Leadership lessons from Confucius: a creative ritual

creative ritual

Confucius said: “A leader who expands their learning through culture and keeps their behavior in check through ritual is unlikely to go wrong.” (1)

Creativity doesn’t happen by accident. It requires cultural fuel to spark it. Creativity doesn’t happen in isolation either. Even a writer bashing out a novel alone in their room at the dead of night needs a well of cultural inspiration to draw from to build the plot, describe the settings, and mold the characters.

Creativity also needs to be tamed before it can be transformed into a story, sculpture, painting, or even PowerPoint presentation. The act of creation requires a process or ritual to channel all the wild ideas flying around your head into a single coherent whole.

A creative ritual could be as simple as making yourself a cup of coffee before sitting at your desk, but the more often you repeat it the more receptive your mind will be when you pick up your pen or turn on your computer. Having a regular time for your creative ritual is also a huge help, even if it means dragging yourself out of bed at five o’clock in the morning.

Adhering to a creative ritual is tough at the beginning. But once you get into the rhythm of it, you’ll become far more inspired and productive than you’d ever thought possible.


This article features a translation of Chapter 27 of Book 6 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 6 here.

(1) Many commentators translate 文 (wén) as “literature”, but the term has a much broader meaning of “patterns” that encompasses painting, music, calligraphy, and sculpture as well.

I took this image at the Temple of Mencius in Zoucheng, a small town near to Qufu. You can read more about it here.

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