Category Archives: Tao

Tao of Management Verse 28

Today we look at the notion of “The Uncarved Block” and the saying “The Great Tailor does little cutting.”

Verse 28
Know the masculine,
Keep to the feminine,
And be the Brook of the World.
To be the Brook of the World is
To move constantly in the path of Virtue
Without swerving from it,
And to return again to infancy.

Know the white,
Keep to the black,
And the Pattern of the World.
To be the Pattern of the World is
To move constantly in the path of Virtue
Without erring a single step,
And to return again to the Infinite

Know the glorious,
Keep to the lowly,
And be the Fountain of the World.
To be the Fountain of the World is
To live the abundant life of Virtue,
And to return again to Primal Simplicity.

When Primal Simplicity diversifies,
It becomes useful vessels,
Which, in the hands of the Sage, become officers.
Hence, “a great tailor does little cutting.”

My Take:
This is the verse of “the Uncarved Block”, the importance of the giving side of Tao and the ultimate power of simplicity.

This translation calls the Uncarved Block the “Primal Simplicity”. Which is like a stem cell – it can become anything and contains within it the makings of everything. So too is the Sage supposed to be an “Uncarved Block”, a font of knowledge on many things, a generalist, rather than a technician. The “officers” referred to in the verse are the technicians.

I think the idea of the verse is to emphasize the giving, yielding nature of leadership, the nurturing and developing side of what we can now being a mentor. Also, I think it tells us that there is no weakness in this, but rather the development of a team of experts who surround a generalist; someone who knows how to get things done, how the wheels of the larger mechanism turn, perhaps how the larger design of the cloth comes together.

The phrase “a great tailor does little cutting” can be read in two ways. It means the tailor sees the whole, final product at once and creates neither unnecessary action nor waste. It also means the great tailor is not the one doing the cutting, that is left to the technicians.


Tao of Management Verse 24

Verse 24

One on tip-toe cannot stand
One astride cannot walk,
One who displays himself does not shine.
One who justifies himself has no glory.
One who boasts of his own ability has no merit.
One who parades his own success will not endure.
In Tao these things are called “unwanted food and extraneous growths,”
Which are loathed by all things.
Hence, a man of Tao does not set his heart upon them.

My Take:
We all know this person.
They are awesome,
Just ask them,
They are happy to tell you.

So here’s a shout-out:
To all those who get stuff done
Whose peers know it
And on whom superiors can rely

The only thing at which the well-known are better,
Is being well-known.
That don’t count for much,
Where the rubber meets the road.

The Tao of Management Verse 23

Verse 23:

Only simple and quiet words will ripen of themselves.
For a whirlwind does not last a whole morning,
Nor does a sudden shower last a whole day.
Who is their author? Heaven-and-Earth!
Even Heaven-and-Earth cannot make such violent things last long;
How much truer is it of the rash endeavors of men?

Hence, he who cultivates teh Tao is one with the Tao;
He who practices Virtue is one with Virtue;
And he who courts after Loss is one with Loss.

To be one with the Tao is to be a welcome accession to the Tao;
To be one with the Virtue is to be a welcome accession to Virtue;
To be one with Loss is to be a welcome accession to Loss.

Deficiency of faith on your part
Entails faithlessness on the part of others.

My Take

Only simple and quiet words will be effective in getting things to change.
Even a tornado or a hurricane can only last a short while,
And if the immense power of nature can only pull that off,
How likely are you to achieve long term change through bully and bluster?

Don’t be foolish, “The Middle Way” is best;
You want people to change because “it’s good for them”?
You want people to change because they are afraid of losing their job?
Then that’s all you will get – superficial or grudging change.

You get back what you push out.
Push out authority and you’ll get obedience – but nothing more.
Push out fear and you’ll get resentment – and nothing more.
Push out truth and you’ll get true change.

Oh! This is a good one for modern management! First off, if you want to see change, a simple and quiet word will do far more than complicated, loud, garish displays of power, authority or cleverness!  Everybody has had a boss who is a “screamer” but just as many have had one who will take you aside for a quiet word of correction. Who has more power over you in the long run? For whom are you likely to willingly change? Whom do you still thank for making you a better person or employee or leader?

“Because I said so,” and “Do it or else” are never as effective as “I care and I want to help”.

Tao of Management: Verse 22


Verse 22:

Bend and you will be whole.
Curl and you will be straight.
Keep empty and you will be filled.
Grow old and you will be renewed.

Have little and you will gain.
Have much and you will be confused. 
Therefore, the Sage embraces the One,
And becomes a Pattern to all under Heaven.
He does not make a show of himself,
Hence he shines;
Does not justify himself,
Hence he becomes known;
Does not boast of his ability,
Hence he gets his credit;
Does not brandish his success,
Hence he endures;
Does not compete with anyone,
Hence no one can compete with him.
Indeed, the ancient saying, “Bend and you will remain whole” is no idle word.
Nay, if you have really attained wholeness, everything will flock to you.
My take on it?
Yield, Bend, Focus, Flow
Do, Open, Be, Flourish
Nobody can compete with that
More thoughts:
Do not focus on the outward trappings of success, they are empty.
Do no focus on defeating your competitors, better yourself.
Don’t fight – dodge
Don’t contend – learn
Focus and be simply the best
And all will come to you.

Tao of Management: Verse 21


Verse 21:

It lies in the nature of Grand Virtue
To follow the Tao and the Tao alone.
Now what is the Tao?
It is Something elusive and evasive.
Evasive and elusive!
And yet It contains within Itself a Form.
Elusive and evasive!
And yet It contains within Itself a Substance.
Shadowy and dim!
And yet it contains within Itself a Core of Vitality.
The Core of Vitality is very real,
It contains within Itself an unfailing Sincerity.
Throughout the ages Its Name has been preserved
In order to recall the Beginning of all things.
How do I know the ways of all things at the Beginning?
By what is within me.

My Version

It is in your nature to follow the Tao.
So, what is it? Well, it’s hard to describe.

It’s a way to doing things by not doing things,
It’s a form without forms,
It’s a procedure without procedure,
It’s a initiative without effort,
It’s the sincerest form of doing.

How do I know if I’m doing it right, then?
Look inside yourself sincerely.

Tao of Management: Verse 20

Verse Twenty

HAVE done with learning,
And you will have no more vexation.

How great is the difference between “eh” and “o”?
What is the distinction between “good” and “evil”?
Must I fear what others fear?
What abysmal nonsense this is!

All men are joyous and beaming,
As though feasting upon a sacrificial ox,
As though mounting the Spring Terrace;
I alone am placid and give no sign,
Like a babe which has not yet smiled.
I alone am forlorn as one who has no home to retum to.

All men have enough and to spare:
I alone appear to possess nothing.
What a fool I am!
What a muddled mind I have!
All men are bright, bright:
I alone am dim, dim.
All men are sharp, sharp:
I alone am mum, mum!
Bland like the ocean,
Aimless like the wafting gale.

All men settle down in their grooves:
I alone am stubborn and remain outside.
But wherein I am most different from others is
In knowing to take sustenance from my Mother!

My Version
Stop trying to learn everything
And you won’t be so frustrated.

What’s the difference in the end?
Must you think like everyone else?

Look at everybody else – happy and laughing,
While you are glum and serious – and sad and lonely.

Everyone else find their place in the world,
But if you want to, you must cast off all this “learning”
And follow the Tao.

Tao of Management Verse 19

Verse 19:

DROP wisdom, abandon cleverness,
And the people will benefit a hundredfold.
Drop humanity, abandon justice,
And the people will return to their natural affections.
Drop shrewdness, abandon sharpness,
And robbers and thieves will cease to be.
These three are the criss-cross of Tao,
And are not sufficient in themselves.
Therefore, they should be subordinated to the higher principle:
See the Simple and embrace the Primal,
Diminish the self and curb the desires!

My Version:
Stop trying to be “wise” and clever,
Stop trying to be “fair” and “just”
Stop trying to be the “smartest” or the “sharpest”
But above all remember this:
Keep it simple, be humble, you have all you need.

As a child, I wanted to be wise, as a teenager I wanted to be clever.
As a college student I wanted to bring fairness and justice to the world.
And as a young professional, I wanted to be the smartest and sharpest employee.
But cultivating these things in a quest for success or accolades is meaningless.
Make yourself simple and humble, and share this with others,
And you will be rich beyond measure.