The Art Of War by Sun Tzu is about military strategy and warfare. It was written in China around 500 BC. It has been the definitive text when it comes to dealing with confrontations. Of course the military has used this text for generations, but others have turned to the text for guidance. For example, gamers use the principle concepts of battle to build their sequences for boss fights while developing video games. Cool, right?
So I decided to dive into The Art Of War and figure out what was the value of this literature piece. So after spending several days curled with this book, here is what I came away with.
1. You must be assertive and willing to bend.
“He who relies solely on warlike measures shall be exterminated; he who relies solely on peaceful measures shall perish” – Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu was a strong believer in balance. Think of the ying yang symbol that is equal parts black and white. Blend them together, you get gray. Neither black nor white wins. You can not be solely assertive. If you are, you will end up pushing people away . You can not be solely compromising. If you are, you will never end up getting what you want. You can apply this to your life. Think about your interactions at work, with friends, and family. See if you can find the fine line that we walk between assertive and compromise.
2. No one wins from prolonged warfare
“There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.” – Sun Tzu
Everyone loses in war. Both sides lose loved ones. Both side grapple with the after effects. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a common after effect many suffer through. We see it in veterans and survivors of trauma. It takes years to heal. It takes effort to even start a conversation with both sides to mend the bridges burnt during the times of war. War is never erased from the history books. Our own horrors displayed before us like monuments to our misguided ways.
3. Know yourself
“If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu
How can one improve yourself if you don’t know your own faults? You can study your enemy for days, and analyze all their weak points until they are burned into your brain. However, if you don’t know your own vulnerabilities then how can you prepare for your enemy. The enemy is just as human as you. We are not perfect marble statues. We are filled with cracks and breaks.
4. Take advantage of weakness
“To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.” – Sun Tzu
We can only look at defeat based on our own mistakes. In war, it is about who makes the first series of mistake. Think of a line of dominoes standing in a row and the first major mistake is the first domino knocked over. The first domino falls into the next creating a chain reaction of falling dominoes until no more is standing up. No more dominoes representing the losing sides stand in the war. You can even look this in a debate capacity. Once a debater loses footing in their stance or argument, the fight/debate is over.
The more I go over my notes and popular highlights, I find new life lessons meant for war. The Art Of War should be renamed The Art of Life.