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By Sun Tzu - The Art of War (abridged edition) Unknown Binding
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As we do every Tuesday morning, I met with my local men's group for our workout on the local preschool playground, the only location where one can engage in the strenuous exercises of running up slides and seesaw step aerobics. And as with every other Tuesday, those darn preschoolers invaded, effectively smashing our vanguard and dividing our force, which spurned a tactical retreat that quickly turned into a rout.
While checking Amazon for some first aid supplies to refill our field dressing kits, I came across this book. I spent the next 6 months reading it cover to cover, every night. Then I began to plan.
Sun Tzu taught me that in order to overwhelm a force superior in numbers, a great commander must disguise his own numbers and employ subterfuge to sow doubt and terror among his enemy's ranks. To this end, we started a month-long psychological terror operation consisting of pictures of frowny faces drawn in crayon and constant blaring of vintage Barney recordings. The effect of this was to ruin nap time and exhaust the enemy.
We then started to probe enemy supply lines, effectively cutting off all supplies of milk. Like nap time, snack time was also ruined. The enemy's desperation began to show, and their decision making processes became clouded. At their weakest point mentally, we infiltrated.
12 of our best soldiers dawned velcro shoes and tiny people clothing stolen from distracted enemy backpacks, and slipped in amongst the preschool class. Talk of allegiances of bored grown up dads unifying under a single banner, superior in numbers, claiming the ancient rite of first dibs spread amongst the enemy much as a pox. A rumor of an eminent first strike began to spread. Action would have to be taken.
The toddlers assembled their forces, calling in all allies, and marched under the banner of the PTA---a ruse already uncovered by our spy network---in an attempt to cause our forces to believe that the greatest of foes, that of angry and bored suburban mothers, may have been persuaded to take up arms.
We created the illusion of superior numbers by meeting this frontal assault head on and melting away several times, followed by a false pincer movement that caused the enemy children to concentrate their forces along their northern flank and slowing their advance. We had taken the high ground including the big slide, and placed scouts on the monkey bars to monitor enemy movements. Through a brilliant plan by one of our commanders, we were able to turn on the soccer field sprinklers the night before and totally saturate the ground. Our enemy's tiny feet bogged down in the mud, causing further chaos and allowing our artillery, consisting of six 40mm water balloon launchers to rain devastation and sheer terror upon the remaining force. Our calvary executed a brilliant flanking maneuver and encircled the enemy, who exhausted, wet, and cranky, sued for peace.
Our terms were very favorable: permanent playground dibs and a 30% tariff on all snack imports and seizure of all chocolate milk, with harsh stipulations of wedgies for any violations of terms.
We owe this great victory to Sun Tzu. As I peer over the freshly seeded green grass each morning that was once the site of our most grand of victories, and see the tiny enemy faces gazing sadly upon what was once their most holy patch of earth, I smile in satisfaction and gratitude for the Art of War's timeless teachings.
And I wait. For our enemy force will soon graduate to elementary school, and a fresh force will take their place again. This battle is won, but the war may very well drag on. Our vigilance is our greatest asset, our hard earned wisdom our only hope. The spirit of Sun Tzu smiles upon us today, but we must never falter.
AmazonClassics Edition are the best for works written in English language. They offer the text in its purity, with X-Ray and excellent formatting. Sadly for their books written in another languages they rely on translations already in the public domain. This means that is a question of luck to have a good translation, in the case of "The Art of War" the problem is that the translator, Lionel Giles, gives a poorly organized introduction with duplicate and, to be blunt, boring data. Fortunately afterwards he has the good taste to put the text pure without commentary. It is a good translation with few outdated words. But it adds then the same text with a commentary that is pointless, only an exercise of vanity, because it explains what is already crystal clear, save a couple of data all is, for our century, already outdated. I'd love if Amazon would allow us to delete pages and chapters so this perfect book could not be mutilated with unnecessary additions. For this book I think the AmazonClassics Edition, despite its good presentation, is not the best one.
Top reviews from other countries
I wondered if it would open up broader insights and unearth nuggets, or merely confirm that basing workplace lessons on ancient warfare is just another way of saying 'manage like a sociopath'.
Having read it, I'm still not sure. For instance not attacking a larger force with a smaller force is pretty good advice but probably already fairly obvious (i.e. you probably won't beat Facebook don't take them on). However, making the point that war is waged to make political gains, rather than to have a really big fight is interesting - I guess this is a 'stay focused' message.
Hard to score this one, however it would be churlish to mark literature of over 2500 years old as anything other than a five - that's not a bad shelf life.
So, my favourite quote has nothing to do with enemies and sieges (which you should mostly avoid), I liked something I hadn't seen before which is:
"He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign."
If you're good at what you do, and you have the requisite resources, keep your boss as far away from the task as possible. - That might make it into one of my presentations.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 27, 2020