13 December 2016

15 Commitments to Conscious Leadership and Chinese Classics - Get a Better View

Heard about this "15 Commitments to Conscious Leadership" from a Awesomeoffice podcast. It was highly praised. I find it great too. But is it good enough? Is that all to leadership?

More information for the 15 Commitments to Conscious Leadership can be found here.

So I do a quick comparison with the teachings from Ancient Chinese Philosophies and Classics on this as well. I recalled learning about Stephen Covey's 7 Habits for effective people and his 8th habit. They are very good stuff too. So I added it to get a more complete picture. Here is the mind-map that show the main points.




On further thought, how can you judge whether a teaching of leadership is any good? Is it comprehensive? You must have a model of the situation first. Here is my leadership reference model:

From which we can derive the following key things to judge any leadership.

Leadership should cover three key things:
  1.  The Leader's character, qualities, and capabilities. This is covered well in the 15-Commitments, Stephen Covey's habits, and the teachings of Lao Zi, Confucius.
  2. The Group Dynamics. This is covered in my I-Ching model of leadership.
    For more see 4 Basic and 5 Orientation Principles of Leadership from I-Ching
  3. Situational and People Dependence:
    Sean Thye Peng Ng (see his comments below) pointed out Situational Leadership of Blanchard and even though it is covered in point 2, I just want to bring this point out for emphasis. Geoffrey Moore is his book "Escape Velocity" covers four modes of execution and leadership and includes a transitional phrase which is usually omitted in the typical S-curve growth model.
Of course, leadership is such a broad and important subject to be covered in such a small mind-map. But I hope it is useful to cover the same leadership subjects from the perspectives of East (namely Chinese) and West.

One more thing, here is Lao Zi's on levels of leadership and teaches us that the very best leaders lead invisibly! The people said they achieve success all by themselves and are not even aware of the necessary underlying resources and structures provided by their leaders.

Lim Liat (c) 13 Dec 2016

Comments from FaceBook on an earlier version of the post:
Sean Thye Peng Ng Check out the leaderful concept by joe raelin. I think the focus of all such "attributional" kind of leadership is still too focused on a certain single individual. Of course it is relevant still but the question is "is leadership the issue for some individuals who are give the hierarchical positions or is it really the responsibility of everyone in the group". There is also situational leadership as pioneered by Hersey and Blanchard. Much of the western leadership models had moved beyond the "elite" and attributional models and focus a lot more on the group (as u also highlighted under group dynamics). Perhaps it is good to do a piece to link the Chinese classics against these group based leadership model.
UnlikeReply116 hrs
Liat Lim Thanks for pointing out situation leadership model. It is closer to the Chinese model of situational and personality dependent.
LikeReply14 hrs
Liat Lim I read Joe Raelin leaderful as suggested. It is similar to the self-directed, self-management, organization that are getting popular. See for example http://www.holacracy.org/. Ancient Chinese I-Ching #1 Heaven, the last ideal stage, said 用九:见群龙无首,吉。 Dragons in a group without a chief, Good Fortune. I-Ching says no chief is good fortune. That's the leaderless or better leaderful organization stage.

The traditional hierarchy is reaching its limits, but “flat management” alternatives lack the rigor needed to run a business effectively. Holacracy is a third-way: it brings structure and discipline to a peer-to-peer workplace.
HOLACRACY.ORG
Sean Thye Peng Ng Yes, all these like the Holacracy is based on the concept of complex adaptive system (CAS) which draws largely on the basis of social constructionism. Self-organization is the characteristics of CAS and it is through SO that emergence and evolution can happen. SLM and Leaderful concepts will thrive in such CAS context usually - or rather more relevant. Traditional Organizational theory is now found limited in terms of how to derive more value from organizational actors, in particular the "normal and traditional" way of organizing, leading and managing may no long suffice the current state of organizations, most of which are knowledge based. As compared to since F.Taylor management science times when the gap (in knowledge, skill, attitude - KSA) between mgr and workers were much bigger, the KSA gap now is significantly reduced, hence, requiring a different paradigm of leadership, management and organizing. Leadership is too big a topic to study in isolation, and needs to be looked at from various angles. - 群龙无首吉也,群羊不可无首。need to be looked at in the proper and appropriate context.
UnlikeReply16 hrsEdited
Liat Lim Like 群🐑不可无首。易经will say, 见群羊无首,凶。
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Liat Lim

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Liat Lim Sean Thye Peng Ng , you raised very good points. Can I copy your comments and post it on that blogspot post so that others can learn from it?
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Liat Lim thank you.
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25 November 2016

Skill vs Wisdom - Doing Things vs Becoming a Mature Man - DaoDeJing 48

The modern world stresses on acquiring skills to do things whereas the Ancient Chinese places wisdom as the development of character before acquiring of skills. We then better understand the problems of this modern world. DaoDeJing 48
DaoDeJing Chapter 48 Text and Translation:

1 为学日益,为道日损,
Education is about acquiring increasing knowledge of skills.
Acquiring the Wisdom of Dao is about decreasing the desires of self.

2 损之又损,以至于无为;
Decrease and decrease further until one does not do things to satisfy one own desire against the Dao.

3 无为而无不为。
Without insisting on selfish work will lead to doing everything that follows Dao.

4 取天下常以无事,
The way to gain the world is to regular no doing anything against Dao.

5 及其有事,不足以取天下。
If there be any work for self, then one will not be equipped to gain the world.

Skill vs Wisdom
We acquire skill so as to be more productive in doing work. Wisdom, however, is about how can we be a better person. All the knowledge and skill without the right character will only create a bigger threat for the world. Consider nuclear bomb vs swords, which is more destructive? Hence we can appreciate the wisdom of Ancient Chinese that places the development of a character before acquiring of skills. This is also where the modern education system fails. We stress on skills and not character and we wonder why highly qualified and intelligent graduates from the ivy league colleges cheated and create the great financial crisis of 2008-2009. Unless we change, expect more such nasty crimes. Oops! The banks and financial institutions were bailed out. The CEOs left with great pay and bonuses. Only the Icelanders did it right.

The Meanings of WuWei无为 No Action
This chapter teaches us some meanings of WuWei - No Action.
  1. It is not about no action. It is about the decreasing of the something that is against Dao. Lao Zi says the more we have of Dao we will have less of this thing against Dao. The best is there is no more such against. Dao is the righteous way and so the opposite will be sinfulness. More of Dao and less of sins is the teaching here. Hence,
  2. No action actually means no sinful deeds. i.e. no violation of Dao.
  3. Replacing no sinful acts with righteous acts is taught by Lao Zi in verse 3. As long as it is right, do it. Here we see the positive aspect of Lao Zi teaching. This is repeated by Lao Zi chapter 63 and 64 and other places as well. (63 为无为,事无事,味无味。64 是以圣人无为故无败,无执故无失。)
  4. The consequence of doing right and remove wrong will lead to the gaining of the whole world. We know why people who want to conquer the whole world fail. It is because their motives and their methods were wrong. They want to conquer by selfish gains and by force.
Lim Liat (c) 25 Nov 2016

Learning is by Reflection - Mind-mapping & Scientific Methods - DaoDeJing 47

Most learning that is taught is "Monkey see monkey do" kind of rote learning by repetition and memorizing. That is easy but not true learning. Reflection and re-organizing enable learning with meaningful understanding and extension for application all areas. Lao Zi shows us in DaoDeJing 47.
DaoDeJing Chapter 47 Text and Translation:

不出户,知天下;
Never go out the door and yet know all things in the world.

不窥牖,见天道;
Never look out the window and yet see the laws of heaven.

其出弥远,其知弥少;
The farther one travels, the less one seems to know.

是以圣人不行而知,
Hence, the sages don't travel and yet know.

不见而名,不为而成。
See not and yet understand. Not stressing and yet accomplished.

How do we learn?
The most basic level of learning is to memorize. Monkeys see and monkeys do. It is called rote learning. It is purely memory-based learning. Other parts of the brain are not fully engaged. The learning is not digested. The knowledge is captured as a linear list of items. When the list is short, it is ok. If the list if very long, we will soon run out of the ability to retain them for long. We cannot apply the knowledge when the situation is a little different from the items in the list. This is the key that explains why certain students study hard and yet fail while some bright students seem to study little and yet score high in tests.

Reflect and Re-Organize the Knowledge to See the Patterns 
True learning comes from exercising the mind to process the linear lists of facts. We must re-organize the list into a tree or a network of patterns, grouping those that are similars and differentiating the differences and understanding the purpose, parent-child relationships and other aspects such as the 5W1H questions. Once we can see the patterns, we can predict the missing information. We can go up the tree to see the parental groups or down the branches to see the various sub-species. Once you tell me that a Dolphin is not a fish but a mammal, I can immediately figure that Dolphin has lungs instead of gills. Have hair instead of scales. It gives birth instead of laying eggs. You can see the power of a digested knowledge mind-maps.  See my Thinking Frameworks and the series on mind-mapping for the details.

Going Beyond Surface Observations
With that understanding above, we can understand what Lao Zi has written. We are to go beyond what our observations have shown us and understand why they are so. It is the scientific approach to learning things. Once you grasp Newton Laws, we can use it to make all kinds of machinery that do wonderful work for us. Once you grasp Einstein's theory of relativity, we can better understand the universe and know how to send our rocket and spaceship into space. Similarly, when we truly understand Dao, we can apply it not just in our physical world, but for our social and spiritual world as well. 

Lim Liat (c) 25 Nov 2016

The Greatest Sin is Greed - DaoDeJing 46

The greatest sin is greed. Why? It causes all the wars and disasters said Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 46. The solution is to be contented.
DaoDeJing Chapter 46 Text and Translation:

天下有道,却走马以粪;
When the world practises the Way of Dao, then horses are used to fertilize the fields.

天下无道,戎马生于郊;
When the world follow not the Way of Dao, then war horses are to be found at the wilderness.

祸莫大于不知足,
There is no greatest disasters than not knowing contentment.

咎莫大于欲得;
There is no sin greater than greed (always wanting to have more).

故知足之足,常足矣!
Hence, knowing one has enough already is contentment and will always be so satisfied.

The Greatest Sin is Greed
Lao Zi contrast peace and war.  When there is peace, the horse is a tools for farming. When there is a war, horses becomes the tools for destruction. The root cause is the greed of man - always wanting more. 

The Bible has a similar saying in James 4  (NET Bible) Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you? 2 You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask; 3 you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.

Greed is a very deceptive kind of sin. Sins like stealing, killing, adultery are known by the acts. But greed is very difficult to define. How much is enough and how much more is greed? Ask anyone if he/she has greed, and the answer will be no. Yet, we always want more that what we get. If always think that if only I can earn some more, I will be happy. But when we reach our wish, we wish to have more. That's greed but we think it is not. It is so natural, how can that be a sin of greed?

The solution is to know contentment.  Lao Zi shows us how to have contentment in A Happy Long Life is as Simple as 123 - DaoDeJing 44.

Lim Liat (c) 25 Nov 2016

The Best is Yet to Be - DaoDeJing 45

Most people misunderstand that Lao Zi is telling us to be at rest, passive, contented to the point of almost laziness. The true teaching of Lao Zi is actually the opposite, be busy, with only one qualification, doing the right things taught by Dao. Here you see that Lao Zi is teaching us to go for excellence with peace of mind. DaoDeJing 45.
DaoDeJing Chapter 45 Text and Translation:

1  大成若缺,其用不弊;
The great accomplishment seems incomplete. However, using it has no problem.
(There is always area for improvement. Completeness spells death of change).

2  大盈若冲,其用不穷;
The great fullness seems like the rushing waterfalls. However, it can be used without exhaustion.

3  大直若屈,大巧若拙,大辩若讷
The great straightness seems crooked.
The great skill seems rough.
The great debater seems slow of speech.

4  躁胜寒,静胜热
Movement overcomes coldness.
Rest overcomes the heat.

5  清静为天下正。
The right way for the world is to be transparently clear and restful [through no forceful action].

Complete means No More - The END 
In I-Ching, there are 64 Hexagrams. The 63rd is Complete and the last 64th is Incomplete. Hence, it will cycle on without end. If we put Complete as the last hexagram, then it is all over when we are complete and there will be no continuation. Never think that we have completed or else we will make no improvement. Things are ever changing. What is complete for now may not be when things change. So, we must have the attitude of always learning and making improvements.

GO for Excellence Not Perfection
The 2nd part of verse 1 shows that even it is incomplete, there is no fault or no problem in using it. The lack is not real. We think we need it to be perfect to be useful, but in practice, it is enough to do the job well. It is defect free in its use. Don't ask for and demand perfection, make something useful first and then continue to make improvements to better and better.

Fullness should be Overflowing without end
If we fill a bucket water to the edge, we think it is full.  But it is useful for one use. Is it really full? Lao Zi tells us that true fullness is overflowing with goodness without end. It is like the waterfalls where the water flows without end. We can use and use and it was never exhausted. That is true fullness. If our patience can be exhausted we are not really very patience indeed. So is our love, faith or hope. True virtues are never exhausted.

Appearance and Reality Differ
Maybe Lao Zi understands that the earth is round. Any truly long straight line is actually not straight but it curves around the surface of the round earth. Morally speaking, straight is not unbending. Lao Zi in "Reality is the Opposite, So Cheer-up - DaoDeJing 41" speaks about this, the great square has no corners. 

Right Action for the Right Situation
If we are feeling cold, then some actions will generate some heat. If we are feeling hot, then resting will help in reducing the heat generated.  What we do depends on the situation. That is the principle of fitting the situation. This is also a principle of 无为 WuWei, No forcing action.

The Right Way is Quietly and Calmly Follow the Way
What is the best way to success and to manage the world? Be calmly at rest first to discover the Dao and then calmly and quietly follow the Dao. Don't be emotional, either happy or fearful, but be calm and objective to study and to come out with answers. Peace of mind is needed to observe well and to think clearly and creatively.

Know that contentment and aspiration do not conflict. Both can be done at the same time in The Great Wisdom for Living - DaoDeJing 33

Lim Liat (c) 25 Nov 2016

24 November 2016

The Most Powerful Force is Gentleness - E=mc^2 - DaoDeJing 43

The greatest power is gentleness or softness. It is more powerful than the hardest object. In its extreme form, it is substanceless void, like the electromagnetic force, energy without the mass, able to penetrate any solid wall. This is the principle of formless, the real meaning of non-action action, working without attracting attentions. Lao Zi give examples how such can be applied in DaoDeJing 43
DaoDeJing Chapter 43 Text & Translation:

1 天下之至柔,驰骋天下之至坚。
The greatest gentleness in the world run circles around the hardest of the world.

2 无有入无间, 吾是以知无为之有益。
The thing that is without a body can enter into that without any gap.
Hence, I understand the benefits of not forcing your way.

3 不言之教,无为之益,天下希及之。
Teaching without talking (by exemplifying behavior), the benefits of non-violating action, the world know very little to do them.

Gentleness is stronger than Hardness
The direct way is to push forward, to break through any obstacle in  front. But there are many other ways to overcome an obstacle. Direct is fine if your strength is greater than the obstacle. When it is not, there are many other indirect ways. Lao Zi says the gentle and flexible is more powerful. We can take a route around the obstacle which will be longer but we don't exhaust ourselves. If the obstacle is an animal object, we can tempt it to move away. If it is a human being, we can persuade him to allow us to go past. The key point is this --- you don't have to have a direct attack by force. There are many other ways. Think about the alternatives. That's also a winning strategy against a strong enemy. Sun Zi tells us to avoid his strengths and attack his weaknesses. 

Empty can enter any solid wall - Electromagnetic Waves
Taking the gentleness, or softness, to the extreme, it becomes emptiness or without a body. If it is emptiness, then it can go through solid wall since is it formless energy, energy without solid mass. Think about electromagnetic waves. You can receive radio, TV, and mobile phones signals anywhere anytime (assuming the energy is powerful enough to travel the distance and through the resistance). Maybe we can call this "the Formless Principle" which states without form, it can go through walls. That is why it is stronger than the hardest object.

Application of Formless Principle - Teaching by Walk rather than Talk
Lao Zi gives us an example of teaching without speaking or perhaps nagging is a better word. How do we teach without talking? By showing. By doing as an example for others to follow easily. Many companies have statements of mission, visions, and values. The best way to describe values statements is to describe them in observable behavior so that others can copy them. Describe them in abstract terms are subject to different interpretations by different people. 

More Examples?
This seemingly no-action formless work brings many benefits but few people understand them said Lao Zi. Another example given by Lao Zi is the Invisible Leader, the highest form of leadership. The details are in Levels of Leadership - Can We Measure Leadership? of DaoDeJing 17.

Lim Liat (c) 24 Nov 2016

23 November 2016

The Creative Process of Dao and the Secret to Abundance - DaoDeJing 42

Diversity is good because it brings forth abundance. What is needed is harmonious interactions. Lives go in cycles and so we must always follow the seasons and trends. Going against the trends will have bad consequences. DaoDeJing 42
DaoDeJing Chapter 42 Text and Translation:

1 道生一,一生二,二生三,三生万物;
Dao gives birth to one, one gives birth to two [yin and yang], and the two interact to give birth to three [the third dimension, the new generation]. Such interactions create all things [in 3 dimensions].

2 万物负阴而抱阳,冲气以为和。
All things have yin on the backside/inside and yang as the frontal/external cover. The life energy interact harmoniously [for growth].

3 人之所恶,唯孤寡不谷,而王公以为称;
What people dislike are the lonely, neglected, and lack but the kings and dukes use such to address themselves. (The more honorable one becomes, the greater humility must be shown).

4 故物或损之而益,或益之而损;
Hence, for many things, we give first and then receive. (Sow first to reap later).
Or we could increase and then decline. [It is an unending cycle of yin and yang, give and receive]

5 人之所教,我亦教之。
What useful lessons people taught me, I also teach others. (Receive and Give)

6 强梁者不得其死,吾将以为教父。
The tyrant does not die peacefully. I will take this lesson as my teacher.

Harmonious Interactions bring forth Abundances - Verse 1 & 2
Most people misunderstand the concept of Yin-Yang. They think that they are two entirely separate opposite entities. Lao Zi tells us that it is not so. Yin-Yang comes from the same thing, the one. Yin and Yang are just two faces of the same one coin. One cannot exist without the other. When there is a head, there must also at the same time, a tail. The change in the world is like rotating a coin vertically. You may first see the head-face fully, but then, there will slowly be more and more of the tail-face as rotation occurs until there is a complete tail-face. Then there is another key concept of there is always yin in yang and yang in yin. Yin and Yang belong to the same One and they complement each other.
So two different attributes combine in different amounts to produce endless varieties of things.

We can also interpret verse 1 as male and female coming from the same species. Male and female interact to produce the next generations and the next without end. The lesson we learn from here is abundance comes from the harmonious interactions of diversities. Differences are good. It is to be appreciated rather than merely tolerated as in the case of human societies. We like to have many species in the animal kingdom so why can't we have that in the human species?
  • Genesis 1:27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 
The secret of creativity is simple. Bring in diversities together and let the new connections be formed.

Life is a cycle - There is a time to give and a time to receive Verse 3 & 4
Many things in life follow the same principle of giving first to receive. In farming, we sow the seeds, water them, fertilize the fields, and then we reap the harvest. In business, we invest first to build the products and then get paid when customers buy them.  The sad part in human activities is when we have increased in wealth and honor, we then have the tendency to become proud and wasteful. Our increases eventually bring forth our decline.  Over-eating is bad for health. So, a strategy to defeat an enemy is to give in to him and let him become proud and then negligent.

Consider the following passage from the Bible:
Ecclesiastes 3New English Translation (NET Bible)

A Time for All Events in Life
3 For everything there is an appointed time,
and an appropriate time for every activity on earth:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to search, and a time to give something up as lost;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 A time to rip, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.
8 A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Man is Ignorant of God’s Timing 
9 What benefit can a worker gain from his toil?
10 I have observed the burden
that God has given to people to keep them occupied.
11 God has made everything fit beautifully in its appropriate time,
but he has also placed ignorance in the human heart
so that people cannot discover what God has ordained,
from the beginning to the end of their lives.

Never go by force, against the Dao - Verse 5 & 6
"The tyrant does not die peacefully" is such an important concept that it was taught and passed down through the generations. So, the use of force, forcing people to do things they don't like, or going against the trends of the time. is very dangerous. In the short term, you may think it is effective. But in the long term, it will never have a good ending. Ignorant of God's timing and doing the wrong things at the wrong time by force is also not excusable for men.

Lim Liat (c) 23 Nov 2016

22 November 2016

Reality is the Opposite, So Cheer-up - DaoDeJing 41

The reality is always more than what is seen in your eyes. In fact, it could be the very opposite of what you perceive. Know the three levels of characters and the working of Dao here in DaoDeJing 41.
DaoDeJing Chapter 41 Text and Translation

上士闻道,勤而行之;
When the better person hears the Dao, he diligently follow it.

中士闻道,若存若亡;
When the average person hears the Dao, he is undecided whether to follow or not.

下士闻道,大笑之,不笑不足以为道。
When the worse person hears the Dao, he laughs at it. 
If he does not laugh at it, then the Dao is not the real one.

故建言有之,明道若昧,进道若退,
Hence, the motivating words have it like this.
The one who understands Dao appears like he is still in the dark.
The improvement made in Dao appears like moving backward.

夷道若颣,上德若谷,
The flatness of Dao appears to be uneven.
The highest virtues appear to be like the valley rather than the mountain top.

大白若辱,广德若不足,
White appears to be dirty. 
The wide virtues appear to be insufficient.

建德若偷,质真若窬,
Cultivating virtues appear to be like borrowing/stealing/copying.
Genuine quality appears to be fake.

大方无隅,大器晚成,
The great square has no corners.
The great ability is shown in later years.

道隐无名,夫唯道善贷且成。
Dao is hidden and is without any name.
Only that Dao is good in giving and helping others succeed.

Three Types of Characters - Which one are you?
What is your response when you hear the truth, or the righteous values? Lao Zi shows us three types of response.
  1.  Be diligent in following the values.
  2.  Undecisive. Sometimes think it is good to follow. Sometimes think it is silly to follow.
  3.  Laugh at its uselessness.
When I was conducting a business seminar on building sustainable and successful business, some in the audience said that the values (of integrity, honesty, quality, keeping the laws etc) that I proposed in running business are good on paper but are not practical (that is a kind way of laughing at my teaching). They said that if they don't cut corners how can they compete with those that do. They subscribe to the belief that business is trickery. No trickery no profits. Such are the examples of those who laugh at Dao. However, in the longer terms, such businessmen who practice corner-cutting, who cheat, will eventually, if not quickly, get into troubles with the laws and angry customers who abandon them. Their seemingly quick success is an illusion. 

Diligently putting Dao into practice is what Jesus said about building houses on rock and not on sands. Matthew 7:24-27.

The undecided person of sometimes have and sometimes don't can take be one of the following 3 types of audience as told by Jesus in the Parables of the Sowers.
  1. Subtype 1 One ear in and one ear out. It was great to hear but it was quickly forgotten. It was meant for others to follow and not for me.
  2. Subtype 2 Happily put them into practice and give up quickly when encountering difficulty.
  3. Subtype 3 Put them into practice too, but after awhile, with the success it brings, they then deviate from the original practices. Eventually, they fail too.
  4. Subtype 4 here corresponds to Lao Zi type 1 hear and practice without giving up. They are the ones that got the fruits of different degrees.
The Appearance and the Actual are Opposite
The characteristics of those following Dao is that the outside and inside are opposite. The greater the wisdom, ability and resources that you have on the inside, the lesser you want to show off.  This is because you are sure of yourself and the true values. You don't get your identity and your worth from the opinions of others. Your desire is to be true to yourself and to God and not the opinions or the likings of others. A good example is Paul, who said in Galatians 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. That is a man who is true in Dao.

We can go through the list given by Lao Zi in details to gain greater insights. 
  1. Understanding appears to be not fully understood so that we can continue to learn. True wisdom has no limits. The more you know the more you realize you don't know.
  2. Progressing appears to be retarding. That is because you are encountering greater challenges and so you are to exert yourself even more than before. Let's take patience. Initially, you have to wait for 10 minutes. So you feel you can handle it. Later, you have to wait for days. You feel frustrated and uncomfortable. You thought you are losing your patience, but actually, you have improved.
  3. The right way is flat but appears uneven is because doing the right things will attract oppositions and temptations. You will find going tough. Cheating seems easier.
  4. Top virtues appear to be without honor. That is humility at work. Leaders serve to lead. The greatest leader is the invisible one. see Levels of Leadership - Can We Measure Leadership?
  5. White appears dirty. The cleaner and whiter you get, the easier it is to spot the dirt. What used not to trouble you now seems to cause you great concern because your conscience has been cleaned. You have become more sensitive.
  6. Great virtue appears not enough. You always wish you could do more.
  7. Cultivating virtues is like copying. The best way to learn is to follow someone who has achieved it. Learning by examples is most obvious.
  8. The Genuine appears as a fake. That is because you are so good that others could not believe. They think that you are putting on a show.
  9. So square that there are no corners. We are called square because we don't cut corners and don't distort things. That is good but not good enough. We can be as square and straight as possible to stick to the right values but we should not be so inflexible and rigid that it hurt. The square is so big that you don't see the corners. It means we stick the values but the methods can be flexible to fit the right situations and people. The method is not key, the values are. So, medicines should be given to the patients according to their types. The same medicine could be good for one and could be a poison to other. If you promise to take your child for a swim next weekend and then your child fall ill in the weekend, do you still keep your promise and take him for a swim? Definitely not. Because your child health is more important than keeping the promise. Real Dao is unyielding but flexible!
  10.  The capable takes more time to accomplish. The greater the accomplish, the greater the effort and time needed. High-quality products take a longer time to make because of tighter precisions and better raw materials to process.
The principle teaching of Dao is clear ---- it is hidden and it does not make name for itself. Making himself known is not important for him, but rather, giving and helping you succeed is his desire! It is always about others and not self in Dao. The Dao that gives birth to you will take care of you.

Lim Liat (c) 22 Nov 2016