AoW: Ch. 13 – The use of spies

Sun Tzu quotes

I am continuing with my interpretation of the book. Everything in italic is a direct quote from the book.

2. Hostile armies may face each other for years, striving for the victory which is decided in a single day. This being so, to remain in ignorance of the enemy’s condition simply because one grudges the outlay of a hundred ounces of silver in honours and emoluments, is the height of inhumanity. 3. One who acts thus is no leader of men, no present help to his sovereign, no master of victory. 4. Thus, what enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge. 5. Now this foreknowledge cannot be elicited from spirits; it cannot be obtained inductively from experience, nor by any deductive calculation. 6. Knowledge of the enemy’s dispositions can only be obtained from other men. 7. Hence the use of spies, of whom there are five classes: (1) Local spies; (2) inward spies; (3) converted spies; (4) doomed spies; (5) surviving spies.

What allows the wise strategist to secure victory beyond that of an ordinary leader is the ability to find ways to obtain foreknowledge of the opponent’s plans and intentions. This foreknowledge cannot be obtained through intuition, experience, or calculation. It can be deduced by through logic. Knowledge of someone’s plans can be obtained only from someone with direct information about them. Therefore one of the most important part of understanding of your opponent’s conditions is the use of informants. There are 5 types of informants: 1) locals; 2) integrated informants; 3) flipped informants; 4) “misdirected” informants; 5) skilled informants

8. When these five kinds of spy are all at work, none can discover the secret system. This is called “divine manipulation of the threads”. It is the sovereign’s most precious faculty. 9. Having local spies means employing the services of the inhabitants of a district. 10. Having inward spies, making use of officials of the enemy. 11. Having converted spies, getting hold of the enemy’s spies and using them for our own purposes. 12. Having doomed spies, doing certain things openly for purposes of deception, and allowing our own spies to know of them and report them to the enemy. 13. Surviving spies, finally, are those who bring back news from the enemy’s camp.

If you can manage to use all five types of informants at once, no one will be able to understand your method of obtaining information. This is called “pulling on invisible strings,” and it is one of the most important jobs of the strategist.

  • Locals means someone who lives, works, or goes to the same places as your opponent
  • Integrated informants are those who are a part of the management or leadership of the opposing company
  • Flipped informants are those who initially were controlled by your opponent, but are now under your control
  • Misdirected informants are those whom you give false or misleading information that they can relay to your opponent, misdirecting his attention or actions as a result
  • Skilled informants are those that managed to get a hold of valuable and timely information and bring it back to you.

14. Hence it is that with none in the whole army are more intimate relations to be maintained than with spies. None should be more liberally rewarded. In no other business should greater secrecy be preserved. 15. Spies cannot be usefully employed without a certain intuitive sagacity. 16. They cannot be properly managed without benevolence and straightforwardness. 17. Without subtle ingenuity of mind, one cannot make certain of the truth of their reports. 18. Be subtle! be subtle! and use your spies for every kind of business. 19. If a secret piece of news is divulged by a spy before the time is ripe, he must be put to death together with the man to whom the secret was told.

20. Whether the object be to crush an army, to storm a city, or to assassinate an individual, it is always necessary to begin by finding out the names of the attendants, the aides-de-camp, the door-keepers and sentries of the general in command. Our spies must be commissioned to ascertain these. 21. The enemy’s spies who have come to spy on us must be sought out, tempted with bribes, led away and comfortably housed. Thus they will become converted spies and available for our service. 22. It is through the information brought by the converted spy that we are able to acquire and employ local and inward spies. 23. It is owing to his information, again, that we can cause the doomed spy to carry false tidings to the enemy. 24. Lastly, it is by his information that the surviving spy can be used on appointed occasions.

The strategist is recommended to have closer relationship with informants than with anyone else, reward them more liberally than anyone else, and deal with them more secretly than with anyone else. They need to be managed with compassion and frankness, but with great caution. Doubt everything they say and verify it. Delicacy is the main approach.

Use informants in every aspect of the business. And be very aware of the possibility of informants being within your organization, as well. Whether trying to take over a territory, break up alliances, or to maneuver against an individual, always start with finding out who are the closest people to that person, whom do they work with, play with, who has access to information about them and their plans? First, find that info from skilled informants. If the informants from the opposing organization become known, be kind to them and tempt them to serve you, instead. If they agree, give them a generous reward. That is how they become flipped informants. Through the information provided by flipped informants you can identify local informants and integrated informants, give more research assignments to the skilled informants, as well as craft the misdirection campaign that would be carried to the opponent by the misdirected informants.

25. The end and aim of spying in all its five varieties is knowledge of the enemy; and this knowledge can only be derived, in the first instance, from the converted spy. Hence it is essential that the converted spy be treated with the utmost liberality. 26. Of old, the rise of the Yin dynasty was due to I Chih who had served under the Hsia. Likewise, the rise of the Chou dynasty was due to Lü Ya who had served under the Yin. 27. Hence it is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results. Spies are a most important element in war, because on them depends an army’s ability to move

The main goal of the opponent is to obtained detailed knowledge of the opponent. This knowledge can only be obtained through a flipped informant, therefore, flipped informants need to be treated most generously. Informants are the most important element in the strategy. The ability to make successful decisions about moving or staying should be coming from the information they provide.

AoW: Ch.12- Attack by fire

Sun Tzu quotes

I  am continuing with my interpretation of the book. Everything in italic is a direct quote from the book.

16. Hence the saying: The enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources. 17. Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical. 18. No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique. 19. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are. 20. Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. 21. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life. 22. Hence the enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution. This is the way to keep a country at peace and an army intact.

A clear-headed leader plans well ahead and gathers resources. Do not move unless there is a strong advantage to be gained. Do not put your team into danger unless there is something significant they can bring back from the confrontation. Do not enter into a confrontation unless the position you are gaining or defending is critical to the plan.  Never put your teams or allies in a difficult situation because of personal pride or grievances. Ask yourself whether there is an advantage to the forward move. If there is no clear advantage, stay where you are. Your moods and grievances may pass, but a destroyed territory cannot be brought back, and lost teams and allies cannot be easily replenished. A clear-headed leader is prudent, attentive, and cautious. His priority is to keep his current position safe and his resources intact.

AoW: Ch.11 – The nine situation

Sun Tzu quotes

I am continuing with my interpretation of the book. Everything in italic is a direct quote from the book.

1. Sun Tzu said: The art of war recognizes nine varieties of ground: (1) Dispersive ground; (2) facile ground; (3) contentious ground; (4) open ground; (5) ground of intersecting highways; (6) serious ground; (7) difficult ground; (8) hemmed-in ground; (9) desperate ground.

2. When a chieftain is fighting in his own territory, it is dispersive ground. 3. When he has penetrated into hostile territory, but to no great distance, it is facile ground. 4. Ground the possession of which imports great advantage to either side, is contentious ground. 5. Ground on which each side has liberty of movement is open ground. 6. Ground which forms the key to three contiguous states, so that he who occupies it first has most of the Empire at his command, is a ground of intersecting highways. 7. When an army has penetrated into the heart of a hostile country, leaving a number of fortified cities in its rear, it is serious ground. 8. Mountain forests, rugged steeps, marshes and fens — all country that is hard to traverse: this is difficult ground. 9. Ground which is reached through narrow gorges, and from which we can only retire by tortuous paths, so that a small number of the enemy would suffice to crush a large body of our men: this is hemmed in ground. 10. Ground on which we can only be saved from destruction by fighting without delay, is desperate ground.

In any competition or any mission, there are 9 types of environments: 1) home base dispersive); 2) threshold territory (facile); 3) disputed territory (contentious); 4) neutral territory (open); 5) control junction (intersecting highways)s; 6) the lion’s den territory (serious); 7) grueling environments (difficult); 8) narrowest-path environment (hemmed-in); 9) cornered situations (desperate)

  • When we are in our comfort zone, it is a home base;
  • When we make a few incursions into the opponents’ territory with an easy retreat to home base available, that is a threshold territory;
  • A territory or a situation that both sides desire in order to have an advantage it is a disputed ground
  • Environment in which either side could maneuver without coming into a direct conflict is a neutral ground
  • A situation where several different governance domains interconnect is a control junction. Whoever controls this environment is the dominant force and controls vast resources against his opponent
  • When we have breached into the heart of the opponent’s home territory, with no backup in resources and no easy retreat to home base, that is the lion’s den territory
  • When we have to burn through lots of time, energy, and resources just to make slow but steady progress toward the goal, that is grueling environment
  • When the only way to reach some target or to make an exit is through some high-risk bets with significant possibility of being easily pushed into a corner with no clear solution, that is a narrowest-path environment
  • Whenever we are confronted with the situation when the only way out of a sure-loss corner is through knife-fight type of confrontation, that is a cornered environment

11. On dispersive ground, therefore, fight not. On facile ground, halt not. On contentious ground, attack not. 12. On open ground, do not try to block the enemy’s way. On the ground of intersecting highways, join hands with your allies. 13. On serious ground, gather in plunder. In difficult ground, keep steadily on the march. 14. On hemmed-in ground, resort to stratagem. On desperate ground, fight.

Do not engage the opponent from your home base. In the threshold territory, do not feel at leisure, do not set up camp; in the disputed territory, do not attack directly. In the neutral ground, avoid getting in their way. In the control junction, try to join forces with your allies. In the lion’s den look to take possession of all the available resources that the situation offers. In the grueling environment, do not retreat, keep a steady pace, do not let your spirits down. In the narrowest-path environment, use strategies to avoid being cornered. In the cornered situation, fight with all the resources you have.

15. Those who were called skillful leaders of old knew how to drive a wedge between the enemy’s front and rear; to prevent cooperation between his large and small divisions; to hinder the good troops from rescuing the bad, the officers from rallying their men. 16. When the enemy’s men were scattered, they prevented them from concentrating; even when their forces were united, they managed to keep them in disorder. 17. When it was to their advantage, they made a forward move; when otherwise, they stopped still.

A skillful strategist knows how to drive the wedge between the members of the opposition, between their rank members and leadership, and between their allies. He will know how to prevent cooperation between allies, and how to prevent one project from rescuing another. When the opponent’s resources are scattered, he knows how to prevent them from being concentrated; if their teams or allies are united, he knows how to saw confusion and separate them. When the situation to his advantage, he makes a move. When it is not, he is holding his ground.

18. If asked how to cope with a great host of the enemy in orderly array and on the point of marching to the attack, I should say: “Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will.” 19. Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy’s unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots.

If you are in a situation, where you are faced with the most formidable opponent who is about to make a move that will devastate your position, begin your response by seizing something that you opponent hold very dear. After that, he will follow the movement of your hand like the orchestra follows the conductor. Speed is the essence of success in a confrontation. Take advantage of those parts of your opponent’s plan that lack coordination and readiness for action. Approach him from unexpected directions, looking for unguarded moments to take advantage of.

20. The following are the principles to be observed by an invading force: The further you penetrate into a country, the greater will be the solidarity of your troops, and thus the defenders will not prevail against you. 21. Make forays in fertile country in order to supply your army with food. 22. Carefully study the well-being of your men, and do not overtax them. Concentrate your energy and hoard your strength. Keep your army continually on the move, and devise unfathomable plans. 23. Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve. Officers and men alike will put forth their uttermost strength. 24. Soldiers when in desperate straits lose the sense of fear. If there is no place of refuge, they will stand firm. If they are in hostile country, they will show a stubborn front. If there is no help for it, they will fight hard.

If you are trying to penetrate or to attack, observe the following principles:

  1. The further you penetrate into a hostile territory, the greater will be your team solidarity, making it more difficult for the defending force to wear them out
  2. Find fertile opportunities in the hostile ground, and make regular efforts to transfer some of those opportunities into your own resources
  3. Take regular measurements of the morale of your teams or allies. Do not overtax them with unnecessary expenditures or confrontations. Preserve your energy and strength. Do not set roots or weight yourself down with unnecessary luxuries, be constantly on the move from one target to the next, each time striking from a surprise angle. Keep your plans of the next move completely obscure from everyone.
  4. Put your team in do-or-die situations, and they will find a creative way to break through. Whenever the situation is completely hopeless, they will rise up to unprecedented resistance to pressure. Both the management and the lower ranks will come together to break through the strongest headwinds
  5. When people feel desperate, they become fearless. If there is no safety to retreat to, they can’t be tempted to retreat. When faced with hostility, their own hostile spirit will become stubborn and grow strong. If there is no relief or help in sight, they will find their own resources to achieve their goal.

25. Thus, without waiting to be marshaled, the soldiers will be constantly on the qui vive; without waiting to be asked, they will do your will; without restrictions, they will be faithful; without giving orders, they can be trusted. 26. Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts. Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be feared.

This is how you make your teams or allies alert and ready without having to remind them, ready to execute your plan without the need for much convincing, faithful without conditions, reliable without having to manage them. If you also manage to keep them from believing in superstitions and bad omens, they will stand firm in every confrontation.

27. If our soldiers are not overburdened with money, it is not because they have a distaste for riches; if their lives are not unduly long, it is not because they are disinclined to longevity. 28. On the day they are ordered out to battle, your soldiers may weep, those sitting up bedewing their garments, and those lying down letting the tears run down their cheeks. But let them once be brought to bay, and they will display the courage of a Chu or a Kuei.

If your team or your allies do not have many resources, it is not because they have a distaste for resources; if they do not stay on your team very long, it is not because they enjoy changing teams or jobs. On the day when the upcoming confrontation looms over your daily routine, you will see many of your team members or allies’ confidence shaken, spirits low, and fearful projections being passed around abundant. Do not worry. The moment the real confrontation is in front of them, their stubborn resistance to hostility will leap forward in front of their fears. 

29. The skillful tactician may be likened to the shuaijan. Now the shuaijan is a snake that is found in the Ch’ang mountains. Strike at its head, and you will be attacked by its tail; strike at its tail, and you will be attacked by its head; strike at its middle, and you will be attacked by head and tail both.

The skillful strategist should be like the legendary shuajuan snake that is rumored to live in the Chinese mountains. If you try to attack its head, it will spear you with its tail. If you try to attack it’s tail, it will tear into you with it’s head. If you try to attack it in the middle, both the tail and the head will be ready to repel your attack. Train to imitate shuajuan strategy.

32. The principle on which to manage an army is to set up one standard of courage which all must reach. 33. How to make the best of both strong and weak — that is a question involving the proper use of ground. 34. Thus the skillful general conducts his army just as though he were leading a single man, willy-nilly, by the hand.

Manage the spirit of your team by setting up a single standard of courage, which all, both managers and foot-soldiers of your team much demonstrate. However, some members of your team will be weak and some will be strong. Some elements of your environment will be a strength for you, and some might be a weakness. How to make the best use of both strong and weak elements should be dictated by the conditions on the ground. Lead your entire team or organization as you would guide a blind person, gently toward your goal.

47. On contentious ground, I would hurry up my rear. 48. On open ground, I would keep a vigilant eye on my defences. On ground of intersecting highways, I would consolidate my alliances. 49. On serious ground, I would try to ensure a continuous stream of supplies. On difficult ground, I would keep pushing on along the road. 50. On hemmed-in ground, I would block any way of retreat. On desperate ground, I would proclaim to my soldiers the hopelessness of saving their lives. 51. For it is the soldier’s disposition to offer an obstinate resistance when surrounded, to fight hard when he cannot help himself, and to obey promptly when he has fallen into danger.

  • On the disputed territory, make sure your team does not get separated. Keep your supplies and allies close to you.
  • In the neutral territory, keep a keen eye on your defenses against a sudden attack.
  • In the control junctions, consolidate your allies, make them join as one unit.
  • In the lion’s den, ensure a continuous flow of resources. 
  • In grueling environments, keep close to the beaten path not to get too delayed.
  • In the narrowest-path environment I would make sure any retreat options appear to be blocked to my team.
  • In the cornered situation, I would announce that our positions are without any hope of escaping a complete annihilation. It is people’s natural instinct to turn entirely ruthless and obstinate when their hopes of escape are blocked. When faced with the destruction of their dreams, they obey without hesitation.

35. It is the business of a general to be quiet and thus ensure secrecy; upright and just, and thus maintain order. 36. He must be able to mystify his officers and men by false reports and appearances, and thus keep them in total ignorance. 37. By altering his arrangements and changing his plans, he keeps the enemy without definite knowledge. By shifting his camp and taking circuitous routes, he prevents the enemy from anticipating his purpose. 38. At the critical moment, the leader of an army acts like one who has climbed up a height and then kicks away the ladder behind him. He carries his men deep into hostile territory before he shows his hand. 39. He burns his boats and breaks his cooking-pots; like a shepherd driving a flock of sheep, he drives his men this way and that, and nothing knows whither he is going. 40. To muster his host and bring it into danger: — this may be termed the business of the general

The leader should be so reserved, that secrecy for all his plans and calculations is ensured. He must be so disciplined, as to instill immediate order. He must mystify his followers and his critics by maintaining misleading appearances in everything. He must be able to constantly change directions and routines, no one will know exact knowledge of the organization to manipulate it, but him. By constantly misleading goals he will prevent his competition from knowing the true ones. When a critical confrontation is necessary, he makes his team think that all options of retreating in safety are closed to them. He uses stealth to bring his team as close to the doors of the lion’s den as possible before their presence becomes known to the opponent. In order to take the castle, he burns the boats and takes away their common routines. Like the guide of a blind man, he takes his team by the hand, and only he has any knowledge, where he is leading them. To be in full control of his team before he bring them to face a decisive confrontation – that is the obligation of the leader.

41. The different measures suited to the nine varieties of ground; the expediency of aggressive or defensive tactics; and the fundamental laws of human nature: these are things that must most certainly be studied.

Define your plans for all nine situations, taking into account the needed and urgency of the defensive and offensive movements, and the fundamental laws of human behavior. Study those in order to be successful in your plans.

42. When invading hostile territory, the general principle is, that penetrating deeply brings cohesion; penetrating but a short way means dispersion…. 46. Therefore, on dispersive ground, I would inspire my men with unity of purpose. On facile ground, I would see that there is close connection between all parts of my army.

When penetrating into a hostile situation, the general principle is that the deeper into the hostile territory you get, the more cohesive is the team. Being close to safety will allow your team to lose cohesiveness.  Therefore, when in my own home base, inspire your team with the unity of purpose. In the threshold territory, ensure a need for close collaboration between all parts of the team or organization.

54. When a warlike prince attacks a powerful state, his generalship shows itself in preventing the concentration of the enemy’s forces. He overawes his opponents, and their allies are prevented from joining against him. 55. Hence he does not strive to ally himself with all and sundry, nor does he foster the power of other states. He carries out his own secret designs, keeping his antagonists in awe. Thus he is able to capture their cities and overthrow their kingdoms. 56. Bestow rewards without regard to rule, issue orders without regard to previous arrangements; and you will be able to handle a whole army as though you had to do with but a single man. 57. Confront your soldiers with the deed itself; never let them know your design. When the outlook is bright, bring it before their eyes; but tell them nothing when the situation is gloomy.

When a strategic leader attacks a powerful opponent, his mastery is shown in his ability to prevent opposing allies from joining forces. He keeps his opposition in constant awe and confusion, preventing them from forming a strategy for a joined attack. He is not in a hurry to make alliances with everyone and everything. His plans and goals are never clear to anyone but himself. With sudden incursions, he is able to catch them off-guard and take control over their resources, their ground, and their allies.

Reward your followers and allies without regard for hierarchy. Change your orders without regard for previous plans. If you do so successfully, you can command your team and your allies like a guide that is commanding a blind person to go wherever he wants to. Your team should find out about your moves after the fact. Do not let your team or allies know your real plans in advance. If the prospects of success are good, advertise those prospects. If the situation looks worrysome, make sure they do not obtain knowledge of it.

58. Place your army in deadly peril, and it will survive; plunge it into desperate straits, and it will come off in safety. 59. For it is precisely when a force has fallen into harm’s way that is capable of striking a blow for victory.

Place your team and allies in serious financial trouble, and they will overcome all difficulties and find a safe passage back. Usually, the team does not strike a decisive blow to the opponent until it is fallen into despair and hardship.

60. Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating ourselves to the enemy’s purpose. 61. By persistently hanging on the enemy’s flank, we shall succeed in the long run in killing the commander-in-chief. 62. This is called ability to accomplish a thing by sheer cunning.

63. On the day that you take up your command, block the frontier passes, destroy the official tallies, and stop the passage of all emissaries. 64. Be stern in the council-chamber, so that you may control the situation.

65. If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush in. 66. Forestall your opponent by seizing what he holds dear, and subtly contrive to time his arrival on the ground. 67. Walk in the path defined by rule, and accommodate yourself to the enemy until you can fight a decisive battle. 68. At first, then, exhibit the coyness of a maiden, until the enemy gives you an opening; afterwards emulate the rapidity of a running hare, and it will be too late for the enemy to oppose you.

Success is conflict is obtained by carefully watching opposition and appearing to conform to its every wish, so he thinks that he controls the situation. But follow it constantly wherever it goes, so that the opportunity to eliminate its chief strategist would not be missed, if it occurs. This is called the ability to cease the goal through smart cunning.

The moment the smart strategist is placed in charge, he should block all unofficial communication between his team and the opponents’ team, prevent all official exchange of information. During strategy meetings, be so stern and strong in your opinions as to take control of the direction of the campaign.

 Be mindful that the opponent may provide an unexpected opening at the least expected time or angle, so be always prepared to take advantage. By ceasing something that he holds dear, you can force him into the battle at the time and place of your choice, rather than his. Obey by established rules as long as there is no critical advantage to be gained by breaking them. Accommodate yourself to the convenience of your opponent until such time when a decisive attack can be launched. During most of the campaign, be quiet but pleasant with him, like a shy girl. But once an opportunity arises, deliver your swift strike like a swoop of falcon capturing the prey. At that time, it will be too late for your opponent to start retreating.

AoW: Ch 10. Terrain

Sun Tzu Quotes

I am continuing with my interpretation of the book. Everything in italic is a direct quote from the book.

14. Now an army is exposed to six several calamities, not arising from natural causes, but from faults for which the general is responsible. These are: (1) Flight; (2) insubordination; (3) collapse; (4) ruin; (5) disorganization; (6) rout. 15. Other conditions being equal, if one force is hurled against another ten times its size, the result will be the flight of the former. 16. When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers too weak, the result is insubordination. When the officers are too strong and the common soldiers too weak, the result is collapse. 17. When the higher officers are angry and insubordinate, and on meeting the enemy give battle on their own account from a feeling of resentment, before the commander-in-chief can tell whether or not he is in a position to fight, the result is ruin. 18. When the general is weak and without authority; when his orders are not clear and distinct; when there are no fixed duties assigned to officers and men, and the ranks are formed in a slovenly haphazard manner, the result is utter disorganization. 19. When a general, unable to estimate the enemy’s strength, allows an inferior force to engage a larger one, or hurls a weak detachment against a powerful one, and neglects to place picked soldiers in the front rank, the result must be a rout. 20. These are six ways of courting defeat, which must be carefully noted by the general who has attained a responsible post.

The following 6 problems may affect the team not because of anything the opponent does, but because of the actions of the leader himself: 1) the team gives us the task and retreats from commitments; 2) lower ranking members of the team do not follow direction of the management; 3) collapse of the team due to loss of the of the lower-ranking members; 4) full ruin of the strategy due to loss of coordination between management; 5) disorganization; 6) revolt


1) With all other conditions being equal, if you put one force against another 10 times as strong, the first one will have no option but to give up and retreat, regardless of the orders from above. 2) When the lower ranking members of the team have much more real power than the managers, they will stop following the managers’ directions; 3) when the managers suppress the interests of the lower ranking team members, those will leave the team and the team will collapse; 4) when the managers are fighting among one another and ignore the strategic in favor of political, this will lead to ruin of the strategy all together; 5) when the leader does not have a clear authority, his directions are conflicting or value, and the teams do not know what goals to pursue or what is within their authority to do, this will lead to disorganization; 6) if the leader puts his team in a position of inevitable defeat or high risk due to poor planning and poor decision-making, the result will be revolt of the team members.

21. The natural formation of the country is the soldier’s best ally; but a power of estimating the adversary, of controlling the forces of victory, and of shrewdly calculating difficulties, dangers and distances, constitutes the test of a great general. 22. He who knows these things, and in fighting puts his knowledge into practice, will win his battles. He who knows them not, nor practices them, will surely be defeated.

The elements of the environment in which the strategist has to operate are his best allies. What separates a great strategist from everyone else is the ability to be able to correctly estimate risks and rewards, resistance and openings, necessary effort and possible obstacles, and to be able to use each of those to attain his goal. The strategist who knows these things and can apply them to day-to-day situation will get what it set out to get. The one who does not know them, or cannot apply them to day-to-day situations will never arrive at his goal.

23. If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must fight, even though the ruler forbid it; if fighting will not result in victory, then you must not fight even at the ruler’s bidding. 24. 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.

If you know for sure that your confrontation will help to reach strategic goals, then go into the confrontation, even if those who hired you tell you not to. If you know for sure that the confrontation will result in defeat to your team, then do not go into the confrontation, even if those who hired you told you to do so. The strategist who will be of most good to his clients or team or organization is the one who goes into a confrontation without eagerness for fame and admiration and retreats from an unfavorable situation without fear of failure and disgrace. Such strategist is the asset for the organization.

25. Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death. 26. If, however, you are indulgent, but unable to make your authority felt; kind-hearted, but unable to enforce your commands; and incapable, moreover, of quelling disorder: then your soldiers must be likened to spoilt children; they are useless for any practical purpose.

If you treat your employees or teammates like your own children, they will stay with you through high and low times. If, however, you start treating them indulgently and with soft-gloves, you will not be able to enforce your authority or prevent the disorder from destroying your strategy. In that case, your employees will not be useful to you in a serious confrontation.

27. If we know that our own men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware that the enemy is not open to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory. 28. If we know that the enemy is open to attack, but are unaware that our own men are not in a condition to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory. 29. If we know that the enemy is open to attack, and also know that our men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware that the nature of the ground makes fighting impracticable, we have still gone only halfway towards victory. 30. Hence the experienced soldier, once in motion, is never bewildered; once he has broken camp, he is never at a loss. 31. Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete

We are not ready to strike in any of the following situations:

  1. We do not know whether the opponent is prepared for the strike
  2. Whether our own team /alliance is prepared for the strike
  3. We are not sure whether the environment in which we will be operating is favorable to our success

An experienced success warrior should never be caught by surprise by the enemy, his own team, or the environment. Therefore, this is the rule that if you know your own strengths and weaknesses and those of your opponent, you will know what to do. If, in addition, you know the elements of Air and Earth, your success should be assured

AoW: Ch. 9 The army on the march

Sun Tzu quotes

I am continuing with my interpretation of the book. Everything in italic is a direct quote from the book.

41. He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them. 42. If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive; and, unless submissive, they will be practically useless. If, when the soldiers have become attached to you, punishments are not enforced, they will still be useless. 43. Therefore soldiers must be treated in the first instance with humanity, but kept under control by means of iron discipline. This is a certain road to victory. 44. If in training soldiers commands are habitually enforced, the army will be well-disciplined; if not, its discipline will be bad. 45. If a general shows confidence in his men but always insists on his orders being obeyed, the gain will be mutual.

Those who fail to plan, but instead think that the confrontation will be easy to win are sure to suffer a defeat.

If you come down on your teammates or allies before they have grown to admire you, they will hold a grudge and rebel against you. In that case, they will be of no use to your strategy. If your teammates or allies have grown to admire you but you fail to come down on them when they fail to deliver they will still be of no use for your strategy. At first, treat them with humility and consideration, yet with unwavering discipline. Then they will carry you through to success. If from the beginning of the relationship the orders of the leader are strictly enforced, the followers will be well disciplined when you need them most. If the leader shows confidence in his followers and allies but still insists on his directions being followed, he will be able to reap rewards from his disciplined approach. 

AoW: Ch. 8 Variations in tactics

Sun Tzu Quote

I am continuing with my interpretation of the book. Everything in italic is a direct quote from the book.

…where high roads intersect, join hands with your allies. Do not linger in dangerously isolated positions. In hemmed-in situations, you must resort to stratagem. In a desperate position, you must fight. 3. There are roads which must not be followed, armies which must not be attacked, towns which must not be besieged, positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed. 4. The general who thoroughly understands the advantages that accompany variation of tactics knows how to handle his troops. 5. The general who does not understand these, may be well acquainted with the configuration of the country, yet he will not be able to turn his knowledge to practical account. 6. So, the student of war who is unversed in the art of varying his plans, even though he be acquainted with the Five Advantages, will fail to make the best use of his men.

If you are in a situation where you are outside of your safety zone and without support from your allies or cut off from your resources, try to exit the situation quickly.  In situations where the environment is not friendly and you are being surrounded, immediately start to use strategies. When the attack is imminent, you must fight.

There are directions which you should not take, opportunities that should not be pursued, tempting territory that should not be attacked, opponents that should not be engaged, positions which should not be challenged,  and commands of your superiors that should not be obeyed.

The strategist who understands the advantages that he can obtain from different tactics will know how to best handle his team and allies. The strategist who does not understand them won’t be able to turn even favorable situations into practical victories.  The student of war who does not know how to properly change his plans will not be able to make the best use out of even the best team and the best allies.

8. Hence in the wise leader’s plans, considerations of advantage and of disadvantage will be blended together. 8. If our expectation of advantage be tempered in this way, we may succeed in accomplishing the essential part of our schemes. 9. If, on the other hand, in the midst of difficulties we are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune.

The wise strategists always considers his mix of advantages and disadvantages together. Knowledge of our advantages can blind us to the disadvantages, but if they are considered as a single combination, we may be able to accomplish the core of our goals after all. The strategist who can quickly grab on to an advantage in the midst of a very difficult situation might be able to extricate himself from the difficult position.

10. Reduce the hostile chiefs by inflicting damage on them; make trouble for them, and keep them constantly engaged; hold out specious allurements, and make them rush to any given point. 11. The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.

12. There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general: (1)Recklessness, which leads to destruction; (2)cowardice, which leads to capture; (3)a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults; (4)a delicacy of honour which is sensitive to shame; (5) over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble. 13. These are the five besetting sins of a general, ruinous to the conduct of war.

When superior forces are hostile to you, inflict damage on them by making trouble and keeping them constantly engaged, hold out baits for them and make them rush toward some distant points. The art of war teaches us not to rely on the opponent not attacking us, but on our readiness to rebuff him, on making our positions so strong, he cannot attack them easily.

There are 5 dangerous traits of a leader that may diminish his effectiveness: 1) recklessness, which leads to defeat; 2) timidity which leads to surrender of positions; 3) hot temper which can be easily provoked to make poor decisions; 4) sensitivity to opinions of others, which can be used to control him; 5) too much compassion and consideration for team members and allies, which could keep him worried, uncertain, and anxious. These 5 traits can bring defeat to the campaign.

AoW: Ch. 7 Maneuvering

sun tzu quote

I am continuing with my interpretation of the book. Everything in italic is a direct quote from the book.

2. Having collected an army and concentrated his forces, he must blend and harmonise the different elements thereof before pitching his camp. 3. After that, comes tactical manoeuvring, than which there is nothing more difficult. The difficulty of tactical manoeuvring consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain. 4. Thus, to take a long and circuitous route, after enticing the enemy out of the way, and though starting after him, to contrive to reach the goal before him, shows knowledge of the artifice of deviation. 5. Manoeuvring with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous.

Once the strategist sets his eyes on a challenge, he must gather together the available resources and inspect them. After that, he needs to start to blend and weight different elements before deciding what to make a starting point of the campaign. After that comes designs of tactical maneuvering, which is the most challenging part of the planning. The difficulty of the tactical maneuvers is to turn your disadvantages to your strengths, the indirect into direct, to entice the opponents out of their way into your chosen battlefield, and, if starting being the last, to come being the first to capture the goal.  Maneuvering with a well-organized team is to your benefit; maneuvering with a poorly organized team is to your detriment.

6. If you set a fully equipped army in march in order to snatch an advantage, the chances are that you will be too late. On the other hand, to detach a flying column for the purpose involves the sacrifice of its baggage and stores.

Do not move your entire organization or team in order to obtain some advantage. They will be too slow and arrive too late to take advantage of the situation. Instead, send a small mobile unit first, and they will more likely to make good use of the opportunity.

12. We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbours. 13. We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country — its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps. 14. We shall be unable to turn natural advantage to account unless we make use of local guides.

We should not attempt to try to gain an ally until we know very well the ally’s secret plans and desires for the future. We are also not ready to start our campaign until we are very familiar with the lay of the land, the easy and the dangerous areas, and all the players who might affect the game. To be able to turn all the elements of the environment to our advantage, we will need some help from the inside, a trusted guide into the unknown territory.

15. In war, practice dissimulation, and you will succeed. Move only if there is a real advantage to be gained. 16. Whether to concentrate or to divide your troops, must be decided by circumstances. 17. Let your rapidity be that of the wind, your compactness that of the forest. 18. In raiding and plundering be like fire, in immovability like a mountain. 19. Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt. 22. He will conquer who has learnt the artifice of deviation. Such is the art of manoeuvring.

In your campaign, practice deceit in all appearances, and you will be successful. Make your open moves only if there is a serious advantage that can be obtained. Do not make plans that are written in stone, but let circumstances guide your decisions on when to scatter and when to show up in force. Whenever you do, be fast like the wind, yet solid like a tree,  lay wreck to your opponent’s positions faster like a moving fire, and then make yourself impossible to move from the position you obtained. Be like a thunder coming from dark clouds –  invisible until the very second that it appears, its plans and next direction are impossible to know. That is the art of maneuvering.

25. The host thus forming a single united body, it is impossible either for the brave to advance alone, or for the cowardly to retreat alone. This is the art of handling large masses of men.

When handling large masses of man, move them in such way as it would be impossible for the brave to be left too far advanced without a backup or for the cowardly to fall back behind the lines.

22. Though the enemy be stronger in numbers, we may prevent him from fighting. Scheme so as to discover his plans and the likelihood of their success. 23. Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots. 24. Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient.

When the opponent is too strong, find a way to prevent him from attacking. Do all you can, subtly, to discover his plans and strategies, and calculate the chances of their success. To study him, lure him out or provoke him to make him move, so you could discover where he is strong and weak, where he has resources and where he is short on resources.

25. In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you can attain is to conceal them; conceal your dispositions, and you will be safe from the prying of the subtlest spies, from the machinations of the wisest brains. 26. How victory may be produced for them out of the enemy’s own tactics — that is what the multitude cannot comprehend. 27. All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved. 28. Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances. 29. Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards. 30. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. 31. Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.

When making strategic arrangements, the best way to make them is to conceal them for as long as possible. This way, you won’t be discovered by the opponent’s spies or by smart observers. Seek to produce a victory for yourself out of your opponent’s own strategy and tactics. When you achieve victory, let everyone see your tactics, but no one should be able to comprehend your strategy. Do not use the same tactic twice. Instead, allow your tactics to be dictated by your circumstances, thus creating infinite variety. Let your tactics imitate the movement of the water. In nature, water does not flow uphill, but downhill. So in a confrontation, do not attack what is strong, but attack what is weak. The water always traces the shape of the ground upon which is it running, so your maneuvers should be dictated by the opponent’s own movements.

28. Now a soldier’s spirit is keenest in the morning; by noonday it has begun to flag; and in the evening, his mind is bent only on returning to camp. 29. A clever general, therefore, avoids an army when its spirit is keen, but attacks it when it is sluggish and inclined to return. This is the art of studying moods.

Study your opponents’ daily routines and change of energy. If he is most active in the morning, slows down after lunch, and in the evening is in a hurry to get home, then never make your move when his energy is high. Instead, wait for the time when all his thoughts are on being back home. This is the art of studying moods.

30. Disciplined and calm, to await the appearance of disorder and hubbub amongst the enemy: — this is the art of retaining self-possession. 31. To be near the goal while the enemy is still far from it, to wait at ease while the enemy is toiling and struggling, to be well-fed while the enemy is famished: — this is the art of husbanding one’s strength. 32. To refrain from intercepting an enemy whose banners are in perfect order, to refrain from attacking an army drawn up in calm and confident array: — this is the art of studying circumstances. 33. It is a military axiom not to advance uphill against the enemy, nor to oppose him when he comes downhill. 34. Do not pursue an enemy who simulates flight; do not attack soldiers whose temper is keen. 35. Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy. Do not interfere with an army that is returning home. 36. When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard. 37. Such is the art of warfare

The art of self-control is to remain collected and calm among the turmoil and clamor of the confrontation. The art of managing of power is to maintain your supplies while your opponent’s resources are exhausted, to reach the goal first and secretly wait there, preparing for your opponent to arrive. The art of reading the situation is to avoid attacking a calm and confident opponent whose operations are in perfect visible order.  The military axion tells us not to charge uphill, and not to try to stop those running downhill. Never pursue an opponent whose flight you believe to be simulated. Never try to snatch the bait offered by the opponent. Do not try to mess with the opponent who is returning home. If you manage to make him feel desperate and pressed against the wall, always give him one safe way to retreat. Never make your opponent fight without a safe out that you prepared for him.

11. If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high rampart and a deep ditch. All we need do is to attack some other place that he will be obliged to relieve. 12. If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent the enemy from engaging us even though the lines of our encampment be merely traced out on the ground. All we need do is to throw something odd and unaccountable in his way. 13. By discovering the enemy’s dispositions and remaining invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated, while the enemy’s must be divided. 14. We can form a single united body, while the enemy must split up into fractions. Hence there will be a whole pitted against separate parts of a whole, which means that we shall be many to the enemy’s few. 15. And if we are able thus to attack an inferior force with a superior one, our opponents will be in dire straits

If we want to make a strike, but the opponent is well-sheltered from an attack, get him to leave his shelter by attacking some other spot which he will feel a need to rush to protect. If he wants to make a strike against us, but we are not in a position to prevail, prevent him from going forward with his plan by throwing something odd and hard to explain in his way, and he will stop, puzzled. Think of how to throw small challenges at him, while remaining out of reach and invisible to him, so that he is forced to split his strength or his team. As we continue to do that, at one point, we will be a one strong whole that is facing an opponent pulled in many directions. If we can then attack his scattered weakness with our unified strength, he will be in danger of losing the confrontation.

16. The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible attack at several different points; and his forces being thus distributed in many directions, the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will be proportionately few. 17. For should the enemy strengthen his van, he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear, he will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left, he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right, he will weaken his left. If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak. 18. Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare against possible attacks; numerical strength, from compelling our adversary to make these preparations against us. 19. Knowing the place and the time of the coming battle, we may concentrate from the greatest distances in order to fight. 20. But if neither time nor place be known, then the left wing will be impotent to succour the right, the right equally

We should never reveal where we plan to strike. His it remains unknown, our opponent would have to prepare for every possible angle of attack, splitting his resources. As a result, no matter where we strike, his resources at that point will be fairly scant. Any time the opponent feels like he has to strengthen one line of defense, he will have to weaken another. If he tries to prepare everywhere, he will be weak everywhere. His weakness will come from having too many lines of defenses, our strength will come from having to force him to prepare everywhere against us. And as we know the point where we will strike, we can concentrate great strength at that specific point.

32. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. 33. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain. 34. The five elements are not always equally predominant; the four seasons make way for each other in turn. There are short days and long; the moon has its periods of waning and waxing.

As the water never maintains any specific shape consistently, so is warfare – the situation is never the same from one hour to another. The leader who can always change his maneuvers to respond to the opponent’s movements will succeed in winning the confrontation, and is a natural-born strategist. But remember what the five elements are not always equally distributed. The seasons change. There will be long days and short days, successes and failures, the nights when the moon is shining strong and the nights of complete darkness.

AoW: Ch. 6 Weak points and strong

Sun Tzy Quotes strategies

I am continuing with my interpretation of the book. Everything in italic is a direct quote from the book.

1. Sun Tzu said: Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted. 2. Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him. 3. By holding out advantages to him, he can cause the enemy to approach of his own accord; or, by inflicting damage, he can make it impossible for the enemy to draw near.

Whoever is first to enter the battlefield takes control of the situation and has time and resources to wait for the opponent to arrive for a confrontation. Whoever is the second to enter the battle field will be in a hurry to arrive, come poorly supplied, and has no control over the environment. Therefore, that warrior is more clever who can force the opponent to play on HIS battlefield, and won’t allow the battle to be held on the battle field already occupied by the opponent.

4. If the enemy is taking his ease, he can harass him; if well supplied with food, he can starve him out; if quietly encamped, he can force him to move. 5. Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected

If the opponent is care-free and free to move anywhere is wants, harass him; if he has plenty resources, find a way to starve him of resources; if he is pretty settled in a good territory, force him to come out of that territory. Identify those points that he must defend, and make him move his resources there, identify those situations in which you are not expected, and strike against him there, leaving him surprised and confused.

6. An army may march great distances without distress if it marches through the country where the enemy is not. 7. You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended. You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked. 8. Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack. 9. O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; and hence we can hold the enemy’s fate in our hands

Much distance can be easily covered as long as there is no opposition to encounter. If you want to make sure that your attacks will be successful, attack only those positions that are not defended. If you want to be sure that your own positions are secure, then hold only those positions that the opponent cannot attack. Therefore, the clever defensive strategist is that whose opponent does not know what to defend, and a clever offense strategist is that whose opponent does not know where to attack. The art of war is the art of secrecy and nuance. Through those two things we learn how to avoid being seen or heard, and when we are invisible to the opponent, we hold his fate in our hands.

AoW: Ch. 5 Energy

Sun tzu quotes on battlefield strategies

I am continuing with my interpretation of the book. Everything in italic is a direct quote from the book.

1. Sun Tzu said: The control of a large force is the same in principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers. 2. Fighting with a large army under your command is no- wise different from fighting with a small one: it is merely a question of instituting signs and signals. 3. To ensure that your whole host may withstand the brunt of the enemy’s attack and remain unshaken — this is effected by manoeuvres direct and indirect.

Controlling of large and small team is very similar in its principle. No matter the size, it is all about proper division of tasks and about effectiveness of communication between members of your team. Your maneuvering ability is what going to determine whether your team or your allies can withstand the impact of pressure or confrontation.

4. That the impact of your army may be like a grindstone dashed against an egg — this is effected by the science of weak points and strong. 5. In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory. 6. Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhaustible as Heaven and Earth, unending as the flow of rivers and streams; like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass away to return once more. 7. There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.

The science of breaking the egg against a stone is the science of understanding of strengths and weaknesses of each of the opponents. In the art of war, direct tactics are best for getting onto the battle field, but the indirect tactics are the ones that will decide the outcome of the battle in your favor. The variations of indirect tactics are like variations of the wind or the flowing river, as unexhaustable as the light of the sun and the moon. They always end just to start again. There are only 5 primary notes, 5 primary colors, 5 primary tastes that exist, but their combinations create the infinite variety of colors, tastes, and melodies.

10. In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack — the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of manoeuvres. 11. The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in turn. It is like moving in a circle — you never come to an end.

In any effort to overcome an opposing force or to again advantage, there are just two methods of attack: the direct attack and the indirect attack. The combination of two are the basis of maneuvering. A direct attack leads to an indirect one, and vice versa, like a moving circle with no beginning and no end.

13.The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim. 14. Therefore the good fighter will be terrible in his onset, and prompt in his decision. 15. Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow; decision, to the releasing of a trigger.

Good warriors are quick to make decisions and execute their decisions with all the power they got. Like a swooping falcon, they make a decision in a split second when the opportunity appears, and then move on their decision with the speed and power of a lighting. The combined energy of the team is like a crossbow, and the decision is like releasing of the arrow.

16. Amid the turmoil and tumult of battle, there may be seeming disorder and yet no real disorder at all; amid confusion and chaos, your array may be without head or tail, yet it will be proof against defeat. 17. Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline; simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates strength. 18. Hiding order beneath the cloak of disorder is simply a question of subdivision; concealing courage under a show of timidity presupposes a fund of latent energy; masking strength with weakness is to be effected by tactical dispositions.

Look at the battlefield with a sharp eye. Among an apparent disorder, there may be order. Everything may look chaotic, but that chaos may be the defense against defeat. Simulated disorder indicates good coordination, simulated distress indicates great self-confidence, simulated weakness indicates hidden sources of strength. Someone who is masking his strength under a pretense of an injury or weakness is the warrior who is playing tactical games.

19. Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the move maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy will act. He sacrifices something, that the enemy may snatch at it. 20. By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march; then with a body of picked men he lies in wait for him. 21. The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals. Hence his ability to pick out the right men and to utilize combined energy.

The leader who is skilled at keeping the opponent constantly out of the comfort zone is the one who always appears to disguise his true qualities or intentions. He sacrifices something valuable that the opponent wants in order to make the opponent leave its security. By holding out this bait, he keeps his opponent chasing the bait while luring him to a position where a decisive attack is possible. Yes, even then, instead of fighting the fight alone, the skillful leader looks to command a combined energy of several people in such a way that does not require excessive strength or sacrifices from any of the individuals in the group. Therefore, the ability to pick the right teammates and combine their energy is security in the attack.

AoW: Ch. 4 Tactical dispositions

I am continuing with my interpretation of the book. Everything in italic is a direct quote from the book.

1. Sun Tzu said: The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy. 2. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself. 3. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy. 4. Hence the saying: One may know how to conquer without being able to do it.

The best fighters first find a way to ensure that everything is so set up that the defeat is not possible, and then wait for an opportunity to defeat their opponent.  Assurance of the security from defeat is within our power to control. A convenient opening for an attack is provided by the opponent himself. A good warrior of success takes every care to set up everything to protect himself against a defeat, but he cannot assure that the possibility of attack will ever happen. Therefore, some warriors have all the knowledge of how to win, but not be able to actually win.

5. Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; ability to defeat the enemy means taking the offensive. 6. Standing on the defensive indicates insufficient strength; attacking, a superabundance of strength. 7. The general who is skilled in defense hides in the most secret recesses of the earth; he who is skilled in attack flashes forth from the topmost heights of heaven. Thus on the one hand we have ability to protect ourselves; on the other, a victory that is complete. 8. To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is not the acme of excellence. 9. Neither is it the acme of excellence if you fight and conquer and the whole Empire says, “Well done!” 10. To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength; to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear. 11. What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease. 12. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage

Securing yourself against a defeat means employing defensive tactics; ability to defeat an enemy means employing offensive tactics. Relying on a defensive strategy indicates insufficient strength to attack; relying on an offensive strategy indicates an abundance of strength. The leader who is skilled at relying on defensive tactics knows how to be able to retreat to the most unaccessible positions and stay invisible and undetected; the leader who is skilled at defensive tactics knows how to appear out of thin air with so much force and noise as to overwhelm resistance of the opponent. So, one skill is to be able to evade opposition and protect resources; another skill is to be able to completely overrun opposition and convert their resources into your resources.

It is not a big sign of cleverness to be able to see who will be victorious when the battle is nearly over. Neither it is a sign of good strategy to fight hard battles and get praised for winning them. Do not pride yourself on that which is achievable by every man. What the ancient called a clever warrior of success is the one who not only knows how to win, but how to win without much effort and sacrifice. But because victories without effort and sacrifice do not bring him neither a reputation of a fighter nor recognition of his courage, they do not look like victories and he gets no praise.

16. The consummate leader cultivates the Moral Law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success. 17. In respect of military method, we have, firstly, Measurement; secondly, Estimation of quantity; thirdly, Calculation; fourthly, Balancing of chances; fifthly, Victory. 18. Measurement owes its existence to Earth; Estimation of quantity to Measurement; Calculation to Estimation of quantity; Balancing of chances to Calculation; and Victory to Balancing of chances.

The skillful leader does everything he can to promote Values and Ideology, and takes extreme care of the methodology and discipline. When it comes to military methodology, we have 1) ability to precisely measure; 2) ability to estimate; 3) ability to calculate; 4) ability to predict outcomes; 5) ability to assure outcomes.

Ability to do precise measurements owe their existence to the element of Earth; ability to estimate – to the ability to measure; ability to calculate – to the ability to estimate; ability to predict outcome – to the ability to calculate; ability to assure outcome – to the ability to predict outcomes

AoW: Ch 3. Attack by Strategem: Forage on the opponent’s resources

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. Sun Tzu, Art of War

Chapter 3 is one of the most influential chapters in the book. It has so much to think about, I will break it into several parts, for my own clarity on the text. This part deals with using the opponent’s strength to supplement your own.

Original text:

1. In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to capture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them. 2. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting. 3. Thus the highest form of generalship is to baulk the enemy’s plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

14. Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy. One cartload of the enemy’s provisions is equivalent to twenty of one’s own, and likewise a single picul of his provender is equivalent to twenty from one’s own store. 15. Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards. 16. Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more chariots have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the first. Our own flags should be substituted for those of the enemy, and the chariots mingled and used in conjunction with ours. The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept. 17. This is called, using the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength. 18. In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.

My interpretation for daily life:

When confronting your competition, it is best not to destroy their assets, but strive to take over them intact. Destroying assets that someone else built requires little skill or strategy. Do not try to rush into every battle. Do not try to win by force. A much better strategy is to make the opponent give up ground to you without any struggle.

For a strategist, the highest form of strategy is to take make the enemy change their plans in the direction that you want them to change it. The second best is to prevent them from increasing their strength against you. The worst strategy is to try to prevail in the power struggle by starving them out of their resources or to destroy them by force.

A wise strategist makes a point to find ways to forage on the competitors’ own resources. Resources obtained by foraging on someone else’s strengths are worth many times than the ones obtained by your own efforts because they cost you much less to use.

If you are leading a team, they will need to be motivated to move in coordination with you. They need to have their own advantages from your victory. Whenever significant victories have been made, make sure to reward that person who brought the effort to fruition.

Those people or resources that are currently aligned with your opponent should be not pushed away but convinced to join your efforts, and treated with respect and generosity. Their resources should be made part of your resources. By doing this, you grow your own strength by using your opponent’s resources.

Above all, when planning a strategy, make victory you objective, and not the maneuvers.

This brings me to the following questions to ponder when contemplating a strategy:

  • Who are our competitors?
  • What kind of resources do they have that we could forage on?
  • What kind of strengths do they have that we can utilize to grow our own?
  • Who are their allies whom we can turn into our allies?
  • With whom (their allies or opponents) we can join strength?
  • How can we reward those allies in case they bring us victories?
  • How can we use our competitor’s success to grow our victory?

AoW: Ch 2. Waging War

He who is prudent in life and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious. Sun Tzu, Art of 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?

AoW: Ch 1 Laying Plans

Here is the original text:

Sun Tzu said: 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.

The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one’s deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field. 4. These are: (1) the Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) the Commander; (5) method and discipline. 5. The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger. 6. Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons. 7. Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death. 8. The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness. 9. By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure. 10. These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.

While heeding the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules. 16. According as circumstances are favourable, one should modify one’s plans.

My translation:

The art of strategy of obtaining victories is of the supreme importance to individuals and organizations. This art is the difference between continued success and failure.

The strategy is governed by five invariable areas of interest:

  1. The big WHY, which is values and ideology
  2. The Divinity/Air element: Time, timing, seasons, natural rhythms, exterior climate or circumstances, the balance between the rest of the activity, etc
  3. The Earth Element: The terrains and distances, risk and rewards, security and danger, survival and prosperity
  4. The capability and character of the leader
  5. Methodology and discipline, which include proper handling of operational issues like proper division of labor, control of logistics, budgets, staff, etc

The strategies hold in most predictable circumstances. However, if some unexpected favorable circumstances take place that do not fit into your strategy, do not hesitate to deviate from the strategy to take advantage of unexpected gifts.

Further, Sun Tzu said: 

17. All warfare is based on deception. 18. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. 19. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him. 20. If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. 21. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. 22. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. 23. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.

26. The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose

My interpretation:

The art of war is the art of deception.

  • When you are close to the goal, pretend to be far away, and vice versa
  • When you have plenty of power or resources that you preparing to use against your opponent, pretend to be weakened, and vice versa
  • When you are in the middle of trying to seize some opportunity or to strike against the opponent, pretend like you are distracted with something else, that he is not your focus
  • If the opponent is secure in his current position, come up with a bait to lure him out if his security. If he is irritable and impatient, keep irritating him. If he is strong and arrogant, appear weak and insecure, it will trigger his desire for a quick victory.
  • Be prepared to defend yourself once he comes out. Start by appearing helpless and retracting. Then, quickly trap him from several directions and crush him.
  • See where the obvious attack points are and do not attack there (but pretend that you would). Instead, look at the least likely attack angles and attack there. Make an entry from the angle that no one is thinking about.

Strategy is like playing chess. Calculate your opponents moves before the game starts. The more combinations you can foresee and prepare for in advance, the more likely you are to win the battle.

From the text above, I derive several questions that I could use to brainstorm my own strategy. An opponent in this case is some kind of a rival force that prevents me from obtaining my goals. Can be a rival team, a rival organization, a rival in a competition, etc

  • Who is the opponent? What goals do I have? What goals does he have?
  • Which are the most likely entry points into those parts of his territory which I want for myself? Which are least likely?
  • How could I make an entry from any of the less likely points?
  • Is my opponent pretty secure in their position? If so, how can I lure him out in the open? What kind of bait would lure him out into a less certain territory?
  • If he is not in a hurry, how can he be hurried?
  • If he is holding some ideas that help him now to be strong, how could those be ideas be forced to change?

Art of War (AoW) by Sun Tzu – beginning of chenggong fu

I am captivated by the book. Before this book, I never really thought about strategy, except as in some small endeavors, and every time i just came up with a strategy that felt right. I never thought about studying strategy. This book changed everything.  I could not read it fast enough, hanging on each word like it was an ancient scroll containing a treasure map.

After reading it a few times, I decided to “translate” it into something that my brain can translate easier into everyday situations. I did this by removing military terminology from it and substituting it for “competitors” or “opponents” to see what happens when we apply this book to the business environment or to politics (school, office, family, group, etc).

At the end of each chapter I will also try to write up questions that might help me to use the text in ordinary situations.

I will also create a new area of study and a new hashtag that I will call “chenggong fu,” #chenggongfu, which I assign the following meaning “the art of success”

Brainstorning on how to brainstorm better

Brainstorming by yourself, with no one else’s input

I plan to spend the next 30 days creating one new idea to bring in business per day. Hopefully, at the end of 30 days, I might have one worthwhile idea that will prove practical.

But after coming up with a couple of pretty “low-hanging-fruit” type of ideas, I feel stuck. So, how do I brainstorm for the next 28 days? As usual, YouTube is my first stop (I am very visual).

This is from YT channel Vertical Measures. His suggestions:

  • Mind mapping (relate terms to ideas, correlate ideas to one another)
  • Right-braining with incomplete pictures of related concepts that you are thinking about. Each new concept is incomplete in some way. Incompleteness of the picture will bring out ideas on how to complete them. The take different images and start combining them in several different ways to see if any new original idea might come up
  • Provocative action – do provocative things, change your physical surroundings, like turn the furniture in your office upside down and write upside down
  • Break and build – break down an idea into smaller pieces of info, or, on the opposite, build it up to reach a broader viewpoint; solution usually appears while in this thought process;
  • Pessimist v optimist discussion – have the pessimist bring up problems and the optimist suggest solutions. this helps to bring ideas into focus;
  • Randomness – come us with a random word and describe the object in detail; see if any of the words in the description fit into the general idea
Rumi: Look for the answer inside of your question

DFW Cyber Security & Compliance Professional Organizations

Full list with links to the groups will be posted on

Organization Web site Membership Meetings
ISSA North Texas paid 3rd Thursday, Plano
ISACA North Texas paid Check site
ISC2DFW paid Murphy
TechTitans paid IoT Breakfast
ASIS North Texas paid Check site


Organization Web site Need membership?
Women in Security NTXISSA Supposedly, but you can attend some events for free
Women in Technology International Yes, paid
ASIS Women in Security Probably

Dr. Joe Dispenza on Impact Theory

I am hooked on the Impact Theory. This particular interview with Joe Dispenza was one of the most insightful and thought-provoking ones.

The main thoughts that I took away from this speech:

Negative events generate a rush of energy which gets captured by the memory in a snapshot. Retrieving that snapshot from memory brings on the same neurochemical reactions in our body that were present when the event occurred. People lack emotional stimulation in their day to day life, and they go back to negative memories because they are addicted to the energy that those memories generate, so that they could feel SOMETHING

Body is our subconscious mind, it does not know the difference between a physical reaction triggered by a real event and a remembered or imagined one. Emotions elicit a physical response, which in turn elicits emotion; this circuit becomes hard-wired.

Habits are hard-wired circuits in our brains that eventually which form from a repetition of the same behavior until our body can guide behavior better than our mind can

Changing something can feel very uncomfortable because new circuits need to be build while the old ones are trying to fire signals. New choices do not “feel right” because you would not have the same neurochemical mix in the brain, you are in a new state of uncertainty. The body always tries to return to the familiar biological state. That is why being in the unknown state is difficult for most people.

If you follow the body’s reactions, eventually it will create the environment around you to support your familiar state. The body becomes stronger than the brain, the servant becomes the master.

Meditation accesses the OS-level of our brain, where important changes are possible. When you close your eyes, you shut down external stimuli, so you can now create your own reactions. If the body cannot distinguish between a physical reaction from a past negative event or from a thought of that event, then the same principle is in play when you imagine a future event with a positive outcome. Your brain is no longer a record of the past, but a path to the future. 

The hard part is to teach the body to respond to future events. Do not wait until you have success to feel successful, until you have money to feel abundance, until you are in a new relationship to feel loved. Do not wait for something outside of you to happen in order to trigger the emotion. Trigger it yourself. Stop being the creation, become the creator.

Your environment creates your thoughts, and then your thoughts create your environment. 

If you do not wake up in the morning and think about the future that you want to create, then your mind will be left with the memories of the past, which is predictable, so you start having a predictable future, and your current environment will reinforce it. 

Most people need some outside events to feel something, but you can change that

Your body is addicted to having certain neurochemical states at certain times a day. Train your body to stay in the moment, like you tell a dog to stay, do not react during those hours.O

Our bodies are addicted to strong emotions like love, hate, judgement, jealousy, being a victim. We use our boss to satisfy our judgement addition, our enemies to satisfy our anger addiction, etc. To make a positive change, you have to change yourself first. If today I took your ex-husband and shoot him to the moon so he cannot come back, that will not change your life, you still have to do the work of change! If you don’t, you will find the next guy to hate. If I took your enemy and made him disappear, you would create another one in his place.

We learn most about ourselves when we are uncomfortable, usually because we do not like being in the present moment, the body wants to go back to the familiar. 

Insights, the aha moments are passive,  they do not do anything in themselves. Even worse, they can be used as an excuse to slide into predictability, to the old habits, to avoid change, because when you understand the neurochemical process better, you can be better at creating an excuse for it.

Our bodies are designs to use stress to avoid danger or to get something, but the stress is supposed to be intense and short-lived, like a sight of a predator at a distance. But what happens if the stress  is near and constant, like a hated co-worker sitting next to you whole year long? What happens is disease. No organism can survive a prolonged and constant stress.

Rich Roll on Impact Theory

This guys is a pretty interesting character. I am not sure I understood his theory, though.

My biggest take-aways:

The worst thing we can do to people whom we love is to try to reduce their pain

The goal is not to be always happy, but to always experience a full range of emotions  without losing ourselves in them

We are a relationship-based organization whose output is football

Survival mechanisms in our brain are stronger than the thriving ones

Jordan Harbinger on Impact Theory

My journey continues today with a video of Tom Bilyau interviewing Jordan Harbringer 

My biggest take-aways:

Confidence can be trained into behavior to elicit a certain response from people. Once people start treating you differently, your confidence will become more natural

Adjust your body posture to communicate confidence every time you are walking through a door. Put yourself some stickers on the door to serve you as reminders to do that. After a while, you won’t need the stickers, it will happen automatically

Don’t wait until you are thirsty to start digging a well. Don’t wait until you need a relationship to start building one

Do not build a relationship on “what’s in it for me?” Do not worry about what’s in it for you – just build it, and the opportunities may come later

Do not keep score, do not create covert contracts that exist only in your head; do not expect people to return the favors you did for them.
Covert contracts poison the relationships. Give without expectations or attachments

Save for the future. Do not wait until you are thirsty to start digging your well financially.  Do not try to make short-term profit on long-term goals.

When experiencing depression or anxiety, zoom out enough to get proper perspective.  Every second you spend feeling sorry for yourself is a total waste of time

Alot of anxiety is just bottled-up emotion and energy, like a blender without a lid throwing its contents all over the kitchen; if you channel this energy properly, it will subside

How are you going to do it? One step at a time, one brick at a time, one day at a time. Like building a castle from a box of small oncies in Lego. You just keep stacking them one next to another next to another, and one day someone will ask: “Wow, how did you build it?”

Action ends suffering. Try to take an action on a suffering rather than trying to take a bath in it.