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.

Tao of Management Verse 18

Verse 18:

WHEN the Great Tao was abandoned,
There appeared humanity and justice.
When intelligence and wit arose,
There appeared great hypocrites.
When the six relations lost their harmony,
There appeared filial piety and paternal kindness.
When darkness and disorder began to reign in a kingdom,
There appeared the loyal ministers.

My Version:
When things get “out of whack”,
People will say “well, we do this because its the right thing to do”, or “it seem fair”.
When you value intelligence and wit over balance and centeredness
People will start looking for the seams and angles to play.
When things really start losing their harmony,
People start talking about “loyalty” and “responsibility”.
And when darkness and disorder run the show,
Only the “yes men” and “always be closing” people survive.

This is a great verse to meditate over. One doesn’t rely on loyalty or a sense of “owing” the workers or the company, and certainly management by the Tao is beyond a focus on “shareholder value” or other short-term notions of performance. If you work in a firm that calls for loyalty, respect, dedication, or similar calls to duty, then it is probably not managing with the Tao. The Tao calls for none of these because it is harmony and does not have to call on these constructs for good performance. Manage with the Tao and people perform because they feel in synch.

Recent business history is littered with the remains of “the smartest guys in the room”, and “The Firm”.

There are no seams to management with the Tao, no angles to play, no levers to leverage.

This is a Tao of Management.

Tao of Management Verse 17

Verse 17:

THE highest type of ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware.
Next comes one whom they love and praise.
Next comes one whom they fear.
Next comes one whom they despise and defy.

When you are lacking in faith,
Others will be unfaithful to you.

The Sage is self-effacing and scanty of words.
When his task is accomplished and things have been completed,
All the people say, “We ourselves have achieved it!”

My Version:
The best manager is the one hardly anyone notices
Next comes the one they love and praise.
Next comes the one they fear.
Next comes the one they despise and defy.

If you don’t show trust in your people
They won’t have trust in you.

The wise manager doesn’t take themselves too seriously, or talk too much.
When his work is done and things have been achieved,
The team will say “We did it!”

This is one of the verses that gave me the idea for this project. It’s so clear, and obvious. I like to call this verse the “It ain’t about you” verse. Look, leadership is about getting your team to perform at their best, not about grandstanding yourself. If the team relies on you to save the day, you’re doing it wrong. If they spend a lot of time telling you how fabulous you are and how they couldn’t do it without you – beware.

This is a Tao of Management.

Tao of Management Verse 16

Verse 16

ATTAIN to utmost Emptiness.
Cling single-heartedly to interior peace.
While all things are stirring together,
I only contemplate the Return.
For flourishing as they do,
Each of them will return to its root.
To return to the root is to find peace.
To find peace is to fulfill one’s destiny.
To fulfill one’s destiny is to be constant.
To know the Constant is called Insight.

If one does not know the Constant,
One runs blindly into disasters.
If one knows the Constant,
One can understand and embrace all.
If one understands and embraces all,
One is capable of doing justice.
To be just is to be kingly;
To be kingly is to be heavenly;
To be heavenly is to be one with the Tao;
To be one with the Tao is to abide forever.
Such a one will be safe and whole
Even after the dissolution of his body.

My Version:
Make yourself an empty bowl
Cling to the stillness of internal peace
While chaos whirls around you
Be the eye of the storm
Bird fluttering around
Will return in time to roost
Keep your eye on the goal
Maintain focus on the goal with inner peace
To find this peace is to define your leadership
And this leadership can be constant
And your constant peace in the goal gives you insight.

If you focus on the noise of doing business
You’ll be blindsided by disasters
But if your focus with peace on the goal
You’ll embrace the noise
And understand the moving parts
If you can do that, you’ll be just to your people
And to be just, and at peace,
And to be constant and focused on the goal,
is to be a true leader.

This verse comes again and again to my attention when I consider the difference between the leader and the manager. A manager solves problems, and leader builds his people to solve their own problems. This advice is prevalent in a piece I read today called “Stop Wasting Your Time Solving Problems” over at Leadership Freak. Go read it, I’ll summarize: Don’t fix things; Don’t give advice. Instead, listen and honor their frustrations and hard work, then give them the skills and confidence they need to resolve their own problems. Tell them why you believe in them. Ask questions to give them clarity. Draw them out to their own conclusions. This is true leadership.

This is a Tao of Management.

Tao of Management Verse 15

Verse 15:

THE ancient adepts of the Tao were subtle and flexible, profound and comprehensive.
Their minds were too deep to be fathomed.

Because they are unfathomable,
One can only describe them vaguely by their appearance.

Hesitant like one wading a stream in winter;
Timid like one afraid of his neighbours on all sides;
Cautious and courteous like a guest;
Yielding like ice on the point of melting;
Simple like an uncarved block;
Hollow like a cave;
Confused like a muddy pool;
And yet who else could quietly and gradually evolve from the muddy to the clear?
Who else could slowly but steadily move from the inert to the living?

He who keeps the Tao does not want to be full.
But precisely because he is never full,
He can always remain like a hidden sprout,
And does not rush to early ripening.

My Version

To be adept be subtle and flexible, profound and comprehensible.
Know that not all is clear to all at all times.

Consider the habits of the adept
Who know they are unknowing:

Hesitant like one wading a stream in winter;
Timid like one afraid of his neighbours on all sides;
Cautious and courteous like a guest;
Yielding like ice on the point of melting;
Simple like an uncarved block;
Hollow like a cave;
Confused like a muddy pool;
Yet with quiet and calm – resolves to crystal clarity
And brings the stillness within to life.

He who keeps the Tao leaves space for the Tao.
And precisely because he is never full,
He can always remain like a hidden sprout,
And does not rush to early ripening.

This one lends itself to nearly a wall poster. Know you are unknowing. Be timid, cautious, courteous, yielding, simple and open when approaching your work. This will keep you from stifling your creativity by “knowing it all”, and will keep you flexible and strong in the long run.

A very full cup is a very tense thing to carry around. Rather than being a vessel of satisfaction, it becomes all about the cup – guarding it, balancing it, defending ti from any outside influence. Leave plenty of room in a cup and you’ll be able to make it all about the people you work with. You might even get it filled up by someone else, increasing the goodness.