1. LAYING PLANS
Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State.
It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin.
Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no
first sentence either attracts the reader or instantly repels them.
Why do we need to read about war? Here is the first hurdle to
overcome with this book. It may have originally been written about
war however, thankfully, we no longer live in the times in which the
book was written.
the book can be better understood if the reader inserts the conflict
for the word war. Secondly there is little art involved. The main
theme of this book is to avoid conflict but it also realises that at
times conflict will be brought to you and when it is, the book then
outlines ways to minimise the effect of this conflict.
most important theme of the book is then addressed in the next
paragraph. That is, your current life situation has been heavily
influenced by the sum total of your decisions you have made so far.
We make thousands of decisions every day, some big, others small. Our
decision making process has evolved over time. What is presented in
this book is a systematic way of going about making decisions, a way
if worked on can improve this everyday act to deliver much better
results with little extra effort. Answer this question, how confident
are you in your current abilty to make decisions? Are you getting the
outcomes you desire?
next paragraph addresses five key areas of the decision making
process all commanders should know. Take the next few minutes to
imagine you are a commander. With this change in perspective,
consider what of the next five areas you could or maybe should
The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be
taken into account in one's deliberations, when seeking to determine
the conditions obtaining in the field.
These are: (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The
Commander; (5) Method and discipline.
6. The MORAL LAW causes the people to be in complete accord with
their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives,
undismayed by any danger.
this paragraph refers to getting others to see things your way and
act accordingly and willingly so. One can be ordered to do something
but this does not infer you liking to do what you have been ordered
to do, so there is not Morla Law. If someone you like or respect asks
you to do something, you are more likely to do it willingly even if
you initally did not want to do it. In the military and some
professional fields, underlings are trained and are expected to
follow orders, any order, evern those that make no sense or they
don't want to follow. This is not Moral Law.
HEAVEN signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.
don't sunbathe on a snow peaked mountain and you don't wear thermal
underwear to the beach. You only harvest when the crop is ready to be
EARTH comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open
ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.
only does Earth mainly refer to what you can see, it also refers to
understanding what it means. When you set out to drive to work, you
have already calculated the distance, risk of traffic and road
conditions and the chances of getting there accident free.
The COMMANDER stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity,
benevolence, courage and strictness.
five cardinal virtues of the Chinese are (1) humanity or benevolence;
(2) uprightness of mind; (3) self-respect, self- control, or "proper
feeling;" (4) wisdom; (5) sincerity or good faith. Here "wisdom"
and "sincerity" are put before "humanity or
benevolence," and the two military virtues of "courage"
and "strictness" substituted for "uprightness of mind"
and "self- respect, self-control, or 'proper feeling.'"]
essence it says who we are will show in the decisions we make. If we
have a tendancy to be rash, then so will out decisions. If we can be
less rash, then our decisions will be more considered and therefore
the outcomes of our decisons should improve.
By METHOD AND DISCIPLINE are to be understood the marshalling of the
army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the
officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the
army, and the control of military expenditure.
place for everything and everything in it's place, this is a modern
saying that will get you on the path to understanding this. Smart and
successful companies hire the right person for the right job at the
These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows
them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.
successsful person understands these five heads whether they have
read the Art of War or not.
Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the
military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in
this wise: --the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law?
other words, who has the greater ability to convince others that they
are right or their decisons are the best or at least better? Is this
the principle that our democracy is based upon? The rule of opinion
over the rule of the gun?
Which of the two generals has most ability?
the word “generals” with words like bosses, co-workers, friends,
commentators etc.... if you are choosing which movie to go see or
which restaurant to dine at, who do you trust to make a better
With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?
sentence deals with the tangible and the intangible. What you can
readily and see and what you can't.
On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
follows through and who is all talk? Who is a proven achiever and who
Which army is stronger?
the individual stand alone or do they have support from those around
On which side are officers and men more highly trained?
is more knowledgeable and is that knowledge relevant to the current
In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and
in it for me, seems to be an appropriate if not undesirable
By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or
this not what we do everyday? The point to consider here is “how
good are we at forecasting?”
paragraph simply codifies what everyone does everyday, pass judgement
on the decisions and actions of others we come into contact with,
even strangers. There is an old formula that was taught to aspiring
writers when writing novels. Deal with the five W's and the H. Who.
What. When. Where. Why. How. Do you know what you are doing, why you
are doing it, where and when should you do it and are you doing it
the right way?
The general that hearkens to my counsel and acts upon it, will
conquer: --let such a one be retained in command! The general that
hearkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it, will suffer defeat:
--let such a one be dismissed!
While heading the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any
helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules.
According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one's
All warfare is based on deception.
two sentences above simply state what most of us would take for as
being the obvious. However what is obvious to one may be an awakening
to another and a rather rude and shocking awakening at that.
next six paragraphs give a taste of what is to covered in detail in
the following chapters.
Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our
forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the
enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him
believe we are near.
Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.
If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in
superior strength, evade him.
If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend
to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.
If he is taking his ease, give him no rest.
Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.
These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged
Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his
temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes
but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to
victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation
at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is
likely to win or lose.
leads to decisions, if our calculations are flawed then our decisons
are flawed. If our decisions are flawed then plans, strategy, tactics
and everything we then do is flawed.
key to understanding this chapter is to read it as if you were a
commander. Don't worry about the army or group at your command at
this stage. Commanders make decisions. The better the body of
decisions the better the commander. You make decisions. The better
the decisions you make the better off you will be. No matter who you
are or what you do.