• When you encounter a conflict in your life, before you act, seek out a solitary place that balances and enhances your mind to spiritually think things through.

    Face the conflict and pro-actively seek to understand what lies at its root.
    • An enemy or adversary is someone who seeks to do you harm. You and your family no doubt have disagreements, but everyone works for the same goals. You don’t want to subdue those you love and care about; you want to support them.
  • Assess these factors:

    This comparative examination isn’t easy and may bruise your ego. But if you find you have a weakness, consider it a blessing because you can address the problem instead of remaining weak and unaware.

    • Way/Tao
      • Represents unity in a moral purpose. The greater the moral cause, the tighter the union . If your “Way” is strong, you will naturally garner strong support from others. With this support, you strengthen your position relative to your adversary’s.
    • Heaven/Atmosphere
      • Time of day, weather and season
      • Symbolically represents your social atmosphere - the moods and attitudes of those around you. You can’t predict when one’s mood and attitude will change and repeat.
      • Example: You would be wise to ask for support from those around you when they feel hopeful, not fearful.
    • Ground
      • Represents landscape, with its restrictions and freedoms
      • Symbolically might represent your environment
    • General
      • Represents five beneficial qualities of an effective leader
        • Wisdom: good judgement
        • Credibility: good reputation
        • Benevolence: good intent
        • Courage: good fortitude
        • Discipline: good reliability
    • Law
      • Represents the management of strength
      • Manage strength by consistently conserving and restoring your energy
        • Take short bursts of action and long periods of practice and self improvement.
        • Don’t chase after every petty matter and waste your energy
        • Organize and focus your efforts to continually build sufficient strength in order to quickly neutralize conflicts whenever they come your way
  • Address contingencies using force.

    Force means having such overwhelming momentum that you can withstand setbacks. Also gives you the opportunity to create new advantages when necessary.

  • Deception

    • Approach the opponent psychologically rather than physically, indirectly rather than directly
      • Attack where they are not prepared, go out to where they do not expect.
      • When the opponent is confused and overwhelmed because of your deception, his/her will to continue fighting diminishes and the conflict is soon ended.
      • "Those who are good at defeating enemies do not engage them"
    • Due to its dependence on formlessness and the element of surprise, keep the action plan to yourself until the last moment.

Doing Battle

  • Only do battle when there is no option.

    • Many disagreements can be solved without the situation escalating into actual confrontation or battle which often exacts a heavy toll on both sides.

      Lao Tzu states “Because you do not contend so the world cannot contend with you”. In other words, if you choose not to fight, your foe is less likely to choose aggression.

    • Outline the great cost involved in joining the battle.

      • Half measures mean half efforts, which can result in failure.
        Before making the decision to go to battle, you must be certain that it is your only choice.
  • If you must engage, you should settle it quickly not only to limit the costs, but also to prevent exhaustion or loss of morale among your troops.

    • When tension erupts into conflict in your own life, the sooner you address and resolve it, the sooner you can mend your relationship with your opponent and get on with your life.
      A disagreement that lingers unresolved is fuel for a grudge, which can turn into a feud, which benefits no one.

    • Don’t exhaust your energy on one adversary as if he/she is the only person in the world who can harm you. It’s possible the other individuals are simply waiting for the ideal moment and conditions to attack you.

    • Judicious preparations for conflicts is necessary, but becoming obsessed or paranoid consumes your time, energy, and resources, all of which could be conserved for contingencies or used on other pressing matters.

      Your time is limited, as your energy and resources.

    • Prolonged warfare leads to defeat or, at best, a Pyrrhic victory.

  • You should always be alert to the possibility that battle will be forced on you by conserving your energy and resources to maintain readiness.

  • Be aware of the resources you are consuming. Using “citizen’s wealth” signifies desperation more than an intelligent approach to conflict.
    Take equipment from home but take provisions from the enemy.

  • Sun Tzu recognizes the motivational power of anger, which destroys, he instead appeals to reward and benevolence, which build up. Specifically, his counsel is to commend and encourage your own best soldiers and to treat prisoners kindly so that they will want to join your own ranks.

  • Wars don’t enhance security, but rather weaken it by sowing the seeds of future conflicts.

  • If your adversary tries to do you harm, you aim is not mere retaliation, but a quick resolution. Use your superior strength not to cause more hardship and suffering, which results in his or her enduring hatred of you, but to promote harmony and forgiveness through sincere gestures of goodwill.

Planning Attacks

  • “Be able to fight them,” not, “Fight them.”

    But if he is forced to fight he needs to be able to fight - not for gain in this case, but for survival.

  • Realizing that your responsibility is larger than yourself motivates you to give your best no matter what the task. There is no room for pettiness, arrogance, or fear to take root.

  • The general pledges his loyalty to the rules doesn’t mean he must always obey the ruler. His royalty is deeper: it lies in protecting the well-being of the ruler and nation, not in blindly following orders.

  • An important matter that undermines your well-being and the well-being of others around you, you must have fortitude to rely on your own critical thinking.

  • What prevents you from knowing when to fight and when not to fight is not caution but arrogance. To avoid acting in arrogance, you must contemplate your situation while in a quiet place.

  • To manage people, general have to organize and communicate effectively to each and every soldier.

  • You unite people by finding and emphasizing what everyone has in common, not what makes him or her different. In a large group, the diversity of skills and perspectives is invaluable in identifying creative solutions to a complex problem, but this diversity means little if it isn't focused on one problem, a common cause.

  • When a conflict flares up, your focus is on yourself - either protecting your own interests or acting emotionally to seek vengeance or retaliation. Both of these motivations are liable to lead to defeat.

  • He proposes that you study all aspects of a problem coolly and rationally, plan carefully, and act prudently while trying to minimize damage. Sometimes active inaction will be the best course until circumstances change and you have the advantage necessary to prevail.


  • Thorough preparation you gain invincibility, which ensures your safety. This invincibility gives you time to patiently choose the right moment to take action so you can ethically and methodically settle conflicts with even those of malevolent intent.
  • Even though you may have the knowledge and experience to plan and employ the best strategy, your adversary may be strong and cunning enough to block off that strategy.
  • You should never overestimate your own strength nor underestimate the strength of your opponent. If you aren’t stronger than your adversary, then you wait. If you are stronger than your adversary, then you can take action. Whatever the situation, you can’t unilaterally control it, so you must adapt it.
  • The difference between defending and attacking is your level of focus and strength. When you defend, you can focus on one area you have built sufficient strength to protect. However, when you attack, you also still need to defend yourself. Your focus is now split into two activities, and in order to do both effectively, you require more strength.
  • In Chinese lore, dragons hid in the lowest depths of the earth when dormant, which was most of the time. Yet when they roused themselves and rose into the sky, they were incredible powerful and fearsome.
  • In order to quickly solve your life’s problems, such as conflicts, don’t settle for half-hearted efforts; once you make up your mind to accomplish a mission, you must complete it without hesitation.
  • True skill and wisdom lie in the ability to perceive slight variations in your environment and in your adversary in order to nip problems in the bud before they become obvious and damaging.
  • What should be forefront in our mind is victory, not ego or reward
    • Example:
      You might use diplomacy to successfully negotiate with someone who is angry. However, if you had greater skill, you would perceive that person’s irritability and work to defuse it before it turns into anger. Your success in small conflicts would therefore appear to be simple, but in reality it requires a special heightened sensitivity to your environment and adversary.
  • Understand the role played by luck in your past successes and in your life - mistaking good fortune for skill could cause you to act recklessly and put you in danger in the future.
  • You can govern your success in conflicts by only confronting adversaries you can handle and avoiding those you cannot. Don’t ignore the problem; face it and study it, then select your path accordingly.