Written over two thousand years ago in China, The Art of War consists of 13 chapters on “military calculus” written by the famed military strategist of ancient China, Sun Tzu. Within each section, Sun Tzu elaborates on key concepts regarding military strategy that he claims will allow any army to ensure victory if his guidelines are followed. Some examples are the importance of creativity when devising stratagems, the idea of incorporating deception in warfare, the different factors needed while fighting against the enemy, and more.
While the work is quite old, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War continues to be relevant in contemporary times, not just on the battlefield, but also as it relates to ordinary civilian life. For example, throughout the book, Sun Tzu emphasizes the importance of relying “not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him.” Though the average reader will most likely never face a situation where an actual opposing army is attacking them, the idea of an “enemy” can easily be broadened to refer to any challenge faced in life. In this case, Sun Tzu urges the reader to not overly depend on luck, but instead on their own skills and abilities, to achieve their goals through proper planning of every possible scenario.
In addition, the concise language employed by Sun Tzu hints at other truths about life. Although this may not have been Sun Tzu’s original intention, and could possibly have arisen through the multitude of translations of the work, the simplistic structure of the novel itself is undeniable. Rather than pushing the information in large blocks of text, Sun Tzu breaks up his main points into easily digestible statements that serve to stress their importance to the reader. This avoidance of overly convoluted sentence structures also lends itself to the implication that simplicity should be prioritized over complexity, both on the battlefield and in life.
Overall, despite the fact that most of today’s readers of The Art of War are not actually at war, it is an undeniably fascinating look into the thoughts, actions, and habits that can lead to success in any endeavour that one pursues.
Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.