Below are my study notes on ways we can apply his wisdom to our business and everyday life. Instead of taking the word battle literally, see it as developing new habits, setting new goals.
If you have read the book, I would love to hear your takeaways. If you haven't had the time to read the book, you can listen to the overview and summary at Two Minute Books .
I. Laying Plans
Be prepared via planning.
Simply put, this is the competitive analysis business owners prefer to ignore. In most scenarios, business owners' ego gets in the way, which led to "no product is better than my product." In reality, any potential customers who aren't a customer are relying on your competitor's solution.
At times, we should take the wild ride by doing something spontaneously. But being fully prepared contributes to many benefits, such as eliminating stress, unnecessary spending, disappointment, and more. When dealing with unpleasant situations, such a mindset will remind you to think carefully before engaging.
The Fool lays out all cards and dives into the battle blindly, or when it is better just to walk away from it.
The Wise makes the opponent blind to your true state because when they cannot gauge your strengths and weaknesses, it's more difficult for them to succeed in battle.
II. Waging War
Use your resources wisely, not recklessly.
When planned wisely, business owners can easily avoid burning out employees. You can identify employers who would likely torment your mental health, and in most cases, your time away from your family, based on the job description. You can refer to the Tips for Job Seekers article for some of the red flags to look out for.
Unless you encounter an unfortunate hardship, being broke is a choice. You can choose to invest and save more or indulge in instant gratification by spending your paycheck on things that do not benefit you in the long run.
Personally, I feel this also has to do with self-care, self-love. It is important to know our limits and avoid allowing others to drain your energy (an intangible resource) and mental health (another intangible resource).
III. Attack by Stratagem
Handle every situation strategically and know your limits.
In this chapter, Sun Tzu advised us with some direct strategies on how to attack based on your current workforce. Examples: when forces outnumber the enemy, surround them. If it's five to one, attack. If it's even, head-on one on one. If outnumbered, either hide and wait for the right time or leave. In the workplace, the "enemy" is like the projects we plan to accomplish. When expecting one employee to perform three people's job is like having one person fight against 3. The results of such a tactic are foreseeable.
One of the critical points Sun Tzu mentioned is the need for a general who can make his/her decisions without political leaders interfering without expertise. Simply put, this is all about trust. Trust the talents you hired. Such a mindset aligns with one of the valuable words of wisdom from Sir Richard Branson:
Knowing my limits, to me, is about 1) setting realistic goals and 2) be selective about your surrounding and the quality of life. The first step in achieving any goal is to establish new habits that align with it. For example, if my goal is to complete an online course, the key habits required are discipline and time management.
Like any diet, we identify foods that we prefer to avoid for our benefit; I apply such a mindset to all external resources that might potentially harm my inner peace (or mental health). These resources could come from news, friends, colleagues, or unexpected situations. The key is to know when to walk away rather than allowing.
Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
IV. Tactical Dispositions
A skillful general seeks victory, not battle. Understand the clear distinction between defense and offense.
The consummate leader cultivates the moral law--competent, ethical, and trustworthy--and others (your staff and teammates) will battle for you.
To attack, you become vulnerable, but to defend is to become invulnerable.
Quick and decisive attacks, although some fights may never take place on a battlefield if fought correctly.
Hence the importance of being a lifelong learner. Learning does not stop the day you have your diploma in your hand.
The universe works on this principle of balance--while we have summers, we also have winters. When there is a winner, there is also a loser. To experience positive, one must undergo the negatives too. Therefore, embrace every situation you encounter, favorable or unfavorable, is the key to master your life.
Pick your battle and know when to walk away. Each of us possesses the masculine (aggression) and feminine (intuition, passivity) energies. When relying mainly on masculine energy, one becomes vulnerable. In today's digital world, people can get callous on social media rather than acknowledge our differences respectfully.
Is it worth to push your opinion on others and get all worked up (to attack)?
V. Use of Energy
Allocate your resources (skills), so they can serve their purpose.
Know when and how to delegate. I am dumbfounded when I hear businesses still micromanaging people.
"There are not more than five primary colors, yet in combination, they produce more hues than can ever be seen."
The wisdom behind this analogy is to know how to utilize people. Do not expect a bird to swim nor a fish to fly. All of us feel empowered and encouraged when we are showcasing our strength and talents.
Be flexible in methods, but not in results. We cannot avoid or control unexpected circumstances. However, we can be flexible while on the journey knowing the end goal remains the same. "In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity." Don't quit just because one method does not work out. It is highly likely such failure is your key to open the door to a better opportunity.
I used to get extremely discouraged when facing rejections. The day I learned to embrace them with the belief that the universe has my best interest and only good comes to me; thus, each rejection is actually to my benefit, for what is not mine under divine right shall exit my path peacefully. I became grateful for each rejection, and the funny thing is, rejections became less and less. I soon found myself in the position of rejecting offers I did not feel was best for me.
VI. Weak Points and Strong
Understand your weak points and their triggers, as well as the opponents.
Know your teammate's strengths and weaknesses. I once worked with a web developer who is brilliant at setting up content on the backend. However, being detail-oriented wasn't his forte. Instead of criticizing his errors, I highlighted the parts that required edits and presented as a team effort. Moving forward, we work well together because I know I can always count on him for last-minute requests, and he doesn't mind taking on them because he knows he can count on me as a TEAM to present perfect results that relied on both of our talents.
Know the price you must pay in order to achieve a new challenge. Know your weakness and your strength. James Allen, a British Philosophical writer, once said, "He who would accomplish little need sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much. He who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly."
When I set my mind to allocate more time to self-development, I would surround myself with people who share the same goal and stay away from the ones who want to spend their free time partying.
Be clear with the balance between pushing yourself (or your team) to gain an advantage and when pushed too far.
Both Glassdoor and Indeed allow employees to provide candid reviews, and often you would see resentment from both current and former employees. Those superiors who think they are entitled to mistreat their employees are the biggest fools. There is no winner when one abuses the authority. Instead, please get to know their skillsets and personality, background, hobbies, and discover their hidden talents.
This chapter reminds me of the importance of establishing your boundary and limits. When my son was younger, and as a single parent raising him alone while working full-time, I would often feel drained, emotionally, and physically. This real-life experience taught me to prioritize, as I couldn't do it all. Prioritization was not just on everyday tasks but on people as well. If you have a list of people who often drains your spirit and energy, let them go.