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The Terracotta Army Sculpture in Xian, China. (Photo: Shutterstock).

The O’Toole Chronicles: Art of War

By Kevin O'Toole, January 24 2023 12:01 am

As I have proudly written on numerous occasions, Steve Adubato, Sr. shaped my views on politics – not necessarily policy, but the mechanics of politics. I used to spend loads of time at the North Ward Center in the rear war room listening to Big Steve talk about the world as he saw it. Steve fancied himself the modern-day political version of Plato or Aristotle, and to some of us he was that, and a little bit more. It was at one of these political “lunch and learns” that I first heard the name Sun Tzu.

Steve painstakingly told me and the others in attendance about this Chinese military general. Sun Tzu lived in the Eastern Zhou Period from 770 to 256 BC. Besides being a brilliant military strategist, he was a writer and philosopher. Sun Tzu was credited with writing the book, “The Art of War.”

If you are in this business and haven’t read this book – shame on you. If you ever want to be successful in politics or business, read this book. Sure, the book goes into great detail about military strategy, however, I dare you to find a scenario that can’t be directly applied to politics. Trust me when I tell you many of the lessons and teachings found in this treatise are applicable to modern politics. One of the overriding tenets is that you have to believe in yourself. Another reoccurring theme is that the supreme art of war is to subdue your enemy without fighting.

One of the things that I am most proud of politically is the now famous (and much duplicated) cascading and unrelenting rollout of political support when I announced my candidacy for the soon-to-be vacant Senate seat in 2007. Within 24 hours I locked down four of the top political strategists, within 48 hours I locked down over 200 county committee and elected officials and had pledges from donors. Each day was greeted with an avalanche of press releases blasting out another important “get” for our fledging campaign.

I truly believe this Sun Tzu inspired strategy established the pillars for a winning campaign. We went full throttle and adopted the winning psychology and took the field, for a battle we should never have won. Up until that time, the much feared and revered Bergen “line” had never lost, but we upended that streak and buried them with an embarrassing loss. The key to beating “the line” is have your own “line” – with real candidates, money, and most of all, a real campaign.

Besides these two instructions found in The Art of War, I leave you with a few other offerings from Sun Tzu’s book:

-Appear weak when you are strong and strong when you are weak;
-If the forces are united, separate them;
-If you are far from your enemy, make it appear that you are close;
-In the midst of chaos, there is opportunity (one of my personal favorites and we almost took out a Speaker with this one);
-If you know the enemy and yourself, you need not fear the results of one hundred battles;
-Victorious warriors win first and then go to war.

I could easily turn this into a 5,000-word column if I went into detail on all the lessons in this book, but for now, I would say, utilize these few pearls and tell me you haven’t already started applying them to your life.

“I have read The Art of War by Sun Tzu. He continues to influence both soldiers & politicians,” General Colin Powell.

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