Sun Tzu’s Art of War: outwit your enemy with your mind

The Art of War is a series of Chinese military treatise written by Sun Tzu in the 6th century BC. Sun Tzu was a warrior, philosopher and the greatest military mind in history. His teachings are based on Warfare but can be applied to business and personal life. His teachings are said to have predicted the outcomes of World War, Civil War and Vietnam.

Sun Tzu helps teach us to know our self, to know our strengths, our weaknesses and what we are capable of doing on the battlefield. He constantly reminds us it’s as important to cultivate a deep fundamental understanding of our adversaries so that we can better achieve our objectives. That is powerful and timeless!

The Book – Art of War

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The Story

The story begins with the ruler of the Chinese state of Wu whom agonises over a hostel neighbour Chu which wants to invade with an army of x10 (10:1) more then Wu. The King of Wu summons Sun Tzu to help. To demonstrate to the King that he is capable of turning anyone into a soldier, Sun Tzu uses the palace women as examples by showing them manoeuvres. Out of the women, he chooses 2 as the platoon leaders to make sure discipline is observed in their unit. When Tzu orders the exercise to begin the women laugh. Tzu says, maybe my instructions we not clear enough, so he repeats them. 2nd time the girls still giggle.

Sun Tzu says: “If instructions are not clear and commands not explicit, it is the commander’s fault.”

So… if the orders are unclear then it is the fault of the general that the troops did not obey. But if the orders are clear, and his orders have been clear, it is the fault of the subordinate officers that the orders are not obeyed. Sun Tzu has only 1 way to convince the troops that he is serious. He executes the subordinates’ officers infront of the rest.

To Sun Tzu, war is a matter of life or death.

This is the principle of his teachings. Once understood everyone from leaders to soldier will be motivated to succeed. Tzu appoints new officers and now the women follow his orders. Sun Tzu has proved his point to the King and is awarded a 30,000 army to fight an army 10x larger using his master work teachings of Art of War.

500bc bamboo strips which the teachings to success were written on.

3 key principles that unify his philosophies

  1. “Know your enemy and know yourself and in 100 battles you will never be in peril.” – intelligence is key.
  2. “To win 100 battles is not the height of skill – To subdue the enemy without fighting is.” – outwit your opponent.
  3. “Avoid what is strong. Attack what is weak.” – do not go head to head in battles.

The Story – continued…

Instead of waiting for Chu’s army to attack Wu, Sun Tzu invades Chu. But not head on. With brutal speed and efficiency attacking Chu outposts (a gorilla attack approach attacking smaller & weaker forces). This keeps Chu shifting forces between locations to protect their outposts tiring Chu’s army and gives Sun Tzu a better understanding of his enemy. Manoeuvre, surprise and deception are key here for Tzu. Greatest armies in war have always been won by brains not force. The board game Go can teach us something important here. It is more resource efficient to capture most territory with least number of stones.

Some great quotes from Sun Tzu

“In war, numbers alone confer no advantage – Do not advance relaying on sheer military power.” – Sun Tzu

“Know your enemy and know yourself and in 100 battles you will never be in peril.” – Sun Tzu

“There are five fundamental factors for success in war – Weather, terrain, leadership, military doctrine and most importantly – moral influence.” – Sun Tzu

“Put the army in the face of death where there is no escape and they will not flee or be afraid – there is nothing they cannot achieve.” – Sun Tzu

“It is essentials for victory that generals are unconstrained by their leaders.” – Sun Tzu

“The winning arm realizes the conditions for victory first, then fights – The losing army fights first then seeks victory.” – Sun Tzu

“When troops flee, are insubordinates, collapse or are routed in battle, it is the fault of the general.” – Sun Tzu

And so through preparation, deception and indirect attacks.. using his mind to fight the war, Sun Tzu outwitted the army of Chu and won the war. If you are interested in more detail I highly recommend you read this amazing book The Art of War. War leads to disaster – financial and human suffering. Sometimes the best way to win is to not fight at all. This is Sun Tzu’s ultimate secret!

~ Ernest

Author: Ernest W. Semerda

Veryfi cofounder (#YC W17 cohort) ~ mobile automation software designed for the construction workforce. GSDfaster founder ~ be more productive. Follow me on Twitter: @ernestsemerda