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 (44)

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

Solon 638 – 558 BCE
Founder of Athenian democracy

Themes: Business

“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

“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 c. 179–122 BCE
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)
from Shiji, Records of the Grand Historian, 太史公書

“A miser and a liar both bargain quickly.”

Anonymous -800 to present
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Greek proverb

Themes: Business Patience

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

Anonymous -800 to present
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

Themes: Business Strategy

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

Anonymous -800 to present
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Italian proverb

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

Anonymous -800 to present
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Chinese 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

“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

Themes: Business

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

Machiavelli 1469 – 1527 CE
(Niccolò Machiavelli)

“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

“There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war...This is robbery. The second by commerce, which is generally cheating. The third by agriculture, the only honest way, wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE
from Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

“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

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

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

“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

Themes: Business Money

“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

“… 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

“war is robbery, commerce is generally cheating”

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

Themes: War Business

31. Victory Funeral

“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

“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

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

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

41. Distilled Life

“Everyone lives by selling something.”

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894 CE

“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

“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

“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)

“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

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

Ezra Pound 1885 – 1972 CE
from Cantos

Themes: Business

“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

“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

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

Eric Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE
from Escape From Freedom, 1941

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

Aristotle Onassis 1906 – 1975 CE

“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”

Themes: Business

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“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

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

Warren Bennis 1925 – 2014 CE
Authentic Leadership pioneering thought leader

Themes: Change Business

“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

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

Nina Lvovna Khrushcheva Нина Львовна Хрущёва 1964 CE –

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