For the benefit of those who are not familiar with the name Sun Tzu, he was one of the most influential generals in China, a military strategist, writer, and Taoist philosopher. He lived during the second half of the Zhou dynasty of ancient China (better known as the Eastern Zhou period) and is credited traditionally as the one who authored The Art of War. The literary work is devoted to warfare and how it is applicable to military strategy and tactics. Despite having been around since about 5th century BC, this piece by Sun Tzu remains relevant even today and continues to influence not just the philosophy and military thinking of both Western and East Asia but also modern warfare, business, politics, sports, etc.
Below, is a list of 150 quotes from Sun Tzu, gathered from various sources, including his timeless work, The Art of War, that will definitely inspire and empower you to keep walking on the path of success.
150 Sun Tzu Quotes To Inspire And Help You Succeed in Life
1. Sweat more during peace: bleed less during war.
2. Let your plans be dark and as impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.
3. Concentrate your energy and hoard your strength.
4. Keep your friends close, your enemies even closer.
5. For them to perceive the advantage of defeating the enemy, they must also have their rewards.
6. The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
7. Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?
8. 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.
9. Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
10. In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.
11. If you are far from the enemy, make him believe you are near.
12. Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
13. Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems.
14. Do not engage an enemy more powerful than you. And if it is unavoidable and you do have to engage, then make sure you engage it on your terms, not on your enemy’s terms.
15. If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things.
16. Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.
17. Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles and succeed in his attacks without cultivating the spirit of enterprise, for the result is waste of time and general stagnation.
18. All war is deception.
19. The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.
20. A wise general makes a point of foraging of the enemy.
21. The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.
22. There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.
23. Opportunities multiply as they are seized.
24. The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.
25. It is more important to out-think your enemy than to outfight him
26. Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.
27. He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
28. Do not press an enemy at bay.
29. The skillful employer of men will employ the wise man, the brave man, the covetous man, and the stupid man. For the wise man delights in establishing his merit, the brave man likes to show his courage in action, the covetous man is quick at seizing advantages, and the stupid man has no fear of death.
30. Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.
31. Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.
32. When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move.
33. Convince your enemy that he will gain very little by attacking you; this will diminish his enthusiasm.
34. The peak efficiency of knowledge and strategy is to make conflict unnecessary.
35. He will win who prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
36. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.
37. You have to believe in yourself.
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.
39. Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.
40. Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow; decision, to the releasing of the trigger.
41. Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.
42. Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
43. If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.
44. The opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
45. When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce.
46. Who wishes to fight must first count the cost
47. If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.
48. One may know how to conquer without being able to do it.
49. The art of giving orders is not to try to rectify the minor blunders and not to be swayed by petty doubts.
50. The line between disorder and order lies in logistics.
51. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.
52. Leadership is a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage, and sternness.
53. If the enemy know not where he will be attacked, he must prepare in every quarter, and so be everywhere weak.
54. 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.
55. Those who win every battle are not really skillful—those who render others’ armies helpless without fighting are the best of all.
56. If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him.
57. Every animal with blood in its veins and horns on its head will fight when it is attacked.
58. Know the enemy, know yourself and victory is never in doubt, not in a hundred battles.
59. Those skilled in warfare move the enemy, and are not moved by the enemy.”― Sun Tzu
60. Knowing the enemy enables you to take the offensive, knowing yourself enables you to stand on the defensive.
61. Using order to deal with the disorderly, using calm to deal with the clamorous, is mastering the heart.
62. Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.
63. The victorious army is victorious first and seeks battle later; the defeated army seeks battle first and seeks victory later.
64. If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to blame. But if his orders are clear, and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers.
65. He wins his battles by making no mistakes.
66. All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.
67. Know yourself and you will win all battles
68. To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.
69. There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.
70. The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.
71. When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.
72. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak
73. One mark of a great soldier is that he fight on his own terms or fights not at all.
74. 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
75. If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.
76.What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.
77. 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.
78. He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not will be victorious.
79. When one treats people with benevolence, justice, and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders’.
80. Thus the expert in battle moves the enemy and is not moved by him.
81. Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots.
82. 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.
83. Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.
84. The wise warrior avoids the battle.
85. There are roads which must not be followed, armies which must not be attacked, towns which must not be besieged, positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.
86. Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.
87. If quick, I survive. If not quick, I am lost. This is death.
88. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.
89. Ultimate excellence lies not in winning every battle, but in defeating the enemy without ever fighting.
90. The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy so that he cannot fathom our real intent.
91. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
92. Attack is the secret of defense; defense is the planning of an attack.
93. Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.
94. The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.
95. Great results, can be achieved with small forces.
96. Knowing the enemy enables you to take the offensive, knowing yourself enables you to stand on the defensive.
97. Wheels of justice grind slow but grind fine
98.Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.
99. Never venture, never win!
100. Be where your enemy is not.
101. If his forces are united, separate them.
102. To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
103. Bravery without forethought, causes a man to fight blindly and desperately like a mad bull. Such an opponent, must not be encountered with brute force but may be lured into an ambush and slain.
104. In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack–the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers.
105. Mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy
106. Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow; decision, to the releasing of a trigger
107. Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster
108. Who does not know the evils of war cannot appreciate its benefits
109. Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will.
110. If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak
111. Rewards for good service should not be deferred a single day.
112. 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.
113. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
114. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
115. Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.
116.He who advances without seeking fame, Who retreats without escaping blame, He whose one aim is to protect his people and serve his lord, The man is a jewel of the Realm.
117.Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.
118.Do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat.
119.Conform to the enemy’s tactics until a favorable opportunity offers; then come forth and engage in a battle that shall prove decisive.
120.The Art of War is self-explanatory.
121. It is easy to love your friend, but sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is to love your enemy.
122. Disorder came from order, fear came from courage, weakness came from strength.
123. The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.
124. If there is a disturbance in the camp, the general’s authority is weak.
125. When your army has crossed the border, you should burn your boats and bridges, in order to make it clear to everybody that you have no hankering after home.
126. Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy. Do not interfere with an army that is returning home.
127. Order or disorder depends on organization; courage or cowardice on circumstances; strength or weakness on dispositions.
128. It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy’s one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two.
129. Foreknowledge cannot be gotten from ghosts and spirits, cannot be had by analogy, cannot be found out by calculation. It must be obtained from people, people who know the conditions of the enemy.
130. Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating ourselves to the enemy’s purpose.
131. Conceal your dispositions, and your condition will remain secret, which leads to victory; show your dispositions, and your condition will become patent, which leads to defeat.
132. In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.
133. When the outlook is bright, bring it before their eyes; but tell them nothing when the situation is gloomy.
134. You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.
135. Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack.
136. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.
137. By reinforcing every part, he weakens every part.
138. The worst calamities that befall an army arise from hesitation
139. The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible attack at several different points
140. Confront them with annihilation, and they will then survive; plunge them into a deadly situation, and they will then live. When people fall into danger, they are then able to strive for victory.
141. An army may be likened to water, for just as owing water avoids the heights and hastens to the lowlands, so an army avoids strength and strikes weakness.
142. Hiding order beneath the cloak of disorder is simply a question of subdivision; concealing courage under a show of timidity presupposes a fund of latent energy; masking strength with weakness is to be effected by tactical disposition.
143. Apparent confusion is a product of good order; apparent cowardice, of courage; apparent weakness, of strength.
144. A leader leads by example not by force.
145. A commander who advances without any thought of winning personal fame and withdraws in spite of certain punishment, whose only concern is to protect his people and promote the interests of his ruler, is the nation’s treasure.
146. It is the unemotional, reserved, calm, detached warrior who wins, not the hothead seeking vengeance and not the ambitious seeker of fortune.
147. All warfare is based on deception
148. Some people think insufficiency means weakness and surplus means strength, but this impression is wrong.
149. There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general:
(1) Recklessness, which leads to destruction;
(2) cowardice, which leads to capture;
(3) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults;
(4) a delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame;
(5) over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble.
150. 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.
151. Those who are skilled in combat do not become angered, those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid.
152. Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.