Strategic Thinking From Art of War Author Sun Tzu Relevant Today

Strategic Thinking

You would be surprised how much you can relate to in a 2,500-year-old book.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu contains strategic thinking and philosophies that have uses beyond military problems.

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Strategic Thinking

Few writers from ancient times enjoy the same level of recognition as Sun Tzu, the famous philosopher and general from ancient China.

Quotes from his timeless treatise the "Art of War" appear in popular culture and the whole book is frequently studied by business and military students around the world.

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Sun Tzu's "Art of War"

Sun Tzu's "Art of War" presents thirteen chapters that describe how to factor in all important variables when trying to win a conflict.

The strategic thinking principles can be applied to military problems as well as the challenges of the marketplace or even personal struggles.

The precise dates of the birth and death of Sun Tzu are not known, but history has verified his existence around the year 500 B.C.E. in China. Born of Sun Ping, a senior military officer in the state of Qi, Sun Tzu grew up with an education focusing on military affairs.

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Successful Generals

At the time, it was common for Chinese generals to write about their philosophies of war, but it has been the work of Sun Tzu that has survived the ages. What made his "Art of War" so compelling that it is quite literally still in print 2,500 years after it was first inked onto strips of bamboo?

Part of the resilience of Sun Tzu's ideas comes from his success as a general. Ancient China was a complex chessboard of highly civilised yet warring states, and Sun Tzu enjoyed a respectable career within this challenging environment.

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Successful Strategie

Sun Tzu was in the employ of He Lu, the ruler of the state of Wu, who made him a general of the kingdom. In this role, Sun Tzu participated in numerous campaigns. His successes included the destruction of the Yue state, the territorial expansion of Wu, and the occupation of the city of Ying.

His successful application of his strategic thinking surely lent his literary work strength. His "Art of War" is not limited to narrow military concepts such as positioning soldiers on the field. Sun Tzu took into account all the forces acting upon a state.

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Matter Of Life Or Death

War is a tool of the state, and as Sun Tzu wrote, "War is a matter of vital importance to the state; a matter of life or death, the road either to survival or to ruin." But this crucial element of state power could not operate independently of diplomacy, politics, economics, geography, and philosophy.

Each chapter in the "Art of War" explores these and other factors in detail and teaches that the application of military force must be used with a multidisciplinary approach. Geography is certainly given great emphasis because the actual land that is being fought over underpins military strategy, but it is not the sole consideration for a general.

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Optimistic Assumptions

Among the many sage pieces of advice that one can take away from the "Art of War" is Sun Tzu's insistence that war should not be started hastily, with optimistic assumptions, or without good intelligence.

The stakes in war are too high for the state to lose, so, therefore, it must only employ its military tools when it can achieve victory. The economics of warfare is repeatedly stressed by Sun Tzu because of the heavy toll that maintaining an army in the field extracts from its society. War should not be the first tool that a state uses to gain its desired outcomes because it is so expensive.

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Use Of Spies

In Sun Tzu's final chapter of his book, he opens with a statement that rings very true today as my own country, the United States, finds itself financing a prolonged war.

From Chapter 13 "Use of Spies," Sun Tzu wrote:

"Now, when an army of one hundred thousand is raised and dispatched on a distant campaign, the expenses borne by the people together with disbursements of the treasury will amount to a thousand pieces of gold daily.

In addition, there will be continuous commotion both at home and abroad, people will be exhausted by the corvee of transport, and the farm work of seven hundred thousand households will be disrupted."

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Dramatic Truth

Reading this, I am amazed by how little some things can change even after thousands of years. War is expensive, and its cost radiates throughout the populace supporting the army.

This truth dramatically reveals the wisdom that Sun Tzu offered in his writing.

From the "Art of War," a reader will gain a clear method for assessing almost any given situation and then planning a route to success. In his discussion of war, Sun Tzu teaches his readers to think about where they are strategical, what they are doing, can they support what they are doing, do they know what they are up against, what is the easiest method for achieving their goals, and so forth.

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Obstacles To Victory Cannot Be Ignored

Sun Tzu continually reminds the reader (and during his life no doubt himself) that the state must not think about only what it desires without giving weighty consideration to outside influences. For individuals, this all-inclusive way of thinking helps them to surmount the blinders that emotions often place on their actions. Obstacles to victory cannot be ignored. They must be dealt with thoughtfully.

The world of ancient China that Sun Tzu lived in might have been simpler in the sense of less technology, but the stakes of warfare were no less important than they are today, and the path to finding victory or success was no easier.

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Victory To The Planners

As a very short work, the "Art of War" can be read in an hour or two, but it will give readers something to think about for years. His strategic thinking advice sticks in the head. It might not be easy to follow, but Sun Tzu's famous statement that "every battle is won or lost before it is fought" serves as the ultimate reminder that victory comes to those who plan their strategy.

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This article was contributed by Tracy Falbe

To benefit from the refined thinking of Sun Tzu access its instantly available ebook version. The Art of War is included in six ebook formats in the Ebook Classics collection at Falbe Publishing.

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