The Art of Living: Glossary

A Modern Reading of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching

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Adapting to and Shaping a situation to take full advantage of the current conditions and to use the possibilities of the situation to succeed by fulfilling Purpose. This requires Agility and Foreknowledge.


為 (wéi) means act, to do; change; make; try; practice.

Action — Action without Coercion

A Correlative Pair; see Action and Action without Coercion.

Action without Coercion

Doing things non-coercively and effectively in accordance with Purpose (Ames & Hall). Promoted solely in the expectation of tangible benefits purely on the grounds of its effectiveness … it is by refraining from action that we can best bring about what we desire (Jullien).


The capacity, condition, or state of acting or of having an impact.


The ability to adapt to and influence situations more rapidly than Competition including timely break out of successful — but non-sustainable — patterns.


An ongoing, dynamic achievement that requires constant monitoring and adjustment (Ames & Hall).

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Succeeding together with your Stakeholders — maximising outcomes while minimsing efforts.


The forces acting on the environment including patterns of days, nights, weather, seasons and human actions (Wardley).


The practice of forcing to act in an involuntary manner by use of threats or force.


  1. Conditions where an Organisation strives to gain advantage or Control over others using a constraint, i.e. a limitation of a resource or time or money or people.
  2. One or several Competitors.


An Organisation that desires the same as your Organisation.


Use Setup to create suitable conditions for an advantageous Momentum to develop as a consequence. This condition-consequence approach is complementary to the classic Western ends (objectives) — ways (courses of actions) — means (resources) approach to Strategy (Echevarria) which, although valuable for initial planning, is far from optimal in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous Environments with Stakeholders having different, potentially conflicting Purposes. For an outcome to be realised effectively, it follows as a consequence of a process which transforms a situation rather than a goal that leads to actions. Unlike the ends–ways–means approach which involves a predetermined plan (course of actions) that is liable to disintegrate when put into practice facing stakeholders, the condition-consequence approach is designed to leave as little room for chance as possible. This is done by identifying favourable factors before they have developed and creating suitable conditions in advance, and, in this way enable evolution in a suitable direction. There are three distinct advantages of the condition-consequence approach to Strategy compared to the traditional end-means-ways approach when circumstances (Landscape, Climate, Stakeholders, Organisation, . . . ) change as they invariably will in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous Environment (Yuen):

  1. It helps avoid constant re-planning when there is too big a difference between reality and plan.
  2. It helps avoid being locked into bringing about one single, predetermined outcome.


The Organisation’s Purpose and Landscape.


The power or authority to regulate, restrain, verify, (usually against some standard) direct or Command. Comes from medieval Latin contrarotulus, a “counter roll” or checklist (contra, against plus rotulus, list) (Boyd).

Correlative Pair

A pair of opposite and complementary aspects used to understand relations, transcend, move beyond or integrate apparent paradoxes or trade-offs, or, embrace clashing, instructive perspectives, e.g. order — chaos, Strength — Weakness, courage — fear, Expected — Surprise, Devious — Direct, attack — defence, Resilient — Fragile, alignment — autonomy.

  • Shaping for Expected — Surprise and Devious — Direct


欲 (yù) means desire, want, long for; intend.
See also Desire — Desire without Object and Desire without Object.

Desire — Desire without Object

A Correlative Pair; see Desire and Desire without Object.
Sections: 1, 3, 12, 15, 19, 24, 29, 30, 31, 35, 37, 44, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 53, 57, 59, 61, 62, 64, 66, 72, 73, 75, 77

Desire without Object

A Desire shaped not by a desire to own, to control or to consume, but by a desire simply to celebrate and to enjoy; objectless desire (Ames & Hall).


(迂) means tortuous, circuitous, crooked, roundabout, hidden. See also Direct and Devious — Direct.

Devious — Direct

A Correlative Pair used in Strategy Deployment and Engagement together with Shaping for inverting time and space, e.g. to make what looks like a time-saving shortcut ending up taking more time to follow than the standard route, or to create the perception that it is so; to make the adverse advantageous by giving the difficulty to Opposition; to offer advantages to confound Opposition’s perception of what is difficult and easy.


Zhí (直) means direct, straight, plain. See also Devious and Devious — Direct.


Ways of operating, communicating and organising that apply irrespective of Landscape and Climate, i.e. approaches which can be applied regardless of Context (Wardley).


The most valuable ways of getting the most from our personal lives as members of a thriving community in relation to a common Purpose; a characterisation of the most valuable relationship between leader and followers including mutual compassion, mutual respect, involvement and participatory agency (Ames & Hall); maximum outcomes, through suitable actions, decisions and behaviours in order to fulfil a specific Purpose (“doing the right things”), while minimising effort (“doing things right”).


Emptiness brings usefulness, e.g. the emptiness of a pot. Emptiness gives things and thoughts room to move. See also Empty — Full and Full.

Empty — Full

A Correlative Pair; see also Strength — Weakness.


A vital field that the universe and its phenomena are perturbations that emerge out of and fold back into (Ames & Hall).


A collision of Organisations where each Organisation aims to fulfil their Purpose; a conflict where two Organisations desire the same thing;
zhàn (戰) means specific engagement, military action, battle;
zhēng (争) means conflict, dispute, fight;
bīng (兵) means competition, war, weapon, soldier, force.


The Context and how it is changing (Wardley).


The totality of objects and events in the world.


Zhèng (正) means expected, correct, direct, ordinary, orthodox, proper, right, straight, straightforward, true. See also Expected — Surprise and Surprise.

Expected — Surprise

A Correlative Pair signifying contrasting types of Engagements used in combination in order to succeed. In Business, start with delivering the Expected, e.g. expected features, quality and performance; then positively Surprise your customers in order to secure delight and loyalty, just like Apple pursuits the “Wow” and “desire to use”. Users decide what is Expected and Surprising and this can change over time, e.g. based on Components’ Movement and Competitions’ moves.


情 (qíng) means feeling, emotion; passion; situation.

Feeling — Unmediated Feeling

A Correlative Pair; see Feeling and Unmediated Feeling.


Knowledge about the Environment for estimating Momentum to secure the Organisation’s safety and success. It is gained through careful observation and intelligence operations. It is a recognition of relevant patterns and relations understood holistically as part of a System in the light of their Environment. It is knowledge with uncertainty since it is an interpretation of the situation.


The opposite of having a Setup; without a discernible Setup, or, a perceived lack of Setup, e.g. by means of a hidden Setup; being more adaptable and ready to seize opportunities.

Formless — Setup

A Correlative Pair; see Formless and Setup.


See also Empty and Empty — Full.


An emergent sense of order that begins from the coordination of concrete details, maximises diversity and avoids sameness; the quality of the combination at any one moment created by effectively correlating and contextualising the available events or entities (Ames).

Heart and Mind

心 (xīn) means heart; mind, intelligence; soul, spirit.


Knowledge dependent upon the assumption that there is an unchanging reality behind appearance. Assumptions include rules of thumb, habits of mind and action, established customs, fixed standards, received methods, stipulated concepts and categories, commandments, principles, laws of nature, conventions. Having stored past experience and organised it in terms of fixed standards or principles, we then recall, anticipate, and participate in a world patterned by these discriminations (Ames & Hall).

Knowledge — Unprincipled Knowledge

A Correlative Pair; see Knowledge and Unprincipled Knowledge.


Naming with fixed references is a way of making distinctions in order to function effectively that can distort the way in which we understand the world by institutionalising and enforce an overly static vision of the world, and in doing so, deprive both language and life of their creative possibilities (Ames & Hall).

Labeling — Labeling without Fixed Reference

A Correlative Pair, see Labelling and Labelling without Fixed Reference.

Labeling without Fixed Reference

A way of labelling or naming without assigning fixed references. It is dependent upon an awareness of the indeterminate aspects of things. The ongoing shaping of experiences requires a degree of imagination and creative projection that does not reference the world as it is, but anticipates what it might become. Labeling or naming that does not arrest or control; labeling or naming that appreciates rather than depreciates a situation (Ames & Hall).


A description of the Environment including positions, distances, space and obstacles (Wardley).

Lao Tzu

Born 6th century BC, died 6th century BC. Chinese sage, philosopher and writer. Lao Tzu (“Old Master”, Lǎozǐ 老子) is traditionally credited as the author of Tao Te Ching.


A set of actions, decisions, choices and Gameplays based on Purpose, Landscape, Climate, Doctrine and Capabilities — guided by knowledge, trust, compassion, courage and fairness (Sun Tzu). Leadership is beyond what managers or people in formal leader roles do: it is a service provided by — potentially all — people in the Organisation.

Military Strategy

See Strategy.


The quantity of motion of a body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity in a particular direction.


A group of people with a particular Purpose and Doctrine.


A higher meaning or reason that keeps people united, supporting each other without fear through success and failure (Sun Tzu). 道 (dào) is etymologically constructed out of the elements “foot” hence “to pass over”, “to go over” and “head” (hair and eye together), therefore “foremost” carrying the meaning “to lead” in the sense of to give direction, so combined, “to give direction to your steps”, “to give direction to life”, hence “purpose”, or even, “ultimate purpose”.


The characteristics of a System capable of coping with a wide variety of physical extremes with the entire System rapidly adapting to a changing Environment in order to exist (Holling).


Organisation of oneself or itself, often in relation to Purpose. Spontaneity thus conceived entails both self-creativity and co-creativity. Spontaneous social and political order emerges under non-coercive actions by effective leaders (Ames & Hall).


The ability to sense things as they are — mirroring — without upsetting our hearts and minds — helping us to promote the flourishing of our world (Ames & Hall). See also Unprincipled Knowledge.


Going about your business or serve stakeholders in fulfilling purpose.

Serve — Serve without Interfering

A Correlative Pair; see Serve and Serve without Interfering.

Serve without Interfering

Going about your business serving stakeholders — without interference and without coercion.


The arrangement of an Organisation or a part of an Organisation and the Capabilities and behaviours of its people. A setup can be

  • invisible: consisting of unobservable factors, e.g. informal networks.


See Yin.


Influencing Competition in order to erode their Resilience by hiding intentions, creating false impressions, and, unsettling Competition to discover a potential advantage, encourage its impetus, push it to the extreme to get them into a weak position (or get them to get into a weak position by themselves) before exploiting the impetus when it reaches the tipping point, i.e. creating the conditions for success before Engagement starts (Schön).


A person or Organisation who can affect or is affected by the fulfilment of the Organisation’s Purpose, e.g. a customer of products and services that the Organisation provides, people in the Organisation, suppliers and partners to the Organisation, owners and other financiers of the Organisation, trade associations, standardisation bodies, trade unions, people and communities in the society where the Organisation operates, and, other Organisations including Competitors (Freeman).


Governed by Sun Tzu’s five fundamental factors: Purpose, Landscape, Climate, Doctrine and Leadership.

Strategy Deployment

Making Strategy happen by everyone everywhere in the Organisation taking initiatives, decisions and actions in a Harmonised direction.

  1. Manoeuvre. Gain positional advantage.
  2. Surprise. Move in unexpected ways using Gameplays.
  3. Focus. Concentrate Momentum to achieve success and ensure secondary efforts receive only as much Momentum as needed.
  4. Initiative. Secure higher tempo or more variety in the rhythm of the OODA Loop than Competition
  5. Security. Ensure that the Organisation is well-protected.
  6. Simplicity. Simplify Gameplays and communications.
  7. Unity. Place the direction of Strategy and Engagement under a single team to avoid conflicting interests

Strategy Development

Preparing Strategy by making choices for a Harmonised direction for the Organisation based on regular assessments of Stakeholders’ Needs and the Organisation’s Purpose (Schön).


A condition of high value in a sense beyond the physical, e.g. a well-defended position, or, a poorly defended position where the Organisation has an influential Purpose and skilled Leadership.

Strength — Weakness

A Correlative Pair used in Strategy Deployment and Engagement together with Setup and Shaping, e.g. causing Competition to see our Strengths as Weaknesses and our Weaknesses as Strengths, converting Competition’s Strengths into Weaknesses, being fully aware of Competition’s Weaknesses and using this to strengthen our own Setup. See also Strength and Weakness.


爭 (zhēng) means strive for, vie for; argue, debate, dispute; fight; contend

Striving — Striving without Competing

A Correlative Pair; see Striving and Striving without Competing.

Striving without Competing

無爭 (wúzhēng) means striving without competing.


See Yang.

Sun Tzu

Born c.544 BC, died c.496 BC. Chinese general, military strategist, writer and philosopher. Sun Tzu (“Master Sun”, Sūn Zǐ, 孫子) is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War.


(奇) means crafty, extraordinary, indirect, oblique, odd, rare, strange, surprise, unique, unorthodox, weird, wonderful. See also Expected and Expected — Surprise.


A regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole. A whole which is defined by its function in a larger system of which it’s a part. Every system is contained in a larger system. Its role or function in that system or the service it provides is what defines it. For a system to perform its function it has essential parts. A system is not the sum of its parts, it is the product of their interactions (Ackoff, Meadows).


Following Henricks:


A combination of tradition, religion, philosophy and practical wisdom for living Effectively in Harmony with Ultimate Purpose — avoiding coercion; see also Wu-Forms.

Tao Te Ching

A Chinese classic text (Dàodé Jīng 道德經) dating from the 6th century BC attributed to the Chinese sage and philosopher Lao Tzu. It is a fundamental text for both philosophical and religious Taoism. It also strongly influenced other schools of Chinese philosophy and religion, including Legalism, Confucianism, and Buddhism.


See Taoism and Effectiveness.

The Art of War

An ancient Chinese military treatise (“Military Methods”, bīngfǎ, 兵法) dating from the 5th century BC. The work, attributed to the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, is composed of 13 chapters. Each chapter is devoted to an aspect of warfare and how it applies to military Strategy and tactics.

The Art of Strategy

A modern reading of The Art of War and how it applies to business, conflicts and Strategy in general (Schön).

Thinking and Feeling

Using your Heart and Mind to make sense of the universe.

Thinking and Feeling — Unmediated Thinking and Feeling

A Correlative Pair; see Thinking and Feeling, Unmediated Thinking and Feeling and Heart and Mind.

Ultimate Purpose

See Purpose.

Unmediated Feeling

無情 (wúqíng) means unmediated feeling; pitiless, ruthless, merciless, heartless.

Unmediated Thinking and Feeling

無心 (wúxīn) means unmediated thinking and feeling; unintentionally; innocence.

Unprincipled Knowledge

Knowledge without the assumption that there is an unchanging reality behind appearance, i.e. knowledge without fixed principles, categories and labels. The acceptance of the world on its own terms without recourse to rules of discrimination that separate one sort of thing from another. This type of knowledge gives the ability to mirror the world at each moment in a way that is undetermined by the shape of a world that has passed away, or by anticipations of a world yet to come (Ames & Hall).


Water is not fixed in any definite aspect, never immobilised in any particular place. It is the least thinglike of things — the most alive, the most alert … The Chinese tradition expresses admiration for the continuous flow that so resembles the great process of the world, the source of which is inexhaustible … since its course never stops proceeding, water represents effectiveness … The uninterrupted flow of variance, so well illustrated by the course of flowing water, is regarded as constituting the very course of reality (Jullien).


(虛) means weakness, dispersed, disorderly, empty, energy exhaustion, exhausted, fearful, few, hollow, hungry, insubstantial, unprepared, vulnerable. See also Strength and Strength — Weakness.


Behaviours that seek to optimise relationships through collaborative actions that, in the absence of coercion, enable one to make the most of any situation.

  • Desire without Object, 無欲 (wúyù)
  • Labelling without Fixed References, 無名 (wúmíng)
  • Serving without Interfering, 無事(wúshí)
  • Striving without Competing, 無爭 (wúzhēng)
  • Unmediated Feeling, 無情 (wúqíng)
  • Unmediated Thinking and Feeling, 無心 (wúxīn)
  • Unprincipled Knowledge, 無知 (wúzhī)


Yáng (陽) means positive, active, male; sun; open, overt; originally: sunny side (of a mountain). Characterised as fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, and active. Associated with fire, sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime. See also Yin and Yin — Yang.


Yīn (陰) means negative, passive, female; moon; covert, concealed, hidden; negative; originally: shady side (of a mountain). Characterised as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet and passive. Associated with water, earth, the moon, femininity and night time. See also Yang and Yin — Yang.

Yin — Yang

A fundamental Correlative Pair consisting of two opposing forces into which Energy divides and whose fusion in physical matter brings the world into being; every phenomenon, every process, is viewed as a particular blend of these two forces. Since yin — yang was originally derived from observations of nature, they offer a way of describing the interactions of natural physical forces. Yin — yang can be thought of as complementary forces that interact to form a dynamic System in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts. Because of this, yin — yang can also deal with biological Systems like the human body and social Systems like Organisations and Engagements between Organisations like war and business. See also Yang and Yin.

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The Art of Living: All Parts

Contents: A very short summary of each part
Introduction: How to make life more meaningful

Written by

Executive and strategist who has successfully developed and deployed strategy for over 20 years in small, medium and large organizations.

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