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:

Never go out the door and yet know all things in the world.

Never look out the window and yet see the laws of heaven.

The farther one travels, the less one seems to know.

Hence, the sages don't travel and yet know.

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:

When the world practises the Way of Dao, then horses are used to fertilize the fields.

When the world follow not the Way of Dao, then war horses are to be found at the wilderness.

There is no greatest disasters than not knowing contentment.

There is no sin greater than greed (always wanting to have more).

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

When the better person hears the Dao, he diligently follow it.

When the average person hears the Dao, he is undecided whether to follow or not.

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.

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.

The flatness of Dao appears to be uneven.
The highest virtues appear to be like the valley rather than the mountain top.

White appears to be dirty. 
The wide virtues appear to be insufficient.

Cultivating virtues appear to be like borrowing/stealing/copying.
Genuine quality appears to be fake.

The great square has no corners.
The great ability is shown in later years.

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

The Visible Comes from the Invisible - There is more to it - DaoDeJing 40

There is always the first cause. The first cause is usually invisible. Their existence is known after we see the visible effects like the creation of the world. So, don't prejudge. Discover what lies below the surfaces and the root causes. DaoDeJing 40
DaoDeJing Chapter 40 Text & Translation:

Responses are the movement of Dao.
Gentleness is the means through which Dao uses.

All things under heaven come from having a body to be visible. The visible bodies come from the invisible seemingly void. (Invisible does not mean there is nothing. It is just that you can't see it.)

Dao is Always Working
Dao is not static. It is always working and responding to the actions of men and all things in the universe. But Dao works in the way of gentleness and the seemingly weak. So it is easy for men to ignore the response from Dao. Consider the pollution of the environment and global warming. The effects are not immediately felt but take place over a long time. Nature will try to restore the balance as much as possible. But there are limits and men may be pushing the limits too far.

The Visible comes from the Invisible
What we don't see does not mean they are not there. We are just not paying attention or we just don't have the instruments to see them. But they are there. Consider this quote from NASA about Dark Energy and Dark Matter: 
  • What Is Dark Energy?
    More is unknown than is known. We know how much dark energy there is because we know how it affects the universe's expansion. Other than that, it is a complete mystery. But it is an important mystery. It turns out that roughly 68% of the universe is dark energy. Dark matter makes up about 27%. The rest - everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter - adds up to less than 5% of the universe. 
Dark is not evil. Dark is about our lack of knowledge of it. 

There are many lessons we can learn from this.
  • The visible world we have now is created by the invisible God at the start. The Bible has some verses that support this. 
    • Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 
    • 2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 
  • There is a root cause. 
    • Things don't just happen. The problems we are discovering now are but the symptoms of some root causes that could happen long before we are aware. It is always better to fix a problem as early as possible. 
  • There is more than we what we see. 
    • Consider the iceberg. What is seen is only a small portion of it. Hence, your ship may have already hit the iceberg below the water before you thought you were close. There are always more things beneath the surfaces of the stories that you hear. Don't jump into conclusions. Always reserve your judgment until you can discover the facts. 
  • What you don't see does not mean it is not there. Don't be too sure of yourself. Of course, you have to guard against going in the other extreme and end up with fear driven analysis paralysis.
Lim Liat (c) 22 Nov 2016

21 November 2016

You Only Need this One to Succeed - DaoDeJing 39

When things don't seem to go right for you, there is usually one simple answer. You are trying to do too many things at the same time. It is also possible that you are focusing on the wrong thing. Lao Zi advises you to find the one Key and focus on this key. For leadership, it is humility. Be the rock that others can rely on. DaoDeJing 39
DaoDeJing Chapter 39 Text and Translation:

From the beginning of times, the following got their One [key thing]:

The sky got it and it remains clear.
The earth got it and it remains at rest.

The mind got it and it is creative.
The valley got it and it is filled [ with lives of all kinds]

All things got it to be able to live. 
The kings got it so that the world can be ruled rightly.

Getting it is most important else all be gone.
So, if the sky is not clear it might split.
The earth if not at rest might be useless [for living].

God without power is dead. Valley without abundance will dry-up

All things without lives will be gone.
Kings without honor will fall.

Hence, honor is built upon lowliness as a foundation.
Height is built upon low as a foundation.

Hence, Kings address themselves as the orphan, the alone, the unworthy.
Aren't all these names based on lowliness? Are they not?

Hence, having a few cars ends up like having none. (Family members think that there are so many cars and so each one drive away one leaving nothing for the Father).
Don't be like precious and rare like jade. Be like the common looking rocks [that are useful as foundations and walls].

Focus on the One Key Thing to Succeed.
What wrong with our life or our business? It is usually we are trying to solve too many things and sell too many products or services. Our time and resources are divided among many things and we cannot give enough time and resources to really solve an issue well. Drop the confusion. Simplify your life. Find out what is the most important thing and focus on doing that key thing well. When Steve Jobs went back to save Apple Inc, he removed more than 150 products then and only focus on the developing the new generation of translucent Mac. The company was saved.

The One Key Thing for Leadership and Life
What is this one thing for life that will bring us success? Lao Zi suggests going for the seemingly low honor things. Don't be like jade, beautiful and rare but almost useless except for decoration. Be like the common rock, be in abundance, strong and useful. It does not look beautiful from the outside. It is not its jobs. Its job is buried underground to be the foundation where tall buildings can be built upon it. Or it could the walls of rocks. Some people plaster over them to make the wall look beautiful. Some just leave them as exterior to showing their ruggedness. Leaders are the rocks where their followers rely on.  Consider this 1 Corinthians 3:11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Finding this ONE key thing is extensively covered by Gui Gu Zi in The Simple Key to Mastering Your World & Increase Your Power According to GuiGuZi

Lim Liat (c) 21 Nov 2016

Pretend Not and You don't have to Act - DaoDeJing 38

If we pretend not then we don't have the stressful work putting up a show all the time. When we lose our virtues, we set up various rules to show that we are virtues! We need to fix the root issue and not cover up with more and more layers of paints says Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 38
DaoDeJing Chapter 38 Text & Translation:

The highly virtuous one does not think he has virtues (and so continues to develop them) and hence he is possessing them.

The lowly virtuous only wants to look like having virtues and hence possesses no virtues at all.

The highly virtuous pretends not hence don't have to act as if.

The lowly virtuous pretends and so have to put up a show.

The truly charitable one gives freely without thinking that he is doing charity.

The truly righteous one does the righteous things after consideration of what is right.

The top ritualistic one does them but getting no support, stretches the arms to force people to follow them.

Hence, when the Way of Dao is lost, comes virtues

When virtues are lost, comes charity.

When charity is lost, come righteousness.

When righteousness is lost, comes rituals.

These rituals, they are results of lack of loyalty and trust (integrity). They lead to chaos.

Those that have foresight, but focusing on the outward forms of Dao, are actually the beginning of foolishness.

Hence, the wise men build on the strong , not on the thin foundation

Stay on the solid content and not on the beautiful shell. Give out that to gain this.

Matthew 23:27 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.

Being Yourself and Pretending to be Someone You are not
When we know someone is putting up a show, we know immediately that he is not genuine. Lao Zi tells us that if someone is trying to show his kindness, then he does not have kindness but rather showmanship. We cannot and should not judge a person on the surface.

The Process of Degradation
Lao Zi lists down the progression of degradation. First is the loss of Dao, then of Virtues, then of Charity, of Righteousness, of rituals or rules. Rules or legal laws is the greatest hypocrisy and the cause of confusion. As an example, consider abortion. Abortion is the killing of unborn lives. It is sin according to any religions. But we can set up laws to legalize it. In such a case, abortion is no longer perceived as sinful but as a legally ok thing to do. By reading this chapter, we can understand the rise of the Pharisees recorded in the Bible who were condemned by Jesus. See Matthew Chapter 23.

Why the Ten Commandments were Given
Lao Zi tells us because we lose the Dao, we don't know right and wrong and so we set up laws to show people what is loving, right, and proper conduct. It is not as good but serves as a compromise and is subjected to misuse and abuse as pointed out earlier. The Bible also explains why the Laws of Moses are given. Here are some quotes from the Bible:
  • Romans 3:20b through the law we become conscious of our sin
  • Galatians 3:19a Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.
  • Romans 7:7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."
Let's Go back to the Basic
We must go back to the very basic of developing and cultivating Dao within us. External laws cannot force us to be that. A good example is about my own fellow citizens, the Singaporeans. Singapore is known for its cleanliness. But it is clean by enforcement of laws. When we cannot be fined, we will revert back to throwing garbage in the public park or streets. In a typical public event, cleaners have to be sent in clean up the garbage thrown by the audiences. True cleanliness is internal. We keep the public spaces clean without being told to or being enforced by laws. It is because we want to be clean.

Lim Liat (c) 21 Nov 2016

20 November 2016

Natural vs Cancerous Growth - Self Transformation - DaoDeJing 37

Cancerous growth vs normal healthy growth. Most people misunderstand Lao Zi's "No Action" as not doing anything. He actually means "No Violating Action". Let all things grow up naturally and don't force them to become otherwise. DaoDeJing 37
DaoDeJing 37 Text and Translation:

1 道常无为而无不为,
Dao never violates itself so that it get all things done.
(When we try to be someone we are not, we become unproductive - we stress ourselves up and accomplish little because we are not acting from our natural abilities)

2 侯王若能守之,万物将自化;
If only the kings can keep this principle, then all things will be able to self-transform, self-manage, and self-develop.

3 化而欲作,吾将镇之以无名之朴。
After development and if they desire to deviate from their paths, I will manage and help them so that they return to their original simple states.

4 夫亦将无欲,无欲以静,天下将自定。
The desired state is without any desires [to depart from the original].
No desire to change will lead to rest and the world will automatically become stable.
(Lao Zi is not teaching us not to change but rather the wrongful desire to be something different from what we are. Growing and developing are changes. These are natural. Lao Zi cannot be against such natural changes. He is against unnatural, forced, and abnormal change. Cancer is abnormal growth of cells).

What is cancer?
Cancer is the tumor formed by the abnormal growth of cells. There are two problems. Firstly, the cancerous cells lose their original functions. Secondly, they just continue to grow and divide themselves without stopping. It is abnormal growth. This is what Lao Zi is telling us. Don't interfere but rather work for, the natural growth process. Create or facilitate the natural growth of all things. Otherwise, we get cancers! Our intention may be good, but our wrong methods, produce the very result that we don't want.

Our Key Problem - We want instant solution and result
Lao Zi knows that we suffer from this problem of "Instant Answers". We don't want to wait for the natural growth to take place. We want to force the issue. We don't want to accept what we are. We want to become someone else. 

Manage the Deviations
Because we like to set objectives and to be something we are not, Lao Zi tells us to monitor our growth and check for the deviations. Of course, we don't jump at any deviation. We change only if there is a significant deviation from the normal. E W Deming teaches us Statistical Quality Control. We set control limits and take action only the deviations are 2 or 3 sigmas from the norm depending on the confidence level that you want. Generally,  we must take regular breaks from our routines and reflect on our life to see what we should change. Discovering ourselves, our character, abilities and talents, likes and dislikes take time. It also involves making mistakes. Don't let fear of failures stop us from trying. Try first that we may discover and understand ourselves more. 

Following Your Abilities will Lead to Stress-Free living - Matching needs and abilities
How can we discover our abilities ( I don't use the word 'strengths' that is commonly used.)? Two things can tell us. One is do we like what we are doing? The other one is, do others say we are good at it? If the answers to the two questions are yes, then that is our ability. Doing with our abilities bring two results, we enjoy it and we are good at it. Doing it energizes us rather than stress us. It was so easy for us. When we know our abilities, then we must choose the career or business or any situation, that our abilities are needed. When our abilities are needed, our abilities become strengths. If we choose a career when our abilities are not needed, then we have no strengths though we still have the abilities. There is this matching of abilities and the needs.  When the match is right, we feel fulfilled in what we are doing and we don't want to change. If that happens to everyone, then everyone will be happily and productively working and the world will be at rest, in a stable state of peace and abundance.

19 November 2016

Pride is Getting Ahead of Ourself - DaoDeJing 24

Pride is simply trying to get ahead when we lack the ability. We are impatient to build and so we go ahead and say we can. Lao Zi gives us six areas to take note in DaoDeJing 24.
DaoDeJing Chapter 24 Text & Translation:

Tip-toeing to stand-up from the crowd cannot stand for long and will fall down.
Taking big steps cannot move fast for long and will stop.

Only seeing our own views is not wise and others cannot understand us either.
Self-righteousness does not gain the respect he seeks.

Self-praising does not bring the recognition.
So sure of one's ability does not grow.

Dao calls them leftover foods and hunchback walk.

All things dislike them. Hence those with Dao virtues do not do them.

What is pride?
One usually says pride is boastfulness. Lao Zi gives us eight areas to watch out for and uselessness to show we can when we really cannot. The reality will eventually reveal itself. 

The Six Areas
  1.  One-upmanship - Trying to be taller than we actually are. So we stand on our toes to appear taller. Standing on our toes have two problems. One it is not steady. Secondly, it is tiring. So we will eventually have to go back to our normal height and not have a fall. Our lesson is to build a strong foundation first. The taller the building, the stronger the foundation is needed. 
  2. Faster than the rest - To move faster than normal, we take bigger steps. But we can't do that for long because it is very taxing on the body. We can run but we cannot run for long. We have to stop after some time. Many people think that first mover has advantages and even propose that we fire first and then aim. The fact is, moving too fast without careful consideration of the risks will lead to failure. First movers often have to pay the price of development and refinement of technology to get it working in the real working environment. Potential customers may have to learn how to use it. Develop and education will burn up lots of cash. It may not be leading edge but bleeding edge. Furthermore, if the entry barrier is low, others can quickly catch-up and overtake you. 
  3. Seeing only your own viewpoint. A typical engineer error is thinking that if we build it others will definitely buy it. We are upset with people who do not understand how great our invention is or how wonderful our proposed solution is. Instead of trying to understand their viewpoints, we call them stupid and stubborn. That will end all discussion and business.
  4. Self-Righteousness. I know all and I am always right. We think people will think highly of us when we are always right. We cannot admit our mistakes else others will laugh at us. We live with stress and worry to make sure we don't make any error. If there be any error, we will blame others for them because we cannot afford to be wrong. However, real reputation and trust are not built that way. It takes guts to admit our error and to try to improve. People can see the mistakes and appreciate our frankness and our attempt to correct it.
  5. Branding is Boasting. We think we must people how good we are so that people can be impressed. However, self-praise is discounted by people who hear it. It is must better for others to praise you. Branding is not just advertisements, but the opinions of customers over a long period. Branding does not come immediately. We may hire and pay for celebrities to use our products or services. But those are just the first impression. Real branding comes from experience with the use of the service or products. The best we could do for branding is to make our products and services good and enable the customers to easily rate it and spread it.
  6. Self-Confidence doesn't bring grow. If we think are already know something, we will not spend any time to learn more about it. Our understand stays where we think we know. Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 56 says those who know keep quiet but those who don't talk as if they know. It is better to follow Steve Jobs' "Stay hungry. Stay foolish" so that we may be ever learning and growing.
Our Prideful Behavior Stinks
While we may think that our 'marketing' words are impressing people. Lao Zi tells us that they really stink. They are comparable to the leftover foods that we used to collect and feed the pigs. So, we do not really get the results that we want. 

How come we still do them? 

Lim Liat (c) 19 Nov 2016

Dao is incorruptible - Lose not Your Identity - DaoDeJing 56

Men like to control things and get what they want through manipulation; either using force or temptation. But Dao cannot be manipulated nor tempted. A person with the virtues of Dao will be like that, cannot be influenced by circumstance nor men. He retains his identity no matter what. DaoDeJing 56.
DaoDeJing Chapter 56 Text and Translation:

Those who know speak not. Those who don't know talk a lot [as if they know].

(Know what? In context, some think it refers to the Dao. Then it corresponds to Chapter 1 the Dao that can be expressed in not the true eternal Dao. But we know LaoZi uses 81 chapter to describe Dao. Does that mean Lao Zi actually don't know? So I prefer to think the knowledge is rather general rather than just referring to Dao alone.)

Block the openings, and shut the doors.

Grind off the sharpness and untied the tangled.

Harmonize with the light and be like the dirt.
(Merge into the environment to be indistinguishable)

That is called the great similarity.

Hence, cannot get close to it nor get away from it.

Cannot get benefits nor harm it.

Cannot honor it nor to despise it.

Hence, it has the highest honor the world.

Don't Make Yourself Special - Don't Stick Your Neck Out!
Most of us get our identity and worth from the opinions of others. A famous quote from sociology is "I am what I think you think I am".  So we try our best to get the praises from others. We try to differentiate ourselves from others. We want to be special. Yet, Dao is of himself and always maintain its identity. It does not want to stand out but rather want to merge into the environment. It does not want to draw the attention of people. Dao is full of wisdom and power. But it does not show off. Men like to do the opposite, talking as if they know a lot when they only know the surface. Consider the ridiculous statement made by a Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin when he went into space, "I don't see God!"

Know Your Identity and Be Yourself
Dao shows us the lesson to be ourselves no matter what.  Some people worship God because they can get things from God, like money, health, wealth etc. God is not actually God but rather like a Genie to them at their bidding. Lao Zi tells us that. We cannot force or tempt Dao to get Dao to do our things. Similarly, we must develop such a virtue of Dao, of knowing our identity and being ourselves in all circumstances of life. The Bible has the story of Satan tempting Jesus three times trying to get Jesus to do things to prove that He is the Son of God. Jesus knows who He is and there is no need to prove to anyone. You are a human being of worth and you don't have to prove who you are. You act out naturally from your identity and be what you are. You don't have to become the someone that you are not.

Lim Liat (c) 19 Nov 2016

18 November 2016

Dao is like a Baby - Be Born Again to Good Fortunes -DaoDeJing 55

The call by Lao Zi is for us to return to the state of a newly born baby. Not to become dependent but to get rid of all the pollutions we picked up as we grow-up. He brings up the areas where the baby is strong - harmony, sustainability and abunance. DaoDeJing 55
DaoDeJing Chapter 55 Text and Translation:

The great depth of your virtues is like a newly born baby.

Poisonous insects will not sting it. Wild animals will not eat it. Eagles will not catch it.

The bone and muscles are soft yet hold things tightly.
Don't know about female and male mating but has the organs already.
The complete ingredients of life are within it.

It can cry whole day yet the throat is not hoarse.
It is because harmony is achieved.

Knowing harmony will bring sustainability/continuity. 
Knowing sustainability will bring intelligence/wisdom. 
Increasing in life and vitality is good fortune.

All things when strong but become old is because Dao is not followed.
If you don't follow Dao you shall die prematurely.

The Baby is so Harmless that No one would 
Lao Zi tells us something very strange. As you develop and cultivate your Dao virtues, you become more and more like a baby. It is aging in reverse! The baby motive is pure. It does not want to fight with anyone and anyone would not want to take advantage of it.

Again, we can find in other sources, such as the Bible, which tells us we must be like a baby.
  1. Be Born Again! John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
  2. Like a Little Child: Mark 10:15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." and Matthew 18:3 And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Potential for Growth and to Become Great is complete in the Bebe
Yet, in its softness, there is the strength. Such as it will hold on tightly with its little fingers. The ability to reproduce is in the baby. It can cry for a long long time without getting hoarse. Lao Zi tells us that it was the baby naturally get the harmony right! Showing once again, the virtues of Dao is within the grasp of man. We are somehow born with it or at least the preference for it.

The Stages of Sustainability - Harmony, Sustainability, and Abundance
To have anything, a society or a business, to continue without end, it must begin with harmony; knowing how to live harmoniously with one another. Harmony will bring regularity, or continuity, or sustainability as we prefer to call it today. Lao Zi says that is true brilliance. It will bring forth life in abundance and that is good fortune. People living harmoniously with one another, with long life and abundances of resources to share.

The Stages for Good Fortunes
Baby, Harmony, Sustainability and Abundance for sharing.

Lim Liat(c) 18 Nov 2016

The Scalability of Dao - DaoDeJing 54

People often wonder whether what works in the small can be applicable to the large. As for moral values, they are highly scalable says Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 54
DaoDeJing Chapter 54 Text and Translation:

The skillful builders build that which cannot be uprooted.
The skillful holder will not let loose the object held.
[Skillful practitioner of Dao] will have unending generations of descendants paying respect.

Cultivate Dao yourself, your virtues will be genuine.

Cultivate it at home, the virtues will bring more than enough.

Cultivate it in the village, the virtues will grow and influence far.

Cultivate in the country, the virtues will abundance.

Cultivate it in the world, the virtues will be pervasive.

Hence, reflecting on self from self, reflecting on a family from family, reflecting on a country from the country and reflecting on the world from the world. (See whether the external behavior matches the inner virtues to know if our virtues are real or whether we have acted them out)

How do I know how the world become like this? It is from this.
(If the world is in a mess, then we know it is the lack of the cultivation of virtues from a person, to a family, to a country, and to the world).

What is the difference between Chemistry and Chemical Engineering? Chemistry is satisfied with things working in the laboratory. Chemical Engineering requires the experiments to be scalable and can be repeated in the production of large quantities of the desired products. For venture capitalists, one of the main concern for any start-up is business scalable. If it is not scalable, there is not much money to be made and hence the capitalists will not be interested. For example, let says I can conduct courses on DaoDeJing well and will attract many people. However, my model is not scalable because the course must be conducted by me. If I am able to come out with the course materials, guide books, train up my colleagues, so that they can conduct the same courses as well or even better than me, then my courses will be scalable. Of course, the market must also be big enough to demand the running of the many courses. 

Moral Virtues Are Scalable
Lao Zi tells us that our virtues are scalable from a person all the way to the world. It works in reverse too. If a family or a country is in a mess, you can tell that the Dao virtues are not cultivated. How can we tell Lao Zi's saying is correct. We can see whether other religions or respected people say the same thing. We can find such a teaching in the Bible, as in, Luke 16:10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much, and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much." 

1. Are we cultivating the right virtues?
2. In our business practices, are we cheating, skipping some steps, using slightly inferior materials, in some way, thinking it is not important and hoping that we will fix it when the business get bigger?
Actually, if you cannot take care of the little errors when your operation in small, scaling up the business will only amplify the problem and cause you to fail. The golden rule is to be straight right from the start when you are small that you may grow and sustain your size in future.

Lim Liat (c) 18 Nov 2016

17 November 2016

Am I a robber? Exploitation is not Dao - DaoDeJing 53

The danger of this world is the popularization of 'Self' - "I did it my way", "I achieved it myself", "I am a self-made success." Lao Zi warns us in DaoDeJing 53. Just myself without the appreciation of the providences and help of others and nature and heaven is called robbery! I have robbed the efforts of others and nature.
DaoDeJing 53 Text and Translation

1 使我介然有知,行于大道,唯施是畏。
I am fully convinced that wisdom is to walk in the path of the great Dao, and to appreciate its providences. (Not to take the contributions of nature and others for granted).

2 大道甚夷,而民好径。
The way of Dao is broad and flat. However, people like to take short-cuts [to out-smart the laws].

3 朝甚除,田甚芜,仓甚虚,
The palaces are clean but the fields are unplanted and the storehouses are empty.

4 服文采,带利剑,厌饮食,货财有余,
They wear beautiful clothes, with sharp swords on their sides. They complained about the good food. Their wealth and goods are excessive.

5 是谓盗夸,非道也哉!
Such is called great robbery. It is not the way of Dao!

The Wisdom You Need to Hold on to
What we are and what we have are given to us. We may plant the seeds, but the life and the growth of the seeds come from Dao. Without the life from Dao, we can plant and plant and there will be nothing. Yet we emphasize the planting and ignore the major contributor - Dao. We take Dao for granted. We replace Dao with ourselves on the throne. This is the first warning - never neglect who is the true source of life. It is no wonder that other sources also point to this important wisdom. The Bible has repeated said, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom." Proverbs 1:7, 9:10,15:33;Job 28:28;Psalm 111:10

Man Prefers to Outsmart the System
We stay away from the flat path of Dao and try different ways to out-smart the system. When it is morally wrong, we put up laws to legalize it. After all, we are in charge. Right and wrong goes by my feeling. Everything is relative. We forget that such a statement is an absolute one indeed. Lao Zi points this out for us to take note.

I, Me, Mine and who cares.
Our focus is only I, me and mine. No one else really matters except when I need them. People are tools for use. Their sufferings are not my concern so long as they do not affect me. I take good care of myself. I stay in big mansions, drive luxurious cars, enjoy good foods etc. I deserved all that because I earn them. 

It is called Robbery
Lao Zi boldly proclaims that such self-centered living with the exploitation of others is just plain robbery. We must correctly recognize and name the sin. Then there will be hope for us to make the needed correction and save our own lives before it is too late.

Lim Liat (c) 17 Nov 2016

16 November 2016

Stress-free Life comes from following the Manufacture's Handbook - DaoDeJing 52

To live a stress-free, healthy and long life, we must consult our manufacture's handbook. Then we must regularly follow the instructions. Some additional key points are closing, seeing the details, and reflect to follow the light. DaoDeJing 52
DaoDeJing Chapter 52 Text and Translation

1 天下有始,以为天下母。
The world has a beginning. It can be called the Mother of the world.

2 既得其母,以知其子,
Now that you have the Mother, you can know her children(the created things and beings)

3 既知其子,复守其母;没身不殆。
Now that you know the children, you can return to guard the Mother (Nature). Without the body is not dangerous.
(Knowing the ways of the Mother/Creator/Source and the created beings, and following the natural ways will lead to a long life without danger and even after death. Our lives did not harm the Nature).

4 塞其兑,闭其门,终身不勤。
Shut any opening. Close all the doors. There will be no stress in all our life.

5 开其兑,济其事,终身不救。
Open the openings. Trying to force the issues. Then our lives/health cannot be helped.

6 见小曰明,守柔曰强,
Seeing the little details is called a clear vision and understanding. (Seeing the little signs and can read the whole situation).
Staying gentle and flexible(able to adapt to any situation is called strong.

7 用其光,复归其明;
Follow the light/enlightenment and reflect on it will bring forth greater understanding [of Dao].

8 无遗身殃,是谓习常。
[Following the understanding of Dao] will not cause harm to our bodies. It is called always practice the natural laws [of Dao].

Understanding the Manufacturer's Handbook
Any instrument made has its manufacturer's handbook to show you how to use it. The handbook will have maintenance procedures so that you can keep it working well for a long time. This also means we can abuse the instrument is we don't follow the instructions. If we don't maintain the instrument, it will also wear down very quickly. 

Apply it to Our Lives
Men are like instruments. If we want to have a long, healthy and happy life, we must know our Creator's handbook for men. Lao Zi tells us to understand the Mother of Creation so that we may understand ourselves. From our own understandings, we can reflect and learn more about the nature and ways of the Mother of Creation. The implication is also clear. We cannot fully understand ourselves until we know the Mother of Creation. Our purpose of life cannot be found by asking men, the created being. We must ask our Creator. The Christians have a manufacture's handbook called the Bible. Other religions also have their manufacture's handbooks. Some claimed to be from the Creator God or His messengers. Some are just the thinking of men. Lao Zi tells us to observe and understand the Creator from the working of all the created things. From which, we can find the manufacturer's handbook for men. That is the Dao. Follow the Dao to have a meaningful and long life.

Practical Application - the Regular Maintenance 习常
Lao Zi gives us further advice. We must maintain our bodies by shutting off many openings that will consume our life energy. We must have regular rests and recovery times. Lusts, greed, and desires for great glory and successes are openings that consume and stress out our bodies and bring forth sicknesses eventually. Lao Zi does not tell us to be lazy and just rest. He is telling us not to over-work ourselves. We must follow the seasons and patterns of the clock of our bodies and nature. Work and rest at the right time. We can go for a big project too. But we must do it step by step and stretch our limits bit by bit. Don't be too ambitious and go overboard. 

More Finer Points of Life
  • Watch out for the details, the little seemingly insignificant things. Greater understanding comes from noticing them and they influence the total system. Higher quality goods take extra care for the details and they demand higher precisions. 
  • Be gentle and flexible to adapt to the changes in any situation. We don't have to change our mission, but we may have to change our methods, and sometimes, even our team, steps, and sub-goals. Be prepared to make a turn to take a longer route or be more patience to wait for better timing.
  • Observe the pattern, and follow what the pattern shows. Reflect and reconstruct our thinking model when some additional evidence is found. When in doubt, do some experiments. E W Deming's PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) is a powerful tool to use.
Lim Liat (c) 16 Nov 2016

14 November 2016

Dao gives life, love and freedom - The Parenting Model - DaiDeJing 51

The most amazing about Dao is giving birth, caring till maturity and freely let go. It is the model for parenting. Read the details in DaoDeJing 51.
DaoDeJing Chapter 51 Text and Translation

1 道生之,德蓄之,物形之,势成之。
The Dao gives birth to it (giving it life). Virtues build it up. Materials form its shape. The energy completes it.

2 是以万物莫不遵道而贵德。
Hence, all things respect Dao and honor virtues.

3 道之生,德之贵,夫莫之命而常自然。
The birth/creation of Dao, the values of virtues, are all being followed naturally.

4 故道生之,德蓄之,长之育之,亭之毒之,养之覆之。
Hence Dao gives its birth, virtues develop it. Feed it, teach it, mature it, give its the right values, care and protect it.

5 生而弗有,为而弗恃,长而弗宰,是谓玄德。
Giving birth and yet don't own it. Work for it yet not count on it. Grow it yet not control it. Such is called the great virtues.

What is parenting? What are the responsibilities?

Lao Zi tells us parenting is more than just giving births. In verse 1, he gives the four responsibilities:
  1.  Giving birth
  2. Teaching them to accumulate the right values.
  3. Shaping it physical forms - enabling it to grow up to take shape
  4. Empowering it.
In verse 4, it expounds the 4 things further into birth, development with right values, enables it to grow up,  teach him, get him to stand up independently, teach him to decide right and wrong, feed him and protect him. We can see the great responsibility for parents is to help their children to grow-up to independent and knowing the right and wrong. But Lao Zi says this is no enough, there is still one more step.

The Final Step - Letting Them Go 
Verse 5 tells us what is letting go. Even though the parents give birth to their children, they are not the owners of their children. They are just custodians until they grow up. Parents are not to hold on tightly their children. There is a time to them go. Parents cannot control their children. They have to let them make their own decisions. Own not, hold not and control not represent letting the grown-up children go and give them their freedom to run their own lives.

Business is like that too.
Many businesses cannot grow and some even close down because their founders refuse to let go the control of the business. The founders should train up their successors and then let them run the business step by step. If there be anything to hold on to, it will be the foundation values of Dao and lives that the parents and owners have to remind their successors to stick to them for their own good.

Lim Liat (c) 14 Nov 2016

13 November 2016

Living a Long Life - Not Giving Any Opportunity to Death - DaoDeJing 50

Living a long life is not to give any opportunity to death such as bad lifestyle leading to sickness, carelessness and recklessness, and making enemies. If we need to shorten our life, may it be for a worthy cause. DaoDeJing 50
DaoDeJing Chapter 50 Text & Translation:

From birth till death,

Those that live [to right old age] is 30% or those who try to live is 30%

Those that die [before their ripe old age] is 30% or those who try to die is 30%

The lives of men, moving in the areas of death (i.e. putting themselves in danger), is also 30%.
or those who struggle with death to live is 30%

Why is this so? Because of trying very hard to live.

We heard that those who know how to manage life, when traveling will never meet rhinoceros nor tigers. When they enter the army, they are not killed.

The rhinoceros find no place to poke its horn.
The tiger finds no place to put its claws.
The soldier finds no place to cut with his knife.

Why so? There are no death spots!

How to live a long life?
The best way to live a long life is not to put yourself in danger.

  1. Prevention is better than cure. So we must not overly stress ourselves and cause us to fall sick. We must live a healthy lifestyle. 
  2. Another way is not to give any opportunity to others, either wild animals or angry man, to harm us. 
    1. Stay away from going to dangerous places. 
    2. Make peace with people.  Don't make any enemy. Forgive those who hurt you.
Under normal circumstances, having a healthy and long life is good and to be desired. However, there are times, for reasons of higher cause, we may have to sacrifice our lives.

Living a long life is rather simple - don't put yourself at risk, says Lao Zi. But we usually over-stress ourselves or over indulge ourselves that make us sick. If not, we have bad relationships with people. May we be warned that we can live a simple, good and healthy life.

Lim Liat (c) 13 Nov 2016

11 November 2016

Dao is Giving and Forgiving - Good to Great - DaoDeJing 62

Who is a good man? A good man gives. But it is not enough. He must also forgive. Forgive is about giving even when betrayed! Such a quality of giving and forgiving is to be highly honor said Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 62.
DaoDeJing Chapter 62 Text and Translation

Dao is the mystery of all things.

It is the treasure of the good men. It is also the desire of not good men.

Good words bring honor to many people. Good behaviors are the examples for others to follow.

When people are not good, why abandon them?

Hence we support a king, establish three prime ministers, and we have jades, speedy stallions to honor them. But all these are not comparable to those that follow Dao.

Since ancient times, this Dao has been honored. Why?

Does not it says, "Ask first to receive.  If there by any sin, it will be forgiven." Hence it is most honored in the world.

Good to Great
Giving to people with needs is good. Great is forgiving the sins and betrayals of those very people that received your help. That is the attribute of Dao. It seems impossible and ridiculous. It is mysterious and deep said Lao Zi.

Systems to Ensure Goodness
Men are wise. They set up systems to ensure the right and good things are done. They have rewards and honors for those who do. But such as external motivations. Drive 2.0 of Daniel Pink. Lao Zi tells us to go for Drive 3.0 of internal motivation and more Drive 4.0 (not in Daniel Pink's book) of having Dao within - to give and also to forgive the wrongs done to us.

Forgiving is Not Easy
Forgive is very difficult. Our nature wants to take revenge; to vindicate us from the injury and hurt done to us. But forgiving is the act of the greater one. Lao Zi tells us just forgive without telling us the why and how. Here is the teaching of forgiveness from the Bible. See Everything You Need to Know About Forgiveness

If you want to be great, then do good and to forgive.

Lim Liat (c) 11 Nov 2016

Harmony of Great and Little - Respecting Each Other- DaoDeJing 61

Power is not about serving yourself but for serving others.
Power and wealth are not meant for our abuse to satisfy our ego and lusts. It is meant for us to serve and contribute by creating opportunities for others. Knowing our position and serving out of position with respect to one another is the key to harmony and progress. Lao Zi says in DaoDeJing 61.
DaoDeJing Chapter 61 Text & Translation

The great country should stay downstream, collecting flows from the world, become the mother of the world.

The mother/wife always uses gentleness to win against the father/husband. Gentleness stays at the lower position [to serve].

Hence the great country must stay a low posture to engage the little countries to win their following.

Little countries must also stay low to serve the great country, and thereby gains the protection of the great.

Hence it is always keeping a low posture to win a following or to gain favor.

The Great country just wants to take care of people.

Litte countries just want to enter to serve.

Both gains what they want. The great must remain low [to serve and care].

The One Word to have Harmony - Respect Each Other - 孝悌
The one word to achieve harmony is actually 'love'. But love means many different things to different people. So a better is 'Respect'. Confucius will use the word 孝 filial piety. It means the combination of elder loving the younger and the younger respecting the elder. The greater your power or higher your position, the more you need to use your power and position rightly, which is to make a bigger contribution to the world.  Power and honor are not meant to satisfy one's ego and self-indulgence. It is demanded of such to serve and contribute. 

In a world of inequality, there can still be harmony, as long as the right values are practiced. The great are not to abuse or bully the small but to care for and win over the heart of the small. In the same way. the small are to respect the leadership of the great and to follow their leading. This is not difficult when the small trust that their leader is working their benefits. 

Applying it to a company will make this teaching clearer. The boss with the wisdom and resources will start a company to create jobs for employees. The boss's main job is to ensure the company has happy employees to serve and create happy customers. Happy customers will happily pay for the products and services of the company to make the boss happy. It is to the interests of boss and employees to work together for the growth and profits of the company. Boss and employees should not be considered in competition with each other.  This happens when the boss makes use of his higher position and power to exploit the employees.  This starting point of 'I am higher than you' creates the fight. Lao Zi tells us that the boss should start at the low position, to receive and to serve the employees. The employees in returns give their best in their jobs. Then the interests of both will be served.

The rule of harmony is simple - know your position, to lead or to follow, and then respect each other and give of your best to serve according to your position. Your position in life is fixed. As you play your position well, one day you can come out to start your own company and be a boss. Whatever and whenever, respect your position and respect others to have harmony and success in life. Power is never for your abuse but for serving and contributing.

Lim Liat (c) 11-11-2016

Notes: Chapter 60 is Harmony with opposite roles. Chapter 61 is Harmony with different powers.

10 November 2016

Dao Brings Harmony - DaoDeJing 60

The way to harmony and peace is through the way of Dao with minimum deviation and interference,  Lao Zi says in DaoDeJing 60.

DaoDeJing Chapter 60 Text and Translation

Governing a large country is like cooking a little fish. (You cannot stir the fish too often)

Using Dao to approach the world will result in no one trying to play tricks.

Not only the tricks not played. Even if played, the will no harmful effect.

Not only the effect is not harmful, the sages will have no need to punish people [since no harmful effects are there]

Hence, both don't have to harm each other. This is because of the exchange of virtuous behaviors leading to harmony.

How do you fry a little fish?
If you have to fry a fish, you just make sure the oil is hot and then you put in the fish. You have to wait for the flesh of the fish to be cooked on one side first before you flip it to fry the other side. If you flip too often without waiting for the flesh to harden, you will get a messy and ugly looking fish.

The Two Lessons
The first lesson is to use the right method. Governing people must be based on the Dao Way - the virtues and principles of Dao.

The second lesson is to be consistent and not change your policies too often. Give time for the right policy to work out.

Harmony is the working together of different groups of people. They don't discriminate against one another because they are different. Instead, they value and appreciate the differences. It is the shared mission and shared values of Dao that unite them together.


What are the values that you should have? 
Are they able to bring forth harmony?
Are your policies derived from those values?
Do you let your policies take its time, with proper communications and exemplifying behavior?

Lim Liat (c) 10 Nov 2016

Dao is like Farming - Follow the Seasons to Abundance - DaoDeJing 59

How to do more with less? How to create a viral effect? How to build a sustainable and growing business. Lao Zi tells us to follow the ways of the farming. You sow and reap according to the seasons and let nature carries your effort to produce multifold returns. DaoDeJing 59
DaoDeJing Chapter 59 Text and Translation

Ruling people and serving God is like farming. Farming must quickly follow the seasons.
(If you miss the seasons of sowing and reaping, you will not have a harvest).

Follow the seasons is about focusing on the accumulation of virtues(good character and deeds).
Accumulation of virtues will conquer everything; nothing cannot be defeated.

Winning always means you don't know the limits. (There is not limit to your development of virtues).
Not limiting yourself means you can have a country.

A country with a mother-like ruler can last.
This is called a tree with deep roots will have a strong foundation.
This is the way/Dao of longevity and lasting vitality.

The Lessons from Farming
There are many lessons that we can learn from farming.  Lao Zi only highlights the important principle of following the seasons. In ancient China, the saying is, 春生夏长 秋收冬藏. "Sow in spring, grow in summer, harvest in autumn and keep in winter." If you follow the seasons, then your effort will be rewarded with multifold returns, a harvest of many times the amount of the seeds you sowed. 

Application to Life - It is about internalization of the Virtues of Dao
As we follow the seasons to get an abundant harvest, we should also follow the Way of Dao to have a meaningful and useful life. The more we develop our character, the better and greater will be our behavior and impact. You can find the 3 attributes of character in Three Treasures for Your Greatness - DaoDeJing 67

You will be like a Tree with Roots - Strong and Always Green
If you have a good character, then you can rule a nation or run a business or have a great career. Lao Zi uses a big tree with deep roots and a strong foundation to describe you. In the Bible, there is also such a description. 

Psalm 1 ESV
1 Blessed is the man 
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord [the Dao],
    and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Are you developing your character, or are you just trying to improve your skills only?
The way to success is not just your skill set, your IQ. But the more important thing that you need is your EQ, your character - how you manage yourself and how you relate to others.

Lim Liat 10 Nov 2016

09 November 2016

Dao is Just Right - not under nor over - DaoDeJing 58

We are mainly troubled by lack. But too much of a good thing is also bad. Dao gets the balance, just right. Bright to show the way but not too bright to hurt the eye. Lao Zi tells us in DaoDeJing 58
DaoDeJing Chapter 58 Text & Translation

The government does the practical and mundane work and [goes not for glory].
So the people are honest and going about their business without fireworks.

When the government tries to be too clever, to monitor and control things, the people end up in lacking in character and wealth,

Disaster is the support for fortune. Fortune is where disaster hides in.

Who know the limits?  There is no right answer.

The opposite of normal is abnormal. The opposite of good is evil.

People are in confusion for a long time.

Hence, the sage is square but hurt not. 
He is thrifty (clean with no corruption) but takes nothing away.
He is straight but not uncontrolled.
The light is bright but not hurting to the eyes.

Leadership is Not about being Too Smart
Leadership is about doing the basic things based on character virtues. It is not about out-smarting the people. It is trusting the people and giving them the freedom to do their productive work and making an honest living. Trying to put in too many laws and monitor the people too closely to make sure they do their work creates either a group of disheartened people doing the bare minimum requires and another group trying to out-smart the system. The more the control, the poorer the productivity!

Things Go in Cycle - It is not a straight line without end
There is the saying "what goes up must come down". This is a key concept in Chinese Philosophy. Another related concept is Yin and Yang. Lao Zi echoes the I-Ching cyclical pattern of change. Poverty brings change. Change brings flow. Flow leads to abundance and longevity. Longevity without change brings poverty.

The Key is to Have the Right Balance - The Right Amount of no less nor no more
Lack is bad. We must try to fill the gap. However, too much of a good thing could be bad too. Too much food will cause sickness as much as the lack of food. Too much money does not bring forth happiness but only leads to waste. There were many start-ups that fail because they were given too much resources. A person can be straight and fair but need not be blunt and intrusive. He can be thirty and not be stingy. Too much light only blind the eyes. So, we must know how to keep the balance and give the right amount to the right people at the right stage of their growth.

Lim Liat (c) 9 Nov 2016

08 November 2016

Three Treasures for Your Greatness - DaoDeJing 67

There are three virtues that help you to be a great person. They are love, frugality, and putting others first. Lao Zi goes further to show you their power in DaoDeJing 67
DaoDeJing Chapter 67 Text & Translation

All under heaven say my ways are so great and pervasive that there is nothing special about it (so no one notice it at all).

It is precisely so great and broad that it is seemingly not special. If it is of any special or of particular use for long, then it becomes narrower and it will benefit lesser people.

I have three treasures that I hold and keep them.
First is love. 
Second is thrift (frugality). 
Third is dare not be first in the world.

Love enables one to be bold. 
Frugality enables one to be generous.
Dare not wanting to be first enables one to grow-up and be useful for a long time.

Now, boldness without love, 
spendthrift without frugality, 
wanting to be first rather than serve, they lead to death!

Love brings victory in attack and is solid in defense.
Heaven will save him and protect him with love.

Taken For Granted - Not Because it is not useful but it was so vital that it is freely provided.
The great and valuable thing like air is taken for granted. Though we need it to survive but it is so pervasive that we assume it will be there and we will take it for granted until we miss it. Love is also such a needful thing that we are provided freely. If you have to earn it, then it no longer becomes love but a reward. So we have our very first lesson - things that are in abundant does not mean valueless but rather it is so vital that it must be freely and unconditionally provided. Never take such thing for granted.

1st is Love - Bold to Fight for the loved - Good Protector
Strangely, Lao Zi did not point out the giving, caring and protecting part of love. He goes straight to the foundation of love --- boldness. Love enables one to be fearless; like the mother hen who risked her life to fight the snake or the eagle to protect her chicks. We find such a relation of love and boldness in the Bible too. See  1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear; because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

2nd is Frugality - Waste Not to Give More - Good Steward
Again, thriftiness is cynically used to describe someone that is stingy and selfish. However, Lao Zi associated it with generosity. A person who is frugal wastes not. He spends his money wisely. He can be entrusted with the management of great wealth because he makes sure the wealth is properly invested. Besides, he waste not can save much to give more.  Frugality avoids the traps of either being stingy to be self-serving or anyhow spent and wasted away because one has too much.

3rd Dare Not be First - Others come before me - Good Servant Leader
He to serve others first will be supported by others to be first, i.e. their leader.

"If serving is beneath you, leadership is beyond you - Toby Mac".

Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever
would be first among you must be slave of all (Mark 10:43-44).

See The Greatest shall Serve All - DaoDeJing 66

The Opposites bring Disasters
Boldness alone without love is dangerous. It is recklessness. It is violence.

Spending alone without frugality will lead to great waste. Spending money on things not really needed but on things for showing off. There is a criticism that says, "Some spend money we don't have on things we don't need to impress people that don't even care!"

Putting ourselves first all the time will lead us to compete with others and be rejected by others. We shall make enemies all around us. We can only survive if we are rich and powerful at the beginning. But those things won't get us true support. Time will soon come when we lose our money and our position of power and we will find not only nobody will be there for us but all accusers against us.

The Greatest is Love
Lao Zi ends with "Love is the greatest". When love is used in attack it wins. When love is used in defence it is impregnable. Even heaven will save him with mercy. Mencius echoed it and said. "仁者无敌“ Love has no competitor" or "Love wins always and no one is able to compete with love." The Bible also said, 1 Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Lao Zi's three treasures are love, frugality- faithful stewardship, and servant leadership - assured hope that the people served will choose to follow you. The key is a right balance between self and others. You must be able to take good care of yourself to that you can take good care of others. You are not in this world just for yourself. Your true worth and meaning depend on properly relating to others and to heaven. Remember and practice these three virtues of love, stewardship, and servant leadership.

Lim Liat (c) 8 Nov 2016