The journey of 1,000 miles (Chinese mile) starts with a single step ...Lao Tzu 老子Sep 13, 2021
It seemed like we’d never get there!
I was working with my coaching buddy as we prepared for our certification through the Coaching Federation (ICF) ICF. Tan, originally from Vietnam, was now in Australia and I, originally from the United States, was in China.
In order to pass our practicum, we had to study the ICF core competencies and code of ethics, as well as our particular curriculum through the International Coach Academy ICA. Then we had to record a coaching session between us to be evaluated on our skills.
We’d have these intense practice sessions – it was almost winter in Melbourne, and we’d use WeChat video calls while Tan was outside walking in the late fall chill while I was seeking refuge from the heat and humidity in a Shanghai Starbucks, hoping my Internet connection wouldn’t cut out.
One of the things we used to encourage each other was this proverb by Laozi 老子 – also referred to as Lao Tzu. So much of coaching is about enabling oneself to overcome being stuck by limiting beliefs. We consoled each other by taking one step at a time. Everything has a starting point – taking even a small action (change in attitude, behavior, mindset) is an achievement. Inertia keeps us from reaching our goals and making our dreams come true.
And, everything has context – and the context of this proverb – revealed through the Chinese language and history – is fascinating. 千里之行，始於足下 literally means: "A journey of a thousand lǐ [a Chinese mile] starts beneath one's feet." In pinyin you spell it out like this: Qiānlǐ zhī xíng, shǐyú zú xià . The character for lǐ 里 is also known as a Chinese mile – it’s a unit of distance, and when compared to the English unit of measurement it's about 1/3 of a mile. It’s evolved to be about half a kilometer (500 meters/1,640 feet). This gets divided into chǐ 尺 (equivalent to a “foot” or “meter”).
The character for lǐ 里 is made up of two characters: field 田 tián and earth 土 tǔ. Historically it wasn’t a fixed measure but represented the length of an average village and the effort it would take for a person to walk it.
So, we needed to do what we had to in order to “walk the length of the village.” Take that first step even if it felt as slow as a turtle and it took much effort! The contexts of our lives were very different, yet we plodded along knowing that eventually we could make our individual dreams into a reality – Tan now does executive coaching with 100% proceeds going to support children's' education in Vietnam (Tan) and TODAY I’m launching my new venture – The Intercultural Leadership Institute™ which aims to empower leaders with cultural competence and help change the world, one person at a time, starting with oneself.
I hope you will take a few moments to explore the website and discover all of the amazing opportunities that are waiting for you on your journey towards making the world a better place through your inclusive leadership. Remember, it only takes that first step!
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* Lao Tzu (l. c. 500 BCE, also known as Laozi or Lao-Tze) was a Chinese philosopher credited with founding the philosophical system of Taoism. He is best known as the author of the Laozi (later retitled the Tao-Te-Ching translated as “The Way of Virtue” or “The Classic of the Way and Virtue”) the work which exemplifies his thought. https://www.worldhistory.org/Lao-Tzu/