Leadership lessons from Confucius: don’t break the chain

don't break the chain

子曰:「回也,其心三月不違仁,其餘則日月至焉而已矣。」
Confucius said: “Ah! Yan Hui could focus his mind solely on goodness for three months, whereas others can manage only a day or a month.”

Don’t break the chain. That’s the wise advice the comedian Jerry Seinfeld gives about maintaining focus. No matter whether you’re planning to write a book or lose weight, you need to make sure that you work on it every day. Miss a day or two because you’re too tired or busy, and you risk going back to square one or coming to a complete halt.

I was reminded of this last weekend when I failed to post a blog entry on Friday because I had to make a last-minute trip to Hong Kong. Working up the motivation to resume the blog again on Sunday was a lot tougher than I had expected. I ended up taking far more time writing my post than I normally would and even started questioning whether I really needed to continue my explorations of the Analects.

Grinding it out every single day no matter what other demands you may have on your time is no guarantee that you’ll hit the jackpot, but sticking to a regular routine will enable your body and mind to enter a state of flow or effortless action (無為/wúwéi) in which you become so immersed in the task at hand that you don’t waste precious time and brain cycles thinking or worrying about anything else.

So, the next time you’re tempted to give yourself a break, remember the advice of a modern-day sage: don’t break the chain.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 7 of Book 6 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 6 here.

(1) You can read more about the Yan Hui here.

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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