The Uncarved Block of Your Potential

cc image by Rubber Dragon on Flickr

cc image by Rubber Dragon on Flickr

Reflections on Chapter 37 of the Tao Te Ching:

Tao is non-action,
yet nothing remains undone.

When leaders follow the Tao,
the Ten Thousand Things are transformed.

When old habits arise,
I will press them into silence with the uncarved block
called Tao.

The simplicity of the uncarved block
will free old habits.

Without old habits,
everything under Heaven will be settled.

Pressing old habits into silence…

I think this is my favorite line in this chapter. I love that line. There is so much to our lives that is unconscious. In reading The Power of Habit, I read that around 40% of our decisions are made from habit. We don’t even think about them.

Habit is a good thing.

Our brain learns patterns. That’s it’s job. We learn the patterns of our everyday lives and the more things that we can create patterns for, the better we are able to spend our energy on things that are worthwhile. Driving to work, for example, doesn’t usually require a huge amount of brain power. Of course, you have to be alert enough, but we all probably find that we tune out a bit on the road. That’s a habit. Many things get done out of habit.

Practicing the Tao is not really about doing anything in particular. It is really more about not doing things than doing things.There is a trust that develops from really understanding this that is really wonderful. You can trust that things will happen and things will get done. That anxiety that you  have about things getting done just fades away when you can trust that things will happen.

I get anxious sometimes and get caught up in my story.

I just forget that it is all perfect. If there is something that is going on in my world that is causing some alarm, there is a lesson in it. It is there for a reason. If I hold that vision of trust and remember that everything will turn out beautifully, it does. I think that if we don’t trust, if we hold that tension in our bodies, that anxiety, we perceive the negative things we are afraid of.  This happens because of what we are focusing our energy on.

Have you ever met the person that thinks that everything is just going to be awful and they just always have that experience? There are people that just always have issues. Their attitude is just really negative so that is what they experience. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The uncarved block is like the potential.

It is like when Michaelangelo carved the Statue of David. He said that David was just there in the stone and he just chipped away what wasn’t him. It is the potential that is there.

Our habits inhibit that sometimes.  

The uncarved block (potential) comes out. You have to allow it to come through. You need to silence the old habits. Don’t listen to the old habits of who you are supposed to be, or what you are supposed to be doing or what career you are supposed to have. Don’t pay attention to those things that don’t make you sing. That is what I see here.

It’s the human potential.

It is what you are capable of! Your potential is so much greater than what you can even envision right now.  That is a big trip to do that, to stand big and stand tall and do what you are here to do!

We need to be leaders.

Good leaders don’t press people be a certain way.They get out of the way. We talked about this on the chapter on leadership. True leaders help people to rise to their potential. A true leader respects the greatness that is within you. You have this potential and what are you going to do with it?

When are you going to bring it?

They don’t do this in a judgemental way, but in a way of saying that you have this ability! Make it shine! Enjoy yourself. Have fun with it! Be who you really are. If someone truly believes that about you and you can see it, that is really powerful. That is what he means here in this chapter. When I was listening to The Power of Habit,  he was telling this story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. In the beginning, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not really excited about doing this thing with the bus boycott.

But he eventually signed on and became the leader of the whole movement. One of the things that was so powerful in his leadership is how he asked people to stand in a powerful way that they had never done before. He challenged them to carry themselves at a very high level. When they did, they loved him very much because he helped them to see their own potential. The potential was always there, but he helped them to see it and it was a very good thing. This is the beauty of great leadership and our destiny as human beings. We are born to love and support one another and it is up to us to move this forward. Every day.

What do you think? Have you met any great leaders who have inspired you? Tell us about it in the comments below!


  1. I’ve been fortunate to meet some great leaders in my lifetime. I’ve also met a good number of celebrated leaders. They’re not the same. The most effective guides tend to stay out of the lime-light, credit others for their accomplishments and have a calm, clear, humble nature about them. Old habits could be interpreted on a much broader level relating to human nature. Eliminating characteristics like arrogance, lust for power, self-importance and boastfulness from the mindset creates a totally different kind of following – and movement. It’s not what we see in the partisan sniping that’s ever-present with our so-called political leaders. Imagine how much more could be accomplished if belittling, power and perks were set aside for a cooperative approach that empowered the citizens.
    Nanette Levin recently posted…Marketing strategy blunders – nine easy tips to stop being broke in businessMy Profile

  2. I was looking for the like button on Nanette’s comments :-). To me a powerful leader is one who empowers people to be their best, to bring their best ideas and provides a safe place for them to have a voice. A good leader is also one who doesn’t ask the people who follow them to do anything they wouldn’t do and doesn’t force them to do things they believe to be anything but the right thing to do.

    We are sorely lacking in leaders today, well, political and religious leaders. There are some good leaders in business.

    Good post Amy. I strive everyday to be a good leader. Particularly in business it is essential because you create an environment of trust and loyalty and loyal employees are a priceless commodity.
    Julia Neiman recently posted…What Can Your Teen Do to Earn A Million Dollars?My Profile

    • We do definitely need more positive forms of leadership. I think the key is, like in many things, is to look within ourselves for the individual opportunities to express ourselves in ways that are respectful and empowering. Leadership is a way of life and not a one time event. It spans every day of our lives in every action we take.

  3. Pingback: 37 – Transformation

  4. Another thing I like about the uncarved block is not only its potential, but its acceptance. The uncarved block is as it is, and that’s ok. It is the great yin, the beginning point of all that potential. It’s the forgetting about perfect as you say – to accept what is, AND what can be.

  5. Great comments from people. Thank you.
    For me, the leader is the person who has the greatest awareness in the moment. So leadership is a role that is fluid and can be picked up by anyone who has the greatest awareness.
    Sherry Marshall recently posted…Chasing Happiness. The Buddhist Path of TherapyMy Profile

  6. Why do you use she in your quotes rather than he or us?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge