Michael Oh hi George. God, I had a hell of a morning. No time to flow with the Tao today. I've got a real mess to clean up with Carol in Marketing. She was bringing this guy in for an equipment demonstration, and he went away very unimpressed, I'm afraid.

The stuff wasn't even set up when they arrived, and my technicians were a little less than courteous about the interruption. Carol was really burned. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle her?
George Nothing specific. I've had no problems with anyone in Marketing since I've been here. What do you think started it all?
Michael Well, I wasn't really sure she was coming over. The last time one of her clients was in town they never made it over. They must have hit it off too well at lunch.

Anyway, this time she shows up early, and I took Maria and Al off the 470s prototype to set up the 5500 for Carol. I can understand why Al was upset; so was I! Al's problem is saying what's on his mind in front of outsiders. He's OK as long as it's just "family," but now Carol thinks we've got a bunch of idiots working in our shop.
George I don't think that's the case.
Michael What gets me is that we're not in sales or marketing, but everyone feels free to have us demonstrate the equipment just because we've got some units handy. Maybe the sales people ought to do it themselves, although most of them can't even turn the equipment on.
George It sounds like you have a problem. Have you given any thought to the long term effects of a major conflict with Marketing?
Michael The long term? Listen, George, it's no time to worry about draining the swamp when you're up to your butt in alligators. How's that for a natural metaphor?

Seriously, I have to admit that I left most of my respect for the long run back in the classroom. The brush fires just have to be put out before the major conservation effort can begin. Hey, I'm really into these metaphors, aren't I?
George Well, as long as you brought up fires, let me show you what the Tao says about water:

The highest good is like water.

Water gives life to the ten thousand things
And does not strive.

It flows in places that men reject
And so is like the Tao.
Michael The ten thousand what?
George Just a lot of things, Mike. The Chinese aren't that precise about big numbers.
Michael OK, then. Let's see if I understand. Water can put out fires, of course, but the water has to be carried to the fire before it can douse the flames. That must be what managers are, water carriers. Oh hell, I don't think that makes any sense. Ugh, this rubber chicken is giving me indigestion. How's your salad?
George Fine, thanks. Maybe we can help you understand water a little more:

Under heaven nothing is more
Soft and yielding than water.

Yet for attacking the solid and strong,
Nothing is better; It has no equal.

The weak can overcome the strong;
The supple can overcome the stiff.

The reason I asked about the long run is that water works slowly - slowly but effectively. Do you understand?
Michael I understand that, but I don't understand how my understanding will get Carol Thompson to understand. George, this is likely to all hit the fan by Monday. Can't you find something in there that works a little faster. Just a second, George. Jack! Could I have another beer over here? Thanks.
George Let me try again with the water. Here, listen carefully:

Why is the sea king of a hundred streams?
Because it lies below them.
Therefore it is the king of a hundred streams.

If the sage would guide the people,
He must serve with humility.
If he would lead them, he must follow behind.
Michael What you're saying is that I should ease up and not be so aggressive in situations like this, that I should be the water rather than using the water to fight fires.
George Well, actually you're saying that, not me. I would agree with your interpretation, however.
Michael So when people come in conflict with one another, they should back off and "flow" with the situation rather than combating it; Right? Well suppose I back off and Carol goes for the throat. Where am I then? Your Tao philosophy certainly makes you vulnerable unless everyone plays by the same rules.
George Maybe she would find it difficult to be aggressive if you were more passive.
Michael You mean like a new green limb on a tree being harder to cut while the old brittle limbs cut much easier? I suppose that's in the book too.
George The brittle is easily shattered;
The small is easily scattered.
Michael Heavy, heavy. Go on.
George OK. See if you like this:

A man is born gentle and weak.
At his death he is hard and stiff.

Green plants are tender and filled with sap.
At their death they are withered and dry.

The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.
Michael What a great idea! Carol Thompson, have I got a surprise for you - an apology. I never thought about it before, but if I agree with everything she says, she'll be totally disarmed. If she keeps after me she'll just punch herself out, and everyone will think she's a barracuda. Not bad, George. That's a neat trick. What else can you tell me?
George I'm not sure I've told you anything, Mike, except a little bit about water.
Michael Well, you've given me a new angle on this morning's crisis. I'd better get back now to see what else has blown up. How about getting together for a drink tomorrow after work. There's something else I'd like to get your advice on. Clancy's at five?
George Sounds fine. See you there.

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