Leadership lessons from Confucius: stick to your values

stick to your values

子曰:「孝哉閔子騫,人不間於其父母昆弟之言。」
Confucius said: “Min Ziqian is a model of filial devotion! Nobody doubts the praise given to him by his parents and brothers.” (1)

Stick to your values no matter how much it may cost you in the short term. The heavier the pressure you are put under, the stronger you will become in the long term. Those who had the greatest doubts about you will ultimately become your most ardent supporters.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 5 of Book 11 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 11 here.

(1) One of Confucius’s favorite followers, Min Ziqian was renowned for the filial devotion he is said to have shown during his miserable childhood. After the untimely death of his own mother, he suffered terrible abuse from his father’s second wife, almost dying of cold on one occasion after she had lined his clothes with reed catkins instead of the warm cotton she used for the garments of her own two sons. When Ziqian nearly caused an accident while driving an oxcart because his hands were frozen stiff from the cold, his father tore his son’s jacket open while whipping him for his carelessness and sent the catkins flying out of it. He was so angry at his wife’s ill-treatment of his son that he threatened to throw her out of the house. But Min Ziqian interceded on her behalf, telling him that if he did that three of his sons would suffer while if she stayed on only one would go cold. Not surprisingly perhaps, Ziqian’s stepmother and stepbrothers were so touched by his kindness that they never treated him badly afterwards.

I took this image of ancient Zhou dynasty ritual vessels at the new Confucius Museum in the sage’s home town of Qufu. You can read more about the museum here.

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