You may know this feeling: you wake up to multiple unread notifications on your mobile phone. Your calendar is already packed with meetings, sometimes double- or triple-booked. You feel engaged, you feel busy. In fact, you feel productive. But at the end of it all, something still feels missing. You try to figure out what it is. But before you do, the next day starts all over again. That was how I felt two years ago. I felt stressed; I felt anxious. I felt a bit trapped. The world around me was moving very quickly. And I didn’t know what to do. I started wondering to myself: How do I keep up with all this? How do we find fulfillment in a world that’s literally changing as fast as we can think, or maybe even faster?
I started looking for answers. I spoke to many people, I spoke to my friends, I spoke to my family. I even read many self-help books. But I couldn’t find anything satisfactory. In fact, the more self-help books I read, the more stressed and anxious I became.
It was like I was feeding my mind with junk food, and I was becoming mentally obese.
I was about to give up, until one day, I found this. “The Tao Te Ching: The Book of the Way and Its Virtue.” This is an ancient Chinese philosophy classic that was written more than 2,600 years ago. And it was by far the thinnest and the smallest book on the bookshelf. It only had 81 pages. And each page had a short poem. I remember I flipped to one particular poem. Here it is. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?
Let me read it out to you.
“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.”
Wow! I remember when I first read this passage. I felt the biggest chills down my spine. I still feel that today, reading it to you guys. My anxiety and stress just suddenly disappeared. Ever since that day, I’ve been trying to apply the concepts in this passage to my day-to-day life. And today, I’d like to share with you three lessons I learned so far from this philosophy of water — three lessons that I believe have helped me find greater fulfillment in almost everything that I do.
The first lesson is about humility. If we think about water flowing in a river, it is always staying low. It helps all the plants grow and keeps all the animals alive. It doesn’t actually draw any attention to itself, nor does it need any reward or recognition. It is humble. But without water’s humble contribution, life as we know it may not exist. Water’s humility taught me a few important things. It taught me that instead of acting like I know what I’m doing or I have all the answers, it’s perfectly OK to say, “I don’t know. I want to learn more, and I need your help.”
It also taught me that, instead of promoting my glory and success, it is so much more satisfying to promote the success and glory of others. It taught me that, instead of doing things where I can get ahead, it so much more fulfilling and meaningful to help other people overcome their challenges so they can succeed. With a humble mindset, I was able to form a lot richer connections with the people around me. I became genuinely interested in the stories and experiences that make them unique and magical. Life became a lot more fun, because every day I’d discover new quirks, new ideas and new solutions to problems I didn’t know before, all thanks to the ideas and help from others. All streams eventually flow to the ocean because it is lower than them. Humility gives water its power. But I think it gives us the capacity to remain grounded, to be present, to learn from and be transformed by the stories of the people around us.
The second lesson I learned is about harmony. If we think about water flowing towards a rock, it will just flow around it. It doesn’t get upset, it doesn’t get angry, it doesn’t get agitated. In fact, it doesn’t feel much at all. When faced with an obstacle, somehow water finds a solution, without force, without conflict. When I was thinking through this, I began to understand why I was feeling stressed out in the first place. Instead of working in harmony with my environment, I was working against it. I was forcing things to change because I was consumed by the need to succeed or to prove myself. In the end, nothing did. And I got more frustrated. By simply shifting my focus from trying to achieve more success to trying to achieve more harmony, I was immediately able to feel calm and focused again.
I started asking questions like: Will this action bring me greater harmony and bring more harmony to my environment? Does this align with my nature? I became more comfortable simply being who I am, rather than who I’m supposed to be or expected to be. Work actually became easier, because I stopped focusing on things that I cannot control and only on the things that I can. I stopped fighting with myself, and I learned to work with my environment to solve its problems.
Nature does not hurry. Yet, everything is accomplished. That’s Tao Te Ching’s way of describing the power of harmony. Just as water is able to find a solution without force or conflict, I believe we can find a greater sense of fulfillment in our endeavors by shifting focus from achieving more success to achieving more harmony.
The third lesson I learned from the philosophy of water is about openness. Water is open to change. Depending on the temperature, it can be a liquid, solid or gas. Depending on the medium it’s in, it can be a teapot, a cup or a flower vase. In fact, it’s water’s ability to adapt and change and remain flexible that made it so enduring through the ages, despite all the changes in the environment. We also live in a world today of constant change. We can no longer expect to work to a static job description or follow a single career path. We, too, are expected to constantly reinvent and refresh our skills to stay relevant.
In our organization, we host a lot of hackathons, where small groups or individuals come together to solve a business problem in a compressed time frame. And what’s interesting to me is that the teams that usually win are not the ones with the most experienced team members, but the ones with members who are open to learn, who are open to unlearn and who are open to helping each other navigate through the changing circumstances. Life is like a hackathon in some way. It’s calling to each and every one of us to step up, to open up and cause a ripple effect. Now, we can stay behind closed doors and continue to be paralyzed by our self-limiting beliefs, such as: “I will never be able to talk about Chinese philosophy in front of a huge audience.”
Or we can just open up and enjoy the ride. It can only be an amazing experience. So humility, harmony and openness. Those are the three lessons I learned from the philosophy of water so far. They nicely abbreviate to H-H-O, or H2O.
And they have become my guiding principles in life. So nowadays, whenever I feel stressed, unfulfilled, anxious or just not sure what to do, I simply ask the question: What would water do?
This simple and powerful question inspired by a book written long before the days of bitcoin, fintech and digital technology has changed my life for the better. Try it, and let me know how it works for you. I would love to hear from you.
你可能有过这种感觉： 早晨醒来，看到手机上 许多条未读的通知。
你的行程日历已经被各种会议填满， 有时候甚至要同时做两三件事。 你觉得自己很投入，很忙碌。 实际上，你还会觉得自己很有效率。 可一天结束后，你却总是 觉得还缺了点什么， 并试图弄清到底少了什么。 但在你想明白前 同样的日子又已来临。 这就是我两年前的感受。 我觉得压抑，焦虑， 感觉自己陷入了困境。 周围的世界在快速运转着， 我却不知道该如何应对。 我开始问自己： 我该怎么做才能跟上世界的步伐？ 我们应该怎么做 才能在这个飞速变换的世界里 找到满足感？
我开始寻找答案。 我和许多人聊过这个话题， 包括朋友，家人。 我甚至读了很多励志的书， 但一直找不到让自己满意的答案。 说实话，读过的励志书越多， 我就变得越压抑，越焦虑。
我差点就要放弃了。 直到有一天，我发现了这本书。 《道德经》：一本阐释道德品行的书。 它是中国古代哲学经典， 大概成书于2600年前。 它也是目前书架上 最薄，最小的一本书， 只有81页。 每页上都有一首小诗。 我记得当时翻看到了这样一首诗。 请看。 写得真好啊，是不是？
“上善若水。 水善利万物而不争，处众人之所恶。 居，善地； 心，善渊； 言，善信； 与，善仁； 政，善治； 动，善时。 夫唯不争， 故无忧。”
我记得当时看完这段文字后 感到脊背发凉，醍醐灌顶。 读完刚才这一遍，我依然有那种感觉。 我的焦虑和压抑感瞬间消失了。 从那天起， 我就试着将这篇文章中的理念 运用到日常生活中。 今天，我想和你们分享， 目前为止我从水之道中 所学到的三个道理—— 是它们，让我在做 每一件事时都获得了 更大的满足感。
第一个道理，是要保持谦逊的态度。 试想，河流中的水 总是在低处汩汩流淌。 有了水，植物才能生长， 动物才能存活。 可它却从不居功自傲， 也不需要尘世的褒奖和认可。 它很谦逊。 如果没有水这样不求回报的贡献， 现今世界上的生命可能就不复存在了。 水的谦逊让我明白了以下几点。
其实我不必表现得像个万事通， 一副什么都知道的样子， 说出“我不知道， 我想要学习更多， 我需要你的帮助。” 没什么丢人的。
水的谦逊还让我明白， 为自己寻求成功之道 远不如帮助他人成功 来得快乐和满足。 与个人的成功相比， 帮助他人克服困难，走向成功 才是更有满足感，更有意义的事。 怀着一颗谦逊的心， 我发现自己能和身边的 人建立更深厚的联系。 我想聆听他们的故事和经历， 正是这些经历， 让他们成为了现在独特的自己。 我发现生活变得更有趣了， 因为每天我都能发掘新点子，新想法， 还有之前从来不知道的 解决问题的新方法， 多亏了身边的人给我的建议和帮助。 百川最终汇入广阔的大海， 因为大海在低处。 谦逊赋予了水以力量。 不过我想到的是， 谦虚使我们能脚踏实地， 活在当下， 取人之长，补己之短。
我所学到的第二个道理， 是保持平和的心态。 想想看，如果水为石头所阻， 它会绕过那块石头。 它不会沮丧，不会愤怒， 不会被激怒。 实际上，它不会有任何情绪。 当障碍摆在面前时， 水总能找到解决办法， 不借助武力，也不引起冲突。 当我想明白这些时，我开始懂得 为什么之前的自己会感到压抑。 当时的我并没有与 周边的环境和谐相处， 而是站在了它的对立面。 我强迫身边的事物改变， 因为我想通过成功证明自己。 到最后，事与愿违， 于是我变得更加沮丧。 从追求更多的成功 到追求更多的和谐， 我很快感到了内心的平静， 专注度也提高了。
我开始问自己： 如果这样做，我的内心会更加平和吗？ 我能和外界和谐相处吗？ 这符合我的天性吗？ 做真实的自己让我感到很坦然， 不需要迎合别人的期待。 工作也变得简单起来， 因为我不再纠结于 在我掌控之外的事。 而只专注于我力所能及的事。 我不再与自我抗衡， 也学会了和所置身的环境和平相处， 解决其中的问题。
“道恒无为， 而无不为“。 这是《道德经》对“和谐”的力量的描述。 就像水解决问题从不 借助武力、引起冲突一样， 我相信，从追求成功 转变为追求和谐， 能够让我们收获更大的满足感。
我从水之道学到的第三个哲理， 是保持开明的思想。 水从不抗拒改变。 随着温度变化，水可以是 液体、固体或气体。 在不同器皿中， 水可以成为茶壶、杯子或花瓶的形状。 事实上，正是水随机应变， 顺其自然的特性， 使得不论环境如何变化， 水都会经久不腐。 我们生活在一个不断变化的世界中。 一成不变的工作将不复存在， 一辈子只从事一个工作的 情况也越来越少。 我们需要不断地更新我们的技能， 方能在社会立足。在我工作的地方曾经举办了 很多次编程马拉松比赛， 个人或小团体聚在一起， 在规定时间内解决商业问题。 我发现那些获胜的队伍 并非拥有经验丰富的成员， 但它们的成员大多乐意学习， 甘于放弃， 相互帮助， 共同适应环境的变化。 人生在某种程度上就像一场竞赛。 需要我们每个人迈步向前，敞开心扉， 由此引发积极的连锁反应。 我们大可以紧锁心门，麻木不仁， 用自己的执念限制自己，例如： “我永远无法在这么多观众面前 谈论中国哲学。”
又或者，我们可以敞开大门， 享受这段旅程， 这将是一次无与伦比的体验。 谦逊、平和、开明， 这是迄今为止 我从水之道中悟出的哲学。 它们可以简称为H-H-O， （谦逊=H，平和=H，开明=O） 或是H2O （即水的化学表达式）。
它们已经成为我的人生指导原则。 现在，每当我感到压抑， 不满，焦虑，或是无所适从的时候， 我就会问问自己： 水会怎么做？
这个简单而有力的问题 是受一本书的启发， 一本古籍，远在比特币、科技金融 和数字技术出现前就诞生了， 却使我的生活变得更美好。 尝试一下，看看它 对你将有什么样的影响。 我将洗耳恭听。