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“Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy’s unreadiness”

Sun Tzu‘s, The Art of War, is a timeless classic of Chinese literature written in the minimalist style of a Zen master distilling his wisdom into pithy aphorisms for his pupils. The Art of War describes in concise detail the fundamentals of strategy essential for victory on the battlefield. Despite being written in the 5th century BC, and seemingly being focused on military warfare, many of the insights that Tzu shares can be generallized to the battlefields of modern life. From the corporate arena to the sports field, Sun Tzu’s enduring wisdom prevails. This is in no small part attributable to the fact that his teachings in The Art of War offer a profound understanding of human psychology and behavior. For instance, Tzu deftly describes how to tap into the motivations driving human courage:

“Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death there is nothing they may not achieve.”

Sun Tzu also frequently draws inspiration for his pearl’s of wisdom from nature, which imparts an elegant simplicity to his teachings. This is beautifully illustrated by this gem about the importance of adaptability when facing a challenge in life:

“Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe he is facing.”

In sum, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is a fascinating tome of ancient wisdom, which is well worth reading. On top of that, given it’s short length (about 11,500 words) it is an easy read suitable for everyone.

Have you read The Art of War? What teachings from this book do you find most and least relevant today? Do you also think that The Art of War teaches life lessons that go beyond waging war? Please feel free to share your thoughts in a comment below. Thanks for stopping by.

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