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Made You Think

Feb 13, 2023

“The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.”

Welcome back to another episode of Made You Think! In this episode, we're covering The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Though it's nearly 2,500 years old, the military tactics and war strategies presented in the book are still being taught in militaries and business schools around the world making this a timeless strategy guide.

We cover a wide range of topics including:

  • How perfecting the basics can earn you the win
  • Strategies for being the superior or inferior force
  • The five essentials for victory
  • Using deception on your enemy
  • When you should use an indirect approach or avoid conflict

And much more. Please enjoy, and make sure to follow NatNeil, and Adil on Twitter and share your thoughts on the episode.

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(4:02) Today, we are diving back in to our Great Book Series with The Art of War, a book on military strategy and warfare, but the lessons can be applied to fields outside of war, too.

(7:36) The book is approximately 2,500 years old. Though Sun Tzu is credited as the author, it's unclear how much of it was his direct writing vs. a compilation of his strategies that are attributed to him.

(13:43) One main takeaway from the book is that it really all comes down to the basics and the intuition you get from your experience. 

(17:48) The commentary in the book suggests that the book wasn’t written for a military audience, but rather for the King at the time. It may not dive into the actual act of fighting, training, and equipping a military, but it does cover leadership, deception, and strategization.

(22:12) "To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself."

The enemy can present you the opportunity to win by making a mistake. This can apply in areas outside of war, such as sports.

(28:09) Much of the book talks about avoiding war and taking an indirect approach. You can’t change someone’s mind with a direct approach, but you can apply other tactics and more indirect measures to convince someone or change their minds. 

(32:47) Nat, Neil, and Adil go over the 5 essentials for victory as well as the importance of the commander’s intent.

(35:02) Superior vs. inferior forces and knowing how to handle them. You can turn a superior force into an inferior force by splitting them up and spreading them thin.

(38:51) When attacking a weaker force, never corner them. Leaving the enemy an escape lets the less motivated soldiers to leave through the escape route rather than fighting it out.

(40:41) The 9 grounds - The book lays out strategies for each of the types of ground. They are helpful for the generals to have a list of possible next steps depending on the situation at hand.

(44:57) The basics may appear so simple and common sense, but it’s all about which side can do the basics correctly. By remembering the basics, we aren't forced to try to do too much which is when we end up making an error allowing the other side to capitalize on it.

(51:54) Once you have expertise in something, you often notice things that others with just basic knowledge wouldn’t. We talk about why it can also be harder to teach a beginner when you're an expert.

(57:28) Rapid fire: Nat, Neil, and Adil cover a few of their remaining notes from the book including the 5 dangerous faults that may affect a general. 

(1:09:23) The basics of war can be combined and recombined. It's similar to playing cards where two people may play the same hand completely differently and apply different strategies.

(1:10:28) That concludes this episode! Up next, we will be reading Where Is My Flying Car? by J. Storrs Hall. Make sure to pick up a copy if you want to read along with us!

If you enjoyed this episode, let us know by leaving a review on iTunes and tell a friend. As always, let us know if you have any book recommendations! You can say hi to us on Twitter @TheRealNeilS@adilmajid@nateliason and share your thoughts on this episode.

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Thanks for listening. See you next time!