yin yang

Opposing But Complimentary Forces – In Life and In Business

Probably you have seen the Yin-Yang symbol. They are the opposing but complimentary forces. Yin-Yang is the Chinese word that describes the concept of two complementary forces that make up all aspects and phenomena of life. That is how the Encyclopedia Britannica defines it. In Korean, it is called Um-Yang. The Japanese call it In-Yo.

As a martial artist studying the Korean martial art, Tang Soo Do, I see the Um-Yang aka Yin-Yang symbol every week. We talk about it as “opposing but complementary forces.”

It got me thinking. Yin-Yang (or Um-Yang) shows up in many places in life – and in business as well.
Definitions for Yin-Yang talk about contrasts such as female-male, darkness-light, passive-active, and so on.

Here are some more opposing but complimentary things that I thought of:

  • Thinking versus doing
  • Doing versus not-doing
  • Achieving versus just being
  • Work and play
  • Listening and speaking up
  • Enrolling others in your vision and giving others a chance to enroll you in theirs
  • Expanding your comfort zone and enjoying what you already have become comfortable with

Of course, the list does not end there.

A friend, Ravi Bhola, and I had a conversation about the contrast between synthesis (creation) and analysis. He said you can’t use tools that are used for analysis and successfully use them for synthesis, i.e., when you are creating something new.

I think that is quite insightful!

The Yin- Yang of Mucking About (With Intent) and KISS Business Planning

Then it hit me. My friend Robert Donnell from P5 Marketing had prompted me to “muck about” after I wrote the “Declaration of Brilliance.” I had been ready to pull out my handy-dandy KISS business planning tool (KISS = Keep It Smart and Simple) and get to work with planning my next steps. He said “Get feedback – see how different people in different places respond to it. You don’t know enough yet to make a good plan.” He was right.

We chatted about it for a while. We come to the conclusion that it is “mucking about with intent.” It is the intent to get feedback and enough information to create a good plan for moving forward.

That’s when I thought of the Yin-Yang symbol. I suggested that KISS planning is the one force, and “mucking about with intent” is the opposing force.

Remember the little white dot in the black part of the Yin-Yang symbol and the little black dot in the white area?

  • These dots mean that when you are in the planning area you‘ve got to be open to “mucking about” a little. It means learning more, staying open to other ideas beyond your plan.
  • And, when you are mucking about with intent, you still need to have a little bit of a plan. For example, who do I ask for feedback? And, how many people do I ask?

We Can’t Manage Innovation or Creation With Analytical Tools

When Ravi mentioned synthesis versus analysis, it dawned on me how similar that is to “mucking about with intent” versus KISS planning. And yes, these two things do need different tools.

I think the Yin-Yang symbol is a pretty cool way to visualize the expressions of both of these ideas.

Ravi’s point was that we are taught all kinds of tools to analyze and manage the predictable. But when we use these same tools for things that are unpredictable then we run into trouble. Innovation and creation (aka “synthesis”) are not predictable. We need different tools for them.

How Can We Measure Progress in Innovation/Creation?

What are those tools? “How can you measure progress?” says the inquiring analytical mind.

  • You can measure how many times you have tested something or how much time you spent on creating.
  • You can attempt to break complex innovation into milestones and attempt to predict how much time that will take.

Yet, if it is true innovation or a creative process you can’t predict how long it will take. And that, of course, drives analytical people (or the analytical side in yourself) crazy.

What is the Antidote to This Dilemma?

What is the antidote? There is none.

Except this: Realize that both are meant to be. Creation and analysis. Innovation and analysis. Mucking about with intent and planning.

Whatever words we want to use. These are opposing but complementary forces.

I’m Curious

Which opposing but complementary forces come to your mind?


  1. OK Stephie, you got me! This is BRILLIANT thinking and writing, I might add. I love the concept and see using this with my independent marketing team to forward results that are an expression of their purpose and passion.
    Thank you,
    Mrs. Ravi Bhola 🙂

    • Stephie Althouse on at

      Thank you, Margaret! Aweosome that you see this as being useful!

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