I just watched Thomas Hyunh speak about his lifetime obsession with Sun-Tzu, the 2,500 year old Chinese General, at Authors@Google (video at the bottom of this post). Sun-Tzu was only 30 years old when he led the smallest region of China to victory over the largest region. This victory made him famous, and made his book “The Art of War” into the widely read book that it has become.
What makes Sun-Tzu’s Art of War relevant to us today? Conflict is part of our lives. Personal relations, company market share battles, political struggle – how can we approach these challenges in an effective manner?
Whether it is military conflict or politics within an organisation, Sun-Tzu’s guidelines are relevant.
Sun-Tzu In a Nutshell
- Control yourself. Thus you can influence others.
- Adapt to your environment. It accentuates your strengths and ameliorates your weakness.
- Never sell out your principles. “The general who does not advance to seek glory or does not withdraw to avoid punishment, but cares for only the people’s security and promotes the people’s interest is the nation’s treasure”
“Before doing battle, in the temple one calculates and will win” Sun-Tzu
#1 Principle: Control Yourself
Number 1 is Control Yourself. Sun-Tzu is very deliberate about his guidelines of separating out Ego and Emotion from decision making. Thomas quotes him in his talk “Before doing battle, in the temple one calculates and will win” – take decisions away from field of combat. As in combat, so in life. Life decisions taken under high emotion or driven by ego desire are dangerous. They need reflection in the light of a meditative peaceful pose.
“Those angry will be happy again, and those wrathful will be cheerful again, but a destroyed nation cannot be brought back to life” Sun-Tzu. Strong emotions will go away, but actions can never be undone. Battle that is driven by revenge, by anger, by frustration is not good battle. Personal conflict that is driven by anger, revenge is not good for either party.
The 5 attributes of a Great General (Leader)
The 5 Factors for Victory
- Way – Your personal connection to other people
- Heaven – Environment outside your control
- Ground – Environment under your control
- General – Ability and Attitude
- Law – Discipline and Commitment