work hard

Work hard?  Not always the answer

If you want to be successful in life, work hard!

What else can that be? This is what we’ve been told since young.  By our parents, teachers and bosses and whoever that are seriously concerned about our future.

So when we hear Lao Tzu says in Tao Te Ching “Tao never strives, yet nothing is left undone”, it sounds jarring to the ear.

Little do we realize that this is the Tao of non-doing, and where the wisdom lies.

Working hard is important. This is how we make our life better. Unfortunately, if you overdo it, it can be counter-productive.

The irony of life is that: if you want to be at your best, don’t try hard!

There are two facets of doing the things we do.  The first is gestation, the second is delivery.

If you are a pianist, gestation is your practice sessions.  Delivery, on the other hand, is the performance.  If you are buying a birthday gift for your spouse, gestation is thinking of what to buy and the buying and wrapping.  Delivery, in this case, is to present the gift.

You should try hard during gestation.  If you’re a pianist, you may have to practice the same scale many times to acquire the competence.  If you are buying a gift, you may have to jump from one place to another to locate the ideal item.

You try hard during gestation, not during delivery.

During delivery, let go!

When the pianist delivery his performance, he should not think of the fingering and the notes.  Instead of working hard, he has to let go and elevate himself above his desires to succeed.  He dissolves himself like water and is in the conduit that brings out the soul of the music and let it jump with life!

What happens if his focus is on working hard?  The flow is disrupted and the soul is disturbed.

The music may still be good but without the splendor.

It goes with gift giving as well.  When you are presenting the gift, it is not the time to worry about the content of the wrapping.  It is the time to shower your affection and whisper your love.

In Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu says, “Those who seek knowledge, gain something every day.”  This refers to the time of gestation.  You want to know more so that you can do more.  But when you are performing, forget about accumulation.

“Those who live the Tao,
Let go of something every day.
They let go and let go,
Until the stage of non-doing.

When nothing is done,
Nothing is left undone.”

When you are delivering, bring out the splendour of Tao.  Be what you are, and not what you want to be! Be part of the moment!

The best way to be your best is by letting go, not working hard!

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    1. Hi Aneta, the ‘let go’ here is in contrast to the ‘gain’ in the earlier sentence in the same chapter, “Those who seek knowledge, gain something every day.” Using dancer as an example, he learns the techniques and skills so that he can dance. This is the ‘gain’. Once he is performing, he should ‘reduce’ himself to an enabler of the dance, and let go of everything that is preventing the true dance from emerging. There should be no fear, no conceit, not eagerness to win the applause. There should only, in the lingo of Tao, the ‘uncarved block’, i.e. the dance in its true sense. That’s why I’m saying to be your best, you don’t try hard. Once you try hard, the superfluous sets in and it can hinder the true expression of the dance and compromise the level of your performance. You should transcend your personal desire and the only way to transcend your desire is to let go of your desire.

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