Sun Tzu

Down and Out in Switzerland

Recently an expat contacted me and related her story. What began as a world of financial and personal freedom turned into an ugly nightmare. Two years ago Ms. Zurich packed her bags and wired her life savings to a Swiss bank account. After landing in Zurich she found a small apartment and began a new life.

Ms. Zurich’s background was in publishing and wanted to continue her career around books. Her plan was to open a tiny bookstore specializing in female mysteries. Unable to find a location that was suitable and affordable in one, the book shop dream disappeared. A true personal failure she claimed. Instead of being aggressive and creating a new revenue stream, Ms. Zurich admitted she fell into the expat mindset that sometimes hypnotizes. That mindset can almost border complacency with a don’t worry be happy attitude.

Like many expat writers Ms. Zurich believed she had the next Moveable Feast on her fingertips. She played writer and spent the mornings writing in local cafes overlooking the large beautiful lake that streams through the city. While playing writer she lost sight of her business goals, her income and savings dwindled. The outcome, sixty-thousand words later, no interest from publishers. She admits, she fell into the romantic notion of being a failed expat writing cliché.

Ms. Zurich decided to put her publishing background to work and offer some editing. This did not create long term opportunity and her income became week-to-week and hand-to-mouth. Job opportunities were limited for reasons she did not discuss. Her only prospect seemed to be hoping and bargaining with the universe.

Her question to me, was what does one do when life fails. This is a real tough question and something people deal with being disappeared or not. Perhaps bargaining with the universe could be a good start, who knows maybe one’s perspective could change or that ah-ha moment strikes.

I believe that when all fails one needs to deal with their head and emotions first. The self needs to be kept in check and under total control. Because if you lose your head or allow emotions to dictate you will not overcome. Taking control is not easy especially in a situation where what is occurring is temporarily out of your control. Think about taking control of things you can actually govern. This could be cleaning your home, emailing people you have done business with, walking, feeding the birds, whatever! Just prove to yourself that you have a handle on a few things in your life. Even if these things appear insignificant.

The next mindset is to realize that it is not the end of the world, it only seems that way. What is occurring is only a short time in a space of life. This new chapter can become unruly, unkind, unknown, desperate and downright frightening. Then again, when hasn’t life had some of these ingredients. Fear not what is happening, it is happening.

So, what does one do when all fails? Think survival! Perhaps survival begins by asking some hard questions. Like, are you holding on to a failing job or business because of fear? Or are you abusing drugs or alcohol? Whatever. Ms. Zurich, realized it was her own actions that brought her to certain ruin and she knows it will be her own actions that will get her out of her mess.  Survival begins with truth.

My suggestion to Ms. Zurich was the second she wakes up, all of her thoughts and actions must be about food, shelter and internet. How, how, how and how! Nothing less than this thought process should exist in her day. Yes, I know this is not an exact formula of do A, B and C to rid failure from life but it is a starting point. Or maybe the starting point is realizing that, life has failed and this admission is the start to removing failure from life.

Frank M. Ahearn

Author of: The Art of Disappearing, According, to Sun Tzu’s, Art of War: Book One: Laying Plans


To Disappear or Not to Disappear?

Things can happen in your life where that feeling of your back being against the wall suddenly hits and it becomes a question of fight or flight. This is a place of vulnerability, a time when careful thinking is crucial. The last thing you want to do is pick up and disappear if it will not solve your problem. One must think about the options.

When freedom is in the balance people want to flee and when a life is in jeopardy people want to disappear. These can be knee-jerk reactions and not always the wisest tactics.  When freedom is in peril, a good lawyer is the best advisor. When your life is in danger, law enforcement should be your first call. Besides the questions of, if are you able to disappear you need to question what can happen if you are discovered. Will being disappeared make matters worse?

Weigh the options and decide if going on the run and facing a stiffer penalty is wiser than facing the music. Or, if running is safer than dealing with a stalker with the help of the law. One person who contacted me wanted to wipe out the family bank accounts, disappear offshore and break a multiple of laws. The person never thought about how he would renew his passport if he were a criminal. Again, going is not always the best move.

Frank M. Ahearn

Author of: The Art of Disappearing, According to Sun Tzu’s, Art of War: Book One: Laying Plans

Pre-emptive Privacy

My morning journey took me on an internet search of privacy terms. I typed the word privacy into a search engine and the majority of results displayed online privacy policies for corporations. Next I popped in the words privacy service, which displayed WHOIS services and a few software security companies. Then I searched personal privacy which showed government information and companies offering data protection. Finally, personal privacy service, and a collection of data type of privacy services appeared.

Not one result actually assisted with personal privacy of human action. This being the actions one takes when working on highly confidential projects, creating offshore privacy, financial privacy, family privacy and issues relating strictly to the human. You should be private while creating privacy. I believe privacy should be a pre-emptive human action one takes before actually creating digital privacy.

What one should think about are the items and entities that exist in the digital world. In the sense of how you go about protecting them and how your human actions maneuver in conjunction. A simple example is offshore banking, if you are accessing accounts from a known IP address, that is not privacy. Or how you access information about a Swiss GmbH which shields your connection to a business. Always question the human action and ask yourself if your actions equal the privacy you are taking to protect the digital.

Frank M. Ahearn
Author of: The Art of Disappearing, According to Sun Tzu’s, Art of War: Book One: Laying Plans

An Apprentice in The Art of Disappearing

You are now an apprentice in the art of disappearing and it is twenty-four hours since you walked out the door. You will go from edge to edge, the paranoia will kick in and you will question every move. The route you took, the streets you turned, the bus you jumped on, the electronics you touched, the faces in the crowd and that gorilla in the mist, that camouflaged beast I call the unknown.

Where is the predator? Did they find the find bus route, the phone call you placed three months back or an unknown credit card transaction? The first twenty—four is not about celebrating but reviewing your exit, over and over again. the most dangerous part of your day is exiting your room. Is there someone waiting in the hotel lobby, a car parked down the street or the door waiting to be kicked in and you apprehended by your predator.

Being disappeared is not a vacation and the first twenty-four should not be a sigh of relief but a practice in strategy. This is the moment where you create your discipline, where you put down the how to books and become the Sun Tzu of your world. There is no absolute way of knowing if you have been compromised. Assume you have been and be prepared to get out of Dodge.

Frank M. Ahearn

Author of: The Art of Disappearing, According to Sun Tzu’s, Art of War: Book One: Laying Plans

Information, Technology, The Internet & A Deep Pocket Predator

Part of me is always stretching to come up with a unique perspective of privacy and disappearing. You know, that buzz that catches fire. Yet, other days when unsure of what to write, I get comfortable and reach backwards to grab a story of interest, one of privacy invasion, examples of pretexting Verizon, Chase Bank or Scotland Yard. If this were some old gin joint, I would probably sound like the old drunkard on the corner stool. Perhaps and even worse, I am that old social engineer pining for some old school action.


Today’s dish of words derives from when I was working on my website and tuning it up with a new service that searches the vulnerabilities of offline information. The type of information that can be pulled from T-Mobile, Cablevision, Bank of America, ConEd and the rest of the big guys.

As I am tweaking away I am knocking my head around being honest, is this a valid service or some mumbo jumbo to twist a buck. However, some thoughts came to mind, the first being the future of the internet, technology and information. Naturally, I think about how that information can be used against us, by big business, big brother and a deep pocket predator.

The internet is loaded with our data and connections. This type of information is like a virus, it keeps growing and the goal is to eventually link all of our information. The offline world is super loaded with out information and connections. Our identity consists of three components, name, social security number and date of birth. In most circumstances these items must be used to provide, shelter, banking, employment and other much needed services. Keep in mind this is strictly offline information that is tucked away in the databases of big business. A name, social security number and date of birth are the triple crown of privacy invasion.

The second thought was about the deep pocket predator and this derives from the Gawker/Peter Thiel situation. Peter Thiel, financed Hulk Hogan’s case against Gawker and basically annihilated Gawker and Ex-Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio. A.J. is now in the hole for a hefty some of millions and millions of dollars. The reality is most of us will never come up against an aggressor like Thiel. Then again I am confident A.J. never thought such.

If you mix information, technology, internet and a deep pocket predator you have a Gawker/Thiel scenario. This is a very similar to stalking where an aggressor has an objective and uses whatever means are at their disposal. The difference, there were no acts of violence as in typical stalking situations. However, destruction occurred. I have been involved with a number of David and Goliath cases and unlike the story, in the real world Goliath usually wins. Forward thinking suggests that you question how, information, technology, the internet and Goliath can step on your world.

Frank M. Ahearn
Author of: The Art of Disappearing, According to Sun Tzu’s, Art of War: Book One: Laying Plans

The Luck of Disappearing

There is no sure way of disappearing, sometimes disappearing is a simple crap shoot and luck rules the game. Not a very comforting thought, if you plan on pulling the trigger and have read all the how to books. Even more unfortunate is you cannot depend on luck because it works both ways, in your favor and your predators. When you think about it luck is really on your predator’s side.

So… What is the point of telling you this and writing about the fortunate and misfortune of luck in the disappear world? Simple, to keep you aware and make you realize that no matter how perfect the plan there is always that chance things can crash and burn. It’s like the first plot point of a movie. The main character is living a good life and then he is framed for murder. Being disappeared is the same, you are living your life in Fiji and boom! The wrong person, newspaper article or nosy neighbor blows you out of the water. It isn’t Miller time but got to run time!

Then the next question is will you run or find a new patch of land to hide. This is one of those disappearing biblical questions or great debates that have no true solution. Actually it is one of those things that just is… Being on the run can keep you one step ahead and being stationary can keep you off the grid. Then again, being on the move creates a lot of digital footprints and being in one place can make you a sitting duck. Perhaps the solution is, in which scenario do you feel the luckiest.

Frank M. Ahearn

Author of The Art of Disappearing, According to Sun Tzu’s, The Art of War!

Know The Foe!

If you are in a situation where you are dealing with a predator or other type of adversary, you must embrace the idea of Know the Foe! This is not to say you should become your very own private detective and go snooping or sit surveillance on their home or business. Definitely not, leave such actions to a professional. This type of DIY could get you hurt or even worse. Always be smart in your strategy and think of potential outcomes.

Know the Foe means, a detailed profile of the adversary. Unfortunately, most assume this means a gathering of online data and databases. This has it purpose but tells your nothing of the subject. Databases and data are historical, the question is, what is happening with the predator in the here and now.

Think about where your predator lives, works, cars he or she drives. Think about their finances, travel ability, their reach and living flexibility. Think about the connections they may have in their business world. Think outside of the databases, think how extreme they are or could become.

Frank M. Ahearn
Author of: The Art of Disappearing, According to Sun Tzu’s, Art of War!