WEEK #8: The Art of War

A Classical Guide

The Art of War by Sun Tzu is a classic material, and one that is very easy to read. It teaches of classic, but still applicable, principles of military war and strategy attributed to Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese military general, strategist, and philosopher. Even though this material goes back to 1772, the principles taught by Sun Tzu can still be applied to everyday life, leadership, business, competitions, military, games, and other things.

So let’s get started!

On Preparations

The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations that lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.” [Sun Tzu]

In the book, we are first greeted with the first chapter talking about “Laying Plans”. It speaks of the importance of planning and preparing. And indeed, it is of vital importance, not just in military war, but in almost everything. As a young highschool student, I remember preparing for our music class’ recital. I remember practicing tens of hours to deliver my piece as perfect as possible. I literally spent tens of hours practicing, only to deliver the recital piece that will last for only 5 minutes.
Tens of hours of practice for a 5 minute performance.

I find that in any battle, competition, or any endeavor, preparation is a big part in determining success. If one does not bleed in training and preparation, he will surely die in the face of real combat. The chance of winning is determined by the preparation made by the players.

On Feints and Deception

Sun Tzu also emphasizes the importance of “deception” in combat.

When able to attack, we must seem unable.
When using our forces, we must seem inactive.
When we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away.
When we are far away, we must make him believe we are near.

I am a man who has a strong distaste with the use of deception in life. Deception is for the fearful: Only for those who cannot accept the rightful consequences of their actions in life. But even with my values and beliefs, I find that this principle has its logical uses if used in a proper way. As a gamer who finds enjoyment in competition, challenges, and strategic games, I find that this can be a determining factor in winning or losing. In games like Naruto-Arena, or any other tactical or competitive games like chess, I find that deceptive moves can throw off an opponent and can even turn the tide of battle if you are in the losing side.

Don’t get me wrong: Deception is a good technique in war. But it is an evil technique if used for evil, or for one’s own personal gain in life.

Feints and deception should only be used for a greater purpose, not to satisfy one’s interest or any selfish purpose for that matter. After all, using this has its drawbacks, both in social aspects and in the development of one’s character.

On Wars

The good general destroys his opponents. The better general breaks his opponents without resistance.

It should be noted that Sun Tzu does not promote war in any manner. In fact, he promotes victory through peaceful acts as significantly better than using forceful and destructive methods. Having also read “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal, I can relate this aspect to business tactics. A lot of companies and business thrive in competition, some even make use of aggressive tactics. But in truth, it is much better if one does not participate in an existing competition, but rather, one should enter oneself into a field where there is no existing competition. It makes perfectly sense, both economic health and social health. You do not only prevent making hostile business rivals, you also get to create the “competition” yourself. I find that this can also be applied in career, social, and in politics.

On Speed

“Let your rapidity be that of the wind, your compactness that of the forest.” [Sun Tzu]

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” [Sun Tzu]

I see speed here both in the context of opportunities and in execution.

It has been said that opportunities do not knock twice. Often to be true. That’s why, as Sun Tzu states, “one cannot afford to neglect opportunity.”

Speed in both taking hold of opportunities and in executing plans and actions.

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