The Art of War has persistently been hailed as one of the books that changed history. Its longevity as an influential read is quite impressive and for a long period, it has widely been used in business, sports, law, and politics.
It’s an ancient Chinese, military manual divided into thirteen chapters that deal with warfare techniques and strategies, which today are translated into modern meanings for business and so on.
In the first chapter, Sun Tzu talks about laying plans, followed in the next by ‘waging war‘. These discuss obtaining conditions of the field, modifying plans as needed and deceiving the enemy. Waging war focuses on matters such as war material and the length of the war. In the chapter on ‘attack by stratagem‘, it highlights the importance of knowing when to fight and when to avoid it, when to conquer battles through fighting and when to break the enemy’s resistance by fighting. It also goes into seizing opportunities and how the willingness of the mind helps in battle.
Some of the chapters deal with securing oneself against defeat, the army’s combined energy, and weak and strong points in battle. The Art of War gives guidance on the use of tactics and resources that will enable you to know your enemy, yourself, your environment of battle and dealing with conflicts of all sorts.
“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.”
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War
The book’s philosophies can be applied in business to know your competitor, know when to avoid conflict and when to attack, to manage resources in the battle against your competitor and the economic significance of taking on your competitor. It is also very useful in politics as opponents can be the enemy and the advice in the book can be applied to campaigns.
I, personally, didn’t enjoy it that much. I could understand what it was about and the ways it could be useful, which I’d probably use in the future if necessary. If you enjoy reading about warfare and similar topics, or if you need insight on dealing with conflict, business competition or in need of strategies for business, sports or leadership, then you’ll probably enjoy it and find it useful.
I read the very simple Collins Classics version, which is a clear translation of the book. I am not sure how it differs from other editions but this one is easy and comprehensive.
I’ve been meaning to try The Art of War for Women by Chin-Ning Chu, maybe I might enjoy that one.