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King Wen's Teacher

 

Disciplines > WarfareThe Six Secret Teachings > 1.1 King Wen's Teacher

Teaching set  | Observed lessons | Discussion | See

 

Teaching set

Civil Secret Teachings 1.1 (1)

Observed lessons

  • A true man of worth reaches for ambitions. A common man looks only to ordinary affairs.
  • True men are drawn together by common interest in important affairs.
  • To lure a big fish, you need a big bait and a strong line. This may require significant commitment from you. Simple, glittering rewards only attract the small fry.
  • A sage ruler establishes ways that play to emotions. He shows humanity, virtue and righteousness by sharing, sparing, relieving and eliminating hardship. This is the way to create followers.

Discussion

This lesson introduces King Wen and his meeting with his teacher, the T'ai Kung, who uses the analogy of fishing to offer learning points.

'True men of worth' are of course the sort of person that a ruler should be. By talking in this way, the T'ai Kung immediately positions himself as an expert coach. The king, having sufficient wisdom (and being directed by his scribe), accepts this relationship.

The point about requiring big bait and a strong line to catch big fish is notable in the importance is places on commitment. If you are cautious or offer only simple bait, the big fish will detect your lack of commitment and either ignore you or take advantage of your weakness.

This introduction includes a direct admonishment to the king to be kind to his people, pointing out how followership is thus created. Here is a lesson that many of today's leaders still need to learn. It seems that there is a base human nature towards using punishment and reward when they seek to motivate others. It requires more skill to use kindness that leads people to truly want to do as you ask. In this way, you need seldom have need to command.

See also

Leadership

 

Sawyer, R.D. (1993). The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, Basic Books

 

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