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The Art Of War Sun Tzu Summary



Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is a classic. Leaders around the world often refer to it. In fact, it’s one of the most influential leadership books of all time. What it teaches can be applied to business, sports, your private life, parenting – pretty much any situation in which you might encounter conflict, tension, or competition. So, how did a manual that was written 2,500 years ago gain such a cult following? Well, as it turns out, a good idea never gets old.


Sun Tzu was a Chinese general who lived in the fifth century BCE. It was a time filled with wars in China and Sun Tzu was winning a lot. So this is a book about war but you’ll find that the ideas in it focus more on alternatives to actual fighting, like submission if only temporary. The main message of the book is that you should “pick your battles” – and that war is best won without any fighting at all.


Sun Tzu was a master of soft power. That is, he tried to win wars without ever physically fighting. One way to avoid war is to start a completely new playing field. Apple did this with its “Think Different” campaign. Their aim wasn’t to compete with others but to create a whole new game for themselves. The company wanted to go beyond just the personal computer industry. Like iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and more. The same goes for Spotify. They didn’t just want to be a music platform, but a one-stop shop for all things audio. And now you can find almost any audio product you can think of on Spotify. So, go where there are no competitors.


If fighting was absolutely necessary, Sun Tzu’s goal was to win the easy battles first. The best way to win the easy battles is to have insider knowledge. That’s right – Sun Tzu was a fan of spying and engaging in psychological warfare. He really liked espionage. So, before you make a move on your competitor, make sure to “know the enemy.” When you do make your move, you have to be fast. Sun Tzu says, “Speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of the enemy’s unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions.” In other words, speed and timing are the keys to success. Make sure you’re fast – and that you enter the playing field at a moment that’s unexpected.


Let’s say you see your market competitor dealing with a huge PR crisis. Meanwhile, maybe you’ve been working on launching an update in your app that would give you a competitive edge. In a moment like that, you have to be prepared. You have to be able to move fast and launch your attack. Your competition distracted with some big leadership changes? Seize your moment!


The key takeaway here is that not every fight needs to end in a battle. Instead, it’s much wiser to avoid war altogether by getting information on your competition, thinking outside of the box, and creating your own playing field.

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