Interview with Dr. Jeremy Black
Dr. Jeremy Black has written an incredible 180 books, mostly on British history, European politics, and, of course, warfare. His answers might surprise you, especially when he said, "too much of a focus on Clausewitz." Click below to read more!
Interview with Dr. Jeremy Black
The worries and concerns we have in life are often caused by the incorrect application of our time and energies.
For example, we worry about others do, how they'll view us, and the decisions they will make that might negatively affect us.
While those are valid concerns, the relevant question we must ask ourselves is whether it's worth our time and energy to think about them.
The answer, if you think about it, is no. And here's why.
The obvious answer is we don't have control over what others do. We have influence but that's far from having control. And that's actually a good thing. Because we don't want anyone else to control us either. We might allow others to influence us through reason, but not control.
The less obvious answer is we should spend more time and energy on our own actions. They are absolutely things we can control. Complete control. And we can take those actions now. No need to worry about how, what, when.
Sun Tzu emphasizes the importance of being proactive and take preventative measures. Whose responsibility is this? Ours. He understands we ourselves can make a positive impact on the future if we act in the present.
So even though Sun Tzu strives to create results favorable to us through the decisions of others, the basis of that calculus lies in our own early initial actions.
For instance, if we want another person to listen to us, and nobody is listening to each other, then we must take it upon ourselves to start listening even when nobody else is listening. Extend an olive branch. Taking the initiative and being an example won't always work, but we have a much better chance of success than doing nothing and letting things happen as is.
Therefore, we must ponder and be careful about how we approach matters and how our actions affect others. As for what other people do, we can be confident they will do what they do, problems and all, as it should be, not as we wish them to be. Fortunately, we don't need to wish and worry about what we ourselves will do, and what we are doing now. We have full control. So take it.
When I read reviews of our Art of War book, it's actually to see if there is any dissatisfaction with the book. If there is dissatisfaction, I promptly offer a full refund. I don't argue because that's how the reviewer felt, so there's no denying. How someone feels is always right.
Sometimes, I must admit I do feel satisfied when I come across a heart-felt review. Below is one of them, which I saw on Goodreads, an Amazon company. I'll take his or her high-five today!
"With so many editions available nowadays, it is by far the best edition I have ever read. An unbiased and very thought-provoking interpretation of Art of War. Unbiased true translations are rare and hard to find - like the book says, authors slightly influence with their choice of words while translating. This book is the product of twenty years of dedicated scholarship and application of The Art of War. The author worked with over forty of the most reputable authors and scholars of The Art of War over the years. I own half dozen editions of the art of war. But this one always stands out from all the rest. The author translates each verse in plain English so that anyone can comprehend. Thomas did not just translate the verses, he also explains how the strategies and tactics can be applied to day to day activities as well as resolving conflicts."
The stories of success are told by winners. The winners can say they won, but what they can't always say is that they won with kindness. That's why not all stories are good, some not worth telling.
Sun Tzu believes the highest ideal in victory is to win without fighting. That means winning without hurting anyone, keeping the most gains. It takes a person of great skill and wisdom to be able to pull off such a victory. It takes a rare amount of insight and creativity. It takes, in short, a lot of care and love. But it's not easy, otherwise everyone would do it.
And there are pitfalls throughout the endeavor: pain, temptations, apathy.
Overcome pain with reason. We can endure great pain if we understand why we go through pain to get to where we need to be.
Overcome temptations with reason. We can shun all temptations if we understand what nobility is. Nobility is forgoing the small even though everyone else thinks it's big.
Overcome apathy with reason. Apathy isn't doing anything. It's a sitting duck. So take one step toward being better and you are already running circles around apathy.
Achieving victory is passable, but the gains from that victory vary. For example, a pyrrhic victory is not really a victory.
Winning without kindness may be passable, but tainted. It's barely worth keeping, certainly not worth bragging about. Re-writing the story makes for good fiction -- it cannot bridge the ideal.
So great is the ideal that if we were given a choice between victory or kindness, we can automatically choose kindness. Obtaining a victory without kindness is common. How can anyone admire it? But the times we see people maintaining their kindness even in the face of loss or losing are few. They are always memorable. They are the stories worth telling.
P.S.: Sonshi is back after a two-year hiatus! I hope to tell more stories.
Thomas Cuong Huynh, founder of Sonshi