Sima Niu asked: “What makes a leader?” Confucius said: “A leader has no anxiety or fear.” Sima Niu said: “No anxiety or fear? That’s what makes a leader?” Confucius said: “When he looks inside himself and finds nothing wrong, what does he have to be anxious about or fear?”
It’s natural to suffer from stage fright when you’re about to embark on a major project. Of course your mind’s going to be filled with doubts about whether you have the ability to execute it, but as long as you know you’re doing the right thing ignore the butterflies in your stomach and move ahead with it.
Do you really want to look back and wonder what might have been because you let your fears get in the way of your dream?
This article features a translation of Chapter 4 of Book 12 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 12 here.
(1) This passage follows on from the previous chapter. Confucius is reassuring Sima Niu that he has nothing to worry about as long as he has made the right decision about how to deal with his brother Huan Tui after learning about his plans to rebel against the ruler of the state of Song. It’s worth noting, however, that he refuses to give Sima Niu specific advice on what his actions should be. It is up to Sima Niu to resolve his dilemma.
I took this image on the climb up Jiuwufeng in the Four Beasts Scenic Area in Taipei.