Sun Tzu's Art of War - Chapter 01: Laying Plans

Real Estate Agent with Long Realty Arizona Properties

Chapter one wastes no time in answering one of the most basic questions many people have when it comes AoW:  Why war?  Aside from being the "business" that his family was in, warfare is the ultimate metaphor separating life from death, and because survival is so important, careful consideration must be taken when planning war.  The same could certainly be said about either planning your business, or the way you go about planning your life. 

To paraphrase a bit, Sun Tzu goes on to say that war should be waged with five critical factors in mind:  a sense of Morality, Heaven, Earth, Leadership, and Discipline.  Having a sense of Morality in your conduct causes both the people you work with and the people you work for to look to you as a leader and will in turn assure that they will stick by your side in the most difficult of times.  Losing your sense of Morality is the surest way to lose the trust of those around you.  Sun Tzu describes Heaven essentially as those things we cannot immediately control, but are forced to react to.  One easy parallel for Heaven might be "the market" that we all seem to complain about.  Earth is represented by the more tangible things around us such as our farm areas, our prospects, and leads.  Leadership, according to Sun Tzu, is a combination of wisdom, benevolence, courage, and strictness.  Discipline deals fundamentally with how you organize and utilize the tools available to you in the pursuit of your goals.

Quite simply, the leader who pays the most attention to the above factors and has found that the majority of them are in his or her favor will be victorious, and the leader who finds that few of them favor him or her will fail.

What parallels that I covered resonate most with you in your business, and for those of you who have read AoW, what didn't I cover that you would like to discuss in detail?  If you are not part of the group, and are interested in the book, or have read the book and would like to contribute, I would encourage you to join now and join in the discussion.

To find out more visit us online at, call Ben Bailey at 480/220-8022 (email him at, or call Jerry Murphy at 602/334-3757 (email him at 

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Comments (6)

Jeff Pickering
Pickering Group - Anthem, AZ


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Jan 02, 2008 03:46 PM
Benjamin Bailey
Long Realty Arizona Properties - Phoenix, AZ
Thanks Jeff.  Video messaging - very cool.  I'm glad to hear that the post has peaked your interest.  I'm leaving some analysis out because it isn't necessarily pertinent when it comes to the real estate business, but it is all worth reading, OR listening to in the car.  Enjoy.
Jan 02, 2008 03:54 PM
Ray Essick
Coleman Realty Group - Hampton, NH

Hi Benjamin,

  I have read a few different books on the Art of War. I like your post it makes me think. There are many translations of the book out there. Here is my take on it.

Sunny is often translated wrong and so... 

I think your translation of your book has substituted Morality for Philosophy.

Here is the danger. Let's take a western book as an example. What would happen if I substituted Morality in Bill's work?

    There are more things than heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. - William Shakespeare

    I think Shakespeare would be seen as an Occult supporter if he used the word Morality. Instead he remains neutral but open with the philosophy of ghosts existing.

    Sun Tzu does not support the idea that War is Moral or immoral. It's more a sense of support by the people and the people's republic that causes the act of war to be triggered. No judgment is made on the Morality of this action. Sun Tzu is open to the philosophy of the need for a military and support for it. The job of the commander is to conduct military operations in the most effective and strategic way. The creation of ghosts however is optional.

    Having a good marketing plan for your client is what I think we learn from the book. Being prepared and ready to help them sell their property. Try to position their property on the high ground and give them the strategic advantage. It's more about pricing it right in today's market so that they don't have to fight a prolonged war or not taking the listing and telling them it's not a fight they can be won now as their price is too high. Save your energy and only fight the battles that can be won.




Jan 02, 2008 07:46 PM
Benjamin Bailey
Long Realty Arizona Properties - Phoenix, AZ

Thanks Ray - you've got some great comments.  As I note, this is not the strictest reading of the book - I am taking a couple of liberties with the text, and there are some things that I have omitted such as items dealing with deception - I think we've had enough deception in the business already and don't need more. 

I also agree that translation is always the key to understanding the primary text, and since that's not my department, I'll rely on my two copies to help me through that.  Literally translated, what I have called Morality is actually Tao, or "the way".  If you were to ask a Zen master what that meant, he may say that its essence is everything-ness and nothingness - with it you are everything and nothing, and without it you are nothing, and everything.  Someone else might call it love, and because it is an abstract concept, it would be difficult for me to disagree with that interpretation.  So, the problem that we have here is not necessarily in translation itself, but in the interpretation of it. 

It may be neither here nor there, but in your example, you use Shakespeare and substitute an English word for another English word, so you eliminate the process of translation from the equation, and I'm not sure if that works.  Also, you may know more about the book than I, but what I do know is that the concept of what you describe as a "people's rebublic" is something that has only been around in China since roughly the middle of the last century, and would have had no place in Sun Tzu's world.  The sovereign had divine right to send his generals to battle, so Sun Tzu looked at war not through the lense of its being just or unjust, but he considered it his duty.  So, to say that Sun Tzu is "open to the philosophy of the need for a military" I think is a bit relaxed, wouldn't you say?

I do not claim to be an expert on the subject, and perhaps I wasn't completely clear in my initial post, but I am simply trying to interpret my translation, and make it relevant  and applicable to the business we're all in, so please forgive me if it grates on you a bit - I knew I ran that risk when I began this series of posts, but I think it is a valuable line of discourse, and would not have embarked upon this path if I did not think that it would be useful.

I would encourage you to contribute to this forum and help me make it a more well-rounded experience for anyone who might stumble upon it.  Thanks again Ray.

Jan 02, 2008 11:18 PM
Ray Essick
Coleman Realty Group - Hampton, NH

Hi Benjamin,

     Sometimes a reference to spy is to examine what the enemy (the competition) is doing from the inside and not deception. But Yes we don't need deception in this business but it can be a part of war.

    Ben I have books that say "the way" too. but it's better to translate from the actually Chinese Character which literally means philosophy.  

    I agree that in Sun Tzu time it's not called the "peoples republic". He is not talking about just the Chinese empire either it's more about governments in general. People happy with a countrie's ruler was important too. Discourse at home will cause problems away. May even cause people to overthrow the ruler if they are not happy. You could say if your family life is not happy your job performance will suffer too.

    Sun Tzu is actually looking to win the war as his duty but this can be done without fighting too. I should have said "he is open to the philosophy of the need for a STRONG military". You win 100% of the battles you never have to fight. You have a well trained military and your enemy knows you will use it. It's the biggest deterrent to war. You have a weapon you hope you will never have to use. If you go to war you fight smart and win. He is not a coward he just does not want to waste resources on battles that will not have favorable results.

    The use of spies and collection of intelligence is also important so you have to do this too. While deception can also be part of this it's more about appearances. I don't think it's wrong to have a home staged. We all want to show a home in it's best light and get the best results. Collecting market information also helps our clients make good decisions on pricing.


Jan 11, 2008 07:50 PM
Benjamin Bailey
Long Realty Arizona Properties - Phoenix, AZ
Those are fantastic insights Ray.  Until now, I'd thought about scrapping some sections of chapters because I wasn't sure if how I could use them, but you've opened up a couple of different avenues that I hadn't considered.  Thanks very much Ray, and please look over the chapter 2 post if you have time and let me know what you think.  I also will have chapter 3 up this week (hopefully).  Thanks once again.
Jan 11, 2008 11:11 PM