The Philosophy of Water

Water. 2 Hydogen atoms plus 1 atom of Oxygen.
A simple molecule but, to chemists and physicists, a fascinating one.

It also fascinated the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, in 500 BC, or thereabouts.
His text, the Tao Te Ching, has been the source of inspiration to many people. Recently a TED talk by Raymond Tang highlighted how part of the text, a poem about water, helped him cope with the stress and anxiety emanating from the technology driven life he was leading.

Here’s the poem:
The supreme goodness is like water.
It benefits all things without contention.
In dwelling, it stays grounded.
In being, it flows to depths.
In expression, it is honest.
In confrontation, it stays gentle.
In governance, it does not control.
In action, it aligns to timing.
It is content with its nature and therefore cannot be faulted.

The 3 key lessons that can be drawn from this are: Humility, Harmony and Openness.

H+H+O = H2O.

Humility – water stays low in the river, yet it is a life giving force.
Harmony – water does not fight against its surroundings, it works with them to find a course.
Openness – water is open to change, a gas, a liquid, a solid, it adapts and alters its form accordingly.

I found Raymond’s talk inspiring, and decided to examine it from my perspective as coach, mentor and adviser.

I mentor that to ask for help and guidance is ok, be humble, it’s not possible to know everything, reaching out for help is a sign of humility. The most effective organisations have coaching cultures where selfless leaders coach their teams to achieve success for themselves and the organisation.

On the face of it, this is an easy one; harmony with our colleagues, clients and business partners must pay off. But, it’s not to be confused with ‘giving way’ or to be perceived as ‘weakness’. Harmony in music is adding a different note to that being played to create a fuller richer sound.

Adaptability, you or your organisation will have to change its form to match new conditions. Economic conditions, environmental change, regulatory pressures, political turmoil; all of these may affect the individual or the organisation and may require a shift in approach, culture or structure to exist in the new surroundings.

Watch Raymond’s TED talk, it is a really inspiring 10 minutes.

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