Friday, April 15, 2011

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War

A few months ago, I was shopping for books when I came across an unabridged edition of The Art of War by Sun Tzu. I'd just made a New Year's resolution to read work from, at least, one classic author every month. When I made the resolution, I had authors such as Dickens, Faulkner, O'Henry, and Hemingway in mind. I thought about it though, and decided the term "classic author" didn't necessarily need to mean "western author," so I bought the book.
Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military guide to victory, written in the late-sixth century BC. Comprised of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare, it is said to be the definitive work on military strategies and tactics of its era.

Unlike more contemporary literature, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is written in a very straight forward no frills style. Each chapter begins with a statement of a group of precepts. Then each precept is explained in detail, and the consequences for following or not following each precept are spelled out. At least in my copy, each piece of advice was repeated, in it's entirety, at some later point in the book, perhaps to facilitate comprehension.

The bulk of advice itself, is what most modern people would consider to be common sense today. Treating one's soldiers humanely to foster loyalty, preparing one's self before battle, gathering as much information as possible, and paying attention to one's surroundings are all ideas most kids learn in scouts growing up. Yet, there are a few surprising pieces of advice in this book including, the idea that a general should be willing to disobey his Lord, and a general should hold some facts from his men as a way to manipulate them, which initially seem to be counterintuitive.

It's not the writing style, or the military application of the text, which makes Sun Tzu’s The Art of War a classic. What makes this a classic worth reading, is the fact that it's precepts can be applied to most aspects of life. Granted, we don't want to be burning supply trains, but preparing before a major task, collecting as much information as possible before entering a situation, and treating underlings humanely are all sound rules to live by.

The Way of the Champion: Lessons from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and other Tao Wisdom for Sports & Life, applies Sun Tzu’s principles to the field of sports coaching. Likewise, The Art of War for Executives and Sun Tze The Art of Business apply these rules to the corporate arena. And, while I couldn't find it, I have no doubt there's a book somewhere which applies these ideas to the realm of poker.

Any book which can be applied to so many different disciplines, definitely deserves to be read by any serious reader.

Side Note:
I've added 2 new Links Of Interest lately, which are worth checking out.
*British Novelist Deborah Lawrenson's Blog - is a blog about books, art, food, and all things inspired by the South of France.
*Blog Spot Geek - is a blog about how to blog successfully.

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