09 September 2017

The Key to A Good and Successful Life is Knowing Others & Self

How much do you know about yourself and about others determine your success in life. Let the Ancient Sages teach you.
Ancient Chinese Philosophies have much to teach us. Here are some quotes from the famous sages according to their dates of birth:

1. 老子 “知人者智 自知者明“
Lao Zi: knowing others are wise. Knowing yourself is brilliant.

In order to benefit from this, we need to ask a few more questions. A good guide is the 5W1H framework.
1. What is that to know?
2. Why do we need to know? The answer is there be wise and brilliant and be able to make the right decisions and live a good life without dangers.
3. How to know?
4. Who to know? Others and Self.
5. Where to know? All the people we meet in this life and even historical characters.
6. When to know? As early as possible to know as much as possible.

What to know?
We have various psychological tests for personality traits such as DISC, MBTI, the Strengths-Finders and many others. We can discover our natural tendencies and aptitudes. Ancient Chinese like to measure your character virtues and maturity. The Confucius School has a basic five 仁义礼智信 and more like 勇忠恕孝悌 - charity, righteousness, good manners, wisdom, integrity, boldness, faithfulness, forgiving, filial piety, and respect. Ancient Chinese also have personality traits like DISC see Strategic HR Management of Ancient Chinese. There are also tests to find out more about oneself or others in 八观六验 六戚四隐 (Eight Observation and Six Experience Six Relatives and Four Hidden)

However, such tests tend to be about you alone. The wisdom of Lao Zi comes in telling us to know not just about ourselves but about others because no one is an island. Life is about relationships. Good relationships come from knowing one another. The wisdom of Lao Zi is seen in today concept of Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is about being self-aware and also others-aware. Lao Zi's wisdom predates Daniel Goldman by 2500 years.  Lao Zi places knowing others before knowing self. 

Lao wants to stress that before making any friend or doing any business with others, you must spend the time to know them first. We need to choose your friend wisely. After that, you still need to know your friend to maintain the friendship. His advice is also for good relationship between husband and wife. Knowing others and knowing self, enable us to find the common ground of understanding, likes and dislikes and also to know how to help one another to grow up together further enhancing the relationships.

2 孔子 “知之为知之,不知为不知,是知也。”
Confucius: Knowing is knowing. Knowing not what one knows not is wise.”
Confucius reminds us that knowing includes knowing what we don't know.  A person that thinks he knows all is actually blind and will never grow. What we don't know include our blind spots, or prejudices, biases, or things so natural to us that we don't even aware. A good modern understanding of this knowing-oneself and don't concept is the Johari's window see Johari window - Wikipedia
Knowing what we don't is really wisdom. We can admit that we don't know and hence don't make presumptuous decisions that we will regret later. We can consult those who know and learn from them.

3 孙子 “知彼知己,百战不殆”
SunZi: Know others know self, hundreds of battles will not be put at risks.
SunZi gives the above advice in the context of warfare. To win a fight, you need to know about the enemy or the competitors. You cannot know your strengths or weaknesses until you know your competitors. Let says you can lift 100 kg. Is that a strength or a weakness? It depends on the competitor you pick. If you pick a person that can lift 75kg only, then you have strength. However, if you pick a competitor that can life 125kg, then you are weak. In competition, you must know your competitors and only fight those you can win is the wisdom taught by Sun Zi. Sun Zi teaches us to compare so that we can know the comparative advantages. Actually, "Know Others and Know self " is only half of the quote of a winning principle. The other half is "know the seasons(time) and the location". For more see SunZi Art of War - The Misquotes and Keys that are missed even by the Experts and even more on Sun Zi at Sun Zi and Other Strategists.

4 鬼谷子 “故知始己,自知而后知人也。”
GuiGuZi: "Hence, knowing comes first from knowing self. Must know yourself first then you can know others。“

GuiGuZi's advice is in the context of forming a strategic alliance. It is the complement to Sun Zi's Art of War. To pick a partner you must know yourself first, such as your aspirations, your values, your strengths and weaknesses, and also what you may not know. Then you can look for a partner, of course, you must know his aspirations, values, strengths, and weaknesses, to look for a good match. A good partner should share your aspirations and values and have strengths and weaknesses that complement yours. Gui Gu Zi teaches us to match characteristics first before we form a partnership.  To fight or not to fight, know the competitors to pick one you can win. To form a partnership, you take the center-stage and pick one that matched your characteristics.

Lessons for Us:

Life is about relationships. Mostly friendships but also "competitorships". Hence, knowing oneself is not enough. We must also know others. In the area of knowing oneself, please remember to know and to admit what we don't know. An effective way to discover what we don't know is through others, by comparisons and by feedback from others, even criticisms. We must be thankful to those who dare to criticize us. Hope you can continue to build up the knowledge of yourself and others, especially of those people close to you, for you to have a better life.

Lim Liat (c) 9-9-17

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