Some of the most powerful life and business lessons are apparent paradoxes. I say “apparent” because once you learn to question popular dogma and look at things objectively, the paradoxes ultimately resolve into truths.

I’m not making this up. It’s fundamental to how things work. It’s a yin and yang thing. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching is full of counterintuitive wisdom. Pretty much everything is opposite, backwards, inside out and upside down.

They say opposites attract. Come to think of it, the only thing my wife and I agree on is that we don’t get along. Is that the key to a lasting relationship? I haven’t a clue. Personally, I think it’s more about mutually assured destruction: Neither of us is willing to nuke everything we’ve built.

But I digress. Here are some paradoxical truths I’ve observed over the years. Ponder them. Put on a white robe, squat on the floor and meditate on them. Twist your mind into a pretzel trying to make sense of them. Do you feel wiser, like Yoda? Make you wiser, I will.

If you think someone else is always the problem, the problem is you.

The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.

Those who claim to be the good guys are the biggest creeps.

You are your own worst enemy.

The less you want to hear it or say it, the more you need to.   

As they say in poker, if you can’t tell who the sucker is, it’s you.

Nobody wants to believe they’re the problem.

Wisdom is never common, and crowds are never wise.

If you’re not making money, you’re spending money. 

Self-proclaimed experts are not.

To be impactful, be quiet. 

Success comes from letting go.

If you’re planning to fake it ‘til you make it, you won’t.

Wearing the same clothes every day doesn’t make you Steve Jobs.

Success is not a goal; it’s a way of life.

Nobody pays for you, but for what you can do for them.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Grandiosity is a show of insecurity.

Marketing is like sex: Everyone thinks they’re good at it. Not so much counterintuitive, but true, nevertheless.

Here’s one that I often quote, from former Intel chief Andy Grove, “Success contains the seeds of its own destruction.”

And my all-time favorite, the timeless, Less is more. 

What’s your favorite nugget of counterintuitive wisdom?

Image credit cea + via Flickr

  • Tom

    All these are good. One stands out for me. My parents, 1930 depression era folks, lived by Less is More and taught me to do the same. Whenever I’ve strayed from the rule, I’ve paid dearly.

  • Roger Elias Morales Jimenes

    “I always make the best out of everything.” Stop trying to find your passion. And don’t be a spoiled little brat

  • Randall Vincent

    Just getting caught up on your blog Steve. Busy times these days. Here’s a few of my favorites :

    “A friend is someone who knows you really well and likes you anyway”.
    “After everything is said and done, more is said than done”.
    “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”.
    “Don’t do what you like to do, like what you have to do”.
    “We all drink from wells we didn’t dig”.

    Great blog, Steve.