What is at rest is easily managed.
What is not yet manifest is easy to prevent.
What is rooted is easy to nourish.
What is brittle is easy to break.
What is small is easy to scatter.
Put things into order before they exist.
Prevent trouble before it arises.
The giant pine tree grows from a tiny seedling.
A tower nine stories high starts with a single brick.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
By forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.
People usually fail when they are on the verge of success.
So give as much care at the end as at the beginning,
and there will be no failure.
The Master takes action
by letting things take their course.
He does not collect precious things;
he learns not to hold onto ideas.
He helps people find their true nature
but does not venture to lead them by the nose.
We are urged to lay solid foundations, to deal with potential problems before they arise and to have the patience to avoid rushing things to premature completion. Instant gratification and immediate results are very much of the focus of our fast-paced society. But the Tao Te Ching advises us to avoid rushing into action and instead to pay careful attention to each step of our journey, being sure not to rush or force things. The more we rush, the more mistakes we make and the more we grasp, the easier it is to crush the very thing we are trying to nurture.
Everything in life has its own flow, its own pace and speed. If we can tune into that and align ourselves with it, we might find that we can indeed achieve without undue exertion and find an effortlessness and ease in everything we do. We will instinctively know what to do and when to do it. This intelligence comes from a place far deeper than the surface-level of the mind; it comes from our connection to the Tao.