Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is perhaps the most influential treatise on leadership and war ever written. This 2500-year-old text’s 13 chapters on the 13 aspects of warfare is a must read for anyone looking to succeed in today’s highly competitive environment. Whether its business or personal life.

As I read the book, I was struck by how short the book was. (The copy I got was 102 pages with commentaries included). But the more I read, the more I realized the wisdom behind the book.

The Art of War is more than just about warfare. It’s about life.

Replace the war part with “The Art of Winning” or “The Art of Succeeding” and you’ve got exactly the same book.

The book is about every struggle or confrontation, whether its politics, business, life or more.

Many people make the mistake of going into competition without understanding their opponents, and worse, sometimes without even knowing themselves.

As the book tells us, whenever you’re in a conflict, you must know your own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of your opponent.

Sun Tzu’s advice rings true in a great many situations. 

Winning in business and in life is essentially like winning in war. And as the books central theme boldly reminds us: The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.

1: Know your enemies and know yourself and in a hundred battles you would never be in peril. Use it for job interviews, by studying up for interviews

2: Avoid what is strong, attack what is weak. Don’t compete with Walmart on price. Instead, use human rights, or made in america or say the product is cheaper and authentic.

3: To win one thousand battles is not the height of skills. To subdue the enemy without fighting is. Avoid suing and pick up the phone instead to settle disputes. Fighting has a cost and that cost is huge.

Powerful Quotes.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected .”― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.”― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots.”― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War


>> All warfare is based on deception.

>> Every war is fought to obtain victory, and the outcome of the war is governed by five major factors.

Five major Factors.

       >Moral Law: Unity. The people relationship and harmony with their leader

       >Heavens: The atmosphere. Night and day, cold and heat, seasons and other variables.

       >Earth: Different landscapes with its restrictions and freedom. Danger and security. Different distances and other Constants.

       >The Commander: With these qualities.  Wisdom. Sincerely courage discipline and benevolence.

Waging War

>> In waging war, its important to understand that wars cost money. A leader’s main goal should be to obtain “victory” and not lengthy campaigns.

>> Attack by Stratagem. Complete destruction of the enemy should be avoided. No one benefits from complete destruction. 

>> Winning without destruction or fighting at all is excellence.

>> Knowing yourself as well as your enemy thoroughly is the key to win wars.

>> People who win know when to fight and more importantly, when to standby.

>> Strategy without tactics ensures slow victory. Tactics without strategy ensures defeat.

Tactical Dispositions

>> Every general must be well prepared before going into war. Preparing thoroughly and making no mistake is what wins battles.

The five key factors of warfare.

       >Measurements: Distances from earth

       >Estimation of quantity: From Measurements.

       >Calculation: From quantities

       >Balancing of chances:  From calculations.

       >Victory: By understanding chances

>> Direct and indirect methods of war must be used together (in any combination) to ensure victory. Just like a few notes in any combination can create and endless stream of melody.

>> Attack what is weak. Defend what is strong.

>> Know when, where and how to fight before hand.

>> Feign weakness, then attack the enemy when they are least expecting. Be deceptive, fast and compact. That’s how battles are won.

>> The five factors of a doom general. These will cause them to loss wars. Recklessness. Cowardice. Quick temper. Shame. Over concern.

>> There 4 types of grounds. Mountains. Rivers. Salt Marshes. Plains.

>> Each type has its strengths and weakness. The wise general must know how to use each terrain and it’s natural structures to his advantage. .

>> A leader should always have faith in his men. Treat them with humanity. But control with iron discipline.

There are 6 types of terrains.

       >Accessible ground: Can be freely traverse by both armies. 

       >Entangling ground: cannot be reoccupied once abandoned

       >Temporizing Ground: inconvenient for both sides

       >Narrow passage:  Should be occupied first so as to be ready for the enemy.

       >Precipitous heights: Should be occupied first or not at all.  

       >Great distance from the enemy.

Six calamities for which the general is responsible.






9 Types grounds for fighting.

       >Dispersive ground: fight in one’s own territory

       >Facile ground: penetrated a little into the enemy’s territory.

       >Contentious ground: Favorable for either side.

       >Open ground: Each side has the liberty of movement.

       >Ground of intersecting highways: Key to multiple states.

       >Serious ground: When the army is deep into enemy territory.

       >Difficult ground: Like marshes and mountains which are hard to traverse.

       >Hemmed in Ground: Narrow entrance, but big exit.

       >Desperate ground: Must fight to survive.

Intelligence is key. The five types of spies to be used. 

       >Local spies: Inhabitants of the area

       >Inward spies: Converted enemy officials.

       >Converted spies: Converted enemy spies.

       >Doomed spies: Are used to spread deception and misinformation.

       >Surviving spies: Report back with information.

To conclude, this last quote from the book provides a summary of the lessons learned.

“Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:

1 He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.

2 He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.

3 He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.

4 He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.

5 He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

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