AoW: Ch 2. Waging War

Sun Tzu spends an entire chapter on the dangers of waging a prolonged war, due to the cost of each day of war weakening the State.

My biggest takeaway from this chapter is the following paragraph.

2. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardour will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. 3. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. 4. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardour damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue. 

5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays. 6. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. 7. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on. 8. The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply-waggons loaded more than twice.

My translation of his warning is this:

When developing your strategy, take care to get the best possible estimation of the total financial costs and other strains on resources that will start to accumulate over time.

The longer is the victory in coming, the more likely that the resources needed to carry on will become too exhausted, or that your enthusiasm will diminish. Once your resources are depleted and your enthusiasm is diminished, others who might be looking for an opportunity to take YOU down will see a convenient timing to do so. No matter how good is the initial plan, if it takes too long to achieve the goal, you may run out of strength for it, and jeopardize your position in other fields as well.

Therefore, although hurried decision-making is never a good idea, long delays are even more dangerous to the overall success. Skillful strategists make proper plans on short-term victories to replenish their resources, but also make a proper outlay of needed finances ahead of time. Plan to find ways to start making money and replenishing other resources on intermediate achievements, so that your activity is self-sustaining

Questions to consider when designing a strategy:

  • What kind of resources will be needed to accomplish my goal?
  • How can these resources be depleted?
  • How quickly can they be depleted?
  • Can I accomplish what is needed without running out of resources? How?
  • Can I sustain my passion and my team’s passion for a prolonged period of time? How?

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