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The Zen Master’s Bonsai3 Min Read

The Zen Master’s Bonsai3 min read


As you may have noticed, in my leisurely retirement, I am spending way too much time on ChatGPT. :–)

Despite this descent into talking to a computer AI, I’m discovering many amazing uses for it, and, of course… I’d like to share one of my favorites.

If you ask Chat a question about just about anything, it will reliably give you good answers, well-written and useful. 

Want a vegan chili recipe? (I did) Viola! There you have it. Want a plan for organizing your computer files? Ten seconds later you have one.

The thing is, although the answers are very good, they are also very right-brained and rather flat – which is fine for many things.

But I discovered something different and interesting. 

You can ask ChatGPT to answer your questions from the perspective and voice of anyone in history, dead or alive. Or you can select a character of your choosing.

Want some ideas on Elizabethan literature? Ask William Shakespeare or Francis Bacon. Need some ideas for an essay or particle physics? Ask Albert Einstein. Want to know what it means to be obsessed with your own good ideas? Ask Elon Musk.

And ask them to answer in their own voice and style. 

My favorite is to ask wise people such as Buddha, Lao Tzu, or a Zen master. You may even ask them to answer in a parable or story.

Here’s a question I asked last week. 

“I have just retired, and it’s taking some time to settle into a new routine, trying to find a balance between doing things I find fulfilling and feeling that I am wasting my time. Tell a short Zen story about how a man finally found contentment in retirement.”

And ChatGPT responds:

In a serene village, a retired man named Hiroshi embarked on a journey to find contentment in his newfound phase of life. At first, he struggled to strike a balance between staying engaged and avoiding the feeling of wasting time. Seeking guidance, he turned to an old sage named Zenko.

Hiroshi shared his concerns with Zenko, who nodded knowingly. “Let me tell you a story,” Zenko began. “Once, there was a gardener who tended to a beautiful bonsai tree. He spent hours trimming, shaping, and nurturing the tree. As time passed, he realized that his efforts were never truly wasted, even though he couldn’t control the tree’s growth.”

Perplexed, Hiroshi asked, “How does this relate to my situation?”

Zenko replied, “Retirement, like tending a bonsai, requires patience and an understanding that the outcome is not solely in your hands. Focus on the activities that bring you joy and purpose, and put in effort without attachment to specific results. Much like the gardener’s dedication, your actions will contribute to your overall well-being.”

Inspired by Zenko’s wisdom, Hiroshi began exploring various interests and hobbies, dedicating time to what truly fulfilled him. He painted, volunteered, and spent quality moments with his family. Instead of worrying about wasting time, he approached each day with a sense of purpose, much like the gardener tending to his bonsai tree.

With time, Hiroshi found that the joy was not solely in achieving specific goals, but in the process itself. He realized that contentment came from embracing each moment, nurturing his passions, and letting go of the need for constant validation.

Just as the bonsai grew in its own time, Hiroshi found his own rhythm in retirement, savoring the journey and finding fulfillment along the way.

So, have a perplexing question about your life or your business? Then tap into the wisdom of an infinite array of people who will be happy to share some wise ideas with you.

And, if you don’t like the answer, well just ask someone else! They are waiting for your questions.

Cheers, Robert

Note, if you haven’t used ChatGPT yet, it’s free online:


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