Stretch a bow to the very full,
And you will wish you had stopped in time;
Temper a sword-edge to its very sharpest,
And you will find it soon grows dull.
When bronze and jade fill your hall.
It can no longer be guarded.
Wealth and place breed insolence.
That brings ruin in its train.
When your work is done, then withdraw!
Such is Heaven’s Way.
-Laozi, Dao De Jing
We try to be like those we admire. In doing so, we often copy the side-effects of success, not their cause. Pretending to be powerful, we ignore the strengths of being weak.
Young and broke? You can pour in more time and hours, for less pay. Those with families to feed and expectations of earnings won’t take the same risks.
Inexperienced? You can learn without preconceptions. Those who have won their wars, stick to old battle tactics.
Unknown? You can reply to everyone who reaches you. Follow up every lead. Respond to every request with a smile. Those with more fame must put up barriers between the people they rely on. You can tear those down.
In Every Strength, a Flaw. In Every Weakness, an Opportunity.
Worries and problems are felt acutely. Advantages and success are invisible.
Oh, how nice it would be to be rich, respected and praised. Except, those people have the biggest targets on their backs. Afraid of loss, they grow stale and repetitive.
Oh, how nice it would be to know everything, be smart and wise. Except, those who have learned cannot see with the eyes of a novice. Knowing too much, they cannot teach.
Oh, how nice it would be to have access, connections and influence. Except, those links can become a chain. Better to stand on your own, than be yoked to the whims of another.
You Cannot Choose Your Position, Only How to Play It
Life is not fair. It does not dole out good and bad in equal quantities. You may have great luck or terrible misfortune. Your odds of success may be slim or certain.
The only move you can make is with the position you have. Use the strengths in your weaknesses. Find your advantage out of the waste that success creates.