Several years have passed. Michael has prospered in Los Angeles by heading up the corporation's information systems department. George has traveled west for a reunion with his protege.

George Hello, Michael. Gee, it's great to see you. How long has it been? Five years already?
Michael Almost six. This sunshine really agrees with me. Just look at this office!
George Nice. When I heard about your promotion, I wondered what sort of splendor you'd insist on. Nice view of the bay.
Michael Nothing like progress. Hey, I've got myself a sailboat. Now I go out and "flow" every weekend. And try to escape the headaches that success has brought.
George Do you get headaches frequently?
Michael Oh, from time to time. It varies with the pressures around here. I like to run a very responsive department, and sometimes I promise to deliver projects too soon. We've always got rush work to be done.
George Are you taking anything for the pain?
Michael Mostly aspirin, valium, and sailing.
George Do they work?
Michael No, but I think I should be doing something. Hey, why are we talking about my problems? Let me tell you about my success.
George To me they sound like the same thing. Do you have that copy of the Tao Te Ching I sent you around anywhere? I think you'll find some nice advice in it.
Michael Yea, it's down there. Look, George, I hope you didn't come all the way out here to read to me from that stuff again. Come on. Give me a break.
George Ease up, Mike. I'm not here to scold you for not following the Tao. But, the book looks like you haven't opened it. Here's what I wanted you to hear:

It is not wise to rush about.
Controlling the breath causes strain.

If too much energy is used, exhaustion follows.
This is not the way of the Tao.

Whatever is contrary to Tao will not last long.
Michael OK, OK. I know all about stress. That's why I got the boat. And don't give me that crap about not striving or achieving, because I certainly couldn't have afforded the boat without accomplishing something. So you see, there is some harmony in my life. Through achievement, I can better enjoy my leisure.
George When you're out for a weekend sail, do you ever have tension or a headache?
Michael Well . . . yes. But, that's just a carryover from the work environment.
George Which means what, exactly? Are you blaming your stress on something else?
Michael Sure. Work is tough. I've got an endless set of demands, deadlines to meet, political battles to fight, and keeping up with the technology is a major challenge. But I've done it! I'm successful! George, don't tell me I'm not entitled to a little headache now and then.
George I won't belittle your success, but I think you're wrong to blame "the work" for your stress.
Michael You mean it's all in my head?
George Where else could it be? Yes, this notion of getting ahead is all in your head too. You seem to think that this idea of "work without doing" is a big joke. Let me ask you this. Where is your path to success leading you.
Michael Well, I would never have gotten into the systems area at all without a lot of extra self-motivated studying. When I went into applications development, I thought there was a lot I could do to turn the area around

No one else seemed aggressive enough or smart enough to do it, so I just pushed my way in. I became director after twelve months and then moved up to Systems VP three years later.
George Have you ever felt like not advancing rapidly?
Michael No. I get too restless being in one place too long. Besides, if I keep moving, I'11 keep getting those nice salary increases, bonuses, travel, and expense accounts, and a bigger company car. Why stay put?
George To be restless is to lose one's control. (26)
Michael Bullshit! I control more people, larger budgets, and a state-of-the-art data processing shop. I sail when I want, and I read what I want. And I don't want to hear any more about the Tao Te Ching.
George You're a different person than the one I knew six years ago. You don't really control anything:

The world is ruled by
Letting things take their course.

It cannot be ruled by interfering.
Michael I suppose you're going to tell me to let the analysts and programmers do their own thing.
George Have you tried it?
Michael Don't be silly.
George Why not? Your seriousness has only brought you wealth, headaches, and a sailboat. What about yourself? Do you know who you are?

Fame or self: Which matters more?
Self or wealth: Which is more precious?
Gain or loss: Which is more painful?

He who is attached to things will suffer much.
He who saves will suffer heavy loss.
A contented man is never disappointed.

He who knows when to stop
Does not find himself in trouble.
He will stay forever safe.
Michael OK. I'll get rid of everything and become a Buddhist monk. Would that make you happy? My God, you make it sound like I've committed some kind of crime!
George Don't get rid of anything. That's as foolish as acquiring it in the first place. It's interfering too. What I'm asking is that you get off the merry-go-round and see where you really are right now.
Michael Well, I'm tired of these headaches. But I like the boat . . . No, I don't like the boat. In fact, I think I hate my boat because it's so much like work. You know, I paid $750 for an alarm system just so nobody would steal it.
George Maybe you had what you needed before you bought the boat:

Better stop short than fill to the brim.

Over sharpen the blade,
And the edge will soon blunt.

Amass a store of gold and jade,
And no one can protect it.

Claim wealth and titles,
And disaster will follow.
Michael That's a real cheerful book you've got there.
George If you hate your boat because it's like work, should I assume that you hate work too?
Michael Did I say that? No, I like my job. What else should I be doing now? We've really done a lot for the company, and grown a lot. But, yes, something's definitely missing. It doesn't feel right.
George Now you're making progress. You're listening to your feelings. What are they telling you?
Michael Well, I can see that this striving for success has no end to it. Even if I get to be the president of the company, I won't be satisfied because there's more to do. And if VP of information systems is enough to produce severe tension headaches, just think what the CEO's job will do.
George When was the last time you did something just for the sake of doing it, without any thought of the recognition it would bring?
Michael I worked on a flow chart about five years ago for an entire weekend. I didn't have to do it, but I just got interested in solving the problem. I did it for me.
George What else have you done for you? And don't tell me about sailing.
Michael I can't say. Maybe nothing. Everything needs to be done because someone else wants it or because it's going to score some points for us. But, I guess what I'm feeling right now is that too much success is not an advantage.
George Too much success is not an advantage.

Do not tinkle like jade
Or clatter like stone chimes.

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