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The Annotated Art of War (Parts 5.7-11: Combination)


Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 5.7-11: Combination

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V. Energy


Sun Tzu said: Commentary
7. There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.

Combinations start with few things that are combined into patterns that may succeed or fail.

The human genome is like this. There are only four patterns which are repeated in endless ways that create the panoply of mankind.

In business, understand how a few simple things combine into many possibilities.  

8. There are not more than five primary colors (blue, yellow, red, white, and black), yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen. The first step in using combinations is to understand well the elements, the building blocks of patterns.

The next stage is composition, designing blends and patterns that suit the situation and mood.

9. There are not more than five cardinal tastes (sour, acrid, salt, sweet, bitter), yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted. In different situations there are different basic elements. If you can classify these and understand them, you can build deliberate combinations.
10. In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack--the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers. Direct and indirect are two methods that can be used in many confusing combinations, for example with a sequence of indirect feints that move troops followed direct attacks into the holes created. 

Likewise any two things can combine in many ways, just like the 1101100101 of computer binary.

To succeed in business you do not need to always invent new ways of competing. New ways of combining existing methods can be just as successful.

11. The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in turn. It is like moving in a circle--you never come to an end. Who can exhaust the possibilities of their combination? This is like yin and yang, breathing in and breathing out. Each thing creates its opposite. Attacking the enemy creates a counter-attack, which may be met with a strategic withdrawal and a pincer movement.

Design battle and war in terms of ebbs and flows, indirect and direct, defense and attacks.

Winning can also lead to losing as arrogance leads to carelessness. And losing can lead to winning when sadness turns to determination.

When you are down, the only way is up. And when you are up, how do you stay up?



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