Sun Tzu on Speed Reading (the author of The Art of War)

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War has been adapted to many disciplines, apart of military strategy, obviously such as business, management, politics, marketing, logistics planning, strategy, sport, negotiations and conflict resolution, problem-solving and so on and this classic still inspires people with its timeless wisdom.

The Art of War is a classic text attributed to the Chinese general Sun Tzu, who lived about 2,500 years ago.

If war, fighting or military strategy is not your value or metaphor for strategy, reframe it as the art of speed reading or a strategy for solving problems. Replace ‘war’ as the stand-in noun for ….  (For the record, I’m against war and war machine).

A good example of how to read this classic is: The Art of War Visualized: The Sun Tzu Classic in Charts and Graph by Jessica Hagy

Let’s see how we can read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War for speed reading purposes.

“Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted.”
Speed reading: preview books – spend time looking over the book/text to get a general idea of the text; speed read reviews and look for summaries. Do you focus on details before you’ve understood the big picture?

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
Speed reading: use thin-slicing principle – speed read books so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the information overload

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Speed reading: read more, learn more, know more and you can speed read hundreds of books every year

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”
Speed reading: even the worst book can teach you something, for example, how to choose a better book next time and avoid ‘bad’ books

“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”
Speed reading: use summaries to get through books with easy and speed. According to research, people who read summaries remember more for longer. Summaries are a valid way to get overviews and details.

“To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.”
Speed reading: use downloading/photoreading technique to download books into your ‘non-conscious’ mind and prime yourself with the info

“Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
Speed reading: some books seem impenetrable, for example, philosophy books are notoriously difficult to read or speed read – mainly because they are to teach you to think better. Read summaries about books which will make them easier to process.

“Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.”
Speed reading: knowledge has an expiration date, wisdom is timeless. Preview books and choose books that have longevity and won’t be outdated.

“When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.”
Speed reading: apply the 80/20, Pareto principle. If 80% of information is enough to get the job done, you can stop. Do you feel like you might miss something if you don’t read from cover to cover?

“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”
Speed reading: open your peripheral vision so you can see more info, so you can extract more knowledge and wisdom from texts

“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.”
Speed reading: education is key for any nation. Speed reading is everyone’s right but unfortunately, it is not taught at schools at an early age. Societal inequality stems from lack of education or highly unequal access to education. Read more about how educational equality is the biggest factor in economic development, more than property rights, etc in Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty – You can the gist of the book by watching the talk by Thomas Piketty about Capital and Ideology at LSE, London (Unfortunately, Thomas Piketty, ‘predicts’ that there will be more inequality post-Brexit in the UK.)

“There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.”
Speed reading: there are four key aspects to speed reading: preview, state, purpose, work session and review with 37 different speed reading strategies and techniques

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
Speed reading: speed readers have positive, accelerated learning mindsets which allow them to handle any text. They’re relaxed, focused, clear, questioning and purposeful.

“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.”
Speed reading: love books, read a lot, have lots of books around

“Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.”
Speed reading: be in a good state, set the purpose for speed reading and maintain a growth mindset

“There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.”
Speed reading: have regular breaks when speed reading

“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”
Speed reading: managing stress and being in a good state for speed reading is half of the success

“He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.”
Speed reading: speed readers are comfortable at processing difficult and good texts as well as ‘bad’ books. Speed readers can decide quickly how useful a book is to them.

“He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.”
Speed reading: learn speed reading and become a speed reader so you can tackle any text or book when needed. Speed readers keep improving the way they read, speed read and extract information, knowledge and wisdom.

“Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows…just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions.”
Speed reading: the design and structure of the book, the layout, headings, etc (form) can inform you about the quality of the text (content). Some books are very well structured and other texts can be more rhizomatic. PAUSE and be flexible and open-minded at approaching any book or text. I like to start speed reading books at the end and look for summaries or concluding thoughts or insights. Use a variety of speed reading techniques for different material.

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