Isolation Read #24

(Translated by John Minsford)

“The most influential book of strategy in the world”

Master Sun said: ultimate excellence lies not in winning every battle, but in defeating the enemy without ever fighting.

This, and hundreds more aphorisms from over 2000 years ago are what has earned this book its fearsome reputation. It is telling that there are no literary reviews on the back, but several from business types / correspondents.

“The essential guide to winning, shows you how to:

  • become an effective leader
  • gain advantage in your market
  • create unbeatable strategies
  • understand your competitors
  • know when to attack – and retreat”

I found it odd. It looks like the Basho, or any other haiku-type poet, but these are instructions; cautionary tales; preemptive admonishments (for not listening to Master Sun). You can imagine them being barked at you.

“War / Is founded / On deception; / Movement is determined / By advantage; / Division and unity / Are its elements / Of Change.”

Some remind you of today’s politicians:

“He advances / Irresistibly, / Attacking emptiness.”

…some remain pertinent:

“The killing of an enemy / Stems from / Wrath; / The fighting for booty / Stems from / A desire for reward.”

“The wise leader / In his deliberations / Always blends consideration / of gain / And harm/

By tempering thoughts of / Gain, / He can accomplish / His goal; 

By tempering thoughts of / Harm, / He can extricate himself / From calamity.”

I’m not sure I learned much about strategy from this, perhaps I should pass it on to our marketing department.


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