Tag Archives: Winning Principles

The Thirty-Six Stratagems

Ancient Chinese Warfare Philosophy for Today

An ancient Chinese General Wang Jingze created the thirty-six stratagems. The stratagems were thirty-six strategies for ancient warfare.  As with many philosophies these principles have stood the test of time, and with a little work can be applied to today.

How could thirty-six ancient Chinese warfare tactics possibly have any impact on my life? More than you think. The stratagems can be directly applied to business, negotiations and winning situations. Let’s review a few of the stratagems that have some easy applications today.

“Borrow a corpse to resurrect the soul.” Kind of morbid, but hang in there. Take something that has disappeared, fallen out of style, an old technology, and use it to reinvent your business or yourself. This follows the saying, “There are no new ideas, just respun old ones.” You do not need to reinvent the wheel. Many times the things you need are already available; you just need to find a new application.

“Take the opportunity to pilfer the goat.” Who needs a goat? You might need a goat. Be flexible in your plan. Opportunities arise all the time; do not be too rigid to embrace them.

“Replace the beams with rotten timbers.” I don’t build houses, and its okay if you don’t. Change the rules. Go against common thought. People take strength from understood rules. Make the rules to your favor.

“Wait at leisure while the enemy labors.” Can be taken literally, but pick the time and place for a confrontation, engagement or challenge. Bring a challenge into your home court. Make the timing of an event to benefit you. Be prepared while allowing for your opponent to do all the extra work.

“If all else fails, retreat.” This is probably the most famous of the stratagems. If you survive, then you are still in the fight. Know when to quit and regroup. Live to fight another day.

“Chain stratagems.” One should be weaving many stratagems and tactics together to be successful. Be flexible in your strategies. Change them as needed. He, who adapts, will win.

I really like the aspect of flexible planning. I think everyone has life lessons they can learn from a good deal of planning, but keeping a flexible plan in order to embrace opportunities as they come along.

Please take a look at the full list. Maybe an ancient Chinese strategy or two can help you accomplish your goals. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty-Six_Stratagems

Other people have correlated these strategies into business books. Here’s a link The Art of Advantage.

The Art of the Advantage: 36 Strategies to Seize the Competitive Edge

This is  another good interpetation of thirty-six strategies.

The 36 Stratagems for Executives (Sun Tzu’s The Art of War for Executives)

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