Toon-Te-Ching: Verse 12

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.

Verse 12

The five colors blind the eye. 

The five tones deafen the ear. 

The five flavors dull the taste. 

The chase and the hunt craze people’s minds. 

Wasting energy to obtain rare objects

only impedes one’s growth. 


The master observes the world 

but trusts his inner vision. 


He allows things to come and go. 

He prefers what is within to what is without.


Verse 12 is posing two challenges: 

  • Can you see past outward appearances?  

  • Can you rise above the need for competition?

Can you see past outward appearances? By appearances here we mean sight, sound, and taste.  Lao-Tzu is asking us to look past what’s on the surface.  

Have you been in a meeting where someone stumbles through the communication of an idea?  Can you hear their idea despite their poor communication?  

What about the interviewee with the rumpled shirt?  Will you choose a candidate based on their appearance or their qualifications?

Most businesses respond to slick, polished outward appearances.  But what opportunities are you missing?


Can you rise above the need for competition? 
Competition, getting ahead, being #1, ambition, winning.  These are all highly valued in most businesses. And it’s the top causes of both dysfunction and corruption.  Everyone can’t be first, and with so much pressure to be first, what happens to the rest? They feel shame, their survival is threatened, their survival instinct kicks in.

“But it’s human nature to compete!”  I often hear people confuse societal norms with human nature.  It’s not human nature to compete, we’ve created that behavior in our society.  Not all societies have the level of competition we have. It’s human nature to co-operate.  

Brain Twist.  Find one place today where your actions are driven by outward appearance, and explore what happens when looking deeper.  Find another place where you are competing and could be cooperating.

Dyer, Wayne. Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao (p. 56). Hay House. Kindle Edition.