Tools: Profit and usefulness

Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.

Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.

Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.

Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.

[Lao Tsu, ‘Tao Te Ching‘]

Profit and usefulness depend on each other: without usefulness – perceived quality – of some kind, there’s unlikely to be profit; and without profit, there’s not much usefulness – in a business sense, at least! Yet most businesses spend most of their effort chasing after profit – perhaps because it’s easier to identify the ‘things’ it comes from – and often forget to even think about ‘usefulness’ – with the result that the profit disappears into nothingness too. An interesting lesson there… one that’s easy to miss…

That quote above is Chapter Eleven of the ‘Tao Te Ching’, from Gia Fu Feng’s superb translation of Lao Tsu’s classic – still as fresh and relevant as ever, after more than 2500 years.

Related pages