47 powerful Sun Tzu quotes that will change your perspective on life

Sun Tzu was a Chinese general, military strategist and philosopher.

He is most renowned for his book The Art of War, a widely influential military strategy book that affected both Western and Eastern philosophy.

He is also known for his biting philosophy on life and how to win.

Below are some of his best quotes from his famous book The Art of War. They’re relevant to much more than fighting battles. They’ll surely change your perspective on life.

Enjoy!

47 Sun Tzu quotes

1) “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” – Sun Tzu

2) “Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” – Sun Tzu

Statue of Sun Tzu in Yurihama, Tottori, in Japan. Source: Wikipedia

3) “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.” – Sun Tzu

4) “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” – Sun Tzu

5) “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu

6) “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” – Sun Tzu

7) “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.” – Sun Tzu

8) “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” – Sun Tzu

9) “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu

10) “Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.” – Sun Tzu

11) “For 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.” – Sun Tzu

12) “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.” – Sun Tzu

13) “If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu

14) “Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.” – Sun Tzu

15) “If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.” – Sun Tzu

16) “Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.” – Sun Tzu

17) “There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.” – Sun Tzu

18) “Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.” – Sun Tzu

19) “Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.” – Sun Tzu

20) “When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.” – Sun Tzu

21) “A leader leads by example, not by force.” – Sun Tzu

22) “Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?” – Sun Tzu

23) “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

24) “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” – Sun Tzu

25) “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.” – Sun Tzu

26) “Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.” – Sun Tzu

27) “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.” – Sun Tzu

28) “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” – Sun Tzu

29) “Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.” – Sun Tzu

30) “If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.” – Sun Tzu

31) “Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.” – Sun Tzu

32) “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu

33) “Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.” – Sun Tzu

34) “To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” – Sun Tzu

35) “Quickness is the essence of the war.” – Sun Tzu

36) “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” – Sun Tzu

37) “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 been seen.There are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted.” – Sun Tzu

38) “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.” – Sun Tzu

39) “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.” – Sun Tzu

40) “Invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the attack.” – Sun Tzu

41) “The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.” – Sun Tzu

42) “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.” – Sun Tzu

43) “If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things.” – Sun Tzu

44) “When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move.” – Sun Tzu

45) “Victory usually goes to the army who has better trained officers and men.” – Sun Tzu

46) “If you are far from the enemy, make him believe you are near.” – Sun Tzu

47) “The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.” – Sun Tzu

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Justin Brown

Justin Brown

I'm Justin Brown, the founder of Ideapod. I've overseen the evolution of Ideapod from a social network for ideas into a publishing and education platform with millions of monthly readers and multiple products helping people to think critically, see issues clearly and engage with the world responsibly.

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