that you won!! You’re a champion baby!

If that was slightly confusing to read, that’s why the Aiken Solution is so brilliant. But you think, “Who is dumb enough to buy that strategy? Everyone knows what the score was right??”

No. In real life there is no score. Often success is subjective, the outcomes distant and the evidence hard to verify. Then you really can declare victory.

I watch companies do it every quarter when they release earnings. No matter what numbers they release….whether above or below expectations, they will paint a positive picture of the previous quarter while outlining the challenges, and say that the business is sound, and the next quarter will be even better. They won….simply because they said so.

People don’t know what to make of the Aiken Solution, so, if nothing else, you can throw up a smokescreen to buy yourself some time. It takes a while to catch on to.

Bush used it well in Iraq. “Iraq is linked to Al Qaeda.” It turned out it wasn’t…so he used the strategy, ignored his defeat and declared an unsubstantiated victory instead, “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.” They didn’t… he just declared a different victory. “We are bringing freedom to Iraq.” They haven’t done that either since Iraq is all but at civil war….so he might literally declare victory and get out this time. That’s what the Baker Report should’ve suggested.

So the point is that it took most people years to figure out what Bush was doing. Some knew sooner, some later….but all the same: the strategy works and people use it all the time.

Start watching….you’ll notice it. Anytime anyone just blatantly disregards reality and declares it something else…..they’re using it. Sometimes we don’t even know we’re doing it.

I read a study the other day that asked why people lie. One of the their primary, and very interesting, theories was that lying developed not to manipulate other people…..but to manipulate ourselves. We tell ourselves what we need to hear to get through the day…..and the brain gets so used doing it that the practice spills over to what we say to other people.

Not sure how true that is…..but is interesting….and I just won the Super Bowl!! You can too if you like.

2 Responses to “The Aiken Solution”
  1. josh says:


  2. swirl says:

    It was great the other night dominating you in Top Spin. I’m sure you’ll be on fire the next time we play.

    later swirl

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