I just finished reading The Art of War for Women – Sun Tzu’s Ancient Strategies and Wisdom for Winning at Work by Chin-Ning Chu. You may recall that I lost the free copy I got at the Working Mother Multicultural Conference (POWER: OWN IT. USE IT. SHARE IT.), so I wasn’t able to discuss the book in my original post.
This past week I found time to read it while the kids napped, at night when they were asleep, and once when I desparately needed some down-time and got a pedicure at Colorful Nails. I only read a few pages there because I also enjoy talking to the Vietnamese ladies who work there. They have such fascinating stories to tell about their lives and we chat about kids and work, etc. When my daughter was about 4 or 5 months old, I was home with her full time. Sometimes I needed some pedicure decompression time (about once a month), so I brought her with me and sat her on my lap so she could watch with interest. After she reached 9 or 10 months of age, she was no longer interested in sitting still on my lap. At $25 for a spa pedicure in a wonderful massaging chair, it can’t be beat!
After having read the book, I have to say it is a MUST read…especially for women in corporate America. What many people miss about Sun Tzu’s Art of War is that although he discusses how to achieve military victory, he also encourages we do so with the least amount of conflict and with a goal of attaining peace. In fact, he very much espouses the win-win philosophy because who wants to rule people who hate you for defeating them? I read excerpts of The Art of War in graduate business school in one of my favorite classes called The Art of Leadership. It was very hard to understand then and it now makes more sense after reading The Art of War for Women. On a side note, I wrote my semester paper in that class on The Celestine Prophecy and how the 9 insights can be used by effective leaders. The professor was skeptical at first but after reading it, decided to give me an A. But I digress….
Chin-Ning builds on this win-win sentiment and encourages us women to use our inborn unique skills of getting to positive solutions in our professional and family lives. However, as she walks through the chapters of Sun Tzu’s book she clearly emphasizes that it is not an easy road. To me the hardest and most important task is to “know yourself.” I, personally, have done self analysis throughout my life, but I have changed over time so it is a constant time-consuming exercise that I am never able to finish. It’s also very hard to get a clear picture of oneself because our image of ourself is derived from how we think others perceive us. But as she mentions “How well you know the world around you is directly proportional to how well you know yourself.” Personally, I think completing this task is about 90% of the battle! The other 5%, in my opinion, has to do with Timing (personal and universal) which she discusses at length in her book.
One of the more interesting quotes in the book to me is in Chapter 8.1 – Transform Your Blue Puppy into a Golden Muse. She says “Human beings come equipped with tons of different emotions – not all of them joyful. When we force ourselves to be happy all the time, we set ourselves up for self-criticism and a state of eternal unhappiness, because it is impossible to live up to such standards. No one can. I know many professional motivation authors and speakers who, when the splotlights go off, are more miserable than you or me. Sun Tzu warned against excess, explaining that extreme behavior – even good behavior – would always lead to an army’s defeat. If you try to please everyone all the time or to stay upbeat at all costs, you will bring about your own unhappiness. Even good intentions can bring bad consequences.” It’s so true. I think in the American society if you aren’t upbeat and happy all of the time then people think something is wrong with you. As Confucious said (and my mother often repeated) “Moderation In All Things!”
Chin-Ning uses easy to understand stories to illustrate her points. She even mentions that perfecting the art of pancake flipping will help you tap “into the state of perfect strength, perfect control, and perfect detachment. These are the attributes you need to fireproof yourself.”
She concludes the book with a discussion on Sun Tzu’s 13th chapter which highlights how to deal with espionage and con-artists. It made me sad to think that there are so many con-artists out there in the world. It also made me a little bit nervous about jumping fully back into the business world since I’ve been con-artist free in my business life since I left the last company I founded. Since we are bootstrapping (i.e., self-funding) Babble Soft at the moment, I have not run into customer or partner con-artists…probably because they are too caught up in their internal politics to con me and they probably wisely realize we don’t have enough money or fame to spend time trying to take it away from us yet! According to her book, they might turn out to be con-artists later so we have to be on guard constantly. Fortunately, I have only happened upon con-artists a few times in my business and personal life. I hope to be able to keep that number under 5, but my guess is that might be out of my control. Give me a jerk who is a jerk to my face and a jerk behind my back any day versus a person who is nice to my face and then stabs me in the back later! Looking back, I feel more sadness for those people than anger because in their weakness they lost something invaluable, and I gained something invaluable: experience and strength.
Congratulations to Chin-Ning on a long overdue book to lead us, as she states, into The Woman’s Century — it’s our turn to help shift humanity back to a balance between Yin and Yang using our unique skills and paths to success. I agree with Chin-Ning that we cannot follow another person’s path to victory, we must follow our own. We should learn from others but the terrain, personal timing, universal timing, and people we experience is different than anyone elses that has come before us, and we must use those differences to our advantage!
If you are a woman (or man) in corporate America, are married to a man (or woman) in corporate America, plan to go back to corporate America, and/or deal with corporate America in your small business, you need to add this book to your Amazon shopping cart and buy it NOW! (See below for the link!) If you are reading this post in a Reader or an email, the Amazon book image may not show up. You can click on the post title to see the actual blog post to see it…which I hope you do. Happy strategizing!
A few more posts to come on the conference:
- The Asians Shine
- Julia Hubbel and The Hub Factor
- Summary – JP Morgan Chase