Book Review: The Art of War

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Book Review: The Art of War

by Sun Tzu

Genre:

Fiction

About the Book:

The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise attributed to Sun Tzu a high-ranking military general, strategist and tactician, and it was believed to have been compiled during the late Spring and Autumn period or early Warring States period (~2,500 years ago).

The book is commonly known to be the definitive work on military strategy and tactics of its time and for the last two thousand years it remained the most important military treatise in Asia, where even the common people knew it by name. Beyond Asia, it has had an influence on Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy and beyond.

Favorite Quote:

“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.”
― Sun Tzu

Why I liked this book:

I have heard about this book for literally the last 25 years. So many of my corporate counterparts quoted this book or had it on their reading lists. It just never came to the top of mine likely because my perception of it as a book on how to wage war. I also thought it was a long book and was going to take some concentration due to the translation from ancient Chinese texts and the topic or war. I was wrong.

This book is relatively short and can be finished in about an hour. In addition, while this is written by a military general, it is more about strategy and now I understand why so many corporate business leaders have read it.

Sun Tzu breaks down his thought process when on a military campaign on all the topics that will affect the outcome: his officers, soldiers, the landscape, the communities supporting his troops, the timing, information and of course the enemy. On each topic, he breaks possible scenarios into 4-5 categories to help create streamlined thinking. The Art of War is his playbook on if / then scenarios.

While many of the tactics are common sense, they are likely not some common sense until you have gone through that situation.  And that is what I think the book represents most. How to think through the inputs that will affect the outcome and be readiness prepared for them. “Every battle is won before it is fought” he writes as he has already mapped out all the factors including when not to fight.

Perhaps the most poignant lesson of a military general is the detailing the cost of war and providing this key lesson “The wise warrior avoids the battle.

Inspired to read The Art of War?

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