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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"Your own positive future..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: Your own positive future begins in this moment...

This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:


"Your own positive future begins in this moment. All you have is right now. Every goal is possible from here."






Whether positive of negative, where else could your future begin but at this moment? That is the very definition of the future, just as the definition of the past is what happened before the present moment.

       The second sentence is equally self-evident, since we can say nothing for certain about the future, and the past is already gone. But it also tells us that at any moment we can redirect our lives, at least to the extent circumstances permit - which leads to the third sentence.

       I am not sure that every goal is possible, but most of them are at least possible to strive for. In other words - few goals are definitely impossible, as long as we stay within the borders of what natural law permits and a human being can muster.


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       More about the book here.


       This is not a Lao Tzu quote, although often referred to as such on the Internet, but there is a very famous saying of his from which it can be concluded. In chapter 64 of Tao Te Ching it is stated (my version):


A climb of eight hundred feet
Starts where the foot stands.


       D. C. Lau in 1963 used a wording that is much more recognizable and common (page 125):


A journey of a thousand miles
Starts from beneath one's feet.


       I made my different choice based primarily on the support of both Mawangdui manuscripts from around 200 BC, which leave no doubt. My source was Robert G. Henricks in 1989 (page 150). Still, the essence of the message is the same.

       What Lao Tzu was really pointing out was not the vast scope of opportunity at each moment, but the fact that things are so much easier to deal with at the outset and when going carefully step by step. It is not an equivalent of the popular American expression that you can be anything you want to be. Instead it speaks, as Lao Tzu often did, about being perceptive and careful. The first part of the chapter makes it clear (my version):


Stillness is easy to maintain.
What has not yet emerged is easy to prevent.
The brittle is easy to shatter.
The small is easy to scatter.
Solve it before it happens.
Order it before chaos emerges.

A tree as wide as a man's embrace
Grows from a tiny shoot.
A tower of nine stories
Starts with a pile of dirt.
A climb of eight hundred feet
Starts where the foot stands.


       Later in this unusually long chapter of Tao Te Ching, there is a warning again stressing the need to be careful throughout:


People fail at the threshold of success.
Be as cautious at the end as at the beginning.


       In spite of the differences of perspective in the quote examined here and the words of chapter 64, it is plausible that the former is some paraphrasing extraction of the latter. Maybe it is an expansion of the idea in the line about how any voyage begins where you stand.

       One example of linking chapter 64 to the message of the quote discussed here is in Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life from 2007, by Wayne W. Dyer (page 303):


The essence of the widely known 64th verse of the Tao Te Ching is this: Every goal is possible from here!


       Still, Dyer's wording of chapter 64 in his own version of Tao Te Ching from 2008, Living the Wisdom of the Tao, does not contain the quote, but follows the standard rather closely, also for the line discussed here (page 131):


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.


       There is nothing unique in the message of the quote. The idea that one can create one's own future at any moment is a popular one, especially in self-realization circles. Here is an example from 1989, in Spiritual Growth: Being Your Higher Self, by Sanaya Roman (page 124):


You can create your own positive future and you can choose any reality you want.


       The oldest book I have found with the exact quote is Yoga Mama, Yoga Baby from 2013, by Margo Shapiro Bachman, accrediting it to Lao Tzu (page 236). There is no mention of a source, but I would be surprised if the quote was not taken from the Internet.

       The earliest ascertained Internet occurrence of the quote I have found is on the Goodreads site, where it is ascribed to Lao Tzu and got its first like on June 28, 2009. On Facebook the first occurrence of the quote seems to have been on July 5, 2012, with a post that was soon shared 18 times and reached 54 likes. The quote was written in both English and Spanish, and accredited to Lao Tzu.

       I have not been able to find where this quote originated, or if it did so already from the start ascribing it to Lao Tzu. My best guess is still that it somehow was extracted and distorted from chapter 64 of Tao Te Ching - or from Dyer's interpretation of it, mentioned above.

       For more on Wayne W. Dyer and his Lao Tzu quotes, see the chapter Every human being's essential nature.

Stefan Stenudd
September 23, 2020.



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Fake Lao Tzu Quotes - Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Fake Lao Tzu Quotes

Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. 90 of the most spread false Lao Tzu quotes, why they are false and where they are really from. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.



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