JT’s Book Of Choice:
The Art of War
Author: Sun Tzu
Published: 5th Century BC
JT’s Rating: 5/5
Considered the Oldest Military Treatise in the world, you may be wondering why such a book as ‘The Art of War’ would find it’s way into the hands and minds of many prominent businessman and entrepreneurs. The main reason is simple. Creating and running a business, especially an entrepreneurial one, can be likened to war in many ways – especially in the consideration of strategy, knowledge of the competitive landscape and leadership of your ‘troops’.
The book is short – only 13 Chapters. Sun Tzu loved the brevity of speech.
But the depth of his meaning throughout the book is profound.
On your first read of this book, you may be tempted to read through it in a literal fashion….and quickly add it to your list of ‘books people said I should read’ and put it on your shelf.
This impression can be easily understood when you read about “The 5 constant factors” ( The Moral Law, Heaven, Earth, The Commander and Method and Discipline). Or the “7 Considerations before any battle“:
- Which of the 2 kings is imbued with the moral law?
- Which of the 2 generals has most ability?
- With who lie the advantages of heaven and earth?
- On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
- Which army is stronger?
- On which side are officers and men more highly trained?
- Which side is more consistent in both reward and punishment?
However, I exhort you read this with an open mind. Even meditate on the depth of meaning – and it’s applicability – to many of today’s challenges and situations.
For instance, Sun Tzu, when talking about the importance of planning and strategy before any ‘battle’, says:
“The victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won. Whereas he who is destined for defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.”
In other words, it’s not about just hustling and fighting every fight. But rather, only fighting those fights in which you have planned and strategized and “realized victory” before you waste time, energy, money, people or resources.
When referring to the concepts of direct and indirect methods of fighting, he makes this observation about the variety of ways these can be combined and implemented (basically a treatise on the need for innovation and creative thinking when applied to challenges):
“There are not more than 5 primary colors (blue, yellow, red, white and black) yet in combination, they produce more hues than can ever be seen.”
The book covers the concepts of:
- Gaining Knowledge of you and your ‘enemies’ strengths and weaknesses.
- Strategies on when and how to fight (or not) given your position in relation the your opponent.
- The need for innovation and creativity
- Leadership and the leaders role and character
- The importance of estimating costs
- Discipline and Team Management
So read it. Read it again. And then think how you can apply the wisdom, modified for your own situation, gain experience and learn. For as Sun Tzu says: “One may know how to conquer, without being able to do it.”
When you absorb this books meaning, you will find that you can apply it to many of your business, management and career strategies. Simply take away the specific thoughts of war and battle and apply it to situations you face and you will find that it provides ideas and new ways of approaching your challenges. When applied, these ideas can position you for success in many endeavors.
“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 a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.“
I have read, re-read, meditated on and referenced this book after being introduced to it early in my business career. I have found that the wisdom of this book is best applied by first considering a particular business or leadership challenge and then, holding that frame of reference, going through the book and applying the techniques of strategy, leadership, defense and attack to the problem at hand.
I have used the concepts in this book for marketing challenges, big-ticket sales in the medical industry, strategy and tactics against larger competitors in the same market, acquisitions and mergers with other companies to great benefit. it has helped me remember some core leadership principles in building teams, dealing with discipline and rewards and focusing the group on objectives.
I highly recommend you make use of this wisdom to help you always be thinking strategically and innovatively in building your business.
Have you read this book?
If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below this post.
JT McGibbon is a serial Entrepreneur who currently owns and operates two successful Cloud-based software businesses. He provides Success and Business Coaching for people that are just starting out and wish to increase their income and become Financially Free through building successful solo- or entrepreneurial businesses. His StayOnTheRise website provides useful posts on topics such as mindset, habits and practical strategies to live a prosperous life.
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