Lessons from Life: Being Too Smart for One's Own Good

Guan Ming

PureInsight | October 17, 2005

[PureInsight.org] There are many smart people in the world, but being smart does not equal being wise. These people often think highly of themselves. Because they are always calculating and always want to gain the upper hand, they are very difficult to get along with. In the end, their shrewd calculations often cause their downfall.

When I was studying in Japan, I met Mr. C who was from southern China. He was a smart, wily person. Whenever he took the bus with fellow students, he'd ask other fellow students to buy the ticket for him, saying that he did not have any change. But later on, he would never say anything about paying back the money. Mr. C's fellow students were no fools. They became unwilling to catch the bus with him a month later. After graduation, Mr. C worked in a company in Japan. He often took the company's resources for his personal use. He was eventually caught red-handed by his boss and fired from the job. He could not find any other work and has been living in poverty ever since.

A general of the Later Han dynasty (AD 947 -950) of the Five Kingdom period in ancient China, Mu Rongyan, was quite capable. He, however, was also a rather wily government official. When he was the military governor for the region of Qin, an incident of fraud occurred in the local government-operated pawnshop – someone had used counterfeit money in the shop. This wasn't detected until much later. After learning this, Mu Rongyan put out a public notice claiming that the goods in the pawnshop had all been stolen and asked people who had traded in the shop to come forward to register their names, so that they could be compensated in the future. The person who committed the fraud of counterfeiting also came forward, and was arrested for his crime.

However, after catching this man, Mu Rongyan did not press any charges; but instead, the man was taken to a secret location by a few of Mu's trusted subordinates. Mu demanded the man pass on the skills of making counterfeit money. This technique of making counterfeit currencies was called "Tie Tai Yin". Having learned the technique, Mu Rongyan started to make a large amount of counterfeit money and used this money to reward the soldiers who worked for him. The soldiers soon discovered this and the troops became demoralized. They protested against Mu Rongyan and would not work for him anymore. The scandal became widely known and people no longer trusted Mu Rongyan. In the end, Mu committed suicide.

There were numerous examples of "being too smart for one's own good". Throughout history, however, many still continued to behave this way. They could not help themselves. Being wily leads to nowhere, but being wise saves the world. People with great wisdom are broad-minded and not attached to fame and fortune. They are a breath of fresh air among the ordinary people. Having great wisdom enables one to achieve the highest realm in life.

Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2005/10/6/34121.html

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