Daodejing Chapter 9: reaching your natural limit

「持而盈之,不如其已;揣而銳之,不可長保;金玉滿堂,莫之能守;富貴而驕,自遺其咎。功成身退,天之道」
Holding a cup until it is filled to the brim,
Is not as good as stopping in time;
Hammering a blade until it is sharp,
Will not preserve its edge for long.
When your hall is stuffed with gold and jade,
Nobody will be able to protect it.
When riches and honors lead to arrogance;
Disaster will inevitably follow.
When you retire accomplishing your goal;
This is the Dao of Heaven.

Everything has a natural limit. Any attempt to go beyond it will inevitably lead to negative consequences, even if it’s something as mundane as spilling a few drops of wine from an overfilled cup or as potentially fatal as finding yourself with a blunted knife in the middle of a fight.

This very same principle of reversion, as it is called by many scholars, applies to people as well. The more you let your success go to your head, the more likely you are to fall as a result of complacency and arrogance. The greater your lust for wealth, fame, and power, the greater the risk of it all ending in tears – just like it did for Travis Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber.

The key is to remain humble and self-aware, so that you know when you have reached your natural limit. Better to step down gracefully at a time of your own choosing than to be shoved out of the door after overstaying your welcome.

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