|Sun Tzu said:
8. To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is not
the acme of excellence.
|When there is a royal
road, paved with gold to your goal, with no distractions or threats,
then it takes no skill to follow it.
Likewise, when many can see
the obvious, then doing the obvious can hardly be called
'excellent'. Seeing the unseen is a skill that can help you in many
In business, it is easy to succeed in a rising market when there
is plenty of demand. Real skill is shown in tougher times.
|9. Neither is it the acme of excellence if you fight and conquer and the
whole Empire says, "Well done!"
|This is more
confusing. See below for why congratulations does not necessarily
|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
|A hair is light, as
is an autumn leaf. Of course it does not need strength. Similarly,
perceiving what is visually or aurally obvious does not indicate
To perceive what is not obvious and understand its
significance takes a finer skill.
Few have natural talent in fine perception. Few also take time to
hone their perceptual abilities. This is what makes those who do
|11. What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but
excels in winning with ease.
|A good fighter does
not get into difficult fights nor gets into difficult situations.
The application of great skill often appears to be done without much
effort. This is because it is done with skill, not effort.
|12. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit
|This answers point 9.
Many equate effort and hardship with skill and courage. When it
seems you have won with ease, those who do not appreciate your skill
will not recognize or credit your ability.
When you see what
others do not see and think what they do not think, it is not
surprising that they neither understand nor appreciate you.
|13. He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what
establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is
|As in the principle
of defense and attack, we lose by
making defensive mistakes that allow an attack through.
Mistakes are also made when any waste occurs. What is squandered
now may be sorely missed later.
The principle is the same in chess and many other situations,
including business competitive strategy.
|14. Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes
defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy.
|Again, as in
defense and attack, if you are
impregnable, then it takes just a moment of weakness by the enemy
where you can slip in and win. And so you must be constantly
vigilant and ready.
|15. Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after
the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and
afterwards looks for victory.
|A good strategists
sees further ahead than others, plotting the moves and counter-moves
until certain victory is known.
The first move may hence be seen
as oddly innocuous, but moves confidently towards inevitable
The higher in business you go, the further into the future you
need to see. The ability to see possibilities and take your
organisation there is a powerful leadership skill.