Tag Archives: Polarities

Leadership lessons from Confucius: gracious but serious

gracious but serious

子溫而厲,威而不猛,恭而安。
Confucius was gracious but serious; commanding but not severe; respectful but at ease.

The problem with optimizing a single aspect of your behavior is that very quickly the law of diminishing returns will kick in and ultimately your efforts will backfire. Take graciousness as an example. Although it is of course important to be polite to people, if you take your politeness too far they will soon regard your behavior as fake or even a sign of weakness. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: gracious but serious

Daodejing Chapter 4: the invisible and ineffable source

「道沖而用之,或不盈。淵兮似萬物之宗;挫其銳、解其紛、和其光、同其塵,湛兮似或存。吾不知誰之子,象帝之先。」
The Dao is an empty vessel;
It is used and never fills up.
It’s so deep that it is like the origin of all things.
Blunt the sharpness;
Untangle the knot;
Soften the glare;
Merge with the dust;
Invisible and formless, it always seems to be present.
I have no idea who gave birth to it.
It seems to have existed before the Lord did.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 4: the invisible and ineffable source

Daodejing Chapter 2: effortless action

「天下皆知美之為美,斯惡已。皆知善之為善,斯不善已。故有無相生,難易相成,長短相形,高下相傾,音聲相和,前後相隨;是以聖人處無為之事,行不言之教,萬物作焉而不辭;生而不有,為而不恃,功成而弗居;夫唯弗居,是以不去。」
When the whole world knows to regard beauty as beauty, there is ugliness.
When the whole world knows to regard good as good, there is evil.
Thus, something and nothing nurture each other;
Difficult and easy complete each other;
Long and short give form to each other;
High and low depend on each other;
Note and sound harmonize each other;
Front and rear follow each other.
That’s why the sage:
Conducts his affairs with effortless action;
Spreads his teaching without words;
Lets all things unfold without initiating them;
Lets them grow without claiming possession of them;
Gets things done without expecting any gratitude;
Achieves his goals without claiming any credit.
It is precisely because he does not claim any credit,
That it stays with him forever.

The Dao doesn’t place any arbitrary labels on anything. It draws no false distinctions between beauty and ugliness and good and evil. It simply allows everything to unfold, without ever attempting to intervene, in the knowledge that opposing natural forces will remain in balance. Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 2: effortless action