It’s time to return on one of our regular posts about Sun Tzu quotes, best for the leaders and those who aspire to be leaders. This is a number one post in the Ideas series about great quotes from Sun Tzu.
The best advice for readers: these are not just leadership tips by an old general who lived thousands of years ago. These are examples from real life and most probably still work today.
Table of Contents
Sun Tzu Art Of War Quotes
Inspirational Sun Tzu Quotes about Power and Life
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected. , The Art of War
When strong, avoid them. If of high morale, depress them. Seem humble to fill them with conceit. If at ease, exhaust them. If united, separate them. Attack their weaknesses. Emerge to their surprise.
Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.
Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow; decision, to the releasing of the trigger.
Sweat more during peace: bleed less during war.
All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.
Concentrate your energy and hoard your strength.
Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.
The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
Bravery without forethought, causes a man to fight blindly and desperately like a mad bull. Such an opponent, must not be encountered with brute force but may be lured into an ambush and slain.
Thus the expert in battle moves the enemy, and is not moved by him.
In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack–the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers.
Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will.
Let your plans be dark and as impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.
If you are far from the enemy, make him believe you are near.
Do not engage an enemy more powerful than you. And if it is unavoidable and you do have to engage, then make sure you engage it on your terms, not on your enemy’s terms.
If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things.
Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.
The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems.
There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.
Opportunities multiply as they are seized.
It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results.
The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.
It is more important to out-think your enemy than to outfight him
Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.
He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
Read more: Best Quotes Life Lessons To Motivate You
Motivational Sun Tzu Quotes
Do not press an enemy at bay.
The skillful employer of men will employ the wise man, the brave man, the covetous man, and the stupid man.
For them to perceive the advantage of defeating the enemy, they must also have their rewards.
Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.
When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move.
Convince your enemy that he will gain very little by attacking you; this will diminish his enthusiasm.
The peak efficiency of knowledge and strategy is to make conflict unnecessary.
He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.
You have to believe in yourself.
The worst calamities that befall an army arise from hesitation.
The opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce.
Who wishes to fight must first count the cost
If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.
One may know how to conquer without being able to do it.
The art of giving orders is not to try to rectify the minor blunders and not to be swayed by petty doubts.
The line between disorder and order lies in logistics.
If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.
Leadership is a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage, and sternness.
There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare. , The Art of War
If the enemy knows not where he will be attacked, he must prepare in every quarter, and so be everywhere weak.
Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.
Knowing the enemy enables you to take the offensive, knowing yourself enables you to stand on the defensive.
Using order to deal with the disorderly, using calm to deal with the clamorous, is mastering the heart.
Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.
The victorious army is victorious first and seeks battle later; the defeated army seeks battle first and seeks victory later.
If words of command are not clear and distinct if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to blame. But if his orders are clear, and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers.
If you’re enjoying these quotes, you’ll love our collection 60 Best When Life Gives You Lemons Quotes to help you relax.
Famous Sun Tzu Quotes
He wins his battles by making no mistakes.
It is easy to love your friend, but sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is to love your enemy.
The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.
All wars are won or lost before they are ever fought.
Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating ourselves to the enemy’s purpose.
The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.
Rewards for good service should not be deferred a single day.
Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.
When your opponent gives you an opening, be swift as a hare.
The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy so that he cannot fathom our real intent.
The height of strategy is to attack your opponent’s strategy.
To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.
When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.
Know yourself and you will win all battles.
Those who win every battle are not really skillful—those who render others’ armies helpless without fighting are the best of all.
If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him.
Every animal with blood in its veins and horns on its head will fight when it is attacked.
Know the enemy, know yourself and victory is never in doubt, not in a hundred battles.
Those skilled in warfare move the enemy, and are not moved by the enemy.
If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.
A wise general makes a point of foraging of the enemy.
The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.
All war is deception.
Wheels of justice grind slow but grind fine.
More Sun Tzu Quotes
The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.
Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.
The wise warrior avoids the battle.
Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory: (1) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight; (2) he will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces; (3) he will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks; (4) he will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared; (5) he will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.
One mark of a great soldier is that he fight on his own terms or fights not at all.
Attack is the secret of defense; defense is the planning of an attack.
What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins but excels in winning with ease.
Correct your mistake as soon as you have found it.
When one treats people with benevolence, justice, and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders.
Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
Great results can be achieved with small forces.
Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots. -Sun Tzu
Keep your friends close, your enemies even closer.
There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general: (1) Recklessness, which leads to destruction; (2) cowardice, which leads to capture; (3) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults; (4) a delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame; (5) over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble. — Sun Tzu
Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles and succeed in his attacks without cultivating the spirit of enterprise, for the result is waste of time and general stagnation.
If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive; and, unless submissive, then will be practically useless. If, when the soldiers have become attached to you, punishments are not enforced, they will still be unless.
Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy. Do not interfere with an army that is returning home.
There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general: (1) Recklessness, which leads to destruction; (2) cowardice, which leads to capture; (3) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults; (4) a delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame; (5) over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble.
There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard. There are not more than five primary colors, yet in combination, they produce more hues than can ever be seen. There are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted.
If there is a disturbance in the camp, the general’s authority is weak.
To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.
Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.
The skillful tactician may be likened to the Shuai-jan. Now the shuai-jan is a snake that is found in the Ch’ang mountains. Strike at its head, and you will be attacked by its tail; strike at its tail, and you will be attacked by its head; strike at its middle, and you will be attacked by head and tail both.
Those skilled at making the enemy move do so by creating a situation to which he must conform; they entice him with something he is certain to take, and with lures of ostensible profit they await him in strength.
He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.
If you fight with all your might, there is a chance of life; where as death is certain if you cling to your corner.