The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene

I often find myself raging (somewhat pointlessly) against titles like this. I feel it should have been titled ’33 strategies of War’. Prefixing the title with ‘The’ adds an element of finality and egotism into the mix that I don’t like. There are only thirty three strategies. And they’re all in this book. Which is clearly a misnomer.

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I know. I’m nitpicking. It might because I’m currently experiencing an un-caffeinated state of being. Also my backspace is occasionally sticking, which is super annoying because I use my backspace almost as much as my spacebar. It’s not sperm. In case you’re wondering. More likely from overuse and general wear and tear. My MacBook Air is getting on in years.

I both really like and really dislike Robert Greene. Let me qualify that antithetical statement. I think his books are amazing. (except for the titles and the boring cover theme that runs through his books) All his books are phenomenally well researched and written. In fact I’m struggling to think of another author that rivals his meticulousness and scale. The amount of reading he must do is staggering. (I’m a little jealous) This book is packed with historical examples of the concepts outlined in each chapter and the volume of quotes and anecdotes is truly mind boggling. I eventually stopped underlining stuff because… well… basically I’d have to underline the entire book. It’s that sort of tome.

HOWEVER…

I also dislike Robert Greene because of the way me makes me feel about the world. I realize this isn’t really his fault. Ha ha. But his personal ideology is heavily imprinted in his content. I am not an optimist by any stretch of the imagination. But Jesus H Christ, Robert Greene just strips the whimsy out of life.

It’s taken me almost forever to get through War for this reason. I found if I didn’t limit myself to bite-size chunks I’d start feeling very…  (whats’ the word I’m looking) bleak about the world. That might not be everyone’s reaction. Some might just see it as an interesting treatise on certain ‘type’ of operating system. I found War starting to influence my interactions with people, insofar as I started viewing every single interchange in very stark game theory-esque terms with a winner and a loser.

About half way through War I bought the audio version of the book. (which is a 27 hour 29 minute leviathan) I thought narration might soften the impact for me, but it actually made it worse. It’s very good production though and I highly recommend it. (The only ‘longer’ audiobook I have is Strategy, A history by Lawrence Freedman weighing in at 32 hours, 4 minutes)

I love strategy. But I’ve realised that I like it as a thought exercise. Something academic meant to be mulled over will I sip my Rooibos. Something I might haul out, dust off and bandy about in a boardgame. But beyond that, actually living with strategic intent, is a bit beyond me. I don’t have the presence of mind. Or indeed the discipline to live like this.

I think this means that my life will largely be unsuccessful. You know, like how some kids aren’t good at sports…

Oh well.