#3 屯 Sprouting – Start Worthy Project although Difficult
This hexagram has the 29-Water trigram at the top and the 51-Thunder trigram at the bottom. The pictorial symbolism says, “象曰：云雷屯；君子以经纶” cloud-thunder gives rise to Sprouting; Wise man (superior man) has and concern with statesmanship – managing a country or a business with clarity of structure like a tapestry cloth.
The interesting point is above-water was described as a cloud. It shows that ancient Chinese was well aware that clouds came from water and were water in the sky. It is only forming of clouds and no rain yet. There is cloud and thunder showing rain could be coming soon. 3-Sprouting is the hexagram for starting a new business or project. Sprouting is also an energy-consuming process and hence it also signifies the difficulty of starting a project. Nevertheless, all great accomplishments begin with a first step. The famous saying by Neil Armstrong when he landed on the moon – was “a small step for a man and a giant leap for mankind”. So we find the following characteristics of #3-Sprout.
- 元: a new beginning of a project or business (vs the beginnings in 1-Heaven-Creation of Universe, 2-Earth – Creation of Lives)
- 亨: a smooth flow of progress
- 利: increases, gains
- 贞: continued righteousness and purity.
- 勿用，有攸往，利建侯: because the sprouting plant is weak, be focused on the tasks at hand and not try to do too many things. It is beneficial for building an empire and developing talents since the growth has begun.
Moral Teaching – Overcoming Inertia and Start to do the useful things
The moral teaching is that man needs to do some good things and have some good accomplishments in their life. Don’t waste your life, even though starting is always hard.
The additional textual description “彖曰：屯，刚柔始交而难生，动乎险中，大亨贞。 雷雨之动满盈，天造草昧，宜建侯而不宁。” warn us that giving birth is hard. It is moving into the danger zone. Yet it is good going for righteousness and purity (don’t try to cheat or take a shortcut). Rain and thunder, activities, and energy, fill the place. This is like the time of the creation of living things. It is good for building an empire (influences, great businesses) and it will not be quiet.
The danger of beginning comes from the upper-water trigram which signifies danger/trap/cracks. The bottom trigram is thunder signifying vibrations and activities. For those deep in I Ching, you can tell a good story from the positions and patterns of the lines of the hexagram. I am amazed at the simple patterns giving rise to meanings and principles for life.
This is very much like fractals where complex shapes and pictures can be reproduced by the repeated patterns of simpler fractals. Or like the complex life forms that come from the genetic patterns or DNAs!
So we know while starting a new business or project promises great rewards and returns in the future, there are lots of dangers and obstacles ahead where we need to persevere and be committed in order to succeed. There is no short cut and we must follow the right and righteous ways.
Stage 1 Begin-Nine: Meet Big Rock and Large Tree Trunk, not sure whether to push forward to move back. Beneficial advantages to progress with perseverance in righteousness. Good for building a business empire. 初九：磐桓；利居贞，利建侯
The pictorial commentary explains though encountering rock and trunk, the will is going forth in righteousness. Treating the poor well and gaining the hearts of the people. 象曰：虽磐桓，志行正也。 以贵下贱，大得民也。
Starting a business or any project is a challenging thing. You have to overcome the inertia and the obstacle represented by the rock and tree trunk above. It takes great courage besides careful consideration to take the first step.
Before you start, you may receive a lot of encouragement from friends and acquaintances to start. Some even offer money to help you get started – until you really get started and asked them for support and they kindly forget their earlier promises. You may suddenly find that the going is much tougher than your original plan. There are other licenses that you need to get. The staff who claimed they know the business seems to know only theory and did not really have the experience etc… He may feel like quitting but could not because you have already spent quite a lot of his own and borrowed money and then there is the ‘face saving’ thing. You need to have conviction and commitment to make progress. In building a successful business, you need to bite your teeth, hang on there, and do all things as legal and righteous as possible. You don’t want to have any loose ends or shortcuts that may later give you much trouble in your growth phase.
Stage 2 Second-Six: Going is tough. There is no progress. It is not thieves but true customers (the original is marriage seekers). They want true quality and it took 10 years to commit. (original is the lady is pure and righteous and does not want to commit.) 六二：屯如邅如，乘马班如。 匪寇婚媾，女子贞不字，十年乃字。
The pictorial commentary explains the difficulties encountered because we are forcing it. Taking 10 years is not normal. 象曰：六二之难，乘刚也。 十年乃字，反常也。
After much effort, there still seems to be no success. You thought that people are sabotaging you. But the facts are that your products or service or new business model are not really providing the value that your potential customers are looking for. You either have not yet understood the real needs of your customers, or there you be quality problems, or you are not meeting the specifications or expectations that you set. Your customers while wanting to do business with you are just not having the confidence that you could deliver what he wants in a reliable manner. Don’t give an excuse. Seek first to understand his needs, rephrase his needs to him, and then show how your offering can meet his needs. He is not nasty to you. You just have not gained his confidence. It may take time. Don’t give up. Work on it. I had a salesman who told me he lost his sales because the customer didn’t like him and preferred his competitor’s pretty salesgirl. These are just excuses.
Stage 3 Third-Six: Know when to give up – Hunting for deer without a guide. Following the deer into the thick forest. It is better for the wise man to give up else going further will only lead to danger and dead-end and bankruptcy. 六三：既鹿无虞，惟入于林中，君子几不如舍，往吝。
The pictorial commentary explains going hunting without a guide is due to eagerness. A wise man won’t do that because going will be regretful as there will be no gain. 象曰：既鹿无虞，以纵禽也。 君子舍之，往吝穷也。
After quite a few years of hard work and still no result to show. Is it because there is no good mentor to lead you? You may have forgotten the teaching of the #1-Heaven hexagram that tells you to get mentors. If it is not a breakthrough and you can’t find wise people to guide you out of the wood, it is probably better to cut loss, give up and close the business. Progressing further blindly will just cost you more and eventually leads to nowhere but bankruptcy.
Stage 4 Fourth-Six: Still going back and forth. Pursue the deal (the original word is marriage). Going forth is good. There is gain. 六四：乘马班如，求婚媾，无不利。
The pictorial commentary explains that asking first and then the proceeding is wise and make the way clear. 象曰：求而往，明也。
If you have the right people to guide you. You may need to change your own favorite plan A to the better plan B now with their help. Implement your new plan B and continue to pursue the customers to close the deals. With your guides and customer sponsors, you can get the contracts and establish the future of your business. This is time for a breakthrough.
Stage 5 Fifth-Nine: Overcoming obstacles bring forth blessings (original word: anointing oil). Take care of small deals and deal rightly. Watch out for the danger of closing large deals. 九五：屯其膏，小贞吉，大贞凶。
The pictorial commentary cautions that the intention of the favors granted is unclear.象曰：屯其膏，施未光也。
This is the growth phase of your business. You have crossed the chasm in stage 4. But you need to continue to do well in the small deals. Watch out when you try to close big deals. Do your proper risk management. Are you financially strong and have the necessary capability to do large deals at your present stage? Large deals suck up cash and are just more complex to execute. Your large deal customers may want you to do a lot of tailoring to their needs. The intentions of his favors are unclear yet. Are they worth your efforts? You just need to be absolutely sure even though you may the profits, revenues, and reputation may be enhanced if you can win them. But just be careful. They may consume the resources that you could use to win and confidently close many small deals.
Stage 6 Top-Six: Lot of activities but no progress. Continued bleeding. 上六：乘马班如，泣血涟如。
The pictorial commentary explains that the bleeding cannot last long. 象曰：泣血涟如，何可长也
Carelessness or inability to deliver the large contracts won in stage 5 is causing you to bleed profusely at this stage. You are doomed. Please look for a Savior or else.
Let not the difficulty of starting a business stop you from doing any business at all. For every danger, there lie great opportunities. This hexagram gives us some wisdom to overcome them. Let me end with a word of wisdom from Meng Zi, “when Heaven is about to confer a great office on any man, it first exercises his mind with suffering, and his sinews and bones with toil. It exposes his body to hunger and subjects him to extreme poverty. It confounds his undertakings. By all these methods it stimulates his mind, hardens his nature, and supplies his in competencies“. Be bold and start your business with care.
You may want to attend one of my training courses on “Successful Business Plan Writing“.
Overcome the inertia, hardship, and just get going. Business must be built on righteous values. Start to do something useful. Don’t waste your life. The teachings from the six stages:
- Start with a worthy vision built on righteous values, plan A. Overcome the initial inertia and obstacles.
- Improve: Don’t give up. Make sure you deliver the value and quality that customers want.
- Get Talents: Time to Quit if you are stuck and can’t get a wise man to help
- Plan B: Ask, reflect and come up with a new plan B. Proceed with new plan B.
- Grow with Caution: Grow fast & watch out for risks of large deals
- Quit: If bleeding cannot be stopped – Quit and do something else.