Welcome to Reading For Self-Improvement. The book we are going to explore today is The Art of War by Sun Tzu
About The Author – Sun-Tzu
Sun Tzu was a Chinese general, military strategist, writer and philosopher who lived in the Eastern Zhou period of ancient China. Sun Tzu is widely credited as the author of The Art of War, an influential work of military strategy that has highly influenced Western and East Asian philosophy and military thinking.
It is true that as some scholars have their doubts about the historical existence of the author, Sun Tzu, primarily on the grounds that he is not mentioned in the historical classic, Zuo zhuan, which mentioned most of the notable figures from the Spring and Autumn period.
Some sceptics cite possible historical inaccuracies and anachronisms in the text, and that the book was actually a compilation from different authors and military strategists.
However, according to Ralph Sawyer, one of America’s leading scholars in Chinese warfare who has worked extensively with major intelligence and defence agencies, it is very likely that Sun Tzu did exist and not only served as a general but also wrote the core of the book that bears his name.
To know more, you can check out Ralph Sawyer’s translation of The Art of War. It has well over 4 thousand ratings on Amazon as of the time of this video.
Now, let’s consider the book, the art of war and how to apply the ancient knowledge in our lives.
The Book – The Art of War
The book is primarily about the philosophy of war, managing conflicts and winning battles. The book is widely accepted as a masterpiece on strategy and has been frequently cited and referred to by generals and theorists since it was first published, translated, and distributed internationally.
Know when to fight and when not to fight: avoid what is strong and strike at what is weak. Know how to deceive the enemy: appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak. Know your strengths and weaknesses: if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
The book is composed of 13 chapters, each of which focuses on a different aspect of war. It’s an interesting and highly valuable book. It’s also poetic, repetitive, and deep. As a piece of writing, the book is rich in a variety of ways.
“Regard your soldiers as your children”, said the writer “and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.”
If, however, you are indulgent, but unable to make your authority felt; kind-hearted, but unable to enforce your commands; and incapable, moreover, of quelling disorder: then your soldiers must be likened to spoilt children; they are useless for any practical purpose.
According to Sun Tzu, there are five constant factors of serious consideration in warfare. He advised that all decisions in warfare should be made in consideration of the five factors and they are:
- The Moral Law: that which causes people to be in complete accord with the ruler so they will follow their ruler regardless of their circumstances, undismayed by any danger
- Heaven: signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons; all things beyond human control and manipulation
- Earth: distances, great and small, danger and security, open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death
- The Commander: the General who stands for virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and sternness
- Method and Discipline: marshalling of the army in proper subdivisions, rank, as well as maintenance of roads for supply and military expenditures – practical considerations
If you look more closely at the five factors, you will realise that they are actually a combination of both physical and mental characteristics. By observing these important five factors, Sun Tzu demonstrates to the contrary of the popular misconception that warfare is simply a physical match of strength and firepower, and this is one of the principles that made the book stand out from the thousands of books out there about military strategies and warfare.
Now, do not consider this book only from a militarily and war point of view. This is a great book of an immersed strategic value, irrespective of your profession. Let’s see some top five quotes from the book:
Quotes From The Book
- “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.”
- “To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
- “It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results.”
- “The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.”
- “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
What You Can Take Away From The Book
Now, why do you think until date, The Art Of War is still considered a vital text on military strategy and warfare? Why do you think it continues to inspire cooperate, executives, top athletes, top-class diplomats in our political systems?
Well, I tell why. It’s because there is power in good books and you too can tap into that power and use it to advance your course. This is the idea behind this video series, for you to profit from the power of the written word and pass it on to others in the universal flow of energy.
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See you in the class.