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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The power and wisdom of water

No man ever steps in the same river twice,
for it's not the same river and he's not the same man”.

Taoist saying

The symbolism of water has a universal undertone of purity and fertility. Symbolically, water is often viewed as the source of life itself as you can see in countless creation myths in which life emerges from primordial waters. About seventy percent of our bodies is water and the same amount of the earth is covered by water. Water has been the cause of many wars and too many human tragedies, whether it be the recent floods in Sri Lanka, Brazil, and Australia, the tsunami in Japan, or the numerous people ailing and dying due to a lack of clean drinking water. According to a BBC report of March 2011 only one in five people in the Democratic Republic of Congo have access to drinking water.
In Taoist tradition, water is considered an aspect of wisdom –water takes on the form in which it is held and it moves in the path of least resistance. As those familiar with Chinese art and philosophy know all too well, water is the symbol of the Tao. It is fluid, nurturing, ministering to all, yet possesses great strength, able to cut through the hardest rock. The Grand Canyon was carved by the Colorado River, drop by drop.

”Nothing on earth
Is more gentle and yielding than water,
Yet nothing is stronger.
When it confronts a wall of stone
Gentleness overcomes hardness
The power of water prevails”.

Tao 78

The ever-observant ancient Greeks understood the power of transition that water holds. From liquid, to solid, to vapor - water is the absolute symbol for metamorphosis. Everywhere around the globe, water is a valuable commodity. As water is essential to our very existence, it is no wonder that the symbolism of water is so far-reaching, profoundly deep and found in all civilizations.

I am currently based in Minneapolis, where the beloved Mississippi River and water power and water management techniques have always played an important role in everyday life. I am also Dutch - you know those people who built dams (The Delta Works) to prevent another major flood after the disaster of 1953 in which more than 1800 people drowned, 72.000 houses were lost, and in which thousands of horses, cows, and pigs suffered. It took many years before farmers could again use their lands, because the salty sea water that flooded our lands ruined the farmland. The Dutch are world known for insights and techniques in dam building, our port Rotterdam and much of our economy is dependent  on water, and our future King, Prince Willem-Alexander is known to be specialized in water management.
But enough about the Dutch and their relationship with water. There are different visions on water in the twenty-first century and too many people around the world have no access to clean water or adequate sanitation. Millions of people - many of them children - die each year of water-related diseases that could easily be cured. Water resources are in danger of drying up thereby endangering food production and sustainable livelihoods. Half of our wetlands were destroyed in the last century and half of the world's rivers are polluted – their ecosystems dead before they reach the sea. So what’s all this talk about water on a blog on Change, Leadership, and Personal Development? First, I would be thrilled if your leadership inspires wise usage of this precious and crucial resource, in your company and at home.  Second, water relates to management and leadership. How to translate the characteristics of water to effectiveness, inspirational leadership and resilience? Water turned managerial – here we go:
è  “No man ever steps in the same river twice…”, likewise, no situation is ever the same as any situation before or after. Every person, challenge, situation, target is unique. Look at them with new eyes, from a different perspective, see and work with polarities. 

è  “… taking on the form in which it is held”, demonstrating a tremendous amount of flexibility that many of us lack and, worse, we try to hide this lack by covering up our weaknesses and mistakes rather than surrounding us with people who complement us and owning up to decisions or actions turned bad. We are all limited and fallible, never able to attain the qualities and wisdom of water, but we can sure get closer by increasing our flexibility.

è  Accomplishing amazing results like the Grand Canyon, “drop by drop” or accomplishing results by rushing from one new invention, marketing tool, and deadline to another no matter what it takes from us and others? It depends on your business, the market, the economy, and more, but don’t just assume that invention upon invention and change upon change is the way to deal with the 21st. century.

è  “The path of least resistance” or going through thick walls and pushing and forcing, ignoring signs of potentially information laden resistance?

I hope this post contains nothing new for you.

1 comment:

  1. There is always new inspiration in the wisdom of someone else.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Rian Peeperkorn