30 August 2010

The Tao Of Law: Ten Statements

One book that I have turned to again and again to inform my leadership, practice of law and life is the Tao te Ching.

It’s a small book. And its title means, essentially, “The Book Of The Way.” About its author, Lao-tzu, little can be said because less than little is known. For more on him, the Wikipedia entry is not terrible. My favorite translation (by Stephen Mitchell) is about 81 pages all told.

The Tao te Ching is so short that it can fit in a tiny book that fits in your palm. But its affect on the world has been vast. As Stephen Mitchell tells us, “it is one of the wonders of the world.”

It can be read as a spiritual, practical, religious, philosophical, and/or ethical treatise on life. A series of pithy statements that are more than the sum of their words. Over the next ten weeks I will focus on ten practical statements of Lao-tzu that I think, applied properly, can immeasurably improve your leadership skills, practice of law and your quality of life for that matter.

These ten statements are (using Stephen Mitchell’s translation):

  1. “When you are content to simply be yourself, and don’t compete or compare, everyone will respect you.” (No. 8)
  2. “Do your work and step back, the only way to serenity.” (No. 9)
  3. “Do you have the patience to wait until the mud settles and the water is clear?” (No. 15)
  4. “The Master doesn’t talk, he acts.” (No. 17)
  5. “Express yourself completely, then keep quiet.” (No. 23)
  6. “He who tries to shine, dims his own light.” (No. 24)
  7. “Soft overcomes the hard.” (No. 36)
  8. “The more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be.” (No. 57)
  9. “The simplest pattern is the clearest.” (No. 65)
  10. “All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it power.” (No. 66)

Thanks for reading!

Richard Russeth


  1. I particularly love "The Tao that can be spoken is not the Tao."

  2. The simplest teaching is the shortest. The Tao sets the metric on that. The Kybalion (Western/Hermetic) sets a little more verbose measure for Western spirituality.

    Experts simplify.