Leadership lessons from Confucius: pride comes before the fall

pride comes before the fall

Confucius said: “Serving the duke and his ministers at court; serving my elders at home; mourning the dead with proper reverence; not being troubled by drink: how could I find any of these things difficult?”

Best not to become too complacent. Just as you think that you have control of your life, something is bound to happen that will knock you off balance. Pride comes before the fall.

Alcohol can of course be a major reason for losing the plot. Even though the occasional glass of wine won’t do you any harm, the number of times you reach for the bottle can easily go up without you noticing. Before you know what’s happening, you can become dependent on booze whenever you face a knotty problem or need some Dutch Courage to overcome your shyness in social situations.

If abstinence doesn’t appeal to you, then be sure to moderate your consumption – if only because the older you get, the harder it is to recover from hangovers and keep your weight down.


This article features a translation of Chapter 16 of Book 9 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 9 here.

(1) Best to avoid if you can Baijiu (白酒), the grain-based white liquor served at Chinese banquets. The effects can be devastating. The most popular brand in China is Maotai (茅台酒), which was became a great favorite of the communist forces camped nearby the brewery in the town of the same name in Guizhou province.

(2) In 8.10, Confucius is described as making sure he remained sober when drinking.

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.

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