The Art of War by Sun Tzu is an ancient Chinese military treatise. The book, a classic within the science of military studies is only attributed to the high ranking general and was believed to have been complies during the last spring and autumn of the Warring States period (either 476 BC or 453 BC).
I first heard of The Art of War by Sun Tzu when I was in the military. I heard of the book in passing and read a bit more about it when I got home, but never picked up a copy until several years later.
The first thing which struck me was how short the book was, but the more I read, the more I realized the wisdom behind the book. The second, third, fourth, and more I read this book I stopped for contemplation about what Sun Tzu’s words mean to me, how I implemented his advice both in the military and outside of it and the mistakes I made, how can I learn from them and if I will repreat them again.
But The The Art of War is more than just about war. The book is about every struggle or confrontation, whether external or internal. I can certainly see how the advice applies to ancient warfare, but when analyzed, the book can apply to politics, business and more.
Sun Tzu understood, as any great leader/manager, that the leaders set the tone and spends much of the book discussing those qualities. This is true in any organization, the sergeants will treat the soldiers the way the platoon leader treats them, who treat the sergeants the way the captains treat them, etc. Middle management will treat their employees the way upper management treats them – so simple, yet so profound.
However, the part that really struck home, for me, was when Sun Tzu speaks about knowing yourself and your enemy: "So it is said that if you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle."
Profound advice from a great general--one does not go into any competition without knowing the opponents. Athletes do not step onto the field without spending house analyzing every available movie showing their opponents at play and generals dissect enemy strategies to tiny details before forming their own.