Are Business Lies Really Lies?—Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” and Me

I’m a terrible liar. Despite my best efforts, I suck at it. I am really good at keeping quiet, so if I don’t want to spill the beans I usually just don’t say anything. But if I try to deceive with words, my lies come out all mumbly.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

For many reasons, that’s usually a good thing. I would probably be in trouble a lot more often if I were any good at lying.

Is this always a good thing, though? I don’t know. In The Art of War Sun Tzu says “All warfare is based on deception…. When capable, feign incapacity; when active, inactivity.” He goes on from there, but you get the gist. The Art of War is inextricably bound to the Art of Deception.

That’s tough for me. I would probably be richer if I was good at deception. But then maybe I wouldn’t like myself that much. And maybe, in the end, that’s more important to me. Somedays I like to think it is.

What do you think? Does this part of The Art of War resonate with you? Repulse you? It’s easy to say self-righteously, “Of course I wouldn’t deceive anyone.” And I am not arguing that you should deceive the customer. But what about your competitor? What if winning the business is on the line?