31 October 2016

Judging & Punishing Rightly according to Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 74

If you want a productive and engaged workforce, it is not theory X or theory Y of management but a combination in the right order. This leads us to the wisdom of making the right judgment. If we are unable to collect the evidence and have the wisdom to judge rightly, we should leave it to God or else we will be hurting ourselves said Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 74.
DaoDeJing Chapter 74 Text and Translation

The people are not afraid of death (because of the hardship to make a living due to the policies of exploitation). How could we use the threat of death to cause fear in them?

[The right way] is to cause the people to fear dead, so that when they try to be 'funny' (break the laws),
we can use the laws to kill them. Then who dare [to violate the laws]?

There is the eternal judge that punishes the murderers with death.

If we take the place of the eternal judge and kill,  then we are like taking over the cutting of the skillful master

Those that do the cutting of the great master, will they not seldom harm their own hands?

Using Exploitations & Threats do NOT work
Using people as a means of production will cause the greatest exploitation of labor.  Bosses want to pay the lowest wages, provide the bare minimum of benefits, and work environment and then want them to work the longest hours. If such causes the workers to be so miserable and so much suffering that they wish to leave the company, then threatening them with firing from their jobs will not work. They would choose to quit as early as possible.

The Effective Motivation Method
Lao Zi teaches us the better and more effective way. That is to make the work so desirable that they want to stay with the company. Then, the firing from violations of the company policies will work well because they all want to stay and not be fired. So, rule by fear only works if the people want to live and fear death. So, create a society where people want to live is the pre-requisite for rule by laws. Getting it wrong will only result in exploitation of the people and finally a revolt to overthrow the rulers by the exploited people who no longer fear death because of the suffering. So Lao Zi is not merely talking about theory X or theory Y of management. He tells us to treat people like theory Y, have minimum restrictions, but has a strict implementation of the discipline of theory X when it comes to the violation.

So, don't talk about how to stop people from leaving or reducing the turnover rate, but rather, invert the question and change it to how we can motivate our people to love the company enough to want to stay.

Trust the Eternal Judge and Take not the Laws into Our Own Hand
The above exploitation of people is just an example of how we lack the wisdom about men and their desires that we make the erroneous prejudgement that men are basically lazy and weak and must, therefore be threatened and exploited to get them to work.  Lao Zi reminded us that 'justice' system is at work all the time. There is the law of cause and effect that is a work. The sin of the people will eventually discover them and punishes the sinners. We don't have to do work for God. If we want to, then we must be like Him, be full of wisdom and knowledge and be fair and right. There are steps for us judge wisely. They are:

1. Understanding the Laws of right and wrong.
2. Collecting of evidence. A clear understanding of what actually happen. These require consolidations of multiple witness accounts as well.
3  Making a judgment, an inference, of the intention from the acts. This is definitely not easy and prone to biases and errors. It is inferring from the seen to the unseen.
4. Understanding of the Consequences of violation and they are made clear in the first place.
5. Melting out punishments according to published laws in the right degree to the violation.

Most of us like to prejudge, without collection or validation of evidence, and jump to conclusions about the intentions of people and their behavior. It is obvious that we could easily make serious errors. Do so, Lao Zi warns us, we will suffer and hurt ourselves for such lack of wisdom and impulsive act.

Lim Liat (c) 31 Oct 2016

29 October 2016

Human as Resources or as Assets - Lao Zi explains how to have staff engagement in DaoDeJing 75

How can you have staff engagement? How you see your staff, as resources or as assets in your production makes all the differences. Lao Zi explains the effects and the answer becomes obvious in DaoDeJing 75. 
DaoDeJing 75 Text and Translation:

The people are hungry. This is because the top is taxing too much and so they are hungry.

The people are hard to govern. This is because the top has too many policies and projects to burden and upset them so that they are difficult to govern.

The people disregard lives. This is because making a living is very hard and so they disregards lives.

Hence, it seems it is wiser to try not making a living better than to value living.
(It is better that the rulers/bosses don't see the values of lives because they exploit and abuse them).

Human as Resource or as Assets
In the past, even now, we still have offices named as "Human Resources". In the past, they are called "People Management". It is better they stay as "People" rather than treating people as resources to be consumed in the production process. People are not treated as people but as raw materials to be used up is what Lao Zi is telling us here. That is why the staff is not engaged, they are not paid well (so we have minimum wage laws), they are depressed (they only come alive after work!).

Realizing that "Human Resource" is a bad name, it was changed to "Human Capital".  It was argued that staff is not a cost but rather an asset that appreciate with time. If you give your staff training, your staff can increase their productivity. Furthermore, staff is creative. The future of any company depends on innovation. Innovation comes from the people, not a material capital thing. So, it is better to use People rather than Human Capital.

Lao Zi is reminding us that people must be treated as people and not as resources or even capital to be exploited. Otherwise, you will find suffering, depressions, insubordination, sabotages and low productivity. More programs and policies will not fix the problems. Just simply treat people as people, with aspiration, feelings, relationships, intelligence and creativity. Daniel Pink's Drive 3.0 tells us that people want :

1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives.
2. Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters.
3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

Facilitate rather than control is the way to happy staff, happy customers, and happy owners in that order.

Lim Liat (c) 29 Oct 2016

28 October 2016

The Meaning of Steve Job's "Stay Foolish" - DaoDeJing 71

Steve Jobs popularized the saying,"Stay hungry. Stay foolish.“ is best explained by Lao Zi's "Knowing that we know not is the best wisdom" in DaoDeJing 71
DaoDeJing Chapter 71 Text and Translation

Knowing that we know not is best [wisdom].
Know not and yet think that we know is a harmful fault.

Because we are concern about committing a fault, hence we make not any fault.

Sages have no fault because they are careful not to commit faults, hence they are without fault.

The Wisest Man
The wisest man is the one who knows that he does not know and hence he continues to explore and learn. He is ever growing and making wise decisions without mistakes because he is aware of his biases and his lack of knowledge and he makes corrections. This is the meaning of Steve Jobs' "Stay hungry and foolish." He is also a cautious person and he will watch, learn and experiment to validate his assumptions and hypothesis. Such is the reasons for the successful serial entrepreneurs. Successful entrepreneurs are not risks takers. They find and examine the risks. They then try to minimize the risks. They only take the calculated risks with high chances of success. That's the teaching of Sun Zi's Art of War --- decisions must be based on complete calculations on the facts of all factors and must not rely on luck.

The Most Dangerous Man is the Know All
A person who thinks that he know all will not learn any new thing. He is most likely to be careless and reckless because he is very confident of his knowledge and decisions. He will fall into his own blind spots.

The best place for us to begin to apply this knowledge is to question all the assumptions of our decision making and also our decision-making logics. What evidences are there to support our assumptions or claims. Are there better methods than our present ones? Who else must we consult to get a better picture of the situation? What experiments can we conduct to validate our claims.

A very good book for the start-up entrepreneurs is The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses: Eric Ries.

Lim Liat (c) 28 Oct 2016

Happiness is Being Gentle & Flexible - DaoDeJing 76

Live is about growing and growing is about changes. Change is about adapting to it rather than holding on old thinking and resisting the changes. Being soft, gentle and flexible is the way to life and happiness said Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 76
DaoDeJing Chapter 76 Text and Translation

When a person is born, he/she is soft and weak. But he is hard and stiff when dead.

All plants and trees are soft when alive, but they are dried and withered when dead.

Hence, the person who is hard and stubborn belongs the company of the dead.
The person who is soft and flexible belongs to the company of the living.

Hence, the army that counts only on his strength and is not flexible will not win wars.
The trees that have strong trunks will be cut down.
Great strength is ranked at the bottom while soft and weak are ranked on top.

Which is stronger, the trees or the grass?
When a great storm arises, the hard branches and even the trunks of trees are usually broken off. But the grass that bends with the winds remains.  Does that mean that we should have no principles and just move and shift with the times? Is that what Lao Zi is teaching here?

Principles vs Approaches
The answer is no. We hold on to the virtues or principles of Dao but our approaches and methods should be gentle and flexible. Outside soft and flexible but inside is made of solid strength of Dao. Our approach should always be gentle and soft while we strongly hold on to our principles of Dao. We insist on values such as of love and charity but we don't have to insist on our methods. We are to consider the feelings and desires of others. In every situation, we must be able to identify what are beyond our control and what are within our control. We don't waste effort on changing what we have no control or influence, but we can take actions on what we have control over. Most importantly, as Lao Zi emphasizes here, we must do it gently and softly with respect for people. Even if we are right and others are wrong, we don't raise our voices and scold or embarrass them. Softness does mean giving in to others demands. It is just that we insist on our principles with softly. We will express our views with gentle voices, smiling faces and patiently with repetitions.

Going Deeper - The Secret of Happiness is 随 Follow and Adapt
I-Ching, the root of all Chinese Philosophies including Lao Zi's has a hexagram #17 随 Follow and Adapt that explains this 'Soft' concept of Lao Zi in greater extent. See The Secret of Joy in Changes – I-Ching Hexagram 17隨 Following

The principle for success and happiness in life is about being soft and flexible on the outside and solid and strong of Dao within. Be like water. see The Most Powerful Force and Leadership - Adaptive like Water - DaoDeJing 78.

Lim Liat (c) 28-10-2016

27 October 2016

How to have a Better World with No Lacks - DaoDeJing 77

How can we have a better world without anyone lacking? The answer is obvious. Takes from those who have excess and give to those with lack. But we don't do it easily. We want paybacks and recognition for our efforts. You must earn it. What about those that could not? Lao Zi shows us the better way of Dao is to share it, from those who has to those who has not. DaoDeJing 77
DsoDeJing Chapter 77 Text and Translation:

The Dao/Way of Heaven is like stretching the bow [and aiming at a target]!

If we aim too high, we lower it. If we aim too low, we lift it higher.
(Another way to see the bow is the top of the bow will be lowered and the bottom higher when a bow is stretched). From those who have too much, He takes away to fill up those who don't have enough.

The Way of Heaven is to take from the excesses to fill up the lacks.
(Achieving fairness and equality, balancing, to ensure all can have a share in the blessings.)

The way of men is different. It is about taking from those with needs to give to those who already have excesses. (The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It is the economic system that we have.)

Who then can use his excesses to give the rest of the world? Only those with Dao within.

Therefore, the sages act without being presumptuous, accomplish without claiming credits, because they do not want to be known and considered as better than others.

The Contrast of Giving and Earning
The Dao/Way of Heaven is mercy --- giving and benefiting everyone without conditions and having to earn it. Nature exhibits such self-balancing behavior to ensure continuity of life. Matthew 5:45 .... He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  Waters on top of mountains will flow down the valleys and rivers to water the rest of the earth. Water from the seas will rise up and clouds and collects on mountain tops. It is taking from those with excess to fill up the lack of others.

The economic system of the world is about earning it and owning it. Money flows to those who know how to create value and work for it. The able and rich will get richer as they can re-invest in education and processes to create more. Those who are outside the system, who do not have the education and ability will be left out in the cold. It is not the fault of the economic system because it is created to work that way. We need to add on additional systems, social systems, and taxation systems to help balance out. But it is not easy for men. How we hate to pay taxes and we even pay people to help us to pay as little tax as possible. Such strange taxation systems that can result in the very rich paying less taxes than the normal salaried employees! It is I earn it, I deserve it and I own it. We seldom give any credits to the 'unknown' natural world, environment, the stable political and social systems and the many others that make our money making business possible. 

The Simple Answer that We want to Avoid
The solution for a better and fairer world is simple, share it - those who have should share it with those who have not.  What excuses do we normally give? I can't because I don't know. I don't have enough money to give. etc....

The Deeper Meaning of Sharing - Don't Think of It as an Earning but as a Gifting
The first part of this chapter is about using the excess to fill the lack.
The 2nd part is about those who are able and have should also do and give quietly.
Then Lao Zi asks us to apply this principle to our own life.
  • What about you? 
  • Are you able?
  • Do you have much? 
  • What are you doing with your ability and wealth?
  • Do you have the attribute of Dao?
  • Do you use them quietly or do you demand payback and recognition?
If we think of our ability and wealth as gifts from God, and be grateful that we are given so much, and know that the purpose of our life is not about hoarding of material goods, but about fulfilling our life purpose in the context of others, then perhaps, we may realize that we do not earn and own the wealth. Our ability and wealth are most meaningful when spent in the serving of others of which world we are a part of. Fight not to hold it but freely give away may make us a happier person with much lesser stress.

Lim Liat (c) 27 Oct 2016

26 October 2016

The Most Powerful Force and Leadership - Adaptive like Water - DaoDeJing 78

The most powerful is not one that is hard and unbending. Because no matter how strong one can be, there is always an upper limit.  The strongest is one that can be flexible and can redirect the force away. At times, it can even redirect the force back to the attacker. That is the concept of Lao Zi's water analogy of Dao and this principle is used in such KungFu like 太极拳 TaiJi or Judo. A leader should be like water that flows to the needs of the people! Leadership is about serving people.
DaoDeJing Chapter 78 Text and Translation

天下莫柔弱于水,而攻坚强者 莫之能胜,其无以易之。
The softest thing under heaven is water. Yet, it can be used to attack the hard and strong, there is nothing that can beat it or replace it.

The weak can win against the strong. The soft wins against the hard. Everyone knows about it but no one is able to do it.

Hence, the wise sage said, "He that can bear the burdens and garbages of a country is the one that can be its ruler."

"He that can bear the problems and disasters of the world can be its ruler"

The right sayings seem wrong [at the surface].

The Power of Water
How is water powerful? When we see the great waves and the great waterfalls, we know how powerful water can be. Water is used to generate electricity. Water in compressed form is used cutting steel plates. However, I think this is not what Lao Zi meant here. There are the other characteristics of water that Lao Zi wants us to think of. It is its flexibility and adaptability. Water has no fixed shape. It takes the shape of its container.  It is able to flow through whatever holes or gaps there are in the concrete floor or roofs. Water leaking in a flat roof is very difficult to fix. Because it is very difficult to trace its flow through the concrete. Sun Zi's also use such water characteristics to describe how an army should move.  【6】夫兵形象水,水之形,避高而趋下,兵之形,避实而击虚。水因地而制流,兵因敌而制胜。故兵无常势,水无常形,能因敌变化而取胜者,谓之神。
An army should shape and move like water. Water will skip the high terrain and move downward and an army should bypass the strong positions and attack the weak positions. Water flow shapes itself according to the shapes of the terrains. So an army must attack according to the enemy deployment to win against him. Hence, an army has not fixed deposition like water with no fixed shape. He who can change according to the enemy and win against him is called super intelligent like a god.

The Key Characteristics are:

  1. Flexible Form and No Fixed Shape. It is not easily detectable nor predictable.
  2. It adapts to the situation. It does not insist on its own ways but flows according to the needs.
  3. It bypasses the strong positions and exploits the gaps of weakness.
The Attributes for Leadership

Flexibility does not mean there is no principle.  In fact, it is principle centricity that gives its flexibility. The mission and values are fixed but the methods to achieve the mission can change with the situations. Lao Zi tells us that a good leader is like Dao, who bring benefits to all living things. So leadership is not about doing our own things and benefiting oneself at the expense of others. On the contrary, leadership is about knowing the needs of the people and be willing to take on the problems and the garbages(shit) that no one wants to do. Leadership is bearing the responsibilities that people are afraid to do. In simple words, leadership is solving people's problems and hardships. With multiple demands of multiple interest groups. we need to have an open mind and much wisdom to find the right balance. Be like water that flows to whatever needs there are. 

Is is Paradoxical?
Lao Zi says wise sayings seems paradoxical. Isn't a leader, like a king, is meant to be served? Lao Zi says no. Leadership is about serving others. Serving others gains the support and respect of the people. It is not by force but by engagement. It is servant leadership is that taught by Jesus -  Matthew 23:11 The greatest among you will be your servant.

Lim Liat (c) 26 Oct 2016

25 October 2016

Heaven on Earth - The Ideal Small Community of Love - DaoDeJing 80

What makes for heaven on earth? It is not the size, nor the wealth, nor the power of the community. It is a small community of love living in peace. This is how large country should be managed. Size should not undermine closeness. This is the ideal of Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 80.
DaoDeJing Chapter 80 Text and Translation

The small country with a little population, even though they have weapons they don't use them.

Let the people value lives and relationship so that they don't have to go to far away places (to risk their lives to make a living.)

Though they have boats and cars, they never use them. (Because they never need to - small country and don't travel overseas.)

Though there are armors and weapons, they are not laid out.

Let the people return to the time of tying ropes for record keeping. (Too easy to write like today's technology only cause us to write too much.)

Let them have tasty food, beautiful clothes, secured homes and joyful traditions.

Neighboring countries are within view. The calls of roster and dogs can be heard. However, the people never have to interact during lifetimes. 

Small is Beautiful
The values of the present world are  "More" and "Growth". If we can't do it at home, we need to go overseas and to build global corporations. We measure the success by the size of its assets, the number of employees, and its worldwide presence. They don't think small can survive. Yet in the study of evolution, it is not size nor strength, but rather, it is adaptability that is needed for survival. In terms of adaptability, small is strength. Small means agility. Big corporate can only survive is their adaptability and agility can be like that of a small business. 

To Manage Big, divide it to be small.
This is the teaching of Lao Zi. If you cannot do the needful things that a small and stable community demands, you cannot scale up. It will only bring troubles and stress. Lao Zi in DaoDeJing chapter 60 says 治大国若烹小鲜 Managing large country is like cooking some small fish. Sun Zi in The Art of War Chapter 5 says 凡治众如治寡,分数是也;斗众如斗寡,形名是也;Managing large is like managing small, it all lies in dividing the numbers. Fighting with a large force is like fighting with a small force. It all lies on signals to enable communications. 

The Values of Lives
Lao Zi gives four basic values for living --- tasty food, beautiful clothes, secured home and joyful community traditions. These are like Maslow's lower three levels of physiological, safety, and belonging needs, and the higher ones of having happiness with people. There is also the level six needs of beauty and aesthetics. It does not have the 7th level of self-actualization and 8th level of transcendence. The highest level need is not of self but of community or joy of communal living.

Technology is No Guarantee for Happiness
More advanced weapons lead to greater destruction. The best is not to have the need to use them. More advanced technology in writing and other productivity only leads to greater waste of material production, pollution of the environment, greed and fighting for more. Even with the digital connection, our lives cannot be freed anymore. There are the constant interrupts from Whatsapp, FaceBook, eMails, and phone calls. Writing is so easy that people then write without thinking and we all suffer from information overload. We have so much productivity that gives us so much free time that we need to kill them! Lao Zi does not think technology is a solution for happiness. What use is there for a long life if we does not know to live happily in them? We must fix the basic problems of our values and then technology can then be managed and put to good use to enhance health and life.

The VUCAD World of Stress and Change
What is the cause of our present VUCAD (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, and deceptive) world? It is because we are connecting a diversified world together. Unless we know the values and the means to achieve harmony (synergy of diversities and not uniformity. It is appreciating and valuing the differences and not merely tolerating), connecting together will only bring forth greater conflicts, where one race or religion insist on overcoming and dominating or eliminating others. If we can't learn how to live with others that are different from us, it is better that we separate.

Hope you have a good understanding of Lao Zi's small world that is not small at all!

Lim Liat (c) 25 Oct 2016

Winning Strategies for War - Caution & Surprises DaoDeJing 69

Philosophy about living also covers strategies for war! It is not about not to fight but rather how to win. Here lies the principles taught by Sun Zi's Art of War as well. Be cautious and yet be innovative to give surprises said Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 69.
DaoDeJing Chapter 69 Text and Translation:

0 用兵有言曰:
The "Art of War" teaches:

1 吾不敢为主,而为客;
We dare not take the initiative [impulsively] nor be self-centered. 
Rather, we plan carefully and be as objective as possible.
[Reading the situations, the seasonal trends , terrains, and forces at play etc]

2 吾不敢进寸而退尺,
We dare not advance an inch [recklessly] but rather withdraw a foot [to lure them into our familiar territory]

3 是谓行无行,攘无臂,执无兵,扔无敌。
This is what is called moving without any fixed patterns, take without showing the hands, holding on to weapons that are not seen, and attacking when there is no defense by the enemy

4 祸莫大于轻敌,轻敌几丧吾宝;
The greatest danger is to underestimate the enemy.
Underestimating the enemy will cause us to lose our treasures. 

5 故抗兵相加/若,哀者胜矣!
Hence, when two sides of equal strength are at war,
the one that is united with love and compassion will win
[or the one that is so pressured and the only way out is to fight to live, will win].

Sun Zi's Art of War and Lao Zi
Because Sun Zi's Art of War has a number of phases that are similar in DaoDeJing, some believed that Sun Zi could be a disciple of Lao Zi or a student of Lao Zi's books at the very least. 以奇胜 is found in Art of War Chapter 5 and also in DaoDejing 57 以奇用兵.  The Art of War Chapter 1 says, 兵者,诡道也。故能而示之不能 ...Warfare is about giving surprises/deception, hence able but shows unable.... This is very similar to verse 3 of this chapter, which Sun Zi also uses 无形 "no shape" to describe the conquering army. In fact, the key teachings of Sun Zi are captured here. These are the principles for winning:

1. Be Objective 客观
Never look at things from one's own subjective viewpoint. We must be as objective and open minded as possible so that we can see clearly and have a factual understanding of the reality. "Garbage-in Garbage-out" shows us that any decision based on erroneous data will be wrong. We must always take the Outside-In approach of 审时度势 examine the timing and the forces at play at the various terrains that we want to move our forces. 

2. Be Cautious and Don't Act Recklessly 谨慎 - Take the One with Known Consequences
Advancing an inch into territory that we know not much riskier than we withdraw a foot in our known territory. Another way of saying it, doing something we have done before is much safer than trying something we don't know at all. Here is the threat first before opportunity teaching. 

3. Be Unseen - Act without Detection 无形  - Warfare is about Doing the Unexpected
Move without any detectable fixed patterns so that we are unpredictable by the enemy.
Take without even the enemy knowing about it because we did it hideously. We did not show our hand when we take it! We hide our weapons that the enemy sees not. We attack into where the enemy defense not. These are some examples of surprising the enemy.  See also Sun Zi Art of War-5: The Principles for Good StrategiesThe Patterns of Chinese 36-Strategies.

4. Never Underestimate the Enemy 不轻敌
Point 2 refers to the passive environmental factors, and this one emphasizes the intelligent and reactive enemy. Our strengths must not be self-claimed but must be measured against the enemy or competitors in the markets in the eyes of the buyers. If we underestimate the enemy we run the risks of losing our resources and treasures. In Chapter 67, Lao Zi tells us three types of treasures, namely love, frugality and not-be-first. In Chapter 68, Lao Zi tells us the virtues of not fighting to get our things. We should not let our greed causes us to underestimate the work that will bring us loses than gains.

5. The Power of Love and Power of Survival 哀
There are two views on this verse about the winning army because of the word 哀. It means extreme sadness, also meaning remembering the loved ones, especially deceased mother. We are sad because we lost our loved ones. If we don't want to lose our loved ones, then we might fight with all our might to preserve them. Hence, the army who are united in love and given no way out but fight will fight will all their might and win. Hence, in Art of War, we have the famous saying of, 陷之死地然后生(Chapter 11) Put them in the place of death that they may fight and live and 围师遗阙 Surrounding Army must live a gap for escape (then they will run away instead of staying to fight you still their death!)
So we have the five principles for winning,  be objective (outside-in view), be cautious (overcome the threat then exploit the opportunity), do the unexpected (be unseen to give maximum surprises), never underestimate, and use the power of survival and love.

Lim Liat (c) 25 Oct 2016

18 October 2016

Self Management Comes from Non-Interference - DaoDeJing 57

In order to govern, or to manage, we tend to add more and more rules to guide the people.  That is fixing the symptoms and not the root cause. Lao Zi advocates going after the right values and simplify the rules to minimize interferences to people production process. Lao Zi teaching is best illustrated by Deming's experiments. DaoDeJing 57.
DaoDeJing 57 Original Text and Translation

Use righteousness to rule the nation.
Use surprises to fight a war.
Use non-interference to gain the support of the world.

How do I know why these advice work? Because of the following:

The more taboos and rules that you should not do these nor that, the people become poorer.

The more weapons the people have, the more blur and chaotic the country becomes.

The more skills the people have, there will be all kinds of strange inventions.

The more complex the laws become, the greater the number of thieves.

Hence, the wise man says, "I interfere not and the people change by themselves,

I like to be still and the people becomes righteous by themselves.

I do nothing and the people become rich by themselves.

I desire nothing and the people become simple by themselves.“

W E Deming's Funnel Experiment
Deming, the Quality Control Guru, who was credited with helping Japanese industries to achieve high quality, conduct a "Funnel Experiment" to illustrate why tempering makes a stable system worse off. You can do a search on Youtube for "Deming Funnel Experiment" to watch the consequences of various tampering. A good example is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Z3o64FAtvA, The more we tamper with the system, the greater the variation. This is the point that Lao Zi was making.

Focus on the Key Virtues and Principles
Many people confuse Lao Zi 无为 No Action as taking no action. But that is not what Lao Zi meant. The chapter begins with "Rule with Righteousness". On this foundation, we are not to act against, i.e. violate such righteousness. In fact, Lao Zi encourages us to 为无为, do "no violating actions". We are to review our policies and rules to see if any one of them violate the righteousness. If so, we must remove those policies. For a business entity, the righteousness is defined by the mission, visions, and values (MVV) of the corporation. We are to communicate, promote and enforce such.

The best way to communicate and promote is to see behaviors that exemplify the MVV and then publicize such behaviors or stories. The best way to enforce is to show the negative examples and tell people not to.

Deming tells us not to worry about variations that fall within control-limits, but to look at the systemic factors in the environment, methods, people, machine, measurements (e.g. calibration), materials (the 6M) and policies that influence the behavior of people.

Self-Management or Self-Directed Team
The world is getting to be so complex and moving so fast that no one is able to know all and lead all. The best way to handle this VUCAD (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous and Deceptive) world, is for the staff themselves, at the front line to do what is best needed for the situations. But they must be united with shared MVV and given the needed empowerment of authority and resources. http://www.holacracy.org/ is a possible way where Lao Zi's non-interference and self-management could be achieved.

Lim Liat (c) 18 Oct 2016

17 October 2016

The Invert Strategy - DaoDeJing 36

DaoDeJing contains teachings for innovation and design of winning strategies as well. Giving in maybe better than just opposing. Here is the common one, invert, from DaoDeJing 36.
DaoDeJing 36 Original Text & Translation

If you want to shrink it you must first stretch it.

If you want to weaken it you must first strengthen it.

If you want to discard it you must first recommend it.

If you want to take it you must first give in. This is called the little-known wisdom

The flexible wins against the hard and brittle. The weak wins against the strong.

Just like the fish cannot live without the deep water, the powerful weapons of a country cannot be shown to people.

Invert is the Most Powerful Innovative Operator
The easiest way to innovate, or to surprise, is to do the opposite of what is commonly expected. In the 36 Stratagems of the Chinese, there is a stratagem #16.     To Catch Something, First Let It Go, that is similar to the teaching here. This is also commonly described as "giving you enough rope to hang yourself". A typical war strategy is to pretend to lose and then led the chasing enemy into an ambush. 

Hence, we must be careful when people praised us. We must make sure whether it was sincere or just a flattery to get us to be proud so that we become less careful. When the going is too easy, we must understand the reasons why.  

When someone criticizes you, the best way to respond is not to defend nor deny but to say, "Thank you for your feedback. I will take  note of it." It will immediately stop further criticisms and others will think highly of your humility.

The Indirect Soft Strategy 
There are two ways to prevent the flooding water. One way is the hard way, and that is to raise the band to block the water. It will work when the tide is relatively low. If the tide is too high, it is not easy to build higher and higher dam. The better way is to dig canals to lead the water away.  That is the indirect and soft approach. You can see it is a better way. It was how King Yu 禹治水 of ancient China successful resolved the floods from the Yellow River.

Instead of taking the direct and opposing approach, try this indirect and soft approach. Give in for the time being and let him suffers the consequences of his actions or wait till the opportune time to take action.

Invert is just one of the operators that can be used in coming with new ideas and solutions. For another 9 operators, see http://www.bvotech.com/BVITS.htm.

See also Self Management Comes from Non-Interference - DaoDeJing 57 for strategies to rule a country or fight a war.

Lim Liat (c) 17 Oct 2016

13 October 2016

Forgiveness makes no demand and is of Dao - DaoDeJing 79

What it takes for you to forgive someone? Many will demand payback. Does that not become a business transaction? True forgiveness demands not and you have the Dao with you says Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 79
DaoDeJing Chapter 79 Text and Translation:

和大怨,必有余怨;报怨以德,安可以为善;If we, by our good virtues, appease to a great resentment and yet there is still some resentment left, then how can we say that we have done well?

The right way is shown by the Wiseman who had the contract and yet not make demands on the people to pay back.

Those virtuous people seek co-operation and relationship, those without virtues demands their rights to the fullest extent. The Way of the Heaven shows no partiality and is always with those kind people.

Lessons Learned:

1. Have no condition placed on your forgiveness or love.
If we say you have to do this or that and then we will forgive you, then our forgiveness actually becomes a business transaction where the person earns our forgiveness by doing what we wanted. Our forgiveness actually loses its original value. However, if we give no condition and the person who we have forgiven, felt the love and have the gratitude to make a change in behavior, then is not this many times better?

We can see that Lao Zi goes beyond Confucius in forgiveness. In the Analect 14:34 或曰‘以德報怨、何如’ Someone asked,"What about repaying injury with kindness?"子曰‘何以報德、以直報怨、以德報德’ Confucius said,"Then how do you repay kindness? Repay injury with straightness (justice) and kindness for kindness".

This reminded me of Matthew 18:21-35 NKJV - The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant - Bible Gateway, where the servant, forgiven of millions of debts by his master, could not forgive the one that owed him ten dollars. The servant actually did not feel the forgiveness because he thinks he can pay back (v26)!

2. Virtues are of God and with God.
What are the right virtues? Who defines them? Lao Zi tells us it is the Dao. We know that the Dao described by Lao Zi that is eternal and without beginning is God. In fact, DaoDeJing Chapter 4 is even more explicit to say that it is the Son. See The Way is the Son said Lao Zi (DaoDeJing 4).
He who behaves likewise virtuously has God with him.

Lim Liat (c) 13 Oct 20016

A Problem Free World from Following Dao - DaoDeJing 35

No news is good news. A problem-free world can be achieved through the following of Dao says Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 35. However, we will probably take it for granted. But that is precisely how Dao works, not drawing attention to itself.
DaoDeJing Chapter 35 Text and Translation:

Hold on to the pattern of the behavior of the great [Dao], and let the world follow it.
Following it will bring no harms, but rather, it brings security, peace, and abundance.

Happiness and good food will cause the travelers to stop by.

However, the speech of Dao is plain and without taste.

See it and it could not be seen. Listen and it could not be heard. But use it and it runs out not.

Lessons Learned:

1 Internal Transformation vs External Following of Rules
If only everyone can internalize the attributes of Dao, or have Dao within, then we all can live happily ever after with peace, security, and abundance. This teaching echoes the teaching of I-Ching #1 乾卦 Heaven Hexagram, has a seven stage line that says, "群龙无首,吉“ The group of dragons has no leader, it is a great fortune.  When everyone is mature and is virtuous, they don't need a leader to lead them.  This teaching also agrees with the Bible too. Christ within is the teaching of the Bible (Gal 2:20, Col 1:27, Eph 3:17, Gal 4:19, Rom 8:10, 29-30). True peace comes when everyone internalizes the virtues rather than through following a set of good behavior laws.

2.  Problem Free vs Heroism
In Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM) teaching, the best doctor is one that keeps one healthy without sickness, the next best is one who diagnoses the early stage of a sickness and cures it, and the least is the doctor that cure the terminal sickness.  We always say prevention is better than cure. However, we glorify the doctors that are able to cure near terminal sicknesses. Similarly, a good leader foresees a problem and solve it before it ever happens But no one will take note of it nor appreciate him as there was not a problem. When a leader fails to foresee a problem and let it happens, people will take note of the problem and they will call the one that fixes the problem a hero. How strange! Why is it so? Because we tend to take things for granted until a problem appears. We tend to take people for granted until they go away.

Be More Appreciative and Don't take things for Granted
When things are going fine without any issues, we must learn to appreciate the leaders that run them well and in a low-key way. We need to be more sensitive to the world outside of us.

Lim Liat (c) 13 Oct 2016

11 October 2016

The Truly Great Freely Gives and Demands Not - DaoDeJing 34

What makes a person great? What causes great respect? The one who gives freely and yet not demand recognition or control. This is the behavior of Dao says DaoDeJing 34.
DaoDeJing Chapter 34 Text & Translation:

The great Dao reaches out everywhere, on the left and on the right, (benefiting all).

All things live on it and yet it keeps quiet.

Mission accomplished and yet want no recognition. Nature all things and yet control them not,

Always not demanding and hence is hardly noticeable, to be called little.

All things follow it and command them not, so can be called great.

This is because it does not think of itself as great and so it can accomplish great things.

What is greatness?

1. By Size of Influence.
We can go by the influence it reaches. We said Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and the like are great because they build large businesses and have lots of wealth. They have many people working for them. They make things that many buy and use. It is very easy to recognize such greatness.

2. By Character - The Response to His Great Size - Humility
The character of a person can be seen by the way he handles his wealth and reputation. Does his head become big and demand special treatments and praise from others. Does he go around commanding people to do this and that for his pleasure? Does he think he is above the laws and can do whatever as he pleases? Does he abuse and misuse others because of his wealth and power? Lao Zi asks us to look at the behavior of the Great Dao. Despite its greatness, it demands and controls not. It freely and willingly gives and gives. That's is the other dimension of greatest --- humility. 

The Secret for Success and Longevity
Humility is the secret. The greater one's accomplished the greater the needs to be humble, to be out of sight and interests of others. It frees one do more and be less distracted. The objective is not about our glory but the benefits we bring to others. History tells us that very often, the new kings usually got rid of the people who made them kings. Why? Because their contributions were greater than the kings. In the Bible, Saul was jealous of David because 1 Samuel 18:7 As they danced, they sang: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands." and was determined to kill him.

Lim Liat (c) 11 Oct 2016

10 October 2016

Knowing When to Stop - DaoDeJing 32

Many people teach us not to give up but to continue in order to achieve success. But many failures and disasters come from not knowing when to stop. What is the right thing to do first, how to do it, and when to stop is the wisdom taught by DaoDeJing 32.
DaoDeJing Chapter 32 Text and Translation

Here is mind-map:

The Lessons:

1 Respect Dao - Pollute Not

The eternal Dao does not want a name for itself. It is always plain and simple. Though little, there is nothing in the world that can rule it.

We can never control and rule the Dao. It is best for us to follow the Dao. Going against Dao will bring disasters and sorrows for us.Th e air we breath has no price but we cannot live without it neither can we control it. Consider the haze from the burning forests that flowed from one and spread throughout the region. No one can build a path in the sky to redirect the haze back to the source. We can only hide in our houses and turn on the air purifier.

2 Rule with Dao -The Best Management
If only the kings can keep the Dao, then all things will welcome him.

The best management or government is to follow Dao. Never interfere, only facilitate, the livelihoods of the people. The people will want your leadership.

3 Provide Equally - Interfere Not

Heaven and earth meet up to send the dew, without anyone commanding it, it is evenly distributed.

Be as fair as the Heaven and Earth, producing and distributing them equally. Leaving it to the people do decide how much to collect and to use them.
4 Know When to Stop - Don't over do
New things are made and named. Once there is a name, it is time to stop as well. Knowing when to stop prevent one from falling in danger.

Start as needed but be careful not to over do it. Know when to stop and know how to let go.

5 We are Part of the Great Dao - Know our position

The relation between Dao and the world is like the mountain streams that flows through the rivers and the oceans.

We all are like the various mountain streams that flow into the great ocean of Dao. We are not unimportant. We are parts of the great Dao but we are not the masters of Dao.

Lim Liat (c) 10 Oct 2016

The Great Wisdom for Living - DaoDeJing 33

The great wisdom for life is best described by Lao Zi in DaoDeJing Chapter 33. It is not about working smart or working hard. It is more than just about loving others or doing the right things. Those are obvious and fundamental values or virtues. It addresses the concepts of knowledge, power, wealth, and longevity. 
DaoDeJing Chapter 33 The Original Text and Translation:

Knowing others is wisdom. Self-awareness is understanding/enlightenment.

Winning against others shows his strengths. Winning against ourselves is truly strong/mature.

Contentment is wealth. Persevere in action shows determination and aspiration.

Being true to oneself is lasting. Died and yet his legacy lives on is a long life.

1 Knowing Self and Others
In the Art of War, Sun Zi tells us that we must know others and then know ourselves. Our strengths and weaknesses cannot be self-claimed but measured against the enemy that we are going to engage. In Gui Gu Zi's Strategic Persuasion, knowing others begins with knowing self. There is no contradiction here. We must know our character, thinking biases, and ignorance that we may be able to perceive things more accurately and comprehensively.  If we are impulsive, we must learn to stay cool and be more patient in order to find out more about others. If we are presumptuous and narrow-minded, we must surround ourselves with people that think differently from us in order to get a true picture of reality. Knowing others also helps us to know about ourselves. Confucius reminds us to learn from those that are better than us and not to make the mistakes that others committed. We are to examine our behavior when we the bad behaviors of others. 

2. True Strength is Self-Control or Mastering Oneself
Bosses are able to command others to do things. But are they able to control their temper and selfishness?  Are we the master over wealth, using and enjoying the wealth we gained, or are we enslaved by wealth, and forever not satisfied and wanting more?

3. Contented and Yet Progressive
If we are driven by greed and forever not satisfied, then no matter how much we have, we always want more, always having a feeling of lack and needs. We will never be happy then. Contentment does not, as many people have misunderstood, mean not wanting to make progress. Lao Zi tells us that we can and should both. On the one hand, we are happy at the present situation and yet, on the other hand, we aspire to make it even better. Contentment and aspiration can do together. Our contentment gives us the strength and confidence to do better. Security brings progress. Fear regresses and changes not.

4. Leaving a Legacy
Not losing our values and identity makes us lasting. But life can be more than our life span. Our ability to influence future generations is not limited by our life on earth.  Consider how what you can leave behind even after your death. 

For a more in-depth study of this chapter, see
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
Lim Liat (c) 10 Oct 2016

07 October 2016

What is a Bad Omen? Lao Zi tells us in DaoDeJing 31

A great and powerful army is what most government want. The defence budgets of many countries are relatively high, or even higher, than the education and social development programs. But Lao Zi considers Army as an ominous instrument. Why?
Dao De Jing Chapter 33 Text, Translation and Comments:

Below is the mind-map for Chapter 33:

If you don't like the mind-map, here is the text:

A great army is an ominous instrument. (When an army is used, it means destruction and killings. Hence, bad omen.)

All things hate them. Hence, those with Dao Virtues will not associate with them.
Dao is about development and growth for all. It is the opposite of destruction.

Wise gentlemen in their daily life honor those at left. In war time, they honor those on the right.
(In ancient China, in Lao Zi time, left is more honorable than right. Admin officers stand on the left whereas generals stand on the right.)

Army is an ominous instrument. It is not the instrument of the wise gentlemen.

It is used as the last resort. Quietness and peace are better.
(Lao Zi is not against the use of the army. He recognized the harms in its use. Peace is preferred over war. But peace may be achieved only when one has a great army. It is as proposed by Sun Zi that the best strategy is to win without a war.)

Victory is not to be praised. Those who praise war are those that like to kill people.
Praising victors of war is like encouraging people to kill.

Those that like to kill are not able to win the heart of the world. (Yet, the world could never be conquered by the use of force against people wishes. See Chapter 29 & 30 also.)

The good things honor left. The bad things honor right. Assistant commanders stay on the left whereas commanders stay on the right.

When thinking about war, speak about funeral services. When many are killed, we are sad and we cry for them. Even after the victory, we must conduct funeral services.

Lao Zi is for peace and not for war. However, he is not against the build up of an army but rather the right use of it. Army is a weapon of destruction and killing and hence must be carefully put to good use. Use it for peace and not for somebody ego and pride to conquer the world. He will not succeed but only bring forth destruction, sufferings, and deaths. Notice Lao Zi uses left and right, the yin-yang concept to promote the thinking of right balance, and the right time and place to do the right thing.

Lim Liat (c) 7 Oct 16

06 October 2016

The Greatest Power in the World - DaoDeJing 30

Most people think that the greatest power in the world is military might. Not so, said Lao Zi. Military power will just bring destruction and is self-defeating. Know the stronger and life changing power of Dao - Love is the greatest and undefeatable power.
Dao De Jing Chapter 28 Original Text and Translation:

Those who use the Way of Dao to assist their master will not build the greatest military power to dominate the world. Such use of Dao to rule bring great benefits.

The battlefields of the past had nothing but the growth of thorns and brambles. The raising of a great army will bring for disastrous years.

善者 果而已,不敢以取强。
The good leaders go for the right objectives and then stop there. They dare not exploit the situation any further.

Accomplishment does not bring forth self-confidence.
Accomplishment does not bring forth further expansion.
Accomplishment does not bring forth pride.

The accomplishment was made because there was no better choice.
The accomplishment was done without the use of violent forces [against people desires].

Anything that becomes strong will age quickly (The strong has a short life).
It is because they don't follow the Dao.
Anything that is against the Dao will perish quickly.

Lessons From History
From the long history of China, the rise and fall of dynasties, we can see that rulers who rise to power and continue in their use of force to bully people into submission did not last long, eg. Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC), Sui Dynasty(581–618) and Yuan Dynasty(1271–1368). The Han Dynasty that overthrew the Qin Dynasty pursued the policies of the Dao School of thoughts and later the Confucius' Ru School of thoughts lasted 426 years (206 BC – 220 AD). Tang pursued similar policies based on Dao and Ru School and lasted about 300 years (618–907). Recently, we have the two Irag Wars. The first one, The Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991) was about the liberation of Kuwait from Iraq. The victory by the Allied Forces was quick and they stopped after liberating Kuwait. Many people then asked why not continue to conquer Iraq? The answered was " the President made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq." The 2nd Iraq War was the invasion of Iraq and though the war was short and victorious. The outcomes were not as good as imagined. US was stuck in committing troops in Iraq for many years and the casualties and costs continued to rise. It also created the endless issues that the world is facing now. All these show that Lao Zi was right.

What is the Way of Dao?
Lao Zi described the Way of Dao in the 81 Chapters of Dao De Jing. The way of Dao is centered on endless love (Chapter 6), impartial, fair, and good to all. In this chapter, he emphasized the need to follow Dao and the bad consequences of not doing so. Dao is not by force against people desires and their benefits. If we just force to conquer, the success will be short-lived and the costs high. Never use force unless as a last resort. If so, do it but win decisively and quickly. Once victory is achieved, stop pushing it. Change the way to rule by considering the needs of the people.  He reminded the conqueror a quite a number things:
  1. Don't exploit it. Stop at the initial objective.
  2. Don't be over confidence of your own ability.
  3. Don't attack against and go further (a repeat of point 1)
  4. Do it only as a last resort. Seek better ways to handle the issue.
  5. Don't bully people by force.
Mencius, of Ru School, said that 仁者无敌, Love is undefeatable. Love is the cause and winning is the consequence just like what Lao Zi said here. It is not about me. my ego, but about the welfare of others.

The Bible has a similar saying. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit”, says the Lord (Zech. 4:6). The Spirit of God is love.

For more ways of the Dao, see Lao Zi and the Dao School

Lim Liat (c) 6 Oct 2016

04 October 2016

Conquering the World vs Self-Control - DaoDeJing 29

Many people started out trying to conquer the external world but the very first world that we need to conquer is ourselves. Self-control is should be the first virtue without which all success, power and wealth are but greed and destructive to self and others. "How to have sustainable success without regrets" is the teaching of Lao Zi's Dao De Jing 29.
The Original Text of Chapter 29 

Wanting to conquer the world and do whatever we like with it.
I see that is not only impossible but also very harmful to him.

The instrument to run the world is not what people can or should possess.
The ones that try to will fail. The ones that insist on running it his way will loose it.

So you see the things in the world. Some leads and some follow.
Sometimes we blow to warm ourselves. Sometimes we blow to cool ourselves.
Even when we are strong and rich with resources, 
there could be failures and destructions.

是以圣人去甚,去奢,去泰。Hence, the wise men get rid of excessiveness, remove extravagance, and exalted themselves not.

Winning without Harms to Oneself
If we start out in life, as the above text tells us, to conquer the external world, without doing the self-control and development of the last verse, then the outcomes are obvious ... failures, losses and harms to ourselves and even our family and friends. We have often heard the saying, "Don't use your health to gain your wealth when young only to use your wealth to try to gain back your health when sick and old."

The Right Way to Do it
The right way to success begins with the last verse of self-development and control. Never go to the extremes. Always maintain a balance - keeping the demands of multiple forces, such as self, health, wealth, family, friends etc in right tension. Don't go for luxurious things and luxurious living. Be moderate and comfortable in our lifestyles. Never be boastful and proud. Never look down on others. Be like what Steve Jobs recommends, "Stay foolish and stay hungry".

Watch the seasonal trends, the location and the needs of the people, and adapt to them. Going against our body clocks and external trends only bring sickness and troubles to us. Be principles centered but be flexible in the methods and with the people to accomplish the missions. Many misunderstanding and quarrels come from people who have different thinking about what is good for the company. Real success begins with self. If you start with self-control first, your success will be lasting and benefiting to many people. The teaching of Lao Zi is about "内圣外王“, "A Saint on the inside and a Rule on the outside". Rule out from a good self within is the right order to have sustainable success without regrets.

Lim Liat (c) 4 Oct 2016

See also Inside vs Outside - Is Batman right?
For more of Lao Zi's wisdom, see Lao Zi and the Dao School
For even more, see Ancient Chinese Wisdom