Tag Archives: Sun Tzu

The Art of War by Sun Tzu


  1. Sun Tzu’s 2,000 year old principles are as relevant today as they were back then. Whether in business, sports, war, or any other field, taking care of the small decisions as well as deception, disguise and diversion are all required for success.

Key Takeaways

  1. Lived from 544 to 496 BC and was a very successful general even in his own time
  2. He who relies solely on warlike measures shall be exterminated; he who relies solely on peaceful measures shall perish
  3. Art of War was written for King Ho Lu
  4. Sun Tzu was revered by all Chinese military leaders for centuries and used his teachings
  5. Many think of China as the largest peace-loving nation on earth but forget about her turbulent, violent times thousands of years ago (had built the great wall and had a huge standing army before Rome’s first legion existed!)
  6. The book is a culmination of a process, not a single event – many people
  7. Require a different context for different strategies
  8. Western philosophy is dualistic – creator/created – whereas Eastern is more unified. Western assumes an act of creation and a time goal, whereas Chinese think of change/continuity as equally real . All is interconnected, every thing is what it is at the pleasure of everything else
  9. Static vs. dynamic – the world of mathematics vs. the world of dynamics – always changing and flowing, shaping and being shaped
    1. Why need flexibility in dealing with situations – things always changing. One must find security by revisiting and redefining one’s own strength by immediate yet unannounced responsiveness to the enemy’s shifting position
  10. There is a holism, a symbiosis where service to oneself and one’s community are the same
  11. Shih – full concentrated release of latent energy inherent in one’s position, physical, or otherwise (strategic advantage)
  12. War, force is always a last resort. Given that warfare is always defeat, the commander in pursuing the best possible outcome seeks to disarm the enemy without every joining him on the battlefield.
  13. Victory must be a predetermined certainty. As a consequence, the able commander is not the one who is celebrated for daring and courage, for his victory requires neither
    1. Victory can be anticipated, but it cannot be forced
    2. Know the other, know yourself, And the victory will not be at risk; Know the ground, know the natural conditions, and the victory can be total
  14. One is weak because he makes preparations against others; he has strength because he makes others prepare against him
  15. The consummate commander is able to achieve and retain control of a military situation in a way analogous to an able ruler’s control of the civil situation and a farmer’s control of his crops: by a thorough understanding of the conditions determining the situation and the manipulation of these circumstances to his chosen end
  16. The best military strategy is to attack strategies; the next to attack alliances; the next to attack soldiers; the next to attack walled cities
  17. War is such that the supreme consideration is speed, speed in timing, in short duration of battle, in decision making
    1. Velocity
  18. Yin – yin requires sensitivity to register the full range of forces that define one’s situation, and, on the basis of this awareness, to anticipate the various possibilities that can ensue. Adaptability refers to the conscious fluidity of one’s own disposition. One can only turn prevailing circumstances to account if one maintains an attitude of readiness and flexibility. One must adapt oneself to the enemy’s changing posture as naturally and as effortlessly as flowing water winding down a hillside
  19. Harmony – It is the capacity to anticipate the patterned flow of circumstance, to encourage those dispositions most conducive to a productive harmony, and ultimately to participate in negotiating a  world order that makes best advantage of its creative possibilities. Harmony is attained through the art of contextualizing
  20. Leadership
    1. All situations consequence of a dynamic process of organically related, mutually determining conditions
    2. To be reliable, information must be firsthand and there is a key relationship between intelligence and timing. Once the specific time has past, information loses its strategic function and importance, and at best retains only historical value. Ideally, effective intelligence provides clear discernment of the enemy’s situation and a full concealment of one’s own
    3. The object of military management is to effect a unified standard of courage. The principle of exploiting terrain is to get value from the soft as well as the hard. Thus, the expert in using the military leads his legions as though he were leading one person by the hand. The person cannot but follow
    4. The business of waging war lies in carefully studying the designs of the enemy
    5. Go first for something that the enemy cannot afford to lose and do not let him know the timing of your attack. Revise your strategy according to the changing posture of the enemy to determine the course and outcome of the battle
  21. 5 terrain – tao, climate, terrain, command, regulation
  22. Factors in the art of warfare – calculations, quantities, logistics, balance of power, possibility of victory 

What I got out of it

  1. Amazing how certain principles will always be relevant and Sun Tzu’s Art of War is no exception. Although his examples are all based on warfare, these can be translated into any field. Great read

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