Leadership lessons from Confucius: through thick and thin

through thick and thin

Confucius said: “None those who accompanied me in Chen and Cai are still with me.” (1)

Life is an incredible journey. Be grateful for all the wonderful people you meet along the way: the family that nurture and love you; the teachers that give you knowledge and inspire you to move on to greater things; the bosses and colleagues who recognize your talent and provide you with the opportunity to develop it; and the friends who stick with you through thick and thin.

These are the people you’ll remember as you look back on your life. Mourn the ones who’ve already departed and cherish the ones that remain with you until the very end.


This article features a translation of Chapter 2 of Book 11 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 11 here.

(1) Book 11 features a wealth of comments from Confucius about his followers. In this chapter, Confucius is referring to an incident that occurred in 489 BCE when he and some of his followers including Zilu, Zigong, and Yan Hui were on their way to the state of Chu following an invitation from its ruler. When they reached the border area between the small states of Chen and Cai on their journey, they nearly starved to death after being surrounded for seven days by some angry locals concerned that if they succeeded in strengthening the much larger state of Chu it would be become a serious threat to them. By the time Confucius returned to his home state of Lu in around 483 BCE, Yan Hui had already died and his other followers had moved on to other posts. Hence his lament that none of them were still with him.

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *