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On doing and non-doing

There’s a principle that confucianism and daoism share called wu wei. While it essentially means non-action or non-doing, their interpretations diverge from there.

In a world as obsessed with doing and addicted to events as ours - especially the 21st century English-speaking countries, it’s hard to imagine a different way to relate to the constant unfolding of life other than through acting.

We’re societies of doers, makers and performers. Doing things, keeping busy and making stuff happen are worn as badges of honour. Addicted to the highs of the hustle and bustle, we’re quick to react and jump into action as soon as we encounter anything and everything life throws at us. No time to waste.

But a reactive default setting lacks thought and consideration.

We may find that if we pause to take a breath, the situation can wait. Just putting it off and out of our mind reveals the illusion of its urgency. Freed from the burden of acting, the situation can resolve and dissolve itself without intervention.

And even when that’s not the case, waiting provides us with the time and space for focus and clarity.

Knowing when to act and when to wait is not only an essential life skill but also invaluable for business and marketing, where some of us regularly find ourselves struggling to prioritise or put out fires.

In a way, intentional waiting is about replacing doing for being.

And removing unnecessary frictions and resistances so we can navigate life smoothly - paying full attention and completely embracing what’s right in front of us. Only then can we find that presence and state of flow with the constant happening of life.

Because as Alan Watts - who talked extensively about this - said, “wu wei is the art of sailing rather than the art of rowing”.

And onwards we sail.

Our highlights this month

The New York Times

Wandering, drifting, rambling, strolling, call it what you will. Thinkers and writers have discussed the connection between our minds and feet for centuries. But is the fate of the flâneur at risk in the digital age?

The School of life (video)

A snappy animated introduction to one of the key concepts of Daoism from teachers of modern day fulfilment, The School of Life.

Jason Fried

Fried’s story has a familiar ring: putting someone or something off with the excuse of not having enough time. In this thought piece, he guides us to his realisation that it’s often attention we lack, not time.

Wendelien van Eerde, Psyche Magazine

A comprehensive look at the psychology of irrational delay, and some thoughtful ideas to tackle procrastination. (Just skip to the key points at the end if you’re too busy procrastinating to read this.)


Wise words to live by from the legendary musician and producer. Our personal favourite? ‘Never argue with an idiot.’ Amen to that.That’s all for now! Did you find anything interesting you’d like to share or chat about? Just reply to this email and let us know!



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