To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is not the acme of excellence.
Neither is it the acme of excellence if you fight and conquer and the whole Empire says, “Well done!”
To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength; to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear.
What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.
Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage.
He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.
Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy.
Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.
– The Art of War (5th century BC) – Sun Tzu