Sun Tzu and the Art of War

It’s sometimes very tempting for people to believe that in a rapidly changing world, what’s new is all that has value. However, I believe that more and more, as fast as the world around us changes, we need to keep one eye on the great learning and wisdom of the past in order to understand how to operate most effectively in the world.

One example in recent years has been the increased interest in the work of the Greek stoic philosophers to understand and make sense of how to live an effective life. Other works that bear study to understand the world we live in include the writings of Plato or the Analects of Confucious. One of my favourites is ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu. Even though the book was written over 2,000 years ago it still has valid lessons today for business or life generally.

For those who want to get a simple taster, or a way to share the work with younger learners, I recently came across a cartoon video series. The thirteen videos each take one chapter of the book and make it very accessible.

Some people are uncomfortable with models related to war, battle or conflict to deal with issues in modern life. however, I believe this is to ignore the fact that in many situations if we are in a situation where, given the chance others would potentially act on a win-lose basis towards us, then it is naive to proceed as though life should not entail competition. I believe one of the greatest strength in this written work is the emphasis on using strategy to avoid battle.

The Playlist of all Thirteen Episodes
(Click on the link above to open a separate tab with the full playlist of all the episodes)

Well worth watching (and hopefully being inspired to go on and read the book)

 

 

 

Machiavelli

Machiavelli

Few figures in history have got a harsher rap than Mr Niccolo Machiavelli. In today’s language we use his name as a pejorative label for all the worst characteristics we see in leaders.

However, I believe he’s been harshly judged, especially when one considers the historical context of the time when he was writing. This was a man who understood that when you are in a position of power, or aspire to power (even if with the best of intentions), you’re going to catch dirt and cannot naively sit back and believe that the rest of the world will benignly orient itself around your goals.

The following is one of my favourite quotes from Machiavelli. Reading it I’m reminded so frequently of the benchmarks I always sought to apply when there were failures or mistakes in a team i was leading. What type of mistake was it? Was it a first, or was there a pattern? The last line is also a valuable reminder to me that I had better not ever be tempted to settle for self-pity or acceptance of status quo. It’s my life and my duty to do bold things with it. A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are built for.

I also believe that as educators we have to ensure that students spend time immersed in thoughtful contemplation on such writings, exploring their applicability in their own lives.  Only through the exploration of such ideas can they develop the inner compass that will equip them to thrive in a world that changes ever more rapidly.

“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger
(it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively.
Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength
to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”

Niccolo Machiavelli
16th Century Philosopher

 

The School of Life

The school of Life Website

As the video above highlights, our education for children is all too often lacking in attention to the key skills of living - the skills that can enable a person to do more than just exist or muddle along.

School of Life sets out to provide lots of interesting and well presented material to fill that gap. The website link above will give you access to lots of videos, articles and even items available to purchase. Appropriate selection can yield lots of learning material for the school classroom.