The Taoist Shaper Engineer

This article is an ambitious attempt to mix Taoism, Ray Dalio’s principles, and engineering. To set a common ground, I’ll briefly explain each one of them. Please keep in mind they are all very short descriptions, and I highly recommend you to read about these topics further to get the full context.

Taoism is a Chinese philosophy and religion that instructs its followers on how to exist in harmony with the universe, following a natural flow, without forcing things, embracing the wu wei (non-action, a natural action, a perfect equilibrium with tao).

Ray Dalio is one of the most successful investors and entrepreneurs in the game. He wrote a book a few years ago, where he shared the unique principles that he developed, polished, and used over the past forty years to create remarkable results in both life and business. One of the things I liked the most about his book was the concept of “the shaper”. By his words:

“Shapers are people who can go from visualization to actualization. I use the word to mean someone who comes up with unique and valuable visions and builds them out beautifully, typically over the doubts of others. Shapers get both the big picture and the details right. To me, it seems that Shaper = Visionary + Practical Thinker + Determined.” Ray Dalio

If you don’t plan to read the book, you can still check a post where he focused on this specific topic. But I guess you got the idea; Shaper is someone that gets things done. She analyses the status quo, finds the gaps, and “builds them beautifully”, shaping a new state.

Now you are asking yourself what this has to do with engineering, I suppose. I’m sure you think several things in your company, startup, growth stage, or big corp, are not right. There are some messy processes, lack of quality, some strange engineering practices, whatever; you name it. What is blocking you from analyzing these things, picking some of them that you are genuinely and naturally (wu wei) interested in solving, shaping a new vision, and building it?

Trying to examine yourself and your workplace actively, thinking about these opportunities, can bring great results for you as an individual and for your organization. By doing this, you take ownership, challenge yourself, become a better professional, your coworkers/boss will appreciate you more, you’ll probably have fun, and make your organization better. It is a win-win situation.

Often, people forget they have the ability and the possibility to fulfill empty spaces that are waiting for someone to pick up. My suggestion to you, again, is to keep looking for these gaps, choosing some of them you are naturally interested in solving, make sure they are relevant problems to be solved, and make it happen.

If there is nothing you are sincerely interested in solving, then well, you should find something else to work with that is more natural to you.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” Lao Tzu

PS: There is a Japanese concept called Ikigai which is a bit similar to what I’m bringing with this article, it’s worth checking.