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Character Pitfalls to avoid ft Sun Tzu

In October 1998, Eiffel 65 realized their new song "Blue" was a flop.

They played it out for the first time in a live club, and it emptied out the dance floor! On top of that, the song did not sell well. They labelled the piece as forgettable, and the group moved on.

Six months later, a radio station in Italy randomly played "Blue," and the song took off. Becoming an international success, leading to a world tour and all the other things that come with fame. And it was all due to a bit of luck.

We can't hope to be as lucky as Eiffel 65 when working with others in accomplishing group goals. As we move through life, we must be mindful of our character pitfalls that can cause unnecessary obstacles. Sun Tzu realized this over 2,000 years ago and wrote down the pitfalls to avoid. Even though his advice was for the warring general, it also applies to regular joes like you and me.

So what are these pitfalls?

Let me enlist Sun Tzu's Art of War to mention them directly:

There are Five Pitfalls

For a general:


Leading to



Leading to


A hot temper,

Prone to


A delicacy of honour,

Tending to


A concern for his men,

Leading to


These Five Excesses

In a general

Are the

Bane of war.

If an army is defeated

And it’s general slain,

It will surely be because of

These Five Perils.

They demand the most

Careful consideration.

And to not leave the spotlight on Sun Tzu, I'll explain these five pitfalls briefly.


The Cambridge dictionary has the following definition:

  • Doing something dangerous and not worrying about the risks and the possible results

This seems obvious, but it's not to most. Reading classical history or literature, I noticed recklessness as a recurring pitfall. And it appears that people think they are invincible when passions are flared.

This trait has haunted man for ages.

In the Illiad, recklessness was one of the leading causes of getting a soldier killed. Where they believed they could take on the baddest man on the battlefield (like Achilles or Ajax) and come out of it unscathed.

Or when the Romans were conquering Gaul (Modern day France). The Gauls thought they were better fighters than the Romans and rushed into battle. Leading to numerous defeats. And the ironic part is that if the Gauls had done a little bit of thinking ahead of their fights, they could have defeated the Romans.

Now I understand we all have to be a little bold. In fact, you should try to sprinkle as much boldness throughout your day. But you have to be wary since it is easy to slip into recklessness,

This trait alone will cause many people disasters.

Whether it's with sex, drugs, financial risks, etc. So be mindful of yourself and try to restrain yourself from foolish actions.

However, don't veer to the extreme and fall for cowardice.


The Cambridge dictionary has the following definition:

  • The behaviour of someone who is not at all brave and tries to avoid danger

There is no explanation needed here.

Cowardice will stunt you from reaching your goals and dreams. And the worst part of cowardice is that it is a willing self-betrayal. As long as man exists, there will never be respect for cowards. Let's remember that the next time we are hesitant about something.

When we are not hesitant, we have to ensure that our temper is not the main driving force.

Hot Temper

A hot temper is a sign of emotional immaturity. To allow external things to quickly set you off is a recipe for being easily set into a trap.

Sun Tzu noticed this with generals going into foolish battles because of their temper. And this same exact tactic is still present. The most obvious place is sports.

Growing up in Canada, watching the World Junior Hockey Championship is a December tradition. It's fun to watch, but one of the frustrating things you'll see is how these young players allow their tempers to get the best of them.

Players will commit stupid and preventable errors in close games due to their temper. Leaving their team at a disadvantage, which could cost the game

Another more infamous event is the Malice in the Palace. Where NBA players got into a brawl with each other and fans, all because a fan threw something at Ron Artest. Earning him and multiple players lengthy suspensions.

Besides these sports anecdotes.

I'm sure you know people with a hot temper. And if you're one of these people, remember that a hot temper can put you in a trap.

Instead of others putting you in a trap, being too sensitive makes you create your own.

Too Sensitive

In other words, getting butt hurt easily. This has been a problem for years, where I take others' words to heart and allow them to bother me.

Which made it hard for me to hang around others and vice versa. And I think this is what Sun Tzu was alluding to. Being too sensitive stops you from engaging with people and campaigns in the right mind. Not taking things to heart makes it easy to focus on the task. And for us, the task at hand can be interacting with friends, colleagues, lovers, etc.

Another obstacle that can cause us not to make the right decisions in our right minds is being too compassionate.

Too much compassion

The problem with this is that we give people second chances. Compassion allows us to see things from others' points of view while ignoring reality.

Too much compassion is how toxic people overstay their welcome and how boundaries are crossed. Sun Tzu noticed this when a general with too much understanding would stall his campaign, as he didn't want his soldiers to get hurt.

We must be mindful of these five pitfalls, but some of you will think that all these traits have their place and time.

And they do.

But the thing to stress is to ensure that these traits do not become excessive.

You know how I preach to be a well-rounded individual. Sun Tzu mentioned his version of the well-rounded individual for generals in The Art of War. Labelling Wisdom, Courage, Integrity, Compassion, and Severity as the traits of well-roundedness.

So instead of being reckless, be wise with your moves.

Instead of being a coward, be courageous.

Instead of being too sensitive, have integrity.

Instead of being hot-tempered, have compassion.

Instead of too much compassion, be severe when needed.

Nobody is born perfect.

So it is in our efforts to smooth out our rough edges and become the magnificent person we can be. Countless stories of people coming from humble beginnings to become something spectacular.

And if you start with the five traits, make sure not to fall for the pitfalls. Then time will be your friend in your transformation.

However, during the journey, mistakes happen.

And the big one is not being diligent about the excesses. Sometimes when we think we are making progress, this is when we can get a little lax. So we allow ourselves to be a little too reckless/cowardly/hot-tempered/compassionate/sensitive. Thinking we'll rein in the excess next time. But if you allow yourself to lapse too many times, then progress will stop.

That's why journaling and taking notes of yourself is crucial.

We have to examine ourselves daily so that we can be on the path of perfecting ourselves instead of allowing ourselves to rot.

Becoming that mature, well-rounded person takes a lifetime. And there will be a lot of obstacles that will make this challenging. However, we should not have to be that obstacle to ourselves.

And to ensure I am not an obstacle to you, let's wrap this article up.

  • According to Sun Tzu, the five character pitfalls to be aware of include an excess of the following: Recklessness, Cowardice, A hot temper, Being too sensitive, and Too much compassion.

  • Some might think that we need these fault traits at times. This is true, but we must be sure these traits do not become excessive. It's better to focus on being well-rounded with the attributes Sun Tzu mentioned, like Wisdom, Courage, Integrity, Compassion, and Severity.

  • A common mistake when trying to watch out for these pitfalls is becoming lax with our self-diligence. We have to monitor ourselves daily to grow in the right direction. Otherwise, we can slip and slide to stagnation.

Becoming a well-rounded person is an achievement.

Sun Tzu realized this for the general because he had seen too many men killed due to character faults. So to avoid unnecessary pains, he made himself and his disciples well-balanced to take on the challenges life threw at them.

And the same can happen to you.

Focus on those five traits and monitor yourself. And sooner or later, you'll become a personal success in your own eyes. And you didn't need any luck like Eiffel 65.

Until next time,


The Charismatic Nerd


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