Confucius said: “A leader eats without filling his stomach; chooses a home without demanding comfort; is diligent in his work and cautious in his speech; and keeps the company of others who possess the way to make sure that he stays on the right path. This is what it means to truly love learning.” (1)
Leadership requires focusing your energy on cultivating the self rather than pursuing the material trappings of success. This means working hard, being careful about what you say, and spending your time with people who can help you improve through the example they set and the knowledge they share with you.
As Confucius points out in the very first chapter of Book 1 of The Analects, learning is a lifelong process that combines both theory and practice – with the greater emphasis being placed on grinding out the hard yards of cultivating your character, conduct, and capabilities on a daily basis. Only people who are willing to make this effort can be said to truly love learning.
This is a theme that Confucius regularly returns to throughout the Analects, hammering home the need for constant practice and self-reflection. It’s a challenging path, just like waking up at dawn every morning for a five-mile run or yoga session, but sticking to it will enable you to achieve more than you ever thought possible.
This article features a translation of Chapter 14 of Book 1 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 1 here.
(1) The term 道 (dào), meaning way or path, was used for thousands of years in a general sense before it came to be associated with the Daodejing 道德經. Confucius is of course referring to it in this general sense here, though he was said to be an admirer of Laozi, the author of the text.
I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Qufu. You can read more about it here.