The following is an unconventional book review of The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
One sad rainy Wednesday during my lunch hour at the office I went to retrieve my leftover Kung Po Chicken from the refrigerator in the break room, only to find it had disappeared. I was pissed! A mystery colleague had broken my trust and stolen my Chinese food. Thoughts of swift decisive vengeance flashed through my head, but my calmer mind prevailed and I decided to let this minor trespass pass. I saw little benefit in raising hell over two dollars worth of old food. The sting of the stolen lunch and empty belly slowly faded, and I forgot about the incident. Then a few weeks later my leftover Curry Beef also disappeared under mysterious circumstances. I was sure that the same culprit was responsible, and I coldly set my mind to utterly defeating the repeat offender.
It was at this time that I came across The Art of War, an ancient Chinese text that describes and analyzes the factors that one must consider when going to battle, offering tactics and strategies to employ in order to defeat an opponent. While the advice is geared toward ancient warfare, it can be and has been used by modern businessmen and politicians as a guide to besting competitors, handling underlings, and being an effective leader. According to the text, the vital keys to winning warfare are: to think ahead, plan, and consider carefully before acting; to know your enemy; to know yourself; to know the environment; to make prudent use of espionage; and to employ cleverness and deception.
It was these principles that I applied in my battle against the Chinese Food Bandit. First I had to discover who my enemy was. All I knew was that he liked spicy Chinese cuisine. I implemented “Chinese Food Fridays” at the office, where we all ordered Chinese take-out and ate together in the break room. Everyone congratulated me for creating a great morale-building activity, never suspecting my ulterior motives. I secretly kept a spreadsheet of what each person ordered each week. After a few months I analyzed the data to see who was the greatest lover of spicy dishes, and one name stood out: Jeffery Briggins. My enemy had a name – now he needed to pay for his transgressions.
I covertly studied the scumbag Jeffery, I learned his weaknesses, and I waited for the appropriate time to act. Most importantly, I never let him suspect that I was plotting his ruin.
My patience was rewarded when an opportunity finally presented itself. Mr. Briggins had an important meeting with the boss the following day. I ordered General Tso’s Chicken that night, ate some, and added a double dose of laxative to the leftovers. At work the next morning I planted the tainted food in a prominent place in the refrigerator. I then only had to wait for my enemy to take the bait. At lunchtime, General Tso was nowhere to be found, and neither was Jeffery. He spent the entire afternoon losing his bowels in the restroom, he missed his important meeting, and he was fired at five o’clock.
Without the tactics I learned from The Art of War, I never could have defeated the furtive food thief so efficiently. I recommend this book to anyone interested in warfare, or anyone who needs advice on vanquishing non-military adversaries.
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