Knowing when to fight and when to run. Kenny Rogers said it best "Know when to hold em, know when to fold em" This is a lesson all of us have to learn the hard way I think. I'm guessing most of us didn't have the natural instinct to size up an opponent, and needed to learn through trial and error. I'm still learning this lesson daily.
It's pretty easy when you jump into a system alone, it's camped, and you're outnumbered 10 to 1 that you should probably run. Unless you have backup nearby or you take a quick glance at all the ships targeting you and feel that you can take them, the choice is obvious to burn back to the gate, or execute some other form of escape if possible. If you have resigned your self to death, try to take as many of them with you as you can.
Sometimes, and most times for me, the choice isn't so clear. Very commonly I will encounter a lone ship flying around null sec looking all juicy and ready to be killed. I'm most often in a stealth bomber if I'm not in my own system, so I have the luxury of looking at the target and deciding if I want to engage or not. During these times I think to myself though "What if I was in my Vexor" or one of my many other ships, would I engage or run? I think that my skills have started to blossom lately and I think my ability to take down more targets is getting better an better. The problem is that nobody is ever "alone in null sec", unless they are daft in the brain or truly don't care if they die (more on that in a moment). Either they have friends in nearby systems also looking for a fight, or they have a cyno on them and able to call in the rest of their fleet to wipe you out. This makes it difficult to try and find a fight that will only involve you and your opponent.
I make a decent amount of ISK right now, but not so much that I don't mind throwing away ships. I've tried making a dozen frigates or destroyers and fit them all up and take them out and keep looking for fights, and then I lost 9 out of 10 ships and all their fittings. Part of the problem was that I was engaging the first target I saw and inevitably I was always way outmatched. I'd have my opponent's shield tank or armor tank only down about 10% before I got blown up.
A few months have passed since I last tried that experiment and I'm reluctant to try it again. When I'm not flying a covert ops ship, I'm typically flying a drone boat. I can get about 515 dps out of my Vexor and it tends to be my preferred PvP ship, although I keep plenty of Algos around as well.
I think I still hate dying, and not because I have to replace the ship. I think I hate giving my opponent the satisfaction of killing me. These same pricks show up in our system over and over again and they are all flying 5-8 year toons, and every time we try to engage them they wipe the floor with us. I have stopped undocking and fighting them, because they know they can come to us for an easy kill. Now they'll park an alt in our system and cloak all day watching us. If anyone tries to go about their business running sites or whatever, then we have to constantly look over our shoulder that someone is going to decloak, cyno and kill us.
It's starting to take the fun out of the game. We pay rent to be able to run anomalies, go ratting on the belts, and mine if we choose to. Now we are only able to do that IF they let us. We aren't strong enough to fight back one on one, if we form a fleet and try to engage they drop a cyno and kill us all, and if we don't fight back, they camp our system. I've almost logged off and not logged back on a few times it's been so frustrating. Yeah, I know I sound whiny but when you invest so much time and effort into something and then someone else just controls your experience in the game it sucks.
I'm not giving up hope though. I keep training and planning and devising ways to secure our system, to be able to start effectively killing them and to make it not worth it to them to come around anymore. Who knows, maybe I should give up trying to secure our system, and control what I have the power to control.