Leadership lessons from Confucius: the flowers of the cherry tree

flowers of the cherry tree

「唐棣之華,偏其反而,豈不爾思?室是遠而。」子曰:「未之思也,未何遠之有?」
“The flowers of the cherry tree,
Flutter and turn.
How could it be that I don’t long for you?
But your house is so far away!”
Confucius said: “He doesn’t really long for her. If he did, would he care about the distance?”

If you have a goal that you truly wish to achieve, don’t just talk about it. Don’t complain about the difficulties you face. Go out and make it happen.

Thanks to the rapid proliferation of technology and the lowering of the barriers to entry for adopting it, there’s never been a better time in human history to start a business, write a book or screenplay, or connect with millions of like-minded people throughout the world.

That of course doesn’t mean that achieving success will be easy. But you’ll have no chance at all if you don’t want it enough to put up with some hardships along the way.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 31 of Book 9 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 9 here.

(1) This passage provides a rather odd but entertaining ending to Book 9. Some scholars have fought manfully to dredge out deeper layers of symbolic meaning from Confucius’s analysis of this limp-wristed declaration of affection, while others have tried to figure out how this passage could possibly have made it into the Analects.

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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