Leadership lessons from Confucius: take a hard look at yourself

take a hard look at yourself

Confucius said: “I don’t understand people who are reckless and insincere, ignorant and irresponsible, and naïve and untrustworthy.”

Take a hard look at yourself the next time you find yourself in front of the mirror. Ask yourself what are the weaknesses that are holding you back from achieving your potential. When you can’t bear to look at yourself any longer, sit down at your desk and write them down – not so much to make sure you don’t forget them but as a starting point for determining how to address them.

Rather than beating yourself up as you go through each point, write down a brief action plan for improvement. Nothing too fancy is required. The simpler the better. Don’t set your goals too high either. If they’re over-ambitious, you’ll simply be setting yourself up for failure. You can always adjust your targets later.

As part of your plan, don’t forget to include regular returns to the mirror so that you can look yourself in the eyes and candidly evaluate your progress. If you’re not moving forward as quickly as you had originally hoped, don’t be discouraged. Faster growth will come the more deeply you engage in the process.


This article features a translation of Chapter 16 of Book 8 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 8 here.

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

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