8 Life Lessons Every Man Needs: The Art Of War -Sun Tzu

8 Life Lessons Every Man Needs: The Art Of War -Sun Tzu

For centuries, Sun Tzu’s classic treatise on strategy and conflict, The Art of War, has enlightened readers on achieving success against opposition. Today, the text’s timeless principles continue finding application in military endeavors, business, politics, sports, and even interpersonal relationships – any arena requiring skillful competition navigation. This ancient manual written over 2,500 years ago remains relevant because its shrewd maxims unpack undeniable truths about maneuvering through difficulties with adversaries. Any man seeking to steel himself in resolving life’s inescapable struggles against obstacles and resistance would benefit tremendously from Sun Tzu’s razor-sharp philosophies. This article highlights eight essential life lessons every man needs from the seminal work. Master these concepts and triumph more often over whatever forces stand in opposition along one’s path.

Know Your Enemy and Know Yourself

In any competitive situation, you must try to truly understand your opponent or “enemy.” Know their strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, and strategies inside and out. But even more importantly, know yourself just as well. Understand your strengths and limitations and how they match up against your opponent. As Sun Tzu said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

All Warfare is Based on Deception

Deception, misdirection, and catching your opponent off guard are essential in any competitive engagement. Never be predictable or telegraph your moves. Keep the element of surprise through crafty strategy and tactics your opponent does not anticipate. As Sun Tzu stated, “All warfare is based on deception.” Outthink and outmaneuver the enemy.

The Supreme Art of War is to Subdue the Enemy Without Fighting

The best competitive victories come without major conflict or outright confrontation. Subtly influence events and indirectly shape circumstances to your advantage. Cleverly persuade your opponent to concede victory on your terms. As Sun Tzu said, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Tactful maneuvering achieves objectives with less risk or resources.

If Quick, Take Advantage of the Enemy’s Lack of Preparedness; If Not, Wait for Him to Become So

Seize opportunities when the timing is on your side. If your opponent is not ready for your attack, swiftly press your advantage before they can mount a defense. But if the situation does not allow for quick action, exercise patience. Put your enemy in a position where their guard is down, then make your move. As Sun Tzu stated, “If quick, take advantage of the enemy’s lack of preparedness; if not, wait for him to become so.” Timing is everything.

Extreme Situations Can Reveal True Character

It is often when we are pressed to the limits that our true nature is revealed. Highly competitive or dangerous situations require drawing deeply upon inner resolve, courage, and other intangibles. As Sun Tzu said, “Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight.” Face adversity head-on to uncover genuine character.

Opportunity Waits For No Man, So Act Decisively

When a competitive opening or moment of advantage arises, you must seize it without hesitation. Lingering or delaying reduces chances for success. As Sun Tzu advised, “There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard. There are not more than five basic colors, yet they produce more hues than can ever be seen in combination. There are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations yield more flavors than can ever be tasted.” Likewise, the combinations of decisive action selected from fluid circumstances can bring tremendous variations of success. Act boldly when opportunities arise.

Plan and Strategize Thoroughly Before Engaging

Extensive preparation and strategizing must come before action is taken. As Sun Tzu cautioned, “The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought.” Carefully deliberate over all possible moves, scenarios, and contingencies well in advance. Develop flexible yet disciplined plans to support your strategy before entering the field.

Build Alliances and Use Spies to Gather Intelligence

Cultivating relationships, allies, and informants can provide considerable advantages in competitive situations. This extends your reach, influence, and information flow. As Sun Tzu emphasized, “Use your entire army as bait to lure the enemy in. Crush the enemy when they come in this way. This is the art of co-coordinating the strength of the army.” Likewise, use spies to monitor the enemy’s movements to counter better and defeat their initiatives. Leverage all available resources to accomplish objectives.

Case Study

Meet James, a 35-year-old sales manager at a medium-sized technology company. He was recently promoted, putting him in charge of a 10-person sales team covering the Western United States.

James was eager to succeed in his new leadership role but faced significant challenges. Several members of his team had been passed over for the promotion and were now unmotivated. Quota attainment in the region had declined over the past year due to increasing competition. James needed to quickly build credibility, rally his team, and improve performance.

To guide his leadership strategy, James reflected deeply on relevant principles from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War:

Know Your Team and Know the Competition

James invested time upfront in getting to know his team members’ strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and tendencies. He also researched competitors’ product offerings, sales strategies, and reputations with customers. This enabled him to tailor approaches to best leverage his resources against specific opponents.

Use Unpredictability to Your Advantage

Instead of continuing predictable, business-as-usual approaches, James employed unexpected motivational techniques, sales contests, compensation incentives, etc. This kept competitors off balance and built momentum among his team.

Master Indirect Influence

Rather than mandate changes or directly challenge problematic team members, James subtly influenced mindsets and the sales environment. Small signals of support here, a question or observation there – he indirectly moved circumstances to benefit cohesiveness and performance.

Seize Opportunities Decisively

When two key competitors merged their companies, they created upheaval for customers and sales teams. Sensing this window of opportunity, James swiftly directed resources to affected accounts and capitalized on the uncertainty to convince customers to switch vendors.

Pull Talent from Extreme Situations

A floundering sales rep was positioned at a particularly tough, demanding hospital account. Instead of reassigning him, James used the “trial by fire” to encourage the agent to reach deeper for courage and resilience. The wisdom gained turned him into a top performer.

Build Alliances Across the Company

James actively networked with ops, marketing, and engineering groups to better support his team’s sales initiatives. He also cultivated customer advocates to generate referrals and references. This extended reach and influence amplified success.

In the first year of applying Sun Tzu’s principles, James led his region to exceed sales targets by 15%. His team and managers now view him as a rising leader. James credits studying and applying the competitive art of war mindset for setting himself up for victory in the business world.

Key Takeaways

  • Know your strengths and weaknesses intimately. Similarly, make an effort to understand the competition thoroughly.
  • Deception and unexpected maneuvers will keep opponents off balance. Never be predictable.
  • Indirectly maneuver circumstances masterfully to achieve aims without confrontation.
  • At the opportune moment when the opposition is vulnerable, move decisively to capitalize.
  • Testing environments reveal actual guts and wisdom. Lean in during hardship.
  • When a door cracks open even slightly, boldly thrust through it, seizing the moment.
  • Before engaging, prudently simulate scenarios and arm yourself with backup plans.
  • Relationships and intelligence sources greatly empower any campaign. Deploy them.


By internalizing these fundamental guidelines from Sun Tzu’s classic text, a man equips himself to navigate all varieties of competitions and difficulties adeptly. Mastering the art of understanding yourself, opponents, optimal timing, unconventional maneuvers and strategies, bold execution, adaptive preparation, and leveraging resources – a man may succeed in all of life’s battles, great and small. The wisdom herein arms a man to overcome and shape circumstances to his advantage.