Honesty & Dao

Improving Personal Effectiveness


Dao teaches us that in order to be really effective; we’ll have to be honest to ourselves.

Being honest helps us to stay close to reality, which is fundamental to personal effectiveness.

This is, however, more easily said than done. How often do we hear “I have never seen a person so stubborn”; when the complainant is equally, if not more, stubborn. Our eyes are often blinded and ears deafen by our ego.

As Laozi says in Tao Teh Ching,

"He who knows himself is wise.
He who triumphs over others has strength;
He who triumphs over himself has great power.“

It takes courage to be honest to ourselves. But we need the breakthrough to stay close to reality.

Honesty shed lights on our weaknesses.

It could also awaken the giant in us, just like the huge tree in the fable of Chuang Tzu.

tao honesty

Once upon a time, there was a li tree so spectacular, which was a rare sight to behold.

So huge it could shade a herd of several thousand cattle. So enormous it could have a dozen boats cut out from it. It towered eighty feet over the hilltop, before branching out.

Crowds stood by gazing, murmuring disbelief. But when a carpenter walked past the tree with his apprentice, he went on without casting a look.

Curiously the apprentice asked, “I have never seen such a splendid piece of timber, Master. How was it that you did not care to stop and look at it?"

"It's not worth talking about," replied the carpenter. "It's good for nothing! Made into a boat, it would sink; into a coffin, it would rot; into furniture, it would break easily; into a door, it would secrete; into a pillar, it would be worm-eaten. It is wood of no quality, and of no use. That is why it has lived so long."

Is the tree useless?

Late that night, the tree visited the carpenter in his dream. "You said that I am of no use, what you compare me with?” asked the tree.

“Do you compare me with the fine-grained wood? Or cherry-apple and other fruit bearers, who would be stripped of their indignity as soon as their fruit ripens? Their boughs are snapped off, the branches scattered around. These trees, by their own value, injure their own lives. They cannot fulfill their life span, and perish prematurely because they destroy themselves for the admiration of the world. “

The carpenter woke up from his dream. He knew he had wronged the tree.

Had the tree not been useless for the small purposes, how could it have survived for the bigger value -- allowing the world to have a sacred tree so huge?


Stay detached!

Examine your true self from a distance. Continue to question yourself the Dao questions, “Who am I? What am I doing? Why am I doing this?” Be honest with yourself, and you may see the spectacular li tree in you.

Like what Laozi says in Dao De Jing,

“Knowing not knowing is true knowledge.
Not knowing yet presuming to know is sickness.
The Sage is not sick because he sees the sickness as sickness,
By seeing the sickness as sickness, you are free from sickness.”


Exercise: Stay Detached


stay detached and tao

You can’t get a fish to describe what water is.

To be honest with yourself, you must learn to stay detached.

1. Close your eyes. Ask yourself, what do you want yourself to be? CEO of the company? A renowned professor? An excellent sportswoman?

2. Imagine that you have already successfully become the future you.

3. Now, let the future you talk to you about anything that concerns you. It could be significant issues such as the big picture of your life; or things as simple as what you should do during the next business presentation or what you should wear for the dinner.

4. Listen to what the future you have to say about you.Open your eyes; reflect on the ‘conversation’. You may discover something deep in you that you had not realized. You may understand Dao better as a result.

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