Six practical lessons I’ve gathered from The Art of War:
Lesson 1: Ready yourself for war.
Whenever you face a conflict, instead of simply reacting, take a step back and gain clarity on the problem or conflict you are facing. Ask yourself: what is the real conflict (social, personal, environmental, or combo) I am facing?
Lesson 2: Gather the appropriate intelligence and assess your strategic situation.
After describing the conflict you are currently facing, it is time to gain relevant information necessary for assessing your strategic advantages and creating a strong plan of action. Employ different tactics (observing, researching, listening, testing, employing other spies, etc.) to gather information about yourself and the set of conditions against which you’re contending. From the intelligence you’ve accrued, determine your strategic situation based on five essential factors (attunement, opportunity, freedom, leadership, and organization).
Lesson 3: Aim to take All-Under-Heaven intact.
After you’ve assessed your strategic advantages and disadvantages, it’s time to create a plan of action. The aim of this plan is to avoid doing battle as much as possible. You want to minimize costs and maximize effect.
Lesson 4:When possible, use the indirect approach.
Crucial to executing your plan is concealment. If others who do not support your plan find out about it, they could work to ruin it. Thus, you have to use deception and cunning in executing your plan.
Lesson 5: Keep your mind on maintaining or increasing strategic advantage.
You have little control over changes in your environment. But you have control over how you react in the environment. At every move, your primary concern must be to improving your chances of success given whatever changing conditions you may be facing.
Lesson 6: Cultivate the Way.
Don’t fight the old war. Maintain your skills; learn from your mistakes and accomplishments. Keep growing.