Toon-Te-Ching: Verse 3

Welcome to our 3rd installment of the Toon-Te-Ching.  Each week we are taking one of the 81 verses of the Tao-Te-Ching, pairing it with a toon and connecting the teaching to our work life.

3rd Verse

Putting a value on status

Will create contentiousness.

If you overvalue possessions,

People begin to steal.

By not displaying what is desirable, you will

Cause the people’s hearts to remain undisturbed.

The sage governs

By emptying minds and hearts,

By weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.

Practice not doing…

When action is pure and selfless,

Everything settles into its own perfect place.

This verse is in direct contradiction to Corporate values and much of what is valued by the Western world and promoted by Capitalism.  We have seen greed lead to corruption over and over again, and yet we still value accumulation of wealth. Where is the disconnect?

Teach your children well.  We teach our children to compete hard academically so that they can get into the advanced classes.  For what? So that they can get into a good college. For what? So that they can get a good job. For what?  So they can make a lot of money. For what? So they can live in a nice house? Where does it end? We put ourselves into a life where we are constantly competing for the next rung on the ladder.  Why? Are we happier when we get there? Am I happier in a big house with a big mortgage than I would be in a modest house that I can easily afford? From what I can tell, each achievement makes the handcuffs tighter and tighter.  

Is money your scorecard?  When money is your scorecard, you end up with corruption and greed.  Despite what Gordon Gekko might have told you in the 80s, greed is not good.  It drives out harmony and wholeness. Part of my job is to help companies collaborate, and the biggest blocker to collaboration is that many companies are set up for internal competition.  They work against themselves, and their success is in spite of their structure not because of it.

When we use money as a scorecard, we end up building a community around our “better than” and “less than”.  Our relationships are about determining who is better, “Do I have a better car?”, “Are my kids in a better school?”, “Do I have a better house?”  “Do I have a better job?” When we let go of the scorecard, our relationships change, our community changes.

Brain Twist.  At work today, sit in a meeting and take a minute to appreciate how perfect things are right now.  Appreciate your amazing coworkers. Appreciate the great work you are all doing. Appreciate the cultural need to get ahead, and let it be.  You might even start the meeting by stating how much you appreciate working with this group and how happy you are with the collaboration. If you’re thinking, ‘but that’s not true’, find an aspect of it that is true.  By focusing the whole group on what is good, and non-competitive about your work, you might just shift the trajectory of the meeting, the team, and possibly the world.