“But if you can’t avoid it, you should practice archery,” Confucius continues. This is because he saw archery as more of a ritual discipline than a mere contest. Hitting the center of the target requires a calm and concentrated inner state rather than physical power and strength. Trying to compete with other participants will only serve to detract from this focus, and more likely than not cause you to try too hard and lose your accuracy.
The formal bows that took place before a tournament and the drinking ceremony that concluded it provided an opportunity for the participants to exchange courtesies and show their mutual respect for each other. Winning or losing wasn’t important; it was the participation that really mattered.
In Chapter 16, Confucius further expands his thoughts when he says “In archery, it doesn’t matter whether you pierce the covering of the target, because some archers are stronger than others. This is the way of the ancients.”
In other words, there’s no need to overdo things. Precision beats power. Clear your mind and relax. Focus on the process rather than trying to impress everyone around you. That way you will not only have a better chance of hitting the target but will also be able to save your energy so that you are ready to take on the next challenge.
Over two thousand years before the book was published, Confucius and countless other ancients already understood the value of Zen in the Art of Archery and leadership.