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January 18th, 2011

What is “Tao”?

Tao produces all things;
its Virtue nourishes them;
its Nature gives them form;
its Force perfects them

The idea of Tao
Common dictionary translations of Tao include: road, path, way, means, doctrine.  In the Tao Tee Ching, it is generally used to indicate the unseen, underlying law of the universe from which all other principles and phenomena proceed.  It is described as unnamable, unfathomable and inexhaustible.  Taoists attempt to be one with this principle.

Most of the Tao Te Ching describes the Tao and its manifestations so this is the best source for more detail.  Since it cannot be understood on a merely intellectual level, it is best to feel the words in the Tao as well as understand them.  Don’t forget that the Tao is a poem.  It even rhymes in many parts in the original Chinese.  This may have been to make it easy to remember for illiterate people and it may also have been to help us feelthe meaning rather than seek to intellectualize it.

The Chinese character ‘Tao’
You’ll see the original Chinese Character for Tao all over the book and all over Asia.  This is it’s cursive, or artistic appearance.

Chinese Characters are actually pictures of their meanings.  The meaning of the “Tao” character is clearer if you see it typed, like this:    

It is made of two other characters: Go forward  and Head  
The idea is that your head chooses to a path to go forward on.  For this reason it is often used in Asian philosophy to denote the path or way to clarity.

In China,  (Tao) is pronounced “dow”, as in Dow Jones Index and “doe” in Japanese.  You have probably heard of it already in words like :
Judo  -  “soft way”
[Kendo] Kendo   -  “sword way”
[Karate] Karate – do  -  “empty hand way”



January 6th, 2011
Survey after survey has noted that top leaders are able to make tough decisions, in part, because they have learned to trust their intuitive instincts. Henry Mintzberg of McGill University said, “Organizational effectiveness does not lie in that narrow-minded concept called rationality. It lies in the blend of clear headed logic and powerful intuition.”
Intuitive people tend to be able to plunge right into a problem, gathering information and facts on the run while also listening for that inner voice that speaks truth. People looking in from the outside might interpret these actions as impulsive. In reality, they are able to make quick decisions based on a lifetime of accumulated wisdom and understanding.
While intuition does appear stronger in some people than in others, I believe that any leader can learn to be more intuitive. It is simply a matter of learning to trust your heart.
Sometimes the first step toward trusting your heart is simply acknowledging and letting go of our absolute trust in logic. Roy Rowan said, “This feeling, this little whisper from deep inside your brain, may contain far more information – both facts and impressions – than you’re likely to obtain from hours of analysis.”
I don’t have to know how an internal combustion engine works to drive a car. Neither do I have to know why I know what I know! Intuitiveness will also be stifled if we believe we cannot change, should not change, or if we refuse to cultivate a flexible attitude.
There is a certain element of risk in intuitive leadership, but that is the very nature of leadership. Andr Gide said, “One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” A neglect of cultivating intuition results from doing what is safe and secure. I can’t think of very many things of value that are won by staying safe and secure.
While leaning on your intuition is a leadership advantage, it can also be a weakness.  You’ll gain the trust of others when your intuitions lead to good decisions. And you’ll forfeit trust when you fail because you continually ignore the wise advice of those around you. Robert Heller said, “Never ignore a great feeling, but never believe that it’s enough.” Great leaders learn to trust the intuition of their confidantes as well.
I’ve tried to pay attention to how I make a decision, and here are some steps I’ve developed for tapping into my intuitive instincts:
1. Write down the issue at hand.
2. Identify as many options as possible.
3. Pull away from the process and pray.
4. Start playing out consequences of your options, eliminating them one by one.
5. Bounce a couple of your top options off of wise people both inside and outside your organization.
6. Do a heart check. This involves looking at:
My motive – “Why am I doing this?”
My responsibility – “Should I be doing this?”
My emotional status – “Can I feel right about doing this?”
7. Make a decision.
8. Hold to that decision.
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