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Exerpts from "The Tao at Work" by Stanley M. Herman

  1. Young or old, beginner or master there is still time to reach your best goal. You need only discover what it is and recognize the inexhaustible opportunities for its realization.

  2. Notice and make use of spaces:




    What is not said

    What is outside the boxes on the organization chart

    These spaces often define intent and meaning.

  3. For some, intellect is the means for bringing all things under control. To comprehend cause and effect, they collect data and sort them, measure them and interpret them, classify them and predict them.

    when considering the future remember the remote past. One who is aware of the stream of causes, back to the primeval cause and forward to the ultimate cause, is less concerned about causes. They know that causes can be traced, but ultimately the cause of the causes cannot be.

    Yet there are no accidents. Each thing happens, according to the laws of nature, because it must, for reasons that make it inevitable. And this is the as the system has always been-causes that are traceable but ultimately unknowable. Know this and become master of all movements.

  4. The case is often made that contemporary issues are highly complex and one must not oversimplify them. But often, too, issues are made to seem more complex than they are. By sleight of hand and mind, many in our society acquire prestige and grow wealthy perpetuating complexity.

  5. In the midst of the crisis-surrounded by its perils, stressed by its demands, confused by its issues, worried by its consequences-step aside and breathe. As all athletes know, tightening does not improve performance, distraction slows, anxiety makes you miss.

    Step aside and breathe. Take a break. Still the closed-loop message that speeds inside your head, and listen for a moment to silence. Then, afterward, hear a fresher message.

    At the peak of success, in the midst of acclaim, admiration by peers, congratulations by superiors, let it all wash over you like an invigorating shower. Then be done with it. Enjoy but do not cling. Step aside and breathe.

  6. A person who can both plunge ahead and wait patiently can foster the appropriate strategy. One who values expansion and appreciates contraction is better able to perceive the possibilities latent in others. They can manage diversity, distinguishing between those who are best at risking and creating, those who are best at caution and maintaining, and those who are best at toughness and compelling. As they respect all, they can modulate the entrepreneur, stimulate the bureaucrat, and temper the autocrat.

  7. Power is most secure when not displayed

    Large egos are vulnerable to slight

    Aggression is vulnerable to counterattack

    High status is vulnerable to failure.

    Still, power is the flour of change

    Egos provide its yeast

    Aggression gives the heat for baking and

    Status turns the oven on.

    And so the Tao makes bread.

  8. In the midst of action hides tranquility. Those who find it act without exertion, allowing their natures to select their choices and motions.

    Leaders who know tranquility are neither obsessed by maximum yields nor compelled toward self-righteous destinations. Setting aside the weighty burden of an ultimate goal, they guide people more gracefully through both difficult and easy times, continuing without concluding.

    Though it must be sought, tranquility cannot be found by hunting. It eludes the hunter until, of its own free will, it seeks out the one who awaits it.

  9. Once upon a time the simple could be seen: That all reality is virtual. That chaos encompasses order, and order chaos. That clarity and peace interweave elegantly with difficulty and battle, and that spirit is the sinew that binds all the world together.

    From these conditions arise the billion others with which we live. Failing to recall that this is so, you miss the world's significance, the direction of its change, its uses and its destination. And so you may feel lost and frightened.
    Through their deeds a great leader reminds people of their possiblities. Their greatness rises not upon the tower of spectacular achievement but from the foundation of the ordinary. They stand not above but among those they lead, upon the same earthly foundation, and beneath them lies the solid rock.

    All leaders announce themselves as servants of those they lead. For some these protestations only mask their pride. The great leader recognizes their leadership is a duty no more important than any other.

  10. The way is perfect as it is

    And so will it be perfect as it changes.

    The way is always in balance

    For every force a counterforce

    For every inhale and exhale.

    Creation arises from nothing,

    Stands as one and

    Then divides in two,

    Male and female.

    And from the male and female combination

    Off spring the billion variations.

    All of this together; in ferment and at rest,

    Are the way, the system of our world.
    Modesty is functional, boastfulness is risky.

    Force bears consequences.

  11. It is not necessary to possess all the data to know your best course. Without exhaustive inspection of each and every factor; what feels right and good your spirit will announce.

    There are times when data are no use, when information distances, and learnedness obscures the heart of certainty. The keen-minded, without gurrying to meetings knows the crucial issues, without analysis recognizes the choices, without programs does what needs doing. The best of all action stems from the fact of being.

  12. A sound person has fewer opinions and attends more closely the opinions of others.

    They admire what they approve and can admire what they do not approve as well. They can discover the untruth within truth and the truth within untruth.

    They understand the minds of others because they are not diverted into judging them. Because they accept them, they are able to discover their intelligence even when it dwells beneath their foolishness.

  13. Do not be concerned that others do not follow the way or value it. The way has endured since the beginning and will continue ever after; whether cheered or jeered.

    There is no need to reform the world.

    Reform yourself, you reform your family.

    Reform yourself, you reform your workplace.

    Reform yourself, you reform your nation.

    Reform yourself, you reform the world.

    Thus by yourself you accomplish all change, in family, workplace, nation, and the world. Not by the power of the sword you wield but of the lens through which you view.

  14. Those who hold wisdom do not scatter words. Those who scatter words do not hold wisdom.


    quietly, without explanation,

    releasing one's hold,

    untangling one's ties,

    clearing one's head,

    accustoming one's vision,

    grounding one's self,

    These are the means of the Tao.

    The one unswayed by passion, profit, or praise is champion.

    Following the way, they have become the way.

  15. Calm at rest, composed in action, steady in tumult. Do only what is required; change only what must be changed. Flowing downhill, water follows its easiest route. It disturbs only what it needs to, but whether brook or torrent, always reaches its destination.

    Make battle rare, for every action provokes reaction. Prefer to guide through equilibrium, the balancing of forces. From the whisper touch of snowflake to the mighty roar of avalanche, gravity does its work. The earth supports all with minimum intervention.

    Regulation brings obstruction, which impedes creativity and disables initiative.

    Preparing for conflict encourages aggression.

    Conspiracy and deceit among leaders breed wariness and cunning among followers.

    Increasing the number of laws stimulates evasion and lawbreaking.

    A wise leader remembers: When I hold no pretensions to righteousness, those with whom I do not interfere reach their own balance. When I enforce no regulations, people do not rebel. When I promulgate no fashionable new teachings, others pursue what is understandable, direct, and effective. When I preach no complicated theories of human nature, people may learn to understand themselves.

  16. Within an empty mind dirty tricks lose their sting, deceit is turned to good use, destructive purposes are neutralized, and no damage is done. Though opponants seek to do each other harm, they do each other good. Opponents require each other.

    Within an empty mind the struggle's use can be perceived, and the opponents' alliance is recognized.

  17. Against force, yield and twist away.

    Against anger; cultivate calm.

    Against opposition, seek victory without warfare.

    Against rebellion, unearth grievances.

    When strife can be avoided, that is best. When it cannot be, endeavor to quiet your opponent's force rather than to beat it down. A minimum of contention is the guide.

  18. The military strategy of Tao says, avoid preemptive strikes. Respond to attack as required and do minimum damage to your opponent. When you hold superior strength, take care to display no aggressive intent. Possessing superior strength, accommodate your opponent generously.

    Taking no precipitous action, one demonstrates the action of peace. Speaking without threat, one disarms the opposition. Earnestly asserting, without enmity, one disallows an enemy's existence.

    It is a serious mistake to engage in needless battles. Damage must result for all. But when battles must be fought, take care that kindness should survive.

  19. Those who follow the way are no more noble than those who do not. Who can say that those who do not follow the way are not following the way?

    Life's process produces paradoxes large and small, yet does so in an orderly way; is questioned repeatedly, yet gives answers without limit; tolerates diverse points of view, yet insists on change; articulates no goal, yet gets its way.

    Life's system is wide open, yet no one escapes it.

  20. Punishment is not a cure. Many no longer fear punishment; why threaten them with it? If punishment served its purpose, crime and error would have left us long ago.

    If there is to be punishment, let it be the inevitable consequence of the deed performed. If a person takes on the responsibility for punishing others it is like an unskilled laborer taking on the task of a master carver-he can hardly help but cut his own hand.

  21. Words that express truth are simple and few. Subtle expressions may render art but not truth.

    The person who is confident need not argue to convince others or themself. The person bent on making convincing arguments, delivered in an elaborate manner, is unlikely to be confident.

    The one who knows the fact, need not expound the theory. They do not sow or harvest words. They give kindness to others and themself feel grateful. They share their gifts with others and are not diminished. They live a life in which their achievements are many, and they claim no credit.

From the Introduction:
Most of this book is a version of a twenty-five-hundred-year-old tract, dictated by a person named Lao-tzu, called the Tao (translation: the way along which one passes in going from one place to another).

Have the heart of a gypsy, and the dedication of a soldier -Beethoven in Beethoven Lives Upstairs

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