Day 286: The Art of (Startup) War — Chapter 10: Terrain

Like in the previous chapter, Sun Tzu again talks about environmental factors that don’t have a lot to do with contemporary tech business, namely the six types of terrain on which soldiers fight: (1) accessible ground, (2) entangling ground, (3) temporizing ground, (4) narrow passes, (5) precipitous heights, and (6) positions at a great distance from the enemy.

The more useful information comes later, especially the Six Calamities.

Sun Tzu said:

“Now an army is exposed to six several calamities, not arising from natural causes, but from faults for which the general is responsible. These are: (1) flight; (2) insubordination; (3) collapse; (4) ruin; (5) disorganization; (6) rout.”

Let’s break these down.

The Six Calamities

  • Flight occurs when the opposition is far too great to surmount.
  • Insubordination occurs when commanding officers are too weak.
  • Collapse occurs when the commanding officers are too strong.
  • Ruin occurs when commanding officers disobey their general.
  • Disorganization occurs during an absence of communication.
  • Rout occurs when the general lacks intelligence or preparation.

To avoid these calamities, the chapter goes into great detail about the leadership of the general. Ultimately, it boils down to what could be considered the core thesis of The Art of War:

“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.”

— Lee