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 next three chapters of the book; the first three chapters are in Part 1. Read the book yourself too!
CHAPTER 4: DISPOSITIONS
Disposition is the reason that a victorious general is able to command his soldiers. The chapter also instructs defense when one cannot defeat the enemy and to attack when one can. The five elements of the art of war are detailed in the chapter:
- space measurements
- estimation of quantities
- comparisons, and
- chances of victory
For further thought: Analyze the role played by those who have led you through an arduous task
A person that immediately comes to mind is Dr. Moya, my graduate program and thesis adviser. From the beginning, his disposition was clear: the research is my study. It was evident in how rarely he initiated consultation meetings until I submit some part of the research or scheduled a consultation. Whenever I schedule meetings, however, he is ready for discussion points and revision points. His role as a mentor led me to write the thesis with as little supervision and gave me independence in the research. All his comments built up on the existing work I have, not new ideas that he could force to the study. He asked me what I really wanted to do before providing the next steps I can take.
Chapter 5: Posture of the Army
Detailed descriptions required of the army were expressed. In any size of the army are two truths: management is a matter of organization and direction is a matter of formation and signals. Victory is sought by a skilled commander from the situation and not his subordinates.
For further thought: List your strengths, and reflect as to how they are being used, and what might be done to take fuller advantage of them.
I tend to be able to rest whenever I want to schedule it. This may not be as productive to a war as mastery of the sword or the bow, but resting in the fast-paced world we live in is a learned skill too. Particularly during weekends, my mindfulness that I have toiled for the past five days stops me whenever I think of work or writing at a time when I must be letting my mind simmer with thoughts.
Chapter 6: Void and Actuality
“One should always respond to circumstances in an infinite variety of ways.” Sun Tzu likens that army to water: avoiding strength, striking weakness, adjusts to the enemy, and able to adapt to inconsistent conditions. The army is strong when it forces the enemy to make preparations against possible attacks, not vice versa.
For further thought: Reflect upon an adversary, his strengths and weaknesses, his methods.
My biggest adversary may be time – the hours I live on everyday that limit the activities I can do. Time strongly affects my motivation: more time gives less motivation leading to procrastination. Being bound my deadlines, even self-imposed ones, elevate productivity.
Any thoughts you want to share? Type me a comment!
An animated book summary of the “Art of War” is made available by user Sanket Shah on Youtube.