The Art of War is a book that was written around the 6th century BC by Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu was a high-ranking general in the Chinese army. The book is considered the world's first written treatise on military strategy. Through the centuries, his book has crossed borders and its influence is still felt today in the East, as well as in the West, on subjects going beyond military science, such as law, politics or business and the corporate world. Many professionals have already in the past, made many parallels between the book of Sun Tzu and the world of business. However, here is how a PhD student could translate these lessons to his own environment.
"The supreme art of war is to tame your enemy without even fighting."
Translation - Doing a PhD does not necessarily mean working hard. There are many shortcuts and tricks to gain productivity.
"In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity."
Translation - Doing a PhD is managing many different things at the same time creating an overbooked feeling for all students. Be different from the mass of students in your approach to be more successful.
"Appear inferior and encourage his arrogance."
Translation - Let your colleagues believe what they want from your work and surprise them at the last moment.
"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war and then seek to win."
Translation - Prepare your action plan for completing your PhD. Define your goals to achieve and how you will get there.
"Supreme excellence is breaking the enemy's resistance without even having to fight."
Translation - Keep a good relationship with your supervisor throughout your PhD even if you have differences.
"Opportunities multiply when they are seized"
Translation - Don't hesitate to dig into a particular aspect of your topic when you feel there is potential. Don't put it off when you have the motivation now.
"Earth gives birth to length. Length gives birth to volume. Volume gives birth to counting. Counting gives birth to weighing. Weighing gives birth to winning."
Translation - A successful PhD means deploying, measuring and tracking actions, strategies and goals. At each step, measure progress.
"If you and your enemy remain ignorant, you will be certain to find yourselves in peril."
Translation - Never underestimate things that may seem ancillary to the PhD, such as administrative.
"Bring them to a place where they can't get away, and they'll die before they get away."
Translation - Don't just pass your PhD. Use this time to build long-term relationships that will serve you for life.
"The general who goes to war without coveting glory, retreats without fear of disgrace, and whose only concern is to protect his country and serve his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom."
Translation - Don't be afraid to fail and don't run after the urge to be an influential researcher. A truly useful experience is appreciated by peers and positively influences research outcomes.
These 10 lessons from the Art of War here reflect the reality of being a good PhD student today. Sun Tzu said, "He who is skilled in the Art of War tames his enemy's army without even having to fight... He conquers by strategy."
What about you, will you be a conqueror or will you surrender your PhD?