We often assume—because this is what we’ve been taught—that to be influential we have to be strong and powerful like the tall oak in the forest. We have to assert ourselves convincingly and even bend other people to our will.
But there is another recipe for influence to be found in Chinese philosophical texts such as the Laozi, also known as the Dao de jing. It derives from appreciating the power of seeming weakness, understanding the pitfalls of differentiation, and seeing the world as interrelated. Rather than think that power comes from strength prevailing over strength, we can understand that true power comes from understanding the connections between disparate things, situations, and people. All of this comes from an understanding of what the Laozi calls the Dao, or “the Way.” The sapling prevails because it is close to the Way.
But a sapling, in the end, is just a sapling. It sways with the wind and grows without consciousness. We human beings can do far more. We are capable of not just understanding connections but also making new ones to generate entirely new realities and new worlds. Being the architects of these worlds is how we become powerful.