While I was living in Japan, my eldest sister e-mailed the following anecdote to me. She thought it would help me in coping with the stresses and challenges of adapting to a different culture, and it did.
I find its lesson even more valuable now.
It is from the book "Zhuangzi," written by the Taoist master of the same name who died about 275 B.C.:
"Chi Hsing-tzu was raising a fighting cock for his lord. After 10 days, the lord asked, 'Is he ready?' Chi answered, 'No, sir. He is still vain and flushed with rage.'
Ten days passed, and the prince asked about the cock. Chi said, 'Not yet, sir. He is on the alert whenever he hears another cock crowing.'
When the prince's inquiry came again, Chi replied, 'Not quite yet, sir. His sense of fighting is still smoldering within him.'
When another 10 days elapsed, Chi said to the lord, 'He is almost ready. Even when he hears another cock crowing, he shows no excitement. He now resembles one made of wood. His qualities are integrated. No cocks are his match -- they will at once run away from him.' "