BOOK: The Art of War



PUBLISHER: Lionel Giles

LANGUAGE: Translated from chinese to English by Lionel Giles




Not to be confused with Robert Greene’s ‘The 33 Strategies of war’.  (Something I once did. LOL). The Art of War is a book written by an ancient Chinese military leader called Sun Tzu.”The art of war is of vital importance to the state.”  The author begins. . It’s a thirteen chapter book written in point form and thus makes it easy for one to race through the pages. He talks of factors which govern the art of war. The Factors are: The Moral Law, Heaven, Earth, The commander and Method and Discipline. The author goes on to explain the factors. Every general should be familiar with the factors above to be victorious. I can rephrase that to make it fit in modern day business setting as follows; Every executive head should know how to play about the the factors to be successful. I’ll take an example, the ninth point in the first chapter for instance says; “The commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness.” Any leader, and head in whichever sector, should be wise, courageous, sincere etc… as those are virtues those being overseen expect to see in a perfect leader.

There’s a point I like, No. 22. in chapter one. The author says; If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. This point reminds me Robert Greene’s 21st law in “48 Laws of Power.” Greene says, Play a sucker to catch a sucker-Seem dumber than your mark. Seeing any similarities? Me too. In short, Act like the stupid one to some people. It lifts their spirits though you know how you’re playing your cards.

The author has some very wise counsel for soldiers on the battlefront in the last paragraph of the 3rd chapter. In point 18, he says; “Hence the saying: 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.”


The above paragraph works very well with folks in business. Just try this, replace the following words in the paragraph with those that fit in the business sector. Enemy with competitor, Battles with Transactions/deals, Victory with Profit, Defeat with Loss. See, they fit perfectly well, right? Here we are not talking about camps or war, but can use the advice given by the author to better whatever business we deal with.

On maneuvering, (Chapter seven), he says, In war practice dissimulation, and you will succeed. He emphasizes this advice on the 19th paragraph of the same chapter. He says, Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt. I Couldn’t help but remember Greene’s 3rd Law still in “48 Laws of Power” where he advises one to conceal their intentions. Keep them guessing, make them sweat off trying to figure out what you’re up to. You’ll win that way.

On the use of spies, the author lists five types of spies; Local spies, inward spies, converted spies, doomed spies and surviving spies. He takes us through the process of dealing with them.

Though written with the military background as a base. The book gives one leadership and governing lessons. You don’t need to be in the army to like this book. It’s more of a management book. Management in the board room, at home, in our families, in our places of worship etc. Sun Tzu helps one strategize, gives one tricks and helps them maximize all chances of emerging victorious in whatever battle one is fighting.