From this Maths SE question, I now understand the gradient to be the directional derivative that returns the steepest slope at a point. However, reading my textbooks, they all say that the gradient is normal to the tangent plane. In the above SE question, the gradient sounds like it should be parallel to a direction in the $xy$ plane, not actually up on the surface.
My question is therefore do I have a misunderstanding of the tangent plane, gradient or directional derivative?
In addition, I question how the gradient always passes through the origin or the $xy$ plane? If for instance in the graphic, the gradient had been another direction (say horizontal), then it wouldn't pass through the origin! In addition, the gradient of other points in the graphic would satisfy this example. Many thanks!