The Art of War & How to Use it

When I started making sustainable sailing apparel for sailors and people who want to wear clothing that supports the health of our oceans, I had no idea how hard it would be to run a successful company. However, over time I have learned the skills I’ve needed to overcome every challenge. I’m living proof of that it’s possible to change careers, start a business and do anything you set your mind to.

Initially, my intent was to provide a sustainable alternative to those that love the outdoors and don’t want to wear polluting polyester fabrics. My vision then expanded to ethical production, giving back to ocean causes with each purchase, and helping and empowering others through my my work and sharing my story. Has it been difficult? Yes. Have I worked very hard? Yes. Could it have been easier? Possibly.

My most important lesson is that business really is a war without bullets.

When you are up against giant corporations that have enormous budgets and tax advantages that the smaller corporations do not get you must look for an every advantage. Who better to learn from than those that conquered countless nations? The ancient war strategists discovered the secret to winning not just the battle, but the war. I had heard of the book The Art of War before. Sun Tzu is often quoted in other books I have read, but it wasn’t until Will Paxton (7 time National Sailing Champion) spoke to a leadership class I teach at UC Berkeley did I really understand the wisdom associated with this ancient text.

In class a student asked Will how he handled failure. I was expecting to hear something along the lines of “I never allow failure to enter my mind” or the more modern “fail faster” philosophy, but no. In the talk Will said he was never afraid of failure because:

“The Master fails more times than the novice ever attempts.” — Sun Tzu

The Art of War an ancient Chinese military treatise dating from the Late Spring and Autumn Period (roughly 5th century BC). The work, which is attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu. After all, winning sailboat races and succeeding in business are all about strategy. Nothing more, nothing less.

Running a company I’ve had to learn to be strategic and a little ruthless as well, and I often think to myself:

“The end justifies the means” — Machiavelli

which is attributed to Niccolo Machiavelli. He was the author of The Prince, which was published in the first half of the 1500’s written to educate young princes on how to become kings.

In our modern environment one where corporations are known to put profit before the environment learning the art of war is not a bad thing. It is actually a very good thing. Because it is a war, but it is one that can be won.




Sydney is an entrepreneur, writer, artist and teacher. Founder of, a sustainable sailing apparel brand, see to read more.

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Sydney Chaney-Thomas

Sydney Chaney-Thomas

Sydney is an entrepreneur, writer, artist and teacher. Founder of, a sustainable sailing apparel brand, see to read more.

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