The Foolish Old Man Who Moved The Mountains

Ian Tang
2 min readSep 16, 2016


Yu Gong Yi Shan (The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains)

In ancient times, there was an old man and in front of his house were two mountains, making it very inconvenient for him to come and go.

No man can move mountains but this old man is so determined to move the mountain in front of his house that he went on to carry rocks from the mountain daily.

Many other people laughed at his action and use this saying “yu gong yi shan” to describe his effort as stupid and someone who don’t know his own limit. His neighbour scoffed, “You are foolish. You are too old and weak to level a small hill, let along two big mountains.” But the old man said, “I have sons, and my sons have sons. I will have endless progeny, but the mountains won’t grow any higher.” Soon enough, he managed to gather many people from his family & village to help him.

Eventually, the spirit of the “Foolish Old Man” moved Heaven, and it sent two immortals to move the mountains away. Thus, this saying “yu gong yi shan” is now use to describe someone with indomitable will (super strong determination).

Max Levchin, co-founder of Paypal.

During an interview with Max Levchin on his journey in founding Paypal:

Max Levchin: “ The default of how you do things is very powerful, if you have been in a industry for a long time. So we were sort of beneficiaries of our naïveté. We thought, “We don’t know how to do this; lets just invent it.”

The beginner will more often consider options that are known to be flawed, options that an expert will not waste time on. And an expert may be stuck in a rut using the “same old” methods and not even recognize potential opportunities for fresh approaches.

Shunryu Suzuki: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”



Ian Tang

I speak on Marketing, Social Media, Sales and any combination of the three.