I have always been curious about what Sun Tzu teaches using the “Art of War”. Now, I am reading a modern Chinese interpretation by General Tao Hanzhang, (translated by Yuan Shibing). The book provides space for reflection for modern applications of timeless strategies for war: I try to answer these reflection questions.
This post focuses on the first three chapters of the book. Read it for yourself too!
Chapter 1: Estimates
Chapter 1 featured the five fundamental factors in appraising war conditions and the seven elements in comparing opposing parties. The chapter focused on the importance of forecasting the results of war based on calculations considering circumstances. In conclusion, “all war is based on deception,” and one can predict victory or defeat in war.
For further thought: List possible circumstances in the professional or personal environment that can be taken advantage of in pursuit of victory.
The exercise urges the application of war calculations to the modern battlefield: workplace and life. Advantageous circumstances must be identified to calculate the possibility of winning everyday. Some advantageous circumstances in the workplace are: a good manager or supervisor, flexible work schedule, supportive family and friends, automation and delegation of tasks, short and comfortable commute. A short and comfortable commute may be the most relevant in the Filipino context. A typical job does not pay for the hours spent travelling to and from the office (which is illegal according to a European court). A great commute is particularly advantageous in the morning, when a wonderful perspective of the day may diminish because of hours falling in line, sitting in crowded public transport, and dealing with fellow commuters. The start of the day sets the mood for the vital first two office hours, so a bad start provides a bad precedent for the rest of the day.
Chapter 2: Waging War
Chapter 2 highlights the importance of a speedy victory in war, as lengthy confrontation exhausts resources. Soldiers must also be rewarded to encourage better action – i.e., the response of man to incentives. One must take advantage of the enemy in even the smallest possible way: feeding troops on the enemy’s fodder.
For further thought: Reflect upon previous personal or professional battles that have overextended your resources.
The first that comes to mind is completing my Master’s thesis. Its completion was the primary reason for quitting a full-time job, yet there were personal hindrances to finishing it (read: procrastination). A learning point is to focus on one aspect and persist; a reward and accountability system must also be established. Currently, I am brewing a piece for the Asian Scientist Writing Prize, but I must overcome the fear of rejection and impostor syndrome to complete it.
Chapter 3: Offensive Strategy
The supreme excellence is to subdue the enemy without fighting; however, in case of offense, the relationship among the sovereign, the general, and the army are essential to be well-founded. “A confused army leads to another’s victory.” The chapter also presents the five predictors of victory.
For further thought: Reflect upon previous conflicts in which your approach left you vulnerable solely as a result of participation.
I do not know how to answer the question, as I rarely join in confrontations that make me vulnerable to offensive attacks. My strategy for offense is less aggressive than ideal: wait and see while analyzing the data and statistics repeatedly.
An animated book summary of the “Art of War” is made available by user Sanket Shah on Youtube.