Leadership lessons from Confucius: strong and resolute

strong and resolute

曾子曰:「士不可以不弘毅,任重而道遠。仁以為己任,不亦重乎,死而後已,不亦遠乎。」
Zengzi said: “A scholar-official must be strong and resolute because his burden is heavy and his road is long. He takes goodness as his burden: is it not heavy? His journey ends only with death: is it not long?” (1)

Before you embark on a new path or project, make sure that you’re fully aware of what it entails. In the rush of initial excitement, it’s all too easy to underestimate the physical, mental, and emotional resources you’ll be required to draw on if you’re to successfully complete it.

No matter how carefully you plan for every possible contingency, a completely unexpected event is highly likely to occur at some point along the way. You need to be prepared to deal with it quickly and effectively so that it doesn’t obstruct your progress or send you off in the wrong direction.

Sticking to your core values is critical to ensuring that you stay on track. But rather than seeing them as a heavy burden, use them as a compass to help you keep on the correct course when the going gets rough and see you through to your destination.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 7 of Book 8 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 8 here.

(1) The character 士 (shì) has been variously translated as official, knight, and scholar, and refers to members of the emerging middle class during the Spring and Autumn period who were taking positions in government, business, military, and politics. According to both Confucius and Zengzi, such a man had to be much more than a mere bureaucrat, scholar, or knight: he had a moral responsibility to strive for the betterment of himself and society throughout his lifetime.

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

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