In this book summary of The Art Of War by Sun Tzu, you’ll find my notes, high-level ideas, valuable lessons, and important action steps.
The Art Of War Summary
To win war, you need to deceive the enemy by appearing weak when you’re strong, and strong when you’re weak.
Strike fast and do everything you can to secure a quick victory. Even if you win a war, but it takes too long, the benefits are limited and the toil is too big on the army and nation back home.
Use the resources of the enemy to supply your army and to better support your people and country back home from sacrificing their wealth.
“The Skillful Strategist defeats the enemy without doing battle, captures the city without laying siege, overthrows the enemy state without protracted war.” You can win everything and suffer no losses if you play with strategy instead of brute aggression.
To ensure victory, you have to first measure, estimate, calculate, and compare the enemy to yourself to see if its favorable.
The practice of leading a few individuals applies the same to leading a giant army. And a skilled general is proficient in getting the most out of their resources to defeat the enemy.
The most effective way to attack is to surprise the enemy and hit their weak spot. You can overcome lack of numbers when you have superior strategy that hammers the other side’s weakness and divides it into confused pieces.
Position matters a great deal to winning. Protect your army in valleys, have your back protected, camp high so you can fight downhill.
Concentrating strength and having a confident team is enough to win.
“The Wise Warrior, when he moves, is never confused; When he acts, is never at a loss.”
Never do any action out of spite or anger. Only take action when there is something to gain, otherwise be patient if there isn’t.
The most critical factor to a winning strategy is in the planning stage, where you must calculate your strengths and weaknesses against the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses. Only then can you properly decide if it is advantageous to attack, or stay put or flee.
The best offensive move to victory is to psychologically destroy the enemy before the actual war takes place, and take them over in peace with no killing necessary. Take their mind and heart out of it and the enemy has no chance.
Keep your own formation, intentions, and army as invisible and unknown as possible, while trying to pick up intel on your enemy so you know precisely how to attack. Deception is how you win, and also how you overcome being outnumbered. Being transparent is what will lead to destruction.
Three Favorite Quotes
“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”
Action Steps For You
It’s safe to assume none of you are army generals making battle plans. But don’t think these lessons don’t apply to your life. I guarantee they do.
You face battles every day on your journey to success whether you recognize it or not.
For example, it’s a battle between you and the other 100 candidates who are all gunning for the same job. It’s also a war between you and the interviewer to convince them that you’re the one they want to hire.
Once you get the job, you compete with your coworkers to get the promotion and win the free vacation to Australia. In the chaos of war are clients, proposals, and meetings you need to navigate and go on the offensive to close deals.
And if you run your own entrepreneurial business, the principles from The Art Of War almost apply in a one-to-one relationship.
For example, here’s one principle from Sun Tzu, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” During a market recession when there’s less money, there’s still plenty of opportunity to pick up market share and expand while everyone is downsizing.
So what’s the main action step? I believe it’s this: Work on identifying your strengths and weaknesses, so you utilize your strengths to put yourself in the best position to succeed.
Although you’re not in a literal war, you are fighting for living life on your terms and not settling.
So take success as serious as you would take war. And implement these strategies from The Art Of War to be victorious.
Order The Art Of War
Or check out other book recommendations to become more successful.