“Appear weak when you are strong and strong when you are weak.”
The Art of War was written by Chinese general Sun Tzu more than 2,500 years ago, possibly in the sixth century B.C. The book has long been heralded for its advice on military success. And this advice has since been co-opted by legions of generals in the business world.
As advertised, The Art of War is about far more than war: It applies to any sort of struggle or confrontation. Reading it as literal advice has more historical value than modern-day tactical value, though you can see how this information would have helped in ancient warfare. If you read the book metaphorically, however, you can easily apply the techniques to business, politics, or any other place where conflict exists.
The more you read, the clearer it becomes that the competition between modern businesses in the corporate world mirrors the competition between ancient militaries. They even consume each other in analogous ways. Enemy nations “merged” after one beat the other militarily. Today competing companies merge when one buys the other out.
The Art of War reads as a contemporary book because it treats each conflict as important to overall success. The awareness of all levels of strategic behavior is key because conflicts are won and lost at every level.
The advice is timeless as well, as in this passage that equally describes going to war with a neighboring nation state and going head to head in social media:
“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose and; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”