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you must place yourself below them.
If you want to lead the people,
you must learn how to follow them...
~Tao Te Ching, 66
It's unlikely that Lao-tzu, the author of Tao, had Twitter on his mind when he penned these words more than 2,000 years ago, but his writings remain remarkably prescient. In my re-reading of the Tao, I came across several passages that are no less relevant in today's world of Twitter. Here are the top 5 lessons I've gleaned from the Tao and their relevance to Twitter:
1. Imagine the Possibilities
The Tao is like a well:
used but never used up.
It is like the eternal void:
filled with infinite possibilities
~Tao Te Ching, 4
Anyone who's spent time on Twitter can attest to this. We've all felt exhilirated, overwhelmed, even manic, at the boundless possibilities of Twitter once we "get it". What possibilities for your business or enterprise do you dare to imagine?
2. Know When Enough is Enough
Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.
~Tao Te Ching, 9
Quite simply, we need to know when enough is enough. When we've self-promoted enough. When we've tweeted enough. When we've attracted enough followers. Do you know when you've had or done enough?
3. Build Your Following One Tweet At A Time
He who stands on tiptoe
doesn't stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
doesn't go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light....
If you want to accord with the Tao,
just do your job, then let go.
~Tao Te Ching, 24
We all know stars in the universe of Twitter, but we've also seen meteoric falls out of twitterverse. Avoid schemes that promise you immediate surges in followers. Build a following tweet by tweet, day by day, and establish a solid following. Do your work, then stand back.
4. Do Unto Others....
Without opening your door,
you can open your heart to the world.
Without looking out your window,
You can see the essence of the Tao.
~Tao Te Ching, 47
As I write these words in the pre-dawn darkness of my office nestled among the California redwoods, I am receiving Direct Messages from all over the world--New York City, Finland, England. No, I'm not psychic. I'm on Twitter. Return the courtesy by responding promptly to Direct Messages and the world will show up at your doorstep.
5. Start Small, but Think Big
work without effort.
Think of the small as large
and the few as many.
Confront the difficult
while it is still easy;
accomplish the great task
by a series of small acts.
~Tao Te Ching, 63
Are you beginning to see what I mean about Lao-Tzu's prescience? From a series of small messages less than 140 characters in length, I have build a slow but steady following, nurtured ideas for blog posts, and have attracted new patients to my medical practice. Not through expensive advertising campaigns or glossy marketing campaigns or media blasts. I've built my tribe 140 characters at a time. Imagine what you can accomplish with a series of small acts--140 characters at a time....
Michael Lara, MD is a physician in private practice near San Francisco, California. He writes frequently about the intersection of medicine and technology.