Lao stated: “Confucius said: ‘Since I was never appointed to high public office I mastered the arts.’” (1) (2) (3)
Don’t beat yourself up too much if you fail to get your dream job. Other opportunities will come along if you continue to work hard and broaden your experience and knowledge. The key is to keep on learning by embracing new challenges and developing new areas of interest.
This article features a translation of Chapter 7 of Book 9 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 9 here.
(1) Lao (牢) is usually identified as a disciple of Confucius called Yuan Xian (原憲). You can read more about him here.
(2) Because of its different style and tone, some commentators believe that this passage is an editorial hack that was added to the Analects at a later date. Some include it in Chapter 6 of Book 9, while others regard it is a separate chapter.
(3) Assuming that this quote is genuine, Confucius presumably means that he was never made chief minister when he says that he was never appointed to high office. Between 501 and 497 BCE, held a number of official positions in the state of Lu – though it is unclear how important these were.
(4) Again assuming that this quote is genuine, Confucius is presumably referring to the so-called “Six Arts” (六藝) of ritual, music, calligraphy, mathematics, archery, and charioteering.
I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Yilan, Taiwan. You can read more about the rather convoluted history of this temple in this excellent article by Josh Ellis here.