Unfortunately, too many people don't take the time to read Sun Tzu's Art of War. Instead, they pull a quote here and there, usually out of context. If that wasn't bad enough, it isn't unusual to see people judging the entire book simply by its title: The Art of War. By trying to show off how smart and tough they are, they only come across as fakes. Don't be like them. Avoid the following three most common mistakes we see people make about Sun Tzu's Art of War:
Mistake #1: Thinking that The Art of War promotes war
"To achieve a hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the highest excellence; to subjugate the enemy's army without doing battle is the highest of excellence." Sun Tzu's Art of War [03.02]
If a urologist writes a book about prostate cancer, would anyone assume that he or she promotes cancer? Nobody would think that. Yet if a general named Sun Tzu writes a book about warfare, why would anyone assume that he promotes wars? The truth is The Art of War is a book that values the prevention of wars above all else and promotes ending battles as quickly as possible should they flare up.
The people who make this first mistake are usually the ones who simply read the title "The Art of War" and thus make an erroneous conclusion. Even smart people make this mistake. Famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson incorrectly stated that Sun Tzu's Art of War readers "learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art." Unlike Mr. Tyson, you know it is quite the opposite.
Mistake #2: Misquoting The Art of War
Three frequent quotes misattributed to Sun Tzu are:
(1) Opportunities multiply as they are seized
(2) Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat
(3) Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer
Much like the first mistake, if you have read The Art of War in full, you would know that none of these quotes appears in the book, not even if they were worded differently. Thus, the only people who would make this second mistake are those who haven't read Sun Tzu's classic. The source of these misattributions is no doubt from the internet. Since it is so easy to copy-and-paste, the mistake is further perpetuated and unfortunately becomes pervasive.
In short, stay away from these three quotes. They did not come from Sun Tzu. Cite directly from the source itself.
Mistake #3: Using Sun Tzu's battle strategies on people you love
"The leader who does not advance to seek glory, or does not withdraw to avoid punishment, but cares for only the people's security and promotes the people's interests, is the nation's treasure." Sun Tzu's Art of War [10.18]
As mentioned earlier, Sun Tzu values above all else the ability to win without fighting. However, there will be times when the opposition attacks us regardless of what we do, and therefore, the application of force would be necessary. This is where Sun Tzu guides the reader on how to deceive the aggressor psychologically and wear him down physically. Sun Tzu's battle strategies can be quite clever, relentless, and effective.
For some uninitiated readers, they might think these strategies should be applied in every situation, even on loved ones. The result they would later see, however, is more harm is done than good.
The idea behind reading and applying Sun Tzu's Art of War is to benefit you in life. It is to help you protect yourself and the people you love from harm. When loved ones win, you win. Perhaps you would go so far as to sacrifice yourself for their benefit and well-being. Fortunately, with Sun Tzu's Art of War, you have the option to strategize and prevail instead of suffer in defeat. As you work hard and strive to treasure the people around you, you become the very people who are treasured in return.
Now that you have learned how to avoid the three most common mistakes made about Sun Tzu's Art of War, as a bonus we would like to present you three things you can do:
(1) Stay calm and open-minded until there is clear evidence. Every situation is different. You can make educated guesses but be cognizant that they are only that. But when the evidence is clear, then you must take bold action to correct and improve the situation.
(2) Read, prepare, and do your homework. Even in the most tedious of matters, go the extra mile. This is what separates you from the competition.
(3) Protect and promote all those around you. As they say, charity starts at home. Before you can save the world, you need to gain the habit and capability to exude strength, harmony, and benevolence within the four walls around you.