The 33 Strategies of War is a distillation of the timeless wisdom contained in the lessons and principles of warfare. The book is designed to arm you with practical knowledge that will give you endless options and advantages in dealing with the elusive warriors that attack you in daily battle.
Each chapter is a strategy aimed at solving a particular problem that you will often encounter. Such problems include fighting with an unmotivated army behind you; wasting energy by battling on too many fronts; feeling overwhelmed by friction, the discrepancy between plans and reality; getting into situations you cannot get out of. You can read the chapters that apply to the particular problem of the moment. Better still, you can read all of the strategies, absorb them, allowing them to become part of your mental arsenal. Even when you are trying to avoid a war, not fight one, many of these strategies are worth knowing for defensive purposes and for making yourself aware of what the other side might be up to. In any event, they are not intended as doctrine or formulas to be repeated but as aids to judgment in the heat of battle, seeds that will take root in you and help you think for yourself, developing the latent strategist within.
The strategies themselves are culled from the writings and practices of the greatest generals in history (Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, Shaka Zulu, William Techumseh Sherman, Erwin Rommel, Vo Nguyen Giap) as well as the greatest strategists (Sun-tzu, Miyamoto Musashi, Carl von Clausewitz, Ardant du Picq, T. E. Lawrence, Colonel John Boyd). They range from the basic strategies of classical warfare to the dirty, unconventional strategies of modern times. The book is divided into five parts: self-directed war (how to prepare your mind and spirit for battle); organizational war (how to structure and motivate your army); defensive war; offensive war; and unconventional (dirty) war. Each chapter is illustrated with historical examples, not only from warfare itself but from politics (Margaret Thatcher), culture (Alfred Hitchcock), sports (Muhammad Ali), business (John D. Rockefeller), showing the intimate connection between the military and the social. These strategies can be applied to struggles of every scale: organized warfare, business battles, the politics of a group, even personal relationships.
Finally, strategy is an art that requires not only a different way of thinking but an entirely different approach to life itself. Too often there is a chasm between our ideas and knowledge on the one hand and our actual experience on the other. We absorb trivia and information that takes up mental space but gets us nowhere. We read books that divert us but have little relevance to our daily lives. We have lofty ideas that we do not put into practice. We also have many rich experiences that we do not analyze enough, that do not inspire us with ideas, whose lessons we ignore. Strategy requires a constant contact between the two realms. It is practical knowledge of the highest form. Events in life mean nothing if you do not reflect on them in a deep way, and ideas from books are pointless if they have no application to life as you live it. In strategy all of life is a game that you are playing. This game is exciting but also requires deep and serious attention. The stakes are so high. What you know must translate into action, and action must translate into knowledge. In this way strategy becomes a lifelong challenge and the source of constant pleasure in surmounting difficulties and solving problems.