A few months ago, I spent about 2 weeks in Japan with one of my business partners, Masa. We bought a winter lodge and were in the thick of looking at renovation plans, costs, contracts, etc. There was a lot to do and it was hard to start, let alone know where to start.
Masa and I have known each other for a long time and have worked together in a previous professional life. And even though we could say we know each other well, there is nothing like a long spell of busyness and boredom to really get to know someone better.
We spoke about our histories, our biases, our backgrounds, our likes, our dislikes and our philosophies around life. And being in close quarters, many of these manifested themselves right in front of us. We were discussing decision making in the context of the lodge as there are five partners (and our respective others) and how best to do it.
I said to Masa that for me it was simple. If the decision was about something that I knew nothing about nor I could contribute to, in other words, “I did not have a dog in that race,” I would happily ignore it. Masa laughed and I thought he was making fun of me as perhaps he views me as a control freak and in fact, I cannot really do what I was suggesting.
He had never heard this saying and found it very funny and we then spoke about a few others such as “not the sharpest tool in the shed”, “monkey mind”, “holding on to our guns”, “dig in our heels” and “two-cents worth”.
But we went back to our conversation and both agreed that many times, we act and behave as if we always have a “dog in that race.” We feel compelled to give our opinions, decisions, and thoughts about something that does not really concern us, let alone not really care about.
When you think about it, this is such a waste of time and emotion. Yet it is so hard at times to stop oneself from giving your “two-cents worth.” Is this because we fear irrelevance if we do not give a view or an opinion? Is this because we are desperately finding our place and roles?
Getting quite philosophical over a few more sakes, we agreed that our current practices are a waste of time and the best way to live this is like Lao Tzu’s view that we must be like water as:
“Water is fluid, soft and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard.”
How often do we “dig in our heels” about certain things and treat them as dogma. Why do we believe “holding on to our guns” is the best way to honour that conviction? We call ourselves strong as we are sticking to these principles but in reality, are we being stubborn and refuse to listen, learn and perhaps, compromise? Are we listening to reply and not to understand?
Too often perhaps? And we remembered that Bruce Lee had a similar quote and we looked it up:
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water my friend.”
As we embark into the rest of our lives, we all need to be like water. We need to be fluid, soft and yielding, knowing full well that water can flow, or it can crash. 水みたいに なりたい. Mizu mitai, ni naritai. Be like water.
Image: Naena Waterfall, Myoko-shi, courtesy of http://www.myokotourism.com