10 Quotes From “The Art Of War” That Will Transform Your LifeMar 02, 2020
Sun Tzu’s The Art of War has a biblical reputation. I’ve studied martial arts for half my life so even more so.
Sun Tzu was a military strategist and advisor to a king in China around 500BC.
We should read The Art of War as a guide on how to deal with potential conflicts in our lives. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the business world or personal world, we can all learn something.
I have curated 10 quotes to provide the key lessons. They are in the modern world context and based on my own experiences. Read on to join the legions of people around the world who’ve benefitted from Sun Tzu’s timeless knowledge!
#1 “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle”
I trained intensively for years of Karate but never hurt someone in anger. I take far more pride in this than any medal or award.
Some believe anger is a virtue and brings power. Like Sun Tzu, I disagree. Nelson Mandela in his autobiography The Long Walk to Freedom shows sadness whenever his enemies caused him to lose his temper.
In all walks of life, diplomacy should be our first option.
As I’m sure you know, it often is not the easiest.
Whenever we are in a situation where we could choose to fight, always think if there could be another way to fix the problem. In serious cases, sometimes there is not but in petty everyday problems, there often is.
Try taking the other path and your blood pressure will thank you!
#2 “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”
In Karate tournaments, the results were often strange. The guys who were monsters in training came up short against the more average guys.
Being good doesn’t get you over the line. If you lack self-belief then you can lose to someone weaker but more confident.
The same is true across life. It’s a common complaint of workers everywhere who argue incompetent people are being promoted.
If you doubt yourself then how do you expect others to believe in you?
The key is being proactive and mental preparation. It’s better to make yourself fireproof than to see whether or not you can put fires out.
It is vital to be careful with where you invest your time. A clear plan means that you won’t get involved in too many battles that later turn out to be fruitless.
#3 “If you know the enemy and you 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”
How often do we see people argue over small misunderstandings that grow into larger ones?
I am guilty of this and I’m sure you are too. Sometimes, I’ve been sure that someone acted maliciously but never taken the time to hear their side of the story.
Don’t forget Hanlon’s Razor:
“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” — Robert J. Hanlon
We can make enemies of people who aren’t enemies. Then when we win, we’ve still lost.
If we don’t understand our motivations then we can get stuck in conflict without even knowing what we want.
A younger me has done this where I’ve held a grudge but not even known what will please me.
Time heals but why should you waste your time!
Whenever you find yourself in competition, make sure that you know it is worth competing.
#4 “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”
Chaos can be scary. Our brains are hardwired to find patterns in randomness. We are drilled that hard work and persistence leads to success.
Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers shows being in the right place at the right time can be the major factor.
Your life might be a bit crazy at the moment. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, many of us do.
I’ve torn tendons and ligaments in my knees repeatedly through overtraining. It has often got me down and I can’t do activities that I love. I started yoga in a desperate attempt to speed up my healing process. Now I love it!
One passion in disarray led to me finding another new passion!
You’ve got this. Wherever you are in life, a negative shock can redirect you to another path to happiness.
If others are freaking out around you then keep calm and see if there’s anything they are missing.
#5 “Who wishes to fight must first count the cost”
How often have confrontations been worth it in your life?
There are, of course, times when you must stand and fight. Do not go seeking quarrels though. If you are planning a confrontation, pause and think about what you hope to achieve. What could the fallout be? Is there a better way to achieve your goals?
Devoting our time and attention to anything comes with the cost of what we could be doing instead. If you want to dedicate all your time to writing, you may not have enough time for other important activities in your life.
Don’t let sacrifices sneak up on you. Whatever path you take, know the consequences.
“There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare”
I have some friends who constantly complain about their problems with a colleague. It leaves them constantly down.
If it’s too late to count the cost before starting a conflict then you don’t have to stay down this path. Try to make everything civil.
Choosing to fight is not a one-off decision. If you’ve chosen to fight but later see that the costs are too high, don’t be afraid to turn around.
#6 “There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.”
You probably believe you are not the best in the world at any single activity. That’s ok, I’m not either. Don’t be hard on yourself for doing something you enjoy but not being at an elite level for it.
We can get wrapped up on a singular focus and many self-help books such as The One Thing by Gary Keller recommend this.
You’re special because of the unique combination of your skills and experiences.
I can pretty much guarantee you that I’m the only Karate black belt who has performed bhangra dances in front of 2000 people and has been to over 45 countries and has a degree in Economics.
David Epstein’s Range tells us how creativity and innovation are brought out by people with talents in multiple areas. To find joy, see what unique combinations you can conjure up and contribute to the world.
#7 “All warfare is based on deception.”
Despite the dark surface of this quote, it applies to today’s world and it does not mean sacrificing your integrity.
There is a concept of too much honesty.
Sharing your thoughts too early before you’ve had time to properly think them through can lead to disaster.
I’ve found it when I’m upset with a friend. Often the feeling passes and everything is back to normal. If I tell them I’m annoyed but can’t express myself, I’ve created an ill feeling for no benefit to anyone.
“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak” — Sun Tzu
This is a particularly useful deception and is easy to apply. Not every situation needs losers.
If you are strong and act dominant, this can intimidate people and mean they are less willing to talk with you. Acting less dominant makes you more approachable and benefits everyone.
If you are weak and act submissive then you may simply be ignored. Acting dominant means your opinions are heard and is again a better outcome for both parties.
#8 “It is easy to love your friend, but sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is to love your enemy”
An important lesson in today’s world. Technology advances have exposed the difference in our society to even greater extents. We are conditioned to see people who don’t think the same as us as merely a part of a delusional mass rather than individuals.
I must confess I was one of those people who laughed at memes poking fun of people with different opinions to me. I have taken too much pleasure in ranting about whoever has annoyed me.
I try to be better every day but I still have much to learn.
If we only show empathy to people who think like us we aren’t showing empathy at all.
Instead of simply demonizing others, humanize them. Why do they think the way they do, would you in their position?
#9 “Anger may in time change to gladness… But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being”
We are emotional and temperamental creatures. Have you ever hurled an insult you later regretted?
Sun Tzu is advising us not to be rash. Our initial reaction to news could change but if we react impulsively, the damage can be forever.
Take your time and allow your emotions to process. Do you need to be hurtful?
The same applies to how we treat ourselves. In frustration, we can give up something we are passionate about. We can give up golden opportunities because it’s not exactly how we want it.
I set myself high standards and put myself through hell to achieve them. I’m battling my mind and body not because I want progression but because I’m angry at my lack of it. I picture the artist tearing up their painting because the shade of blue was slightly wrong.
Don’t allow your frustration at your progress to lead you to burn out or give up!
#10 “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”
We are all aware of the power of momentum and the snowball effect.
I believe the same principle applies to happiness.
Start by finding the small joys in life. These small moments of happiness then put you in a better mood. Maybe that better mood means you smile at more people who then smile back at you. Maybe you become slightly more willing to do something out of your comfort zone.
It can all start from choosing to think of a small win as an opportunity seized.
If we think about habits. I managed to complete Veganuary by taking it one day at a time. By creating one recipe and enjoying it, it made me more likely to tell others about it who then gave me more recipes.
If you choose to do something and then give your heart to it, others could see this and approach you. You might increase your mind’s capacity to believe in other opportunities.
You never know which small opportunity you have in life will be the one that expands exponentially and takes your life in new and exciting ways.
The 10 quotes from “The Art of War” I chose are:
- “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle”
- “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”
- “If you know the enemy and you 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”
- “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”
- “Who wishes to fight must first count the cost”
- “There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.”
- “All warfare is based on deception.”
- “It is easy to love your friend, but sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is to love your enemy”
- “Anger may in time change to gladness… But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being”
- “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”
I hope this was valuable to you and thank you for reading.
Have a great day!
Reach Your Goals Without Burning Out
Get my free Anti-burnout Toolkit and weekly tips to help you balance your work and life.