“Let your plans be dark and as impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” Sun Tzu – Art of War

The above quote from an ancient Chinese general is just one of the multiple lessons he taught in the very short book, “Art of War.” It is easy to dismiss or ignore the teachings of an ancient man who commanded troops hundreds of years before Christ was born.

But, if you choose to ignore these teachings when engaged in any modern controversy, defeat is almost certain. This has been proven countless times throughout history. Even the best generals, businessmen, lawyers, politicians, etc. cannot win without following these principles.

For example, General Robert E. Lee was probably the most gifted military commander in history. But, in 1863, he would make a series of mistakes that still baffle historians. Lee received word that a large number of Union troops were assembled near his army close to the Pennsylvania state line. While Lee wanted to invade the North, he could have easily done so by avoiding the Union army. But, he ignored one of Sun Tzu’s most important truths; Move only when you see an advantage and there is something to gain. Only fight if a position is critical. General Lee commanded some 60,000 Confederate soldiers to pour in from nearby Cashtown. As the Confederate troops moved in, they were suddenly distracted by a skirmish in the nearby town of Gettysburg. For the next few days, ending with Pickett’s Charge, Lee’s decisions cost the lives of thousands of his men. Every single poor decision made at Gettysburg was in direct contrast to the teachings of Sun Tzu.

Well, who was Sun Tzu and why are his teachings critical today?

Traditional Chinese accounts place the commander, strategist, and philosopher in China around 722–481 BC, when he was a military general serving under a warrior king. This was during a period of constant war fought between seven kings to gain control over the vast expanse of fertile territory in Eastern China. Sun Tzu proved his theories were effective on the battlefield time and again. His military victories during this time inspired him to write “Art of War”.

This military treatise depicts a philosophy of war, managing conflicts, and winning battles. But, some people may find the title a little misleading. By following his instructions, you actually avoid more conflict, battle, and unsuccessful negotiations. Apart from describing the theories of battles, the text also discusses diplomacy and preparedness for conflict.

Today, it is listed on the Marine Corps Professional Reading Program and is recommended to be read by all United States Military Intelligence personnel. CIA officers are required to read this book.

But, while written as a military treatise, its principles are just as true in court battles, business competition, political races, and any situation when you compete against a person or group of people. That is why “Art of War” is required reading for most Fortune 500 companies, countless businesses worldwide, and law firms.

Our firm puts such a great importance on the book that we require partners, employees, and interns to read the book. We also give copies to our clients and have incorporated some of Sun Tzu’s quotes in our 12 Maxims; www.swindlelaw.com/12-maxims.

“Art of War” takes less than one hour to read. If a person takes that time to read the book, his or her perspective on strategy, tactics, and dealing with human conflict will change for the better.

Ignoring Sun Tzu’s principles or choosing to not read the book will put a person at a great disadvantage in today’s highly competitive and perilous world.