The Art of Strategy

The Sun Tzu Way

Warriors Are Not the Only Ones Who Need a Plan of Attack.

Historically known as Sun Wu (544-496 BCE), Sun Tzu (“Master Sun” in Chinese) grew up in a family of warriors during a period of great instability, when barbaric warring factions divided China. He systematically analyzed the his­tory of war to discover what worked and why, something no warrior had done before. He found that many assump­tions about what worked in competition were wrong, notably, that the size and wealth of an army had nothing to do with its force and power. On the basis of this work, Sun Tzu was hired as a general by the kingdom of Wu, which he turned into the leading power in China within a decade. He is thought to have written the original text shortly before 510 BCE. After his death, his system was kept alive by descendants and led directly to the unification of China, to the virtual elimination of war in the area, and to the creation of the most stable empire in history.

According to author Gary Gagliardi, the central message in Sun Tzu's book The Art of War is not about war, weapons or troop formations, but is an abstraction of how competitive systems work. He considers Darwin’s ‘Survival’ the closest work to the great text, asserting that competition is innate to the human condition. “Competitive forces shape every part of your life. In your career, you compete for money, recognition, and promotion. In your personal life, you compete for romantic at­tention, affection, and recognition. As a parent, you compete with society’s influences in teaching your children. Though the rules of strategy were forged under the fierce competition of war, its rules apply to business, politics and romance.” While our instinctual reaction to threat is the “fight or flight” reflex, Sun Tzu taught that running away from challenges or getting into meaningless conflict both lead to disaster. “Learning strategy can help you be suc­cessful no matter what your goal is,” says Gagliardi.


Strategic talents are natural skills we’re born knowing and employing them is different than using manipulative tactics. Where we end up in life is largely determined by our skill in competition.


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