The empty step — a tai chi teaching you can use in your business

Tai chi practice teaches you so much

The lessons you learn and use in martial arts have application in your life and in your business

Practicing tai chi can be a lifetime journey. No lie, it nearly is in my case; it’s been over 40 years now. They call it “practice” for good reason.

  • Can I slow down and soften?
  • Can I hold each posture a bit longer today?
  • Can I move from my center and let everything else follow?

Every single repetition, every single practice, invites you to focus on the moment, on what you are doing right now. Not on what you can’t do. Not on yesterday’s form or tomorrow’s challenge. But This.Now.Moment.

When you focus on and practice what’s in front of you, you move toward mastery with every breath. Mastery of the movement. Mastery of the interaction. Mastery in your work. Mastery in your business. Reminder: It’s moving toward mastery I’m talking about here, not necessarily achieving mastery. How would you know you got there, anyway? And then what would you do for fun?

The empty step

Pushing handsHow do you win in tai chi?

  • By being more relaxed than the person with whom you’re sparring.
  • By listening, really listening, so you can sense the other person’s disbalance and then guide her to a clearer understanding of where she was stuck and a way to get what she really needs.
  • By getting out of your head and into your body and your heart.

And then there’s the empty step.

When you step with an empty foot, you can feel through your foot to the ground below. You can feel stability or the lack of stability. You can feel safety or not-so-safe. If the ground isn’t stable or safe, you can place your foot elsewhere before you commit. The tai chi form when you see it practiced is fluid with no stops. It’s beautiful. Guess how it gets that way? A zillion or so hours of practice. I wonder how many hours I personally have drilled this in practice.

Step empty.
Pick the foot up — did you rock with a weight shift or are you steady, stable, supported?
Put the foot down again.
Pick it up  — count to …three-four-five, sinking all the while; okay.
Step empty, then shift your weight.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
And repeat some more.

Think about your business. Compare the times you have moved hastily to get something done, or launched, with the times you have slowed down, and taken time with each step of the process. Some examples of empty steps in business might be:

  • Running an idea or content by a coach or a mastermind or a friend for feedback.
  • Trying something out small scale before going big.
  • Taking a little more time than you think you need. With everything.

What empty steps have you taken in your business? What heavy off-balance steps? What have you noticed? I’d love to know; please leave a comment.

Take a deeper dive — more articles like this one...

Resilience — must you build it? Or can you settle down and reclaim it?


Rapport and permission


In the stillness: winter’s whispers and new year bring changes


I just ran my first Facebook challenge


Social media resources that can make your life easier

social media resources

Gratitude even if. Gratitude no matter what.



I’m a barely tamed hippie, sage, seasoned, sarcastic (not all the time any more, but still). I’m a mom, a daughter, sister, a neighbor, and a friend. I’ve been on this meandering journey — like you, probably — seeking a better connection to and experience of peace, harmony, and fun in every bit of life. I’m single, quite good at it, and mostly love it. I’m here for the conversations I get to have with you, which these days center on exploring the mystery and beauty of life, work, health, aging, and creative expression. Want to know a little more about me and my journey? Explore the site. Read the blog. Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

Join the conversation!

    • Natasha, you’re welcome. Gently, yes, and then added layers of mindfulness and patience and emptiness.

      Blessed be.

  1. I love tai chi. And I think my recent biggest “empty step” was to shelve a book that wasn’t coming together and wait. Just wait. Do. Something. Else.

    And when I picked it up again? Much easier to know which half to throw away — lol

    • Hey Greg, I’m so happy to connect with you here, dear heart.

      Like I learned in 12-step, we get to “practice these principles in all our affairs.” I love when I see the connections and get to live them with intention.

      So much love to you!

  2. Very interesting Sue. When I head down the hill into town I pass our county building and it has a huge lawn and every afternoon there are anywhere from 10 to 15 people practicing tai chi and it has always fascinated me. I keep thinking one of these days I might take a class so you’ve definitely got me curious now. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Marquita, As my mother and grandmothers would say: “It couldn’t hurt!” May you find a good teacher and discover the gifts that come when you embrace Investment in Loss and the Empty Step.

      Blessed be.

  3. How challenging! and what a good metaphor for business. This week I have started using a pendulum to give me a pause an extra breath in my business decisions and activities. It feels like it is this: an empty step, a check in. Thank you.

  4. “Know that you are supported before you commit to… action” — great lessons in your article. Thank you for sharing your tai chi wisdom, Sue!

    • Millen, Thanks so much! I think there’s at least one more article (or more) to come about tai chi for business. If you subscribe to my newsletter (top left of every page) you’ll be sure to see it/them as they get created.


  5. Tai chi sounds to be a method of calming one’s soul. Empty steps taken in my business is the fact that I’m not desperate for work. Each and every project gets my undivided attention in order to gain the best outcome. My two little dogs can attest to this 😉 … sometimes my attention to website design sometimes means temporarily less time for play.

    • Trish, hi and welcome here.

      Tai chi is that — calming — and more. Tai chi promotes good health and longevity, it improves balance, it delivers “strength through softness” — so aligned with heart-centered business!


  6. When you focus on and practice what’s in front of you, you move toward mastery with every breath. I love this Sue as I am in monofocus mode this resonated for me. Thank you hugs xxoo

  7. Lovely post…and place of metaphor and connection, Sue!

    Also a place of synchronicity for me. I read from my favorite version of the Tao De Jing each day, and for the past 2 days have been working with chapter 15. It really resonates with the “empty step.”

    I won’t put the whole thing here…but these lines, in particular, are ones I’ve been coming back to today:

    “Watchful, like men crossing a winter stream.
    Alert, like men aware of danger.
    Courteous, like visiting guests.
    Yielding, like ice about to melt.
    Simple, like uncarved blocks of wood…

    Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?
    Who can remain still until the moment of action?”

    (Translation by Gia-fu Feng & Jane English)

    • Dana, I absolutely love this, thank you so much. I especially love, and keep rereading, “yielding, like ice about to melt.” Lovely.


  8. Love that concept of the empty step Sue. I’ve been learning tai chi, but even after 4 years I feel exhausted after the class as if my energy has drained away. I wish I knew the answer to this. I am relaxing and practising presence, just as you describe.

    • Gosh, Juliet, tai chi should not exhaust you! I wish I could grab you up and teach you the form I know (and have taught for decades) — but you’re a bit too far away. Maybe talk about this with your teacher, and if no improvement, maybe find another teacher?


      • Sue, I wish I could learn from you too! Yes, it doesn’t seem right that it exhausts me – more energetically than physically. My teacher doesn’t have any answers. Thanks Sue, it’s so encouraging to know that you have done your practice for 40 years!

  9. An empty step is a considered step, not just to the commitment at hand but to the inexorable consequences that will be triggered. Sure, you can close a deal, expand your margins, make a nice profit…and then make a nice contribution to a worthy charity. But did you consider that all this happened because the poor man was charged what the market would bear?

Chime in!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *