Tao Te Ching – Chapter 68


People may assume that great generals and warriors must be aggressive and warlike, but reality demonstrates quite the opposite. The greatest generals in history were men of peace, rather than warmongers; the greatest warriors in history were motivated by commitment and compassion, rather than anger. They knew the best way to win any conflict, great or small, was to not fight at all.

Tao sages extend the above to life, and observe that the best leaders always act from a humble heart, rather than arrogance. This is the virtue of non-contention, a principle not only for the battlefield, but also for the journey of life.

Indeed, a general commanding an army is not so different from a civilian leading a team. In either case, the leader’s ability to embody peace, compassion and humility will inspire everyone to work together toward a common goal. This generates a tremendous power that flows harmoniously with the Heavenly Tao — a power that the ancients regarded as the ultimate in existence. 

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Translation Notes

This Chinese characters 用人, if translated literally, would be “use people.” This gives rise to negative connotations that are not in the original. In English, to use people is to exploit them or take advantage of them. In this chapter, 用人 means the proper utilization of people’s talents and abilities. The overall meaning expressed by Lao Tzu is that when you lead with the virtue of non-contention, you are able to delegate appropriately and make use of the entire team in an optimal way.

Derek Lin
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