Confucius said: “I have never refused to teach anyone who has asked me to, even if they were too poor to offer no more than a token offering of a bundle of dried meat for their tuition.” (1)
It’s very rare to find a mentor who is willing to go beyond the bounds of duty and devote their personal time and energy to help you learn and grow. Treasure the opportunity if you are fortunate enough to be offered it and pay it back by working as hard as you can to justify your mentor’s faith in you.
Oh, and should you come across someone in need of similar assistance when you are established in your own career, pay it forward by doing your best to help them as well. After all, you probably wouldn’t be where you are today without the advice and encouragement you received when you needed it most.
This article features a translation of Chapter 7 of Book 7 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 7 here.
(1) Confucius was genuinely radical in advocating access to education for people from all social classes rather than just the elite. Many of his followers came from poor family backgrounds. He is said to have used the tuition fees he charged for students from rich families to subsidize the cost of their classes. In addition to teaching poor students, Confucius also helped them to find employment opportunities in government and with the wealthy noble and business families.
I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Changhua, Taiwan.