The Tao of Business Success


The Taoists had the right idea. Over 2000 years ago they lived by certain principles that are still relevant in today’s business world.

Five of those principles, from the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism (pronounced Dowism), can significantly influence your business and help you find the Tao (way) to your success in business.

These five essential Taoist principles are:


The Taoists believed you had to have faith to find your Tao (way) in life. And it’s the same in business. You need to develop faith in your product to succeed. If you believe in your product your enthusiasm will increase your chances of attracting customers’ attention, and of making a sale.

Faith can come from many sources. It could be from a gut feeling that your product is terrific. However that is not enough. You need to build on that feeling.

One effective way to do this is through research.

Find out everything you can about your product. Ask yourself ‘is it unique? If not why not? How does it compare with my opposition’s product? What are the similarities, the differences, the strengths, the weakness, how can I make it better, does it do what I say it will?’ Answer these questions and you are well on your way to developing a product that stands out from your competitors.

Get feedback from your existing customers. Conduct a survey on your product. Offer your customers an incentive (discount, prize etc.) to fill it in. Make sure it is easy to read and elicits information that reveals the good features and the features that need improving.


The dedication of the Taoists over 2000 years has ensured Taoism still plays an important role in Chinese culture. You need to be dedicated to survive and thrive in business. Hopefully it won’t take you over 2000 years!

The best way I have found to stay dedicated is to focus on the benefits of each business activity I need to do. This is great way of staying motivated when you are doing jobs you dislike, but are necessary in your business.

For me, it’s making cold calls. They are difficult, but an essential marketing technique for my speaking and training business. I have to remind myself, when I pick up the phone and cold call, that the benefit of this activity is to gain clients who will keep me in business. The negative aspect of cold calling is the rejections. If I focused on the rejections I would soon be out of business.

Try this technique. Ask yourself, ‘will this activity further my chances of achieving my business goals?’ If the answer is yes, do it. If the answer is no, then move on to the next job. This keeps you focused and helps avoid time wasting efforts.


The Taoists emphasised tranquillity, and practised meditation and exercises to obtain the Tao (way). In today’s hectic and stressful business world a tranquil mind is essential to avoid burnout, a common problem for small business owners. Often business owners work excessively long hours without taking adequate breaks. The end result is stress, disillusionment and a failed business. You need regular breaks in the form of meditation and exercise to survive in business.

Remember, it’s not the quantity of hours you put into a business, it’s the quality of the hours that determine how successful you become.

To achieve a tranquil mind you need to meditate for at least 10 minutes a day and exercise at least three times a week, 20-30 minutes per session. Make sure what you do is safe, you enjoy it and you get the meditative and exercise benefits needed.

Some of you may be thinking ‘I haven’t got time. There’s too much to do.’ Well, consider this. If you push yourself for too long, without adequate breaks, you will burn out and end up with major health problems. And then you will have all the time in the world to reflect. The choice is yours.


A major strength of Taoist philosophy was its ability to adapt to any circumstance. The Taoists were like any normal person. They had self doubts, faced difficult and traumatic situations but they adapted. They had to or they would not have survived the harsh conditions of ancient times. And it’s the same in business. You need to be able to adapt to changing circumstances or you will not survive.

How do you adapt?

Be aware of the changes that are going on around you. They may be cultural, political, social or economic. This awareness will help you to identify trends that may be critical to your success in business. You can develop this awareness by taking an interest in all forms of media; print, radio, television, internet, and asking yourself, ‘how can this information or change help me in my business?’ This will keep you up to date with current trends and create an opportunity for you to adapt and ride the crest of the wave of a trend, rather than being washed up in the surf.


Enlightenment was one of the higher goals for the Taoists. Enlightenment is a spiritual awareness that transcends personal wants and needs, an attitude that I believe is worth striving for in your personal and business lives. An enlightened attitude is one where you give without expecting anything in return. In business this is essential. It creates an awareness and appreciation in your customer’s mind that you are not just all about making a profit. It develops a business ethic that money can’t buy. Those businesses who try to ‘buy’ ethics often lose credibility with customers.

There are many ways of developing an enlightened attitude. You could perhaps sponsor a worthy cause. Or donate your time to a worthy charity. Or mentor some one who is starting out in business.

Do this and you will profit with a sense of worthiness that money can’t buy.

The Taoists who believed and practised these five essential principles on a daily basis found their Tao (way) in life.

If you follow the Taoists example then you too can find your Tao (way) to success in business.

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