Chapter 07: Applying Classic Warrior Principles to Business and Life
I always thought it was something of fashion statement for business men and women to carry copies of The Art of War by Sun Tsu. I understood their claim that it was relevant to business strategy and that many of the ideas are still relevant, but it all seemed a bit fanciful to me. More like vanity and posing! How could a thousand year-old treatise genuinely be relevant to today’s world of computers and mobile phones?
That was until I began to practice the warrior mindset and quickly realised that it actually is highly relevant. Sure, it won’t teach you to use MSWord, but in terms of marketing, leadership and the management of resources it is still very useful. These ideas and suggestions are timeless and can be applied in almost limitless situations. Look at it this way, if the advice is good enough to help you win wars with swords and arrows, then surely it can help you to get Bill from accounting to stop complaining.
With that in mind I present some of the best quotes and lessons from the book that you can take with you into the office and us to inspire more loyalty and productivity. And just for good measure I’ve thrown in some Machiavelli; who wrote The Prince as an instruction manual for an Italian prince that would help him to become an effective ruler someday.
These are both texts aimed at historical warriors and kings and yet they are coveted by business professionals, relationship gurus and more. This is the perfect example of why the warrior mindset is still relevant today and you will see that the sentiments therein echo much of what we have already discussed.
Lessons from the Art of War
There is No Instance of a Nation Benefiting From Prolonged Warfare
In other words, if you are at odds with a competitor or a colleague then a prolonged struggle will only serve to damage both of you. This is called a ‘pyrrhic victory’ – a phrase that comes from another famous historical battle. By the end even if you win, you will have damaged your reputation and wasted your resources so that you’re left with nothing but a Pyrrhic Victory. Instead then, see if you can’t turn an opponent into an ally and find a way that you both can benefit instead.
Remember, the warrior chooses their battles wisely. The warrior mindset is not about being aggressive and reactionary. It is about being poised, forgiving and powerful enough to not need to lift a finger. This then explains another of Sun Tsu’s quotes: the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. This is highly relevant to modern warriors – truer now than ever before.
Opportunities Multiply As They Are Seized
If you wanted an example of how The Art of War can directly apply to business then this is it. How much more perfectly could you want this to describe the process of making investments? You have to spend to accumulate!
Remember how Arnie chose bodybuilding as a path and a springboard to greater success? You can similarly choose wisely in order to yield incredible results from simple starting points.
Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.
This is an obvious one that rams home the importance of both researching the market, and looking at your own feedback in order to ensure you are best prepared to take on the competition. In case you thought Sun Tsu only glosses over obvious points though he goes on to expand: When you are ignorant of the enemy, but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant of both your enemy and yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.
Outside of the office, we have already discussed how knowing yourself will allow you to form your own rules and your own goals and objectives.
The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of, the kingdom.
This is the kind of employee you want – keep an eye on those who bring too much ego to the workplace. This is the kind of employee you need to be. And this perfectly echoes Seneca’s views on living with less earlier on.
Remember, in this case you are not serving your country or sovereign but the higher purpose and values that you chose for yourself.
Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
Planning is everything. Before you bring your product or service to market your success or failure is a foregone conclusion – so make sure you’ve tested the waters and researched thoroughly.
And again this speaks to the calm and calculated nature of the warrior – the warrior does not rush in headlong, despite their control over their fear.
Lessons From The Prince
Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.
This is particularly important to note if you run a large organization and are in danger of resting on your laurels. Be thinking one step ahead at all times if you want to avoid the same fate as Kodak.
This echoes the sentiments we discussed earlier too, about being willing to change your principles and adapt where necessary. But this should come from within, not from without.
Men ought to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot.
‘Crushing’ your opponents and employees may not be encouraged in ethical business (interestingly Sun Tsu is actually much more pacifist than Machiavelli) but the point is still valid – don’t make enemies then give them time to lick their wounds.
As far as possible, the warrior should avoid combat and confrontation. They should seek to please everyone and find the most mutually beneficial outcome.
However, if you do decide to engage in competition or combat, then you must act with finality.
The wise man does at once what the fool does finally.
I.e. Time is money and indecision is a recipe for failure.
Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.
This is far more literal than you might think. Opening a tin of beans easily: challenge or opportunity? This is similar to the ideas we discussed earlier about seeing challenge as a chance for growth. And how crazy is it to think that Machiavelli might have had such relevant and useful advice for modern entrepreneurs.
Yet more proof that the warrior mindset is timeless and just as important today as ever before. Anything can be approached as a warrior.
I highly recommend reading these books as part of your evolution and your journey to becoming the best version of yourself. They belong on every warrior’s reading list.
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