OPINION: What ‘The Art of War’ has to say about your semester

K-State has seen many technology-related changes on campus this semester. Among them is the increasing acceptance of social media in educational environments around campus. (Mauricio Caldera | Collegian Media Group)

In his famous work “The Art of War,” philosopher Sun Tzu says, “In general, whoever occupies the battleground first and awaits the enemy will be at ease; whoever occupies the battleground afterward and must race to the conflict will be fatigued. Thus one who excels at warfare compels men and is not compelled by other men.”

This idea is known as the “first-mover advantage.” According to Wikipedia, it’s often advised in marketing strategies, as “first-movers can establish positions in geographic or product space such that latecomers find it unprofitable to occupy the interstices.”

What both Sun Tzu and Wikipedia have in common is this: They’re both excellent pieces of advice for how to make friends and live better.

Bear with me while I explain.

I’m sure you’ve experienced a class where no one talks to each other. You walk into the first day and can tell — it’s a lecture hall or a packed room, and you say “Hi” to your seatmate, but know you won’t exchange much beyond pleasantries past that.

On the flip side, I’m sure you’ve experienced the opposite — classes where your classmates become friends. You have a GroupMe with memes. You meet for study groups.

Which one was better?

I think we’d all agree it’s the second experience. So, how can you create that experience in every class? By taking advice from “The Art of War.” Be the first mover.

My challenge to you as you’re heading into this new semester is to take a minute to greet the people in your class. Say “Hi,” ask their name — don’t wait for someone else do make the first move. The worst that can come of it is that it never goes further — the best possible outcome is you gain new friends, new connections and you have a fantastic semester.

The thing is, this advice doesn’t have to stop in the classroom. I’ve found it to be good life advice as well. Don’t wait for life to happen to you. Make the first move. Send in that application. Grab coffee with that person you’ve been wanting to get to know. Ask that question. You aren’t gaining by waiting and hanging back. Life is a battleground of sorts — a battle between our own fear and uncertainty and what awaits on the other side of it. So take that first step!

Olivia Rogers is the community editor for the Collegian, the vice president of the University Honors Program and a senior in political science. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and the persons interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

I’m Olivia Rogers. I graduated with dual degrees in philosophy and political science in May 2020. After I graduated, I went on to attend law school at Notre Dame. While at the Collegian, I served as the community editor for several semesters, working to share the opinions of the K-State student body. I write because: “Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.”― Madeleine L'Engle