Sun Tzu & The Art of War | Leadership Podcasts

Listen to episode 199 of the Inspirational Living podcast: Sun Tzu: The Art of War | Leadership and Management. Adapted from the classic work by Sun Tzu.

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Today’s reading is a collection of quotes from Sun Tzu’s classic The Art of War, which was written in China during the 5th century B.C.

“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”

“The supreme art of war is to subdue your opponent without fighting.”

“If you know your opponent and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not your opponent, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither your opponent nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
“Supreme excellence consists of breaking your opponent’s resistance without fighting.”
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”

“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 them believe we are near.”

“If your opponent is secure at all points, be prepared for them. If they are in superior strength, evade them. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate them. Pretend to be weak, that they may grow arrogant. If their forces are united, separate them. Attack them where they are unprepared; appear where you are not expected.”

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”

“To know your opponent, you must become them.”

“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

“Engage people with what they expect, for this is what they are able to discern and it confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”

“There are five essentials for victory:

1 To know when to fight and when not to fight.
2 To know how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
3 To fight with a team that is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
4 To prepare yourself, and wait to take your opponent unprepared.
5 To possess battle-ready capacity and not be interfered with by the bureaucrats.”

“Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.”

“Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.”

“Treat your team members as you would your own beloved children. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.”

“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”

“When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move.”

“When you surround a competitor, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.”

“There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard. There are not more than five primary colors, yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen. There are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted.”

“Know yourself and you will win all battles”

“The way of any battle is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.”

“If you wish to fight, you must first count the cost.”

“Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.”

“To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the pinnacle of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the pinnacle of skill.”

“Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”

“What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.”

“You have to believe in yourself.”

“One may know how to conquer without actually being able to do it.”

“If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things.”

“One mark of a great leader is that they fight on their own terms or fight not at all.”

“Rouse your opponent, and learn the principle of their activity or inactivity. Force them to reveal themselves, so as to find out their vulnerable spots.”

“The one who is prudent and lies in wait for an opponent who is not, will be victorious.”

“When one treats people with benevolence, justice, and righteousness, and places confidence in them, they will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders.”

“If you know your opponent and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.”

“Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content.
But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.”

“The expert in battle moves the opponent, and is not moved by them.”

“The whole secret lies in confusing your competitor, so that they cannot fathom your real intent.”

“The wise warrior avoids the battle.”

“There are roads which must not be followed, competitors who must not be attacked, positions which must not be contested, commands of the bureaucrats who must not be obeyed.”

“Pretend inferiority and encourage your opponent’s arrogance.”

“If quick, I survive. If not quick, I am lost.”

“Convince your opponent that they will gain very little by attacking you; this will diminish their enthusiasm.”

“The attack is the secret of defense; defense is the planning of an attack.”

“Ultimate excellence lies not in winning every battle, but in defeating the opponent without ever fighting.”

“Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.”

“Great results, can be achieved with small forces.”

“To secure yourself against defeat lies in your own hands, but the opportunity of defeating your competitor is provided by the competitor themselves.”

“Knowing your opponent enables you to take the offensive, knowing yourself enables you to stand on the defensive.”

“The leader who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect others and do good service is the jewel of the community.”

“If ignorant both of your opponent and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.”

“Wheels of justice grind slow, but grind fine”

“Bravery without forethought, causes one to fight blindly and desperately like a mad bull. Such an opponent, must not be encountered with brute force, but may be lured into an ambush and defeated.”

“Never venture, never win!”

“Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the competitor works out their victory in relation to the foe whom they are facing.”

“If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the leader is to blame. But, if orders are clear and nevertheless disobeyed, then it is the fault of their leaders.”

“Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.”

“Mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy”

“Be where your opponent is not.”

“Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then they will be amenable to your will.”
“Who does not know the evils of war cannot appreciate its benefits”

“In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack—the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers.”

“If your competitor sends reinforcements everywhere, they will everywhere be weak.”

“Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow; decision, to the releasing of a trigger.”

“Rewards for good service should not be deferred a single day.”

“To be skilled at making an opponent move is to create a situation in which they must conform; to entice them with something they are certain to take.”

“It is easy to love your friend, but sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is to love your enemy.”

“Conform to your opponent’s tactics until a favorable opportunity offers; then come forth and engage in a battle that shall prove decisive.”

“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.”

“The leader skillful in attack is the one whose opponent does not know what to defend; and the leader skillful in defense is the one whose opponent does not know what to attack.”

“Disorder came from order, fear came from courage, weakness came from strength.”

“The worst calamities that befall a leader arise from hesitation.”

“Foreknowledge of the competition cannot be gotten from ghosts and spirits, cannot be had by analogy, cannot be found out by calculation. It must be obtained from people, people who know the conditions on the ground.”

“Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack.”

“The control of a large team is guided by the same principle as the control of a few people: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.”

“A leader leads by example, not by force.”

“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”


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