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April 26, 2021

Wisdom from The Art of War, Part 1

Steven Pressfield, one of my favorite authors, recently released a new book I’m reading called Man at Arms. Another of Pressfield’s books that you may have heard of is the The War of Art. It’s a great book about resistance and how we can push past it to do creative work.

Thinking about Steven’s books brought my mind back to the book he borrowed his book’s title from, The Art of War by Sunzi. This is an ancient Chinese book on military strategy. It’s proven to be incredibly evergreen and applies to many areas of modern work, particularly business strategy. Here are some of my favorite passages:

Action

  • Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow; decision, to the releasing of the trigger.

  • If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush in.

Self Knowledge

  • 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 defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

  • If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt.

Preparation

  • 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 whom he is facing.

  • The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand.