The Art Of War Visualized (Review)

I’ve read a few versions of Sun Tzu’s classic The Art of War and have gleaned a bit of wisdom from the different interpretations of it.  When I spotted Jessica Hagy’s The Art of War Visualized: The Sun Tzu Classic in Charts and Graphs at the library, I knew right away I needed to borrow it.

ArtOfWar-01I already had encountered Hagy’s work online, as her cartoon pages “Indexed”, which is a series of diagrams and charts that were sketched on 3X5 index cards. Her pieces are clever and insightful. She has since also collected those illustrations into a book, by the same name.

The original version of The Art of War, goes something like this: A 2,500-years-old legend states that Sun Tzu, if he actually existed, was an ancient Chinese general who lived during the “Spring and Autumn Period”, a time of much turmoil.  The feudal lords competed for power and control of the, then less populated vassal states. Sun Tzu’s wisdom and skills were in high demand during this historical period.

Supposedly, one of the warlords asked Sun Tzu to prove his skills by turning the lord’s harem of courtesans into an organized battle force. The first fighters failed miserably. The legend states that, in response, Sun Tzu publicly beheaded a couple of the lord’s favorites. Afterwards the armies followed orders to the letter. As a result, the warlord was impressed and he placed Sun Tzu in charge of the entire military.  Many years later, a collection of his alleged sayings was sewn together and copies were read by Chinese scholars, politicians, and military leaders.

The pages contain “Sun Tzu’s” pithy wisdom regarding basic warfare principles. The 13 strategies give specific advice regarding fighting and decision-making and other life challenges. An example is, “When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers too weak, the result is insubordination. When the officers are too strong and the common soldiers too weak, the result is collapse.”

Jessica Hagy

Jessica Hagy

Ever since the 20th century re-introduction of Sun Tzu’s classic, leaders and executives have adapted the writings to their own particular needs. Mao Zedong claimed that the lessons enabled his victories over the Nationalist forces that were led by Chiang Kai-Shek. More recently, American Generals, Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf utilized the advice. Major sports figures and coaches have also interpreted The Art of War for their own purposes.

Jessica Hagy has taken this text and modernized it with her special type of infographics.  The circles and lines are reminiscent of traditional Zen drawings.  Hagy’s idea was to expand the target audience of Sun Tzu from leaders to the people who actually work and bring about the final results. She asks, “In any given interaction, who’s going to do what?”

For example, a page from the chapter “Visualize Your Narrative” one verse states: “To be near the goal, while the enemy is still far from it, to wait at ease while the enemy is toiling and struggling, to be well fed while the enemy is famished: This is the art of ArtOfWar-02husbanding one’s strength….” Hagy drew a primitive graph to illustrate a marketing strategy in its simplest form.

The Art Of War Visualized is filled with graphs and Venn diagrams that bring ancient knowledge into modern focus. The drawings act like stealth wisdom because of their light-hearted, simple style.  I found myself smiling at the many “aha moments”.

If you have a crazy boss, crazy clients, or feel a bit confused, yourself, Jessica Hagy’s book is for you. I found much crazy wisdom within its covers.

{ The Art of War Visualized: The Sun Tzu Classic in Charts and Graphs by Jessica Hagy; 249 pages paperback; Published in 2015 by Workman Publishing; ISBN:  978-0-7611-8238-2 }

1984aThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Sun Tzu. “There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited.”


About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Books, cultural highlights, History, Politics, sports and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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