Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Business sense and practice may have shaped human evolution more than any other influence short of psilocybin. The ability to collaborate and trade gave humans an advantage over many much larger and stronger species. The success and wealth of merchants checked the absolute power of kings and emperors. It provided a channel of opportunity for society’s poor and disenfranchised. It undermined the legacies of oligarchs and nepotistic discrimination making a real balance of equality and freedom possible. Business encourages a more rapid recognition and response to external changes speeding up social, cultural, and political evolution. Business opportunities have “expiration dates,” products come in and out of popularity, and the business reactions to this open doors to more and frequent change. Of course, there’s also a very dark side: consumerism, many levels of materialism, exploitation, and deception. The symbolism of Goethe’s archetypal novel Faust describe these almost universal corruptions.

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Quotes (79)

“Trade embodies the principle of liberty. Trade planted America and destroyed Feudalism; it makes peace, keeps peace, and will destroy slavery. It destroyed the old aristocracy and created a new one but this one is based on merit instead of entitlement and is continually falling like the waves of the sea.”

Themes: Business

“Men keep agreements when it is to the advantage of neither to break them.”

Solon 638 – 558 BCE
Founder of Athenian democracy

“The marketplace is democratic.”

Pericles 495 – 429 BCE via Thucydides
Disprover that all power corrupts

“You should eat to live; not live to eat. (Those who don’t work to live, live long – Yen Tsun, 53-24 BCE.)”

Socrates 469 – 399 BCE
One of the most powerful influences on Western Civilization

75. Greed

“Why must Your Majesty use the word ‘profit’? Surely, it is true goodness and righteousness alone that matter.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE via Daniel K. Gardner
from Book of Mencius 孟子

“The reality of the Tao lies in concern for the self. Concern for the state is irrelevant, and concern for the world is cowshit. From this standpoint, the emperor’s work is the sage’s hobby and is not what develops the self or nourishes life.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

54. Planting Well

“Too many deals impoverish the merchant, too much artistry exhausts the craftsman. When the span of a tree is great, its height is compromised. When the flow of a river is wide, its depth is compromised. If you have knowledge but not skillful means, you will never accomplish anything.”

Liú Ān 劉安 1
from Huainanzi

“The skillful employer will employ the wise, the brave, the covetous, and the stupid because the wise delight in establishing merit, the brave in showing their courage in action, the covetous in seizing advantages, and the stupid in having no fear of death.”

Sima Qian 司馬遷 145 – 86 BCE via Burton Watson, Shan Dao
(Ssu-ma Ch'ien)
Father of Chinese historians
from Shiji, Records of the Grand Historian, 太史公書

“Live together like brothers and do business like strangers.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Arabic proverb

Themes: Business

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

Themes: Business Strategy

“A man without a smiling face must not open a shop.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Chinese proverb

Themes: Business

“Firewood is not sold in a forest, fish are not sold near a lake.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Chinese Proverb​

“Corporations have neither bodies to be kicked, nor souls to be damned.”

Anonymous 1 via A. Schlesinger, Jr.
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

“A miser and a liar both bargain quickly.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Greek proverb

Themes: Business Patience

“Take care of your business and your business will take care of you.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from English proverb

Themes: Business

“He would sell even his share of the sun.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Italian proverb

“Live together like brothers and do business together like strangers.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

Themes: Business

“One can conquer a kingdom on horseback, to rule it one must dismount.”

Anonymous 1 via Graeber and Wengrow
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Mongolian proverb

Themes: Business

“Merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by their sorcery.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE via Revelations
from New Testament Διαθήκη

“The more a rich man values a horse,
The more stubborn-headed the merchant is on his selling price.”

Gesar of Ling གེ་སར་རྒྱལ་པོ། 1 via Robin Kornman
from Gesar of Ling Epic

Themes: Business

“Merchants are the biggest fools of all—they will lie, perjure themselves, steal, cheat, and mislead the public. Nevertheless they are highly respected because of their money.”

Erasmus 1466 – 1536 CE
(Desiderius Roterodamus)
"Greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance"
from Praise of Folly

“Benefits should be granted little by little so that they may be better enjoyed.”

Machiavelli 1469 – 1527 CE
(Niccolò Machiavelli)

“Time is the measure of business.”

Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626 CE
from Essays (1625)

Themes: Business

“To business that we love, we rise betimes, and go to it with delight.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from Anthony and Cleopatra

“Better to be cheated in the price rather than in the quality of goods. (chapter 157)”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Business

“Trade in general being nothing else but the exchange of labor for labor, the value of all things is most justly measured by labor.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to their self-love”

Adam Smith 1723 – 1790 CE
''The Father of Economic Capitalism"
from Wealth of Nations

“The ultimate goal of business is not to make a profit. Profit is just the means. The goal is general welfare.”

Adam Smith 1723 – 1790 CE
''The Father of Economic Capitalism"

“competitiveness and desire for power are the beginnings of beckoning disaster in business and social relations.”

Liu Yiming 刘一明 1734 – 1821 CE via Thomas Cleary
(Liu I-ming)
from Taoist I Ching, , Zhouyi chanzhen 周易闡真

9. Know When to Stop

“Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will become costly”

Thomas Jefferson 1743 – 1826 CE
from Letter, 1825

Themes: Business

“Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.”

Thomas Jefferson 1743 – 1826 CE
from Letters

“Everything which is properly business we must keep carefully separate from life. Business requires earnestness and method; life must have a freer handling.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE
from Elective Affinities (1809)

“Try novelties for salesman's bait, novelty wins everyone.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE via Philip Wayne
from Faust, part I

“Business? It's quite simple. It's other people's money.”

Alexandre Dumas 1762 – 1806 CE

Themes: Business

“Getting and spending, we lay wast our powers
Little we see in Nature that is ours
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”

William Wordsworth 1770 – 1850 CE
from The World Is Much Too Much with Us

“Wealth is nowhere more at home than in the merchant class because merchants look upon money only as a means of further gain, just as a workman regards his tools so they try to preserve and increase it by using it.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via T. Bailey Saunders
from Wisdom of Life

“Anti-intellectualism has long been the anti-Semitism of the business man.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

Themes: Business

“In nature, nothing can be given, all things are sold.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

“In democracies, nothing is more great or more brilliant than commerce: it attracts the attention of the public, and fills the imagination of the multitude; all energetic passions are directed toward it.”

Alexis de Tocqueville 1805 – 1859 CE
Pioneering researcher into the conflicts between freedom and equality
from Democracy in America (1835-9)

“… men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon polished into the soil for compost… they are employed laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool’s life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Walden or Life in the Woods

Themes: Business Greed

29. Not Doing

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Walden or Life in the Woods

Themes: Business Money

37. Nameless Simplicity

“war is robbery, commerce is generally cheating”

Karl Marx 1818 – 1883 CE
from Das Kapital; Capital: Critique of Political Economy

Themes: Business War

31. Victory Funeral

“any hardship is better than pretending to do what one is paid for, and never really doing it.”

George Eliot 1819 – 1880 CE
(Mary Anne Evans)
Pioneering literary outsider

from Middlemarch

Themes: Business

“In business, the one sole object is, by any means, pecuniary gain. The magician's serpent in the fable ate up all the other serpents; and money-making is our magican's serpent, remaining today sole master... saturated in corruption, bribery, falsehood, mal-administration”

Walt Whitman 1819 – 1892 CE
Premier "poet of democracy" and model for Dracula

Themes: Business Money

“There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man's lawful prey.”

John Ruskin 1819 – 1900 CE

“There is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid.

Herman Melville 1819 – 1891 CE
from Moby Dick or The Whale

Themes: Business

“for business reasons, I must preserve the outward signs of sanity.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author

41. Distilled Life

“Everyone lives by selling something.”

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894 CE

“Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.”

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894 CE
from Virginibus Puerisque (1881)

Themes: Business Karma

“Business is done only where there is enthusiasm. Without good cheer, firm faith in the future and in your fellow-men, you are only a candidate for the Down-and-Out Club.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE
from A Thousand and One Epigrams

Themes: Business

“I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity.”

Rabindranath Tagore 1861 – 1941 CE

78. Water

“It is difficult but not impossible to conduct strictly honest business. what is true is that honesty is incompatible with the amassing of a large fortune.”

Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948 CE
from Non-Violence in Peaace and War (1948)

“Patience is a most necessary quality for business; many a man would rather you heard his story than grant his request.”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

Themes: Patience Business

“a successful business man attaining all his desires regardless of death and the devil, and then withdrawing from activity at the crowning point of his success... changes him into a querulous old woman, fastens him to his bed, and thus finally destroys him.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Introduction to Secret of the Golden Flower

Themes: Business

“Where modern Industrialism prevails... commerce settles on every tree and there must be felt continual anxiety about a bare subsistence; the victim of Industry must confine his thoughts to the subject of tomorrow's food for himself and his family”

Ananda Coomaraswamy குமாரசுவாமி 1877 – 1947 CE
Perennial philosophy's Citizen of the World
from The Dance of Shiva (1918)

“If you build a business up big enough, it's respectable.”

Will Rogers 1879 – 1935 CE
from Autobiography of Will Rogers (1949)

Themes: Business

“Man at his best loves the pick of words that tell the truth, the fair profit of able dealings.”

Witter Bynner 1881 – 1968 CE
(Emanuel Morgan)

“No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.”

Franklin Roosevelt 1882 – 1945 CE
Champion and creator of a more just and equitable society

Themes: Business

“This is true happiness: to have no ambition and to work like a horse as if you had every ambition.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE
from Zorba the Greek

20. Unconventional Mind

“It is in exchanging the gifts of the earth that you shall find abundance and be satisfied - but only if in love and kindly justice or it will only lead some to greed and others to hunger”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

Themes: Business Poverty

“Our industrial leaders should welcome and help to implement the welfare state as a humane mitigation of the painful inequality of human fortune, and a saving substitute from social turmoil and dictatorial repression.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Fallen Leaves

“We preach Christ to them and then cheat so much in business that the government has to intervene to protect the consumer against deceptive labels, dangerous cars, poisonous drugs, chemicalized food, and shoddy goods, while the government itself competes in corruption and mendacity.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Fallen Leaves

Themes: Business

“The temple is holy because it is not for sale”

Ezra Pound 1885 – 1972 CE
from Cantos

Themes: Business

“All the present bureaucracies of political governments, great religious organizations, and all big businesses find that physical success for all humanity would be devastating to the perpetuation of their ongoing activities.”

Buckminster Fuller 1895 – 1983 CE

58. Goals Without Means

“The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

Buckminster Fuller 1895 – 1983 CE

Themes: Business

55. Forever Young

“Man does not only sell commodities, he sells himself and feels himself to be a commodity.”

Erich Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE
One of the most powerful voices of his era promoting the true personal freedom beyond social, political, religious, and national belief systems
from Escape From Freedom, 1941

“The secret of business is to know something that nobody else knows.”

Aristotle Onassis 1906 – 1975 CE

“When producers want to know what the public wants, they graph it as curves. When they want to tell the public what to get, they say it in curves.”

Marshall McLuhan 1911 – 1980 CE
from The Mechanical Bride, 1951

“It might be said that it is the ideal of the employer to have production without employees and the ideal of the employee is to have income without work.”

E. F. Schumacher 1911 – 1977 CE
The “People's Economist”

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“In life, change is inevitable. In business, change is vital.”

Warren Bennis 1925 – 2014 CE
Authentic Leadership pioneering thought leader

Themes: Change Business

“Anytime you find someone more successful than you are, especially when you're both engaged in the same business - you know they're doing something that you aren't.”

Malcolm X الحاجّ مالك الشباز‎‎ 1925 – 1965 CE
from Autobiography of Malcolm X

“The future of business? – A faster and faster transition from the mechanical, rote, and unskilled to the innovative, educated and personal as technology, computers, and robots assume bigger and bigger roles.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

“In the people who run such businesses we find only hypocrisy, profiteering, and disinformation… a perfect example of institutionalized selfishness.”

Matthieu Ricard माथ्यु रिका 1946 CE –
"The happiest person in the world”

“The magic touch, that special spark needed to create a successful business... spend your money for the things that money can buy, don't worry about profit or loss, and save your energy for the things that money can't buy.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Jay Rubin, Shan Dao
from Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Themes: Business Money

“America used to have citizens. Then its government put it up for sale. Now it's got investors. You and I work for the investors.”

Neal Stephenson 1959 CE –
(Stephen Bury)
Speculative futurist and cultural social commentator

from Interface (1994)

Themes: Business

“It is precisely the American economy that has dumbed so many down.”

Nina Lvovna Khrushcheva Нина Львовна Хрущёва 1964 CE –

“While corporations continue to pretend climate change is nature's doing... We simply point out that it's good for business to lose a bit of that excess weight. It's good for business to make a positive contribution to the world.”

Dzigar Kongtrül Rinpoche ཛི་གར་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ། 1964 CE –
from Minimum Needs and Maximum Contentment

Themes: Business

“Were it not for businessmen seeking to make money, Columbus would not have reached America James Cook would not have reached Australia, and Neil Armstrong would never have taken that small step on the surface of the moon.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from Sapiens

Themes: Business Moon

“Napoleon made fun of the British, calling them a nation of shopkeepers. Yet these shopkeepers defeated Napoleon himself, and their empire was the largest the world has ever seen.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from Sapiens

Themes: Business


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