08 June 2012

5 Principles for Success in Life According to Lao Zi

Lao Zi shows us 5 principles for success & longevity. They are: follow nature's ways, always repay with love, start with the easy and small and then accumulate them up to greatness, do for worthiness and not for glory, and be respectful and careful in life.

Lao Zi's Dao De Jing Chapter 63 gives us 5 principles for success in life. The mind map below gives us the full details.

Principle 1: Follows the Natural Order of Things
A key teaching of Lao Zi is to follow the natural order of things and never act against the natural order. Lao Zi called it "Non-Action" more clearly explained as non-violating action. To make things to act against its nature, we need to continue to apply forces. When we release the force, the thing bounces back to its original nature. Such is the cause of stress and the cause of sickness. If we want to live a long and stress-free life, we need to follow the natural order. 

Another deeper understanding of 为 无为 is to act as if one has not acted. That means not claiming credit and glory for one's actions. 事无事 is to accomplish it as if one has not accomplished anything.  Chapter 9 功成身退,天之道. Accomplish and leave is the Way of Heaven.  味无味 Savor the taste as if one has not so that we may not be addicted to wanting more.

Extending this principle further, we will not do things for our selfish gains. Using equipment not according to its designed purpose is not proper use but abuse or misuse. The best flavors of food come from its original nature and freshness and not by adding artificial flavorings. Simplicity and sticking to its original purpose is the principle for stress-free and long life, whether of living things or of machines.

Principle 2: Always Repay Evil with Love - Because our nature is love.
We should not let external events distort our original righteous and good nature. We don't react but respond rightly. When others are bad to us, we don't react negatively and be bad to them. Instead, we respond according to the goodness in us. When others play us out, we don't play them out. Instead, we keep our promises to them. Because, integrity, and keeping promises, are our nature. We always keep our promises to those that are good to us and to those that are bad to us. We don't turn bad because others or the society is bad to us. This is exactly the teaching of the Bible in Matthew 5:44

Principle 3: Easy and Small Add to Greatness
Great and difficult projects are accomplished through the accumulation of small steps and little effort. To handle a difficult task, we start with the easy ones first. To handle big tasks, we start with the small ones first. We put things in order, refine and optimize all the steps when the system is small and change is easy. When things are perfected, scaling up will be easy. Most people only want to do the big and important things and neglect the small and easy things. But problems come because of the little defects that no one wants to pay attention to. A series of small defects add up to a big one. An accident happens because of a series of small mistakes. Bible tells us that he that is faithful in little, shall be faithful in much. He that is dishonest in little shall be dishonest in much (Luke 16:10).

Principle 4: Do for the Purpose instead of Glory - The Greatest Effectiveness
The greatest effectiveness comes when we do according to the purpose or the meaningfulness of the task and are not concerned about the rewards and glory. Intrinsic motivations of a worthy cause and self-actualization beat the extrinsic motivations of carrots and sticks. All great men and women in history did not spend their lives trying to gain glory and wealth. Glory comes later. Glory comes because of their dedication to the work of worthiness. In modern terms, don't work for money but work for worthiness. If you work only for money, the money will fly away and we will lose our health and life (Proverbs 23:4-5).

Principle 5: Be Respectful and Careful Always
Don't live life frivolously.  If we just make promises lightly, we will make many promises, and seldom do we really fulfill them. This will result in a bad reputation for us, showing our lack of integrity. Instead, approach life with an attitude of respect and care and take things more seriously and carefully, always preparing against the worst, and we shall be at ease always. 

Dao De Jing is full of wisdom for us. 

What is even more surprising for me, as a Christian, is to find that, if we substitute the Dao (The Way) with Jesus Christ, then Dao De Jing reads like the Bible! Jesus is the fulfillment of the Dao in Lao Zi's Dao De Jing. You can see that Sinology and the Bible agree on such principles of life and morals.

For more on Lao Zi, see 

Lim Liat (C) 8 June 2012

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