Leadership lessons from Confucius: perseverance and perspiration

perseverance and perspiration

Confucius said: “Let’s take piling up earth to build a mound as an example: even if I stop when I only need to pile on one last basket of earth, I have still stopped. Let’s take filling a hole in the ground as another example: if I have emptied the first basket of earth, I only need to keep on emptying more in order to continue to make progress.”

It doesn’t matter how much progress you’ve already made if you give up before achieving your goal. The responsibility for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory rests on your shoulders alone. You have no right or reason to blame anyone else.

It doesn’t matter how little progress you’ve already made if you keep on working towards your goal. You’ll surely encounter some tough challenges along the way, but if you’re armed with the right mindset you’ll overcome them and reach your target.

No matter whether it’s losing weight or building a business, perseverance and perspiration are the key to long-term success. You won’t get very far without knuckling down and putting your nose to the grindstone.


This article features a translation of Chapter 19 of Book 9 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 9 here.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *