Some managers think they're the smart one and everyone else is stupid. They think they're the expert and everyone else is incompetent. With a boss like that, idiots ask questions and the guru explains.

But when the boss explains, people ask more questions, and questions become even more questions, and eventually, people ask about everything. Even if the boss really is a genius, it's impossible to know everything, and since they don't know everything, but people ask about everything, the only way forward is to fail.

If you're a boss like that and blame followers for failing, how does that make you a good leader? When you've failed and don't know you've failed, every mistake turns back on itself and creates more. They call you the meddling boss of a dead-end team.

That's why masters of the road ahead encourage us but don't do it for us, inspire us but don't explain. They reject belief, reject theory, prepare by staying still and empty. They don't criticize and they don't demean. 使 They set terms, establish facts, and let apprentices take it from there. They follow the road in ignorance, let facts speak for themselves.

Yao showed us how to transfer power over everything lit by the sun and moon. Shun showed us how to take responsibility for everything within the four frontiers. Yu showed us how to organize the north-east and fix everything from Jiuyang to Qiguai.


I started looking at this passage because it contains a term () that also appears in At the Mercy of Ants - Part 1 in Wenzi and chapter 5 of the Daodejing, and it turned out to complement the Wenzi passage remarkably well, almost a footnote that explains the exact process that takes the activist prince from power to irrelevance. In this passage, I've interpreted as failure, and I think it works quite well.

The passage is more accurately rendered as advice to the master as ruler or lord () who gives orders () to subordinates, staff and envoys (, and 使) who must get permission () from their superior ().

In my interpretation, it's about the fate of the manager, boss or master () who explains () to followers and apprentices ( and 使) who ask questions () of their leader ().

Since the second paragraph contains two double negatives () and two triple negatives () that don't work very well in English, to make them more readable, becomes "everything" instead of "there's nothing not".

The passage wraps up with lessons from culture heroes Yao, Shun and Yu. There aren't many helpful references to and in ctext, and it's possible that these three lines, and the Yu line in particular, reflect some esoteric teaching that's lost in time (or at least to me), but I'd rather think they say exactly what they seem to say about the author's idea of good leadership. Verbs and nouns get more specific line by line, so Yao rules over everything and transfers power to an unrelated successor, Shun is responsible for settled areas, and Yu controls and transforms the north-east. From this, I like to think that and are the names of geographic features of the nascent Xia dynasty, and not references to anything magical, though, of course, I could be wrong.


人 9 + 0
man; people; mankind; someone else
zhǔ zhù
丶 3 + 4
master, chief owner; host; lord
自 132 + 0
self, private, personal; from; Kangxi radical 132
日 72 + 8
wisdom, knowledge, intelligence
ér néng
而 126 + 0
and; and then; and yet; but; Kangxi radical 126
心 61 + 9
stupid, doltish, foolish
工 48 + 2
skillful, ingenious, clever
手 64 + 5
stupid, clumsy, crude; convention
ruò ré
艸 140 + 5
if, supposing, assuming; similar
止 77 + 2
this, these; in this case, then
刀 18 + 7
rule, law, regulation; grades
老 125 + 4
that which; he who; those who
qǐng qìng
言 149 + 8
ask, request; invite; please
yǐ xián
矢 111 + 2
particle of completed action
zhào zhāo
言 149 + 5
decree, proclaim; imperial decree
夕 36 + 3
much, many; more than, over
心 61 + 9
more and more, even more
qiě jū
一 1 + 4
moreover, also (post-subject); about to, will soon (pre-verb)
wú mó
火 86 + 8
negative, no, not; lack, have no
bù fǒu
一 1 + 3
no, not; un-; negative prefix
yě yí
乙 5 + 2
also; classical final particle of strong affirmation or identity
隹 172 + 9
although, even if
木 75 + 1
not yet; eighth earthly branch
zhī zhì
矢 111 + 3
know, perceive, comprehend
yǐ sì
人 9 + 3
by means of; thereby, therefore; consider as; in order to
yīng yìng
心 61 + 13
should, ought to, must
qí jī
八 12 + 6
his, her, its, their; that
dào dǎo
辵 162 + 9
path, road, street; method, way
囗 31 + 5
to become solid, solidify; strength
穴 116 + 10
poor, destitute, impoverished
火 86 + 5
do, handle, govern, act; be
shù shǔ
攴 66 + 11
number; several; count; fate
yú wū
方 70 + 4
in, at, on; interjection alas!
一 1 + 2
under, underneath, below; down; inferior; bring down
jiāng jiàng
寸 41 + 8
will, going to, future; general
hé hè
人 9 + 5
what, why, where, which, how
口 30 + 4
sovereign, monarch, ruler, chief, prince
丿 4 + 4
interrogative or exclamatory final particle
心 61 + 7
suffer, worry about; suffering
又 29 + 0
and, also, again, in addition
fǎn fàn
又 29 + 2
reverse, opposite, contrary, anti
shì tí
日 72 + 5
indeed, yes, right; to be; demonstrative pronoun, this, that
zhī zhū
丿 4 + 3
marks preceding phrase as modifier of following phrase; it, him her, them; go to
言 149 + 9
say, tell; call, name; be called
zhòng chóng
里 166 + 2
heavy, weighty; double
sāi sè
土 32 + 10
stop up, block, seal, cork; pass, frontier; fortress
子 39 + 3
exist, live, be; survive; remain
囗 31 + 8
nation, country, nation-state
攴 66 + 5
ancient, old; reason, because
yǒu yòu
月 74 + 2
have, own, possess; exist
囗 31 + 3
cause, reason; by; because (of)
zé zhài
貝 154 + 4
one's responsibility, duty
qù qū
厶 28 + 3
go away, leave, depart
心 61 + 9
think, speculate, plan, consider
yì yī
心 61 + 9
thought, idea, opinion; think
靑 174 + 8
quiet, still, motionless; gentle
虍 141 + 6
false, worthless; empty, hollow; 11th lunar mansion, determinative star β Aquarii (Sadalsuud)
dài dāi
彳 60 + 6
treat, entertain, receive; wait
人 9 + 4
cut down, subjugate, attack
yán yàn
言 149 + 0
words, speech; speak, say; Kangxi radical 149
duó duì
大 37 + 11
take by force, rob, snatch
shì zì
亅 6 + 7
affair, matter, business; to serve; accident, incident
目 109 + 8
supervise, oversee, direct
míng mìng
口 30 + 3
name, rank, title, position
shěn pán
宀 40 + 12
examine, investigate; judge
shí zhì
宀 40 + 11
real, true, solid, honest
宀 40 + 5
official, public servant
人 9 + 6
cause, send on a mission, order; envoy, messenger, ambassador
sī cí
口 30 + 2
take charge of, control, manage; officer
木 75 + 5
crab-apple tree; endure, bear
土 32 + 9
a legendary ancient emperor-sage
曰 73 + 0
say; Kangxi radical 73
又 29 + 2
extend; reach; come up to; and
日 72 + 0
sun; day; daytime
yuè rù
月 74 + 0
moon; month; Kangxi radical 74
戶 63 + 4
place, location; numerary adjunct
zhú kuò
火 86 + 13
candle, taper; to shine, illuminate
舛 136 + 6
legendary ruler, last of the Five Emperors
fú fù
月 74 + 4
clothes; wear, dress
囗 31 + 2
huāng huǎng
艸 140 + 6
wasteland, desert; uncultivated
夕 36 + 2
out, outside, external; foreign
禸 114 + 4
legendary hsia dynasty founder
zhì chí
水 85 + 5
govern, regulate, administer
qīng jīng
靑 174 + 0
blue, green; young; Kangxi radical 174
běi bèi
匕 21 + 3
north; northern; northward
huà huā
匕 21 + 2
change, convert, reform; -ize
jiǔ jiū
乙 5 + 1
阜 170 + 9
the active, male principle in Chinese philosophy (yang); light; sun
qí jī
大 37 + 5
strange, unusual, uncanny, occult
心 61 + 5
strange, unusual, peculiar
阜 170 + 11
border, boundary, juncture