One weakness that leads to failure he says is putting others before oneself: “Over-solicitude for his men exposes him to worry and trouble.”
The story of the ox and donkey is a perfect example of this.
After a long day of plowing the fields, the ox complains to his donkey friend about how it’s unfair that he has to plow the field everyday, while the donkey gets to relax.
The donkey understood the ox and wanted to help.
So he tells the ox to act sick so that the master will give him some rest.
The following morning the ox acts sick and the master lets him rest, but the master decides to hitch the donkey to the plow instead.
Throughout that entire day, the donkey who had only intended to help his friend, found himself doing all of the ox’s work.
When night came the donkey was weak and his heart was bitter.
That night, the donkey told the ox that he must plow from now on because he overheard the master say that if the ox is sick again that he will send for the butcher, which the donkey wishes upon the ox.
After that night, they spoke to each other no more and that was the end of their friendship.
Like many people, the donkey just wanted to help out a friend, but then ends up doing all of his tasks for him.
Sun Tzu says that we often make this mistake of being too concerned for the well being of others.
You can care about the well being of someone else, but do it in a way that won’t bring that person’s burdens on to yourself.
Find the balance between helping others and helping yourself. Like Rabbi Hillel once said 2,000 years ago, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I?”
If we don’t take care of our self, then no one will. Our life, business and income lie solely with ourselves.