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If your people despise their jobs,
why should they care if you threaten to fire them?
If your people like their jobs,
and know they will lose them if they behave badly,
who would dare?

For people to fear being fired,
there must always be a hatchetman.
To stand in for the hatchetman
is to substitute for a professional craftsman:
by misusing his tools, you will injure yourself.


chapter notes:

As the original topic of capital punishment is not appropriate to the new context, I have (as before) converted it to being fired.

Courage in daring leads to death.
Courage in not-daring leads to life.
Of physical and moral courage,
one is beneficial, and the other is harmful.
Who knows why Heaven hates what it does?

The Way of Heaven is
to win without competing,
to convince without speaking,
to organize without commanding,
to implement with ease.

The net of Heaven is wide;
though sparse, it misses nothing.


chapter notes:

Overall, this chapter is a fairly literal translation. However, the sense of the second verse is somewhat warped by its new context.

If the developers do not respect the management,
they will find an employer they do respect.

Do not reduce the size of their cubicles,
and do not cut their compensation:
it is only because you do not burden them
that they do not become tired of you.

Therefore, the Consultant
knows himself, but does not make himself known;
loves himself, but does not think himself high and mighty.
Thus, by avoiding the one, he chooses the other.


chapter notes:

The first verse has been converted from a warning of political failure to a practical note on employee retention. Otherwise, translation into the modern context has left the sense of this chapter remarkably unaltered.

To know how not to know:
this is the highest.
To not know about knowing:
this is sickness.

Therefore, the Consultant
perceives the sickness as a sickness,
that is why he avoids being sick.


chapter notes:

This chapter is paraphrased as straightforwardly as I could manage while still remaining comprehensible.

My words are easy to know,
and easy to practice,
but no one can know them,
and no one can practice them.

Well, words have an ancestor,
and tasks have a manager,
and it is only the practice of not-knowing
that means no one can know me.
Well, and if those who know me are few,
then I must perforce be valuable.

Therefore, the Consultant
wears jeans and a T-shirt:
what is valuable, he carries inside.


chapter notes:

Aside from inserting terms from the world of the modern Consultant, this chapter is fairly straightforward.

There is a military saying:
rather than go visiting my enemy, I would have him visit me;
before taking an inch of ground, I would retreat a foot.

This is:
maneuver without motion,
rolling up sleeves without baring arms,
capture without force,
battle without an enemy.

There is no disaster like not recognizing the enemy:
fail to respect an opponent, and you will lose your assets.
When arms are taken up, other things being equal,
the side that worries will win.


chapter notes:

In the first verse, the first half of the proverb is originally something like, “I dare not be the lord, but rather the host”. My understanding is that this is in the sense it is a lord’s task to visit his vassals; I have translated the underlying implication that battle on your own ground is preferable to that chosen by your enemy.

A good soldier is not belligerent.
A good duelist does not lose his temper.
A good tactician will not prefer a frontal assault.
One good at using others places himself below them.

This is the virtue of noncompetition.
This is how to use others.
This is the ancient art of matching Heaven.


chapter notes:

The first verse is somewhat idiomatic; the second verse is literal; both are otherwise straightforward.

All the world calls me great,
although I don’t seem like much.
Well, it is only because I don’t seem like much
that I can be great:
If I were like something else,
I would always remain small!

I have three things of true value:
the first is compassion;
the second is economy;
the third is not pushing to the front.

Compassion permits courage.
Economy permits generosity.
Not pushing to the front permits leadership.

Courage without compassion;
generosity without economy;
leading from the front:
these things lead to death.

Compassion leads to victory in war,
and security in defense.
That which Heaven would establish,
it first surrounds with compassion.


chapter notes:

This chapter is a straightforward translation.

My understanding of this chapter is that, while “compassion” here implies deep empathy and understanding, it does not necessarily imply benevolent action as a consequence; q.v. chapter 5.

The great river and the sea
rule the ten thousand valleys
by virtue of lying below them.

Therefore, the Consultant,
in order to stand above other developers,
must present himself as below them;
in order to lead the world,
he must leave his self-interest behind.

That way, although he is on top,
he does not feel like a burden;
although he is in front,
he does not appear to block the way:
the world itself promotes him tirelessly.

Well, it is only because he does not compete
that nobody can compete with him.


chapter notes:

In the first verse, I have again gratuitously used “ten thousand” where it did not originally appear. Otherwise, this is a pretty straightforward translation — although the chapter title picks a target example of particular modern relevance.

In ancient times, those who followed the Way
did not educate the people, but kept them ignorant.
They reckoned it difficult to govern an educated people:
thus, promoting learning would harm the state,
while promoting ignorance would benefit the state.

True mastery of knowledge and ignorance
also finds a basis for mental discipline.
True mastery of this discipline
is called Subtle Virtue.
Subtle Virtue is deep and far-reaching,
and returns things to their natural flow.


chapter notes:

As advocacy of mass ignorance is the subject of the first verse, I can find no honest way to translate it without acknowledging this. I have resorted to simple historical acknowledgement, rather than attempting to justify it in some modern sense.

The second verse is a simple statement of one aspect of Daoism I find personally useful.

March 2010

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