Welcome to this week’s 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.
Heaven is eternal—the earth endures.
Why do heaven and earth last forever?
They do not live for themselves only.
This is the secret of their durability.
For this reason the sage puts himself last and so ends up ahead.
He stays a witness to life, so he endures.
Serve the needs of others, and all your own needs will be fulfilled.
Through selfless action, fulfillment is attained.
This verse is antithetical to the deep beliefs in business. Any mentor will tell you that you need to put yourself first, always ask “what’s in it for me?” and “trust but verify”. This verse seems to be telling us the opposite, it tells us to “put others first”.
This for that. The deep-seated belief in business is that everything is an exchange for something else. No one does anything out of the goodness of their hearts. And if they do, you can be sure they’ll cash in the favor later. The Tao tells us that this “accounting” of who owes what to whom, is fruitless.
Bring your whole self to work. It always astounds me that people who live a wholesome, often religious life outside of work, are willing to come to work and cast aside their beliefs. I see people who do charity work all weekend, donate money to the poor and yet don’t mind selling people things they don’t need during the work week. Where is your personal life misaligned with your work life?
Scarcity thinking. Most businesses manage people on the principle of scarcity. There are fewer higher paying jobs, so in order to get one, someone else doesn’t. The Tao is telling us that scarcity thinking is a fallacy, and there’s enough for everyone.
Brain Twist: Find one small thing you can do selflessly at work today. Can you contribute to someone else’s success without getting credit? Can you introduce 2 people and step outside the relationship?
Translation Credit: Dyer, Wayne. Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao . Hay House. Kindle Edition.