30 October 2010

The Principles for Greatness: #1 Know Others & Self

I think the principles for greatness and creating a legacy are found in Dao De Jing verse 33.  There are various good English translations there.  Here is my version and I will like to group them into pairs as follow:
  • Knowing the character of others is wisdom. 知人者智, Knowing oneself is enlightenment.  自知者明。
  • Mastering others is power and authority. 胜人者有力,
    Self-control is true strength.自胜者强。
  • Contentment is richness.知足者富,
    Striving forward is commitment and aspiration. 强行者有志。
  • Not losing oneself will last.不失其所者久,
    Died and yet one’s legacy continues is long life.死而不亡者寿。
1) Knowing Others and Knowing Oneself
The Chinese wisdom stresses on yin-yang. A system exists in context. A concept does not stand alone. We may be single-minded in our pursuit but our pursuit is in the context of a society. Man is not an island by himself.  The principle to greatness is not just about knowing oneself but must include knowing others. We must do both and and then be able to fit the self to others or vice-versa. This is the first principle of my BVITS innovative thinking method – study the system, its context of environment and finding the fit.  Many who read the Arts of War will be able to point out that this is exactly what Sun Zi said “Knowing others and know self will enable us to win every battle”. Sun Zi probably learned from Lao Zi.

Relate and Apply Knowing Oneself to Knowing Others.
This is also a good principle to apply in Strategic Human Capital Management.

From the writing, we can see that first part of the pair is a starting point, is an important point, but the second part is even more important and powerful. I just want to add an unstated, but I think implied third part, which is to relate and to fit  the two.

For example, we must know others, and we must know ourselves, then we take the third step of relating ourselves to the others. Let say that I am an extrovert and I enjoy talking and meeting others. But I hate doing the boring paper-work and submitting reports. So, I must find some others in the team that like to do the things I dislike, such as writing reports, and do not like to meet people. We will make a good team to meet up with customers where I do the human interaction part and my fellow colleague do the reporting part after the meeting. I do all the initiations and all the meetings with people while my friend do all the back ground reporting and also making sure I do my follow-up.  Knowing without action of applying is no use.

Knowing Others – Putting them in the Right Jobs and Relating to Them Well
The management literature is full of articles on talents selection, development, matching of talents to jobs, and talents retention.  There are lots of personality tests like DISC, MBTI, Strength-Finders etc. Much less literature can be found on really understanding a particular person. Ancient Chinese literature places understanding of a man character above others. We can learn a few things from them. In the previous post Strategic HR Management of Ancient Chinese we said no one is unemployable even those with weakness, we just need to place them in the right jobs. This requires that we know the person character better in the first place.

The Heart of Man is Difficult to Predict 人心难测
It begins with  a caveat that it is hard to understand and predict the heart of man. Furthermore, it changes often. The depth and the frequent change make prediction difficult. The famous Tang’s poet  白居易 wrote ‘ 天可度 地可量,唯有人心不 可防。… “The sky and the earth can be measured and known, but only the heart of man cannot be guard against. Once the integrity was red like blood, only to found out that it was all spinning lies.. “.  In 《庄子·杂篇·列御寇第三十二》, it said that Confucius said, “The heart of man is more dangerous than than the mountain and rivers and more difficult to know than the heaven. The heaven has four seasons cycles that is predictable. But man has exterior face that is thick and the deep internal emotion that is hidden. A face that looks honest but heart stirring with schemes. Look like a respected old man but inside full of naughtiness … “. ( 凡人心险于山川,难于知天。…..) Jesus knew man this much so that he did not entrust himself to them (John 2:24).

How : Step 1 It takes Time to Discover One’s Character.
Hence, the typical recommended technique is to observe the behavior through time. Time is key factor. But time is something that we don’t really have. We can’t afford the delay. We can’t wait. To such hurried thinking, I can only offer the advice that if you get the wrong guy/girl, you will have a bigger and costlier mess to clean up. If you are unsure, wait is better. Opportunity goes but opportunities also come. Besides time, what else?

How : Step 2 Observe that His Actions must Match His Words
A typical one is this “听其言观其行” which is translated as “Hear what he says and observe what he does”. This is from 论语 子曰:“始吾于人也,听其言而信其行,今吾于人也,听其言而观其行。于予与改是。” The translation is “In the beginning, I hear and believe that they will do what they say. But now, I will just hear and must observe the action and then form the conclusion. Or in Jesus’ word, Mat 7:16  You shall know them by their fruits.

How : Step 3 From the Eyes or more precisely the Pupils

Mencius (Meng Zi 孟子) 孟子 离娄上 “存乎人者,莫良于眸子。眸子不能掩其恶。胸中正,则眸子了焉,胸中不正,则眸子眊焉。听其言也,观其眸人,人焉廋哉?”. The English translation from this Chinese Text Project is … Mencius said, ‘Of all the parts of a man’s body there is none more excellent than the pupil of the eye. The pupil cannot be used to hide a man’s wickedness. If within the breast all be correct, the pupil is bright. If within the breast all be not correct, the pupil is dull. Listen to a man’s words and look at the pupil of his eye. How can a man conceal his character? or Luk 11:34 The light of the body is the eye.

How : Step 4 From How He Treat Others and How he reacts in different Situations
A Chinese Classics 吕氏春秋中- 论人 has this 八观六验 六戚四隐 (Eight Observation and Six Experience Six Relatives and Four Hidden) Method for knowing a person character. This is what a King needs to do to understand his officers. The Six Relatives are father, mother, older and younger brother, wife and children. The four hidden or interior matters are friendship, old home, city and doors(neighbors) representing how he relates to others in a society.

The Eight Observations:
  1. When he is successful, observe who he entertain and mix with. (only the richer and more successful ones?)
  2. When he is in honorable and high position, observe who he recommends and employ. (capable people or relatives?)
  3. When he is rich, observe who he kept with his money. ( girlfriends? friends for pleasures? )
  4. When he speak, observe also what he does.
  5. When he is not working (literally stop, or rest) , observe what are his hobbies. (what does he do with his free time?)
  6. When he is learning, observe what he is talking. (what kind of books he read? How does he improve himself?)
  7. When he is poor, observe what he reject. (Too poor and hence gain richness by all and any means?)
  8. When he is at a low position, observe what he does not want to do.(Too proud to do ‘lowly’ job?)
The Six experience:
  1. Let (Create the opportunity for) him be joyful and see if he keep his righteous behavior.
  2. Let him be happy and see if he has any bad behavior.
  3. Let him be angry and see his self-control ability.
  4. Let him be afraid and see see if he can maintain his calm and not panic (reactions under pressure).
  5. Let him be sorrowful and see if he can maintain his spirit and not be depressed and give up.
  6. Let him suffer and see his perseverance or ambition.
The first principle of greatness is knowing others and knowing self and to develop our strength and manage our weakness working with the right people that complement us to accomplish great things for all.

How : Step 5 Test Him

In the quotation cited in 庄子·杂篇· above, there is a part that tell us how to know people too as “故君子远使之而观其忠,近使之而观其敬,烦使之而观其能,卒然问焉而观其知,急与之期而观其信,委之以财而观其仁,告之以危而观其节,醉之以酒而观其 侧,杂之以处而观其色。九徵至,不肖人得矣。”
The methods are:
  1. send him off to a distance place to see his loyalty.
  2. keep him close to see his respect.
  3. give him problems to see his ability.
  4. ask him suddenly him to see his knowledge.
  5. give him a short notice and hurry him to see his faithfulness.
  6. give him money to see his caring (ie. reveal his greed)
  7. warn him about the danger and see his control
  8. make him drunk and see his hidden self
  9. send him to a disco and pub to see his sexual lust.
With the nine tests, it is not difficult to pick up the bad ones.
Confucius taught us a 3 phase method in 子曰:视其所以,观其所由,察其所安;人焉廋哉。人焉廋哉。(论语为政十) Know the reason why he does a thing, observe the ways he does it and see whether he has peace after he completes it. There is no way to hide his true self. Here we learn to observe 3 things – the reason, the method and the emotion of the work of a man. (Another possible translation is to observe the how he start, how he continue, and how he completes.)
In summary, know others so that we can place them in the right jobs. Use the methods presented above to observe, to test and to allow time to reveal the true self. Know ourselves so that we can relate and work with them and thereby creating a harmony and synergy for accomplishing great things.
We will continue the discussion on the 2nd principle of “Controlling Others and Self” in the next post.

The Four Principles for Greatness
  1. The Principles for Greatness: #1 Know Others & Self 
  2. The Principles for Greatness: #2 Influencing Others & Controlling Self
  3. The Principles for Greatness: #3 Contented Yet Be Better 
  4. The Principles for Greatness: #4 Be Yourself & Leaving a Legacy
Related: The 3 Virtues for Greatness
Love bravely, be frugal to be generous and put others first are virtues for greatness.
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