Confucius said: “Be sincere and trustworthy, love learning, and defend the Good Way with your life. Do not enter an unstable state or live in a country that is in chaos. When the Way prevails in the world appear; when it disappears hide away. In a country that has adopted the Way, be ashamed if you remain poor and obscure; in a country that has lost the Way, be ashamed if you become rich and achieve high rank.”
It’s not enough to follow the right ethical principles in life; it’s also vital to get your timing right and identify the best circumstances in which you have the best chance to achieve success. As Confucius points out here, you should make the most of it “when the Way prevails in the world” but be prepared to melt into the background when it disappears.
The irony is that for all his undoubted talents, Confucius himself had a terrible sense of timing and place, failing throughout his life to achieve the high government position he craved despite (or perhaps because of) spending years traveling from state to state in China in search of an enlightened ruler brave enough to hire him.
No doubt, here he is speaking from bitter experience.