26 December 2009

Learning from I-Ching Part 08 3 屯 Sprouting - Starting is hard

"3 屯 Sprouting - Starting is hard" hexagram has the 29-Water trigram at the top and 51-Thunder trigram at the bottom. The pictorial symbolism says, "象曰:云雷屯;君子以经纶" cloud-thunder gives rise to Sprouting; Wise man (superior man) has and concern with statesmanship - managing a country or a business.

The interesting point is above-water was described as cloud. It shows that ancient Chinese was well aware that clouds came from water and was water in the sky. It is only forming of clouds and no rais yet. There is cloud and thunder showing rain could be coming soon. 3-Sprouting is the hexagram for starting a new business or project. Sprouting is also an energy consuming process and hence it also signifies the difficulty of starting a project. Nevertheless, all great accomplish begins with a first step. The famous saying by Neil Armstrong when he landed on the moon - "a small step for a man and a giant leap for mankind". So we find the following characteristics to 3-Sprout.

Moral Attributes:
  1. 元: a new beginning of a project or business (vs the beginnings in 1-Heaven-Creation of Universe, 2-Earth - Creation of Lives)
  2. 亨: smooth flow of progress
  3. 利: increases, gains
  4. 贞: continued righteousness and purity.
  5. 勿用,有攸往,利建侯: because sprouting plant is weak, be focus on the tasks at hand and not try to do too many things. It is good for building empire since the growth has begin.
The moral teaching is that man needs to do some good things and have some good accomplishments with their life. Don't waste your life.

The additional textual description  "彖曰:屯,刚柔始交而难生,动乎险中,大亨贞。 雷雨之动满盈,天造草昧,宜建侯而不宁。" warn us that giving birth is hard. It is moving in danger zone. Yet it is good going for righteousness and purity (don't try to cheat or take short cut). Rain and thunder , activities and energy, fill the place. This is like the time of creation of living things. It is good for building empire (influences, great businesses) and it will not be quiet.

The danger of beginning comes from the upper-water trigram which signifies danger/trap/cracks.  The bottom trigram is thunder signifying vibrations and activities. For those deep in I Ching, you can tell a good story from the positions and patterns of the lines of the hexagram. I am amazed at this simple patterns giving rise to meanings and principles for life.
This is very much like fractals where the complex shapes and pictures can be reproducted by the repeated patterns of simpler fractals. Or like the complex life forms come from the genetic patterns or DNAs!

So we know while starting a new business or project promises great rewards and returns in future, there are lots of dangers and obstacles ahead where we need to persevere and be committed in order to succeed. There is no short cut and we must follow the right and righteous ways.

Stage 1 Begin-Nine: Meet Big Rock and Large Tree Trunk, not sure to push forward to move back. Good to progress with righteous conduct. Good for building business empire.

Starting a business is a challenging things. Before you start, you may receive a lot of encouragement from friends and acquaintances to start. Some even offer money to help you get started - until you really get started and asked them for support and they kindly forget their earlier promises. You may suddenly find that the going is much tougher than you original plan. There are other licences that you need to get. The staff who claimed they know the business seems to know only theory and did not really have the experience etc... He may feel like quiting but could not because you have already spent quite a lot of your own and borrowed money and then there is the 'face saving' thing. You need to have conviction and commitment to make progress. Building a successful business, you need to bite your teeth, hang on there, and do all things as legal and righteous as possible. You don't want to have any loose ends or short-cuts that may later give you much trouble on your growth phase.

Stage 2 Second-Six: Going is tough. There is no progress. It is not thieves but true customers (original is marriage seekers). They want true quality and it took 10 years to commit.

After much effort, there tlll seems to be no success. You thought that people are sabotaging you. But the facts are that your products or service or new business model are not really providing the value that your potential customers are looking for. You either have not yet understand the real needs of your customers, or there you be quality problems, or you are not meeting the specifications or expectation that you set. Your customers while wanting to do business with you is just not having the confidence that you could deliver what he wants and in a relaible manner. Don't give excuse. Seek first to understand his needs, rephase his needs to him, and then show how your offering can meet his needs. He is not nasty to you. You just have not gain his confidence. It may take time. Don't give up. Work on it. I have saleman who told me he loose his sales because the customer doesn't like him and prefered his competitor's pretty sale girl. These are just excuses.

Stage 3 Third-Six: Know when to give-up - Hunting for deer without the guide-person. Following the deer into the thick forest. It is better for the wise man to give up else going further will only lead to danger and dead end and bankruptcy.

After quite a few years of hard work and still no result to show. Is it because there is no good mentor to lead you? You may have forgotten the teaching of 1-Heaven hexagram that tell you to get mentors. If there is not break-through and you can't find wise people to guide you out of the wood, it is probably better to cut-loss, give-up and close the business. Progressing further blindly will just cost you more and eventually leads to no where but bankruptcy.

Stage 4 Fourth-Six: Still going back and forth. Pursue the deal (original word is marriage). Going forth is good. There is gain.

If you have the right person to guide you, with your following actions, then continue to pursue the customers to close the deals. With your guides and customer sponsors, you can get the contracts and establish the future of your business. This is time for the break-through.

Stage 5 Fifth-Nine: Overcoming obstacles bring forth blessings (original word: anointing oil). Take care of small deals and deal rightly. Watch out for the danger of closing large deals.

This is the growth phase of your business. You have crossed the chasm in stage 4. But you need to continued to do well in the small deals. Watch out when you try to close big deals. Do your proper risks management. Are you financially strong and have the necessary capability to do the large deals at your present stage.  Large deals suck up cash and are just more complex to execute. Your large deal customers may want you to do a lot of tailoring to his needs. Are they worth your efforts? You just need to be absolutely sure even though you may the profits, revenues and reputation may be enhanced if you can win them. But just be careful. They may consume the resources that you could use to win and confidently close many small deals.

Stage 6 Top-Six: Lot of activities but no progress. Continued bleeding.
Carelessness or inability to deliver the large contracts won in stage 5 is causing you bleed profusely at this stage. You are doomed. Please look for a Savior or else.

Let not the difficulty of starting business stop you from doing any business at all. For every danger, there lies great opportunities. This hexagram give us some wisdom to overcome them. Let me ends with a word of wisdom from Meng Zi, "when Heaven is about to confer a great office on any man, it first exercises his mind with suffering, and his sinews and bones with toil. It exposes his body to hunger, and subjects him to extreme poverty. It confounds his undertakings. By all these methods it stimulates his mind, hardens his nature, and supplies his incompetencies". Be bold and start your business with care.

You may want to attend one of my training course on "Successful Business Plan Writing".

Overcome the inertia, the hardship and just get going. Business must be built on righteous values. Start to do something useful. Don’t waste your life. The teachings from the six stages:
  1. Start with a worthy vision built on righteous values, plan A. Overcome the initial inertia and obstacles.
  2. Don’t give up. Make sure you delivery value that customers want. Improve.
  3. Time to Quit if you are stuck and can’t get wise man to help
  4. Ask, reflect and come up with new plan B. Proceed with new plan B.
  5. Grow fast & watch out for risks of large deals
  6. Bleeding cannot be stop – Quit and do something else.

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