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What does not struggle is easy to hold.
What has not yet shown warning signs is easy to plan for.
What is fragile is easy to break.
What is small is easy to scatter.
Take action before problems occur;
cultivate order before disorder blossoms.

A great oak grows from a small acorn.
A great fortress rises from a scoop of earth.
A thousand mile journey starts with a single step.

Take action with force, and you may be defeated;
grasp after something, and you may lose it.
Therefore, the Consultant
takes action without force, and suffers no defeat;
is not grasping, and suffers no loss.

People always seem to seize defeat from the jaws of victory.
Thus, the saying goes:
be as careful at the end as at the beginning, and you will not fail.

Therefore, the Consultant
seeks objectivity, rather than lusting after expensive toys;
learns how not to learn, and returns to study neglected fields.
Though he helps maintain the ten thousand programs,
he knows better than to try to capture them.


chapter notes:

This translation is more poetically idiomatic than literal. As usual, I have incorporated popular sayings; as the particular version of the proverb “A thousand mile journey starts with a single step” has become popular in the West, I have used this rather than any ancient or contemporary Chinese version.

In the last verse, I have converted advice against learning to “learn how not to learn”.

Take action without force.
Pursue your interests without self-interest.
Keep the Way in mind.

Handle the small like the great.
Handle the few like the many.
Handle anger with Virtue.

Handle the difficult by addressing the easy;
handle the great by addressing the small:
in this world, the difficult is born of the easy,
and the great is born of the small.

Therefore, the Consultant
does not take great action:
that way, he can accomplish great things.

He who makes agreements lightly is unreliable.
He who thinks everything is easy will find many difficulties.

Therefore, the Consultant
thinks everything is difficult:
that way, he finds no difficulties.


chapter notes:

In the first verse, I have converted “taste the tasteless” to “keep the way in mind” — rather than propagate a trivial riddle opaque to my primary audience, I have answered it.

Note that, in combination, “handle the small like the great” and “handle the great by addressing the small” can be read as a prescription for recursive decomposition (which is useful for both problem solving and algorithm design).

The Way is the confluence of ten thousand things:
it is valuable to the competent,
and guardian to the incompetent.

Fine words are essential for marketing.
Classy suits are essential for negotiation.
But, those who are incompetent at these things:
why should they be eliminated?

When a new management team is installed:
rather than issuing them a corner office
and a reserved parking space,
better to show them the Way.

The Way is as true now as in ancient days:
those who seek may find,
and those who fail may redeem themselves.
Thus, it is valuable to the world.


chapter notes:

In converting to a development/corporate context, the management perks have been considerably downgraded!

(or: How to Get Screwed by Microsoft)

A large company is like low-lying waters:
the feminine reservoir of the world,
the creative confluence of the world.
The female overcomes the male through equilibrium:
in proper equilibrium, the female lies under the male.

Therefore, if a large company lies beneath a small company,
it can take over the small company at will.
Conversely, if a small company lies beneath a large company,
it becomes a target for acquisition.
Thus, one lies underneath and takes the other,
while the other lies underneath and is taken.

A large company wants to grow and diversify,
while a small company wants resources for its projects
and security for its people.
Well, and if they are both satisfied,
then the large company might as well lie underneath.


chapter notes:

In this case, I have again converted the political to the corporate.

March 2010

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