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Take the Opportunity to Pilfer a Goat


Disciplines > Warfare > The 36 Stratagems > Take the Opportunity to Pilfer a Goat

Stratagem | History | Discussion | See also

This stratagem number: 12

This group: Stratagems for Confrontation
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Always stay alert and keep an eye out for any opportunities that appear and look to take full advantages of them.

While keeping a focus on the your current task, maintain also a broad attention that looks both for threats and opportunities.

Watch for enemy mistakes and make them pay for these. Look for opportunities from other sources, from allies to the weather, and make good use of these.

Even small gains now can make the difference later. And things that seem small at first can turn out to be more important than initially appeared.

Make your own opportunities, for example by using small attacks that test the readiness of the enemy (then pressing home the attack if they are unready).

Taking opportunities can expose you to attack, so it is often a good idea to do so covertly and under cover. If you are caught in mid-act, then have a way out ready, whether this is a full retreat or a clever diversion or excuse.

There is often a limited window of time in which opportunities can be taken. It is hence important to keep a weather eye out, constantly scanning for possibilities and being ready to take advantage of them.


This is the twelfth stratagem of thirty-six.

Group name

Stratagems for Confrontation

Alternative names

Steal Any Passing Goat

Seize the Opportunity To Lead a Sheep Away

Take Away a Goat in Passing.

Make Off With A Sheep In Passing By

Or even:

Exploit Opportunity

See and Use Luck


There is a story of a wanderer who passed through a flock of sheep and emerged with one in tow, as if he had entered the flock this way.

When Wu Qi was being being pursued by noble archers he clung to the already-dead king's corpse, which was pierced by several arrows. Even on the brink of death he took an opportunity: a law against mutilating a king's body meant the archers' families were all severely punished.


Opportunities are not always seen as such, for example where enemy mistakes are seen as lucky only in the respite gained. Being not only observant but also thoughtful is hence important.

Flexibility is another key skill, being able to quickly adapt and take advantage of opportunities that appear.

Having excuses ready is often helpful if your opportunity-taking can be criticized. Tales of opportunistically stealing sheep or other animals often have the culprit innocently pointing out how the animal followed him home or how he merely found a piece of rope and the fact of an animal being attached was just incidental.

Seeking and taking opportunities is a fundamental skill for business success and many big businesses are founded on just one such gain.

See also

Creativity, Perception


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