Life | Motivation

"The Art of War" remains one of the world's most famous military texts, 2,500 years after it was published by Sun Tze (孙子 Sūnzi) an adviser who probably lived during the Spring and Autumn Period (776-471 BCE). However, it is now celebrated by today's business gurus and even sports coaches as guidance for dealing with conflict of all sorts.

Whether it is internal or external to an organization or an individual's battles with themselves, competitors, or nature, "The Art of War" gives comprehensive advice on how to approach conflict. Let's take a look at some life lessons that can be taken from this broadly universal work.

This is part 2 of the blog. To read the first part Click Here: Art of War (Part 1)

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"The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim."

Sun Tzu argues it is important to be extremely prudent in choosing the timing of when to engage the enemy. While having a good strategy in mind is essential, a plan is only as good as it is appropriate for the situation. Having good timing means that while you do not hesitate to execute when the time is right, you don't rush in either unless the conditions favor it. In marketing, for example, it is important to pay attention to what is happening in a market before entering it, and to stay on top of trends, responding to them in real-time via social media like Twitter.

Sun Tzu knew that time was of the essence in warfare. In real life too, it is important that once a decision is made, it should be executed immediately. In the Chinese tech industry, for example, startups tend to emphasize speed of execution and organizational flexibility in order to stay afloat. While China is a large market big enough to support many startups, it is generally considered a "winner take all" market, meaning that the first startups who succeed are likely to be the only ones that dominate.

Dr. Ujjwal Patni has released a powerful video on this topic. Click below to watch it.


"To win 100 battles is not the height of skill, to subdue the enemy without fighting is."

In observation of the fact that warfare is extremely risky, Sun Tzu proposes that the best tacticians are those who are able to defeat the enemy by diplomacy or other means. He proposed generals should try to take cities without laying siege, possibly by forcing the inhabitants to surrender due to psychological warfare. Sun Tzu argues that for any situation, man has more than one tool at his disposal, making it sometimes necessary to engage the enemy in a conventional manner.

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The concept of being resourceful applies to real-life even more than it does to military conflict, as not a zero-sum game, and there can, in fact, be multiple winners. The example of Apple's "Think Different" campaign illustrates how companies can become successful not by direct competition, but by differentiation. Similarly, in personal life, you are much more likely to succeed if you create your own job opportunities than if you follow normal, more established career paths. Develop a skill (or combination of skills) that nobody else has, and you won't have to compete with anyone. Want to get hired? Figuring out how to get companies to seek you out rather than you having to seek them out will save you a lot of time and effort.


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