Peace is easily maintained;
Trouble is easily overcome before it starts.
The brittle is easily shattered;
The small is easily scattered.
Deal with it before it happens.
Set things in order before there is confusion.
A tree as great as a man’s embrace springs from a small shoot;
A terrace nine stories high begins with a pile of earth;
A journey of a thousand miles starts under one’s feet.
He who acts defeats his own purpose;
He who grasps loses.
The sage does no act, and so is not defeated.
He does not grasp and therefore does not lose.
People usually fail when they are on the verge of success.
So give as much care to the end as to the beginning;
Then there will be no failure.
Therefore the sage seeks freedom from desire.
He does not collect precious things.
He learns not to hold on to ideas.
He brings men back to what they have lost.
He helps the ten thousand things find their own nature,
But refrains from action.
There are 6 sections to this verse. Divided into two parts.
The first section has 3 parts, and all 3 are to do with the small beginning that will grow a great thing out of it.
The next 3 parts are dealing with the dangers which awaits those who are engrossed and get swallowed in action and desire, even when this action brings them close to success, he says that when you get completely engrossed in the path towards success, even when success is close – you are close to failure.
His advice is not to hold on to the initial idea and resisting the urge of turning it so soon into action.
Rather he suggest that instead of being completely stuck in action towards success –one should return to what he lost, and this is what he mentioned in the second part: ‘’ Deal with it before it happens.
Set things in order before there is confusion’’. In other words stay faithful to the thought or inspiration that arose in you right at the beginning.
The shoot before it came to be a tree, your vision before it got translated into action and to a journey towards success.
His message here is that everyman has got seeds or original inclination about his future – that might grow, but there are dangers and temptation on the way of from the first step to the journey of the thousand miles. And we are in a hurry to get reed of the initial baby idea and turn it quickly into action, and when in action usually there are pitfalls, so he suggest not to desert your initial primerly vision about anything, from all side there are pressures put upon us to stop dreaming and start turning it into deeds and get results as soon as possible, they say: that if you remain with visions for too long without turning them into measureable result – you are a dreamer, an impotent.
And here come LaoTzu and says the opposite: remain with your initial vision and wish about your life as long as possible until the universe will respond, but don’t be the one that will push your vision too soon by you forcing yourself, it will only bring defeat, the sage remain faithful to the first step in him and the rest will be taken care of, without you forcing it to happen.
You remain with your own shoot life will grow it into a tree not your efforts. And only then it would be the right kind of a tree.