Book Club
How to win the war of life

How to win the war of life

The Art Of War

Author: Sun Tzu

Paper | Ebook | Audiobook

Book Rating: 3

“All warfare is based on deception.” 

Sun Tzu


The art of war written by Sun Tzu a Chinese general, philosopher, and military strategist. The book has become one of the most influential strategy pieces in East Asia. That the book also became extremely popular worldwide is because the lessons in this book, initially written for warfare, turned out to be very applicable to other fields as well. The lessons of The art of war are used in business as well as competitive sports. 

The three main lessons in The Art of War are: 1) only enter battles of war you know you will win, 2) make the competition do what you want by deceiving them, and 3) lead your team by hand as if you were to lead a single man. 

My personal reading notes

Only enter battles of war you know you will win

When you choose to always fight, this will result in a lot of lost battles as well as some battles won. Therefore, the smart thing to do is to know when not to fight. A fool will start a battle and only then starts thinking about how to win it, a strategist will know that they will win and how before even starting the battle. “A wise leader never leaps into battle as an emotional response, but plans exhaustively to ensure that his position will be impregnable while identifying the weakness of the enemy”. 

So, how does this apply to businesses? You start looking at the industry first. Who are your competitors and will you be able to win the battle against them. If not then try to go towards a specific niche of the market. 

Make the competition do what you want by deceiving them

“The opposition should never know of your real strengths and capacities”.

Let the other side think you have plenty of resources, especially when you are running out of them. Let them become arrogant by displaying your strengths as weaknesses. Leading the opposition astray gives us the opportunity to gain the upper hand and act when they are least expecting it.

By psychologically deceiving the opposition you can gain victory before the war has even started.

Lead your team by hand as if you were to lead a single man

“A skilled general leads his army as if he was leading a single man by the hand.” 

Oftentimes, the growth of a business (as well as in war) requires a team of people. With growth, this team will grow in numbers and in complexity. Every individual within the team has his own personality, thoughts, and feelings. Sun Tzu says that the size of the army (or team) does not matter. You should break them down into smaller groups and use clear direction to ensure they know what is expected of them. Know the people in your team and treat them well, as this will ensure loyalty on their behalf. 

My overall thoughts 

The lessons like: know when to fight and when not to fight, appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak, know your strengths and weaknesses, and know the enemy and know yourself are extremely helpful lessons in a number of situations. Of course, some are a little over the top because they are made for battle and not for everyday life, however, there is still something to take from these. 

The book is easy to read, however can be a challenge to “translate” to your everyday life. After reading a few chapters I took some time to internalize the information and apply it to my life to gain perspective. 

What I take from the Art of war

  • “There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.” This one quote I took to heart especially. It is so important to choose what you would want to “fight” for and then do so with all your strength. However, also know when not to fight since this will make you win more battles as well as not perish because of the extended period in the war. When choosing to fight it is important to secure a quick victory, through adequate planning and preparing, because extended periods of fighting will take a toll on the army as well as the home nation.
  • As I promote learning on this blog the following quote also really stuck with me: “One may know how to conquer without being able to do it”. Just learning from books or listening to others does not make you an expert nor able to do everything you (theoretically) learned. It is up to you to be fearless and follow through on the things you learn and get your hands dirty. For me this was the case with this blog, I was following a lot of bloggers as well as reading a lot of blog posts about how to start a blog. However, for quite some time I did nothing but read about it. It was only until I started this blog by purchasing a domain that I truly learned what it is like to have a blog. And over this short period of time, I have already learned so many new things, which I could never have learned through only reading.

More books

Post Show your work by Austin Kleon

Show your work by Austin Kleon

A book review of Show your work by Austin Kleon. The book is easy to read with a great combination of storytelling and practical tips. Start reading now.

How to win the war of life

A book review of the Art of war by Sun Tzu. The book is full of helpful tips and tricks about how to win the war of life.

A story about how to become wealthy

A book review with personal reading notes. Rich dad poor dad by Robert Kiyosaki. The book provides a different perspective on becoming wealthy.