Leadership lessons from Confucius: don’t let the tough times drag you down

Don’t let the tough times drag you down

Confucius said: “Yan Hui was so admirable! A handful of rice to eat, a gourd of water to drink, and a hovel in a shabby lane to live in: while others would have been unable to endure such misery, Yan Hui never let it make any difference to his happiness. Yan Hui was so admirable!” (1)

Don’t let the tough times drag you down. Life doesn’t always give you what you want. Look on them as an opportunity to build up your inner strength and resilience. By maintaining a positive attitude, you will learn to appreciate the simple joys of life that much more and be better equipped to face the even bigger challenges that inevitable lie ahead.

Remaining positive when the whole word appears to be against you requires a strong sense of purpose just like both Confucius and his protégé Yan Hui had. What goal do you have in your heart and mind that will help keep you going when everything seems to be lost?


This article features a translation of Chapter 11 of Book 6 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 6 here.

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

The image above is of the well that Yan Hui is said to have drawn water from when living in a “hovel” in a “shabby lane”. It is located at the Temple of Yan Hui in Qufu. You can read more about the temple here.

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