5 Sun Tzu Quotes Every Man Should Know

The Art of War, from a masculine perspective

Leo Saini
Leo Saini
Jun 16 · 5 min read
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William Cho / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

I read The Art of War by Sun Tzu for the first time around six years ago. I still remember the moment when this renowned book arrived at my place in a parcel. I didn’t bother to get some scissors to open the package gently. I used my nails to tear it apart as I couldn’t wait any longer to access Sun Tzu’s wisdom.

It was a small 100-page book. “No big deal,” I thought. “I’ll be done reading this by evening.” However, it took me around six months to read The Art of War completely. Why? Because it’s not a kid’s bedtime storybook. It’s a well-written, thought-provoking, ancient military treatise.

Of course, you can read it quickly if you want to. But to absorb this book, you’ve got to read it slowly and understand its essence. I have read the paperback version and heard The Art of War audiobook several times. In this article, I’m going to discuss the top five of my favorite quotes.

1. “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Whether you’re strong or weak, whether you’re a winner or a loser, whether you’ve got more lawyers or no lawyers at all, engaging in any dispute will cost time and energy on both sides.

That’s why it’s essential that you recognize problematic situations in advance and avoid them. For example, if its Saturday night and you’re driving home with your family, you might want to avoid the area that has a lot of night clubs and drunk fights — even if it’s the shortest and your usual route. Through this simple change, you’ll avoid (and win) a battle that never even happens.

The same goes for problematic people. Some people seek unnecessary drama. Some people have no goals and ambitions, and if you have them around, they’ll try to stop you from achieving your goals to feel better about themselves. You’d be in a way better position and avoid a lot of battles just by detecting such people and staying away from them.

2. “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”

I know we live a world where “hustlers” and “entrepreneurs” encourage us to share our goals publicly. I’m not against it, though. But you don’t have to tell everything to everyone. Sometimes, it’s okay to keep everything low-key until you’re certain that you’ll achieve your goals.

Gosh! Can this article get any more paranoid? Well, we’re discussing The Art of War, so expect some defensive tactics here.

3. “Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons, and they will follow you into the deepest valley.”

When you have people working for you (or working with you), do you treat them all with equal respect? If not, then what incentive do they have to give their 100%? In fact, why would they put their best foot forward after being treated like third-class citizens?

When working with a large group of men, keep the nepotism and favoritism aside and let the competent take the lead. In my article How Genghis Khan Became the Most Feared Ruler in the World, I have mentioned how Genghis Khan only promoted the most competent men (not the aristocrats) to high-ranking positions and how it helped him conquer the world.

Any group is only as strong as its weakest link. That one time you exclude someone from a group dinner, that one email in which you don’t CC a team member, that one incident of yelling at your team member publicly, could cause more damage than you think.

4. “Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.”

Complacency is your biggest enemy as a man. It includes skipping the gym, it includes pressing the snooze button, it includes settling for an average income and not figuring out how to increase it.

You could be the best in your game, but know that you’ll lose your charm if you become complacent. So don’t see your achievements as a final destination. Believe that there is no destination and always be on the hunt for your next big challenge. Facing new challenges is what keeps your sword sharp. Personally, I didn’t even know how to swim until last year. Now, I can dive from a 5-meter-high diving board. My next goal is to do tricks off of a 10-meter-high board.

5. “When the officers are too strong and the common soldiers too weak, the result is collapse.”

This one is for all the “alpha” males out there who expect all other men to be “tough as f**k.” There’s nothing wrong with motivating other men to be their best, but the Sergeant Asshole persona will make things worse if you’re dealing with a man who’s suffering from underlying mental health issues which you’re not qualified to resolve — unless you have got a formal qualification and relevant experience in psychiatry.

You’ll only make things worse. Ask yourself: Is shouting and cursing at other men and shaming them into being successful a viable option? Probably not.

Firstly, measure the strength of the man you’re trying to motivate. Understand them, their past, their childhood, their relationships, their traumas, and insecurities. If you go all in without knowing these things, you might end up triggering an unpleasant situation.


You could read The Art of War in an hour. However, if you want to absorb its true essence deeply, you’re going to have to read it multiple times.

Which one’s your favorite quote of the aforementioned? Let’s discuss it in the responses.

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Leo Saini

Written by

Leo Saini

I blog on my personal website now @ www.LeoSaini.com

Men’s Reads

Wisdom for men from credible sources

Leo Saini

Written by

Leo Saini

I blog on my personal website now @ www.LeoSaini.com

Men’s Reads

Wisdom for men from credible sources

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