Insights on Life Series: The Collapse of a Thousand-Mile Dike Caused by Ants' Nests

Guan Ming

PureInsight | May 13, 2007

[] All
magnificent accomplishments on earth have been achieved through the
realizations of little things and accumulations of smaller gains.
Without those smaller buildups, there would not be any huge success.
Just like the saying from the ancient times:  "The journey of a
thousand miles starts with a tiny step and an ocean originates from a
small stream." Thus, all thoughts and actions are very important. A
trivial thing may change an entire life. The little snippets in our
daily life may turn into something very significant.  When we find
our mistake, we should correct it in time.

The saying of "The collapse of a thousand mile dike results from ants'
nests" comes from "Han Feizi. Yulao" It means that the tiny ants' nests
could make a thousand-mile dike collapse. When we fail to attend to the
little mishaps, a big disaster may follow.

According to the legend, there was a village in ancient times along the
Yellow River.  The villagers built a sturdy long dike to protect
them from the flood. One day, an older farmer discovered an increasing
numbers of ant nests around the dike. He was wondering whether those
ant nests would affect the safety of the dike. He was on his way back
to the village and tried to report it.  He met his son on the road
and told his son about it. His son did not think that these little ants
could do any damages to a sturdy dike.  The son persuaded the old
man to work in the field.  That night, there was a heavy rainstorm
and the water rose rapidly in the Yellow River. The torrent from the
Yellow River penetrated the ant nests and continued to spray out.
Finally, the dike collapsed and flooded all villages and fields along
the river banks.

There are many similar examples from all walks of life. It is learned
that there was a merchant who had made a huge profit and was very
anxious to ride home. Before he got home, his servant discovered that a
nail had fallen out of a horseshoe. The merchant said, "Don't worry
about it. There is only six more hours before we reach home." Meanwhile
the horse kept galloping forward. When they were taking a break, the
servant said, "The right rear horseshoe has fallen off.  Do you
want to replace it with a new one?" The merchant said, "Forget it. We
have only three hours to go. I think the horse can make it." 
However, shortly after, the horse was limping with blood oozing out of
its foot. Finally the horse fell down heavily and broke its leg. The
merchant had to dismount and carried all his bags on his back.  He
was delayed in getting home and the horse was injured.

Life is like this.  In fact, if we do not correct the little
errors in time, we eventually will have a mistake so huge that it will
be beyond any remedy.  Who can say that a nail falling from a
horseshoe is not important? We cannot overlook any little mistake in

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