Leadership lessons from Confucius: young at heart?

young at heart

葉公問孔子於子路,子路不對。子曰:「女奚不曰,其為人也,發憤忘食,樂以忘憂,不知老之將至云爾。」
The Duke of She asked Zilu about Confucius. Zilu did not reply. Confucius said: “Why didn’t you say, ‘He’s the kind of man who gets so lost in his passions that he forgets to eat and so caught up in his happiness that he forgets his worries and doesn’t even notice he’s growing old?’”

How would you like your friends and colleagues to describe you when someone asks about you? Or would you prefer that, like Zilu, they say nothing at all?

Come to think of it, how would you describe yourself if someone asked you to? Are you, as Confucius claims to be, so young at heart that you that the world still excites you? Or have you perhaps lost your sense of wonder and settled into a more sedate attitude towards life?

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 18 of Book 7 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 7 here.

(1) The Duke of She was a feudal lord in the state of Chu whose fiefdom was located in what is now Henan province. His full name was Shen Zhuliang (沈諸梁). Depending on which commentators you choose to believe, he was either an ambitious figure who wanted to hire Confucius to help him fulfill his lust for greater power or a wise and thoughtful individual who had great admiration for the sage. Zilu’s refusal to answer his question may indicate that he was concerned about the duke’s motives and wanted to discourage him from approaching Confucius. You can read more about the Duke of She here.

I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Changhua, Taiwan.

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