(or: Sliding Down the Cutting Edge)

When the company is run without overt control,
the employees will be happy and reasonably honest.
When regulations are heavy and enforcement is strict,
the employees will be rebellious and necessarily dishonest.

Good luck depends on bad luck,
bad luck lurks within good luck,
and where does it all end?
It seems there is no good place to stand:
the correct becomes strange,
and the auspicious becomes ill-omened.
All this change and confusion:
their days have been long,
and may be longer yet.

Therefore:
be blunt but do no harm,
be sharp but do not cut,
be honest but do not offend,
be brilliant but do not dazzle.

 


chapter notes:

The overall sense of this chapter is as applicable today as it was when it was written. The Warring States period was a time of great social and (for the time) technological change. While much of the suffering and dislocation was a consequence of pervasive war, rather than the the disruptive technological advancement of the modern era, the effect may be comparable: charting a course is difficult when the landmarks change daily.

In such a time, perhaps the most reliable advice is to go with the flow, keep your eyes open, and above all maintain your balance.