Leadership Lessons from Confucius: enjoy your wealth

enjoy your wealth

Confucius commented that Prince Jing of Wei knew how to manage the finances of his household well: “When he began to accumulate some wealth, he said ‘this is truly an ideal fit.’ As his wealth increased, he said ‘this is truly complete.’ When his wealth became considerable, he said ‘this is truly beautiful.’”
子謂衛公子荊善居室:「始有,曰『苟合矣』;少有,曰『苟完矣』;富有,曰『苟美矣。』」

Enjoy your wealth. You’ve deserved it. Just be sure to manage it responsibly. Don’t go overboard with the accumulation of possessions that you’ll never have any use of or get caught up in competitive displays of ostentation with others to prove that you’ve truly made it. No matter how massive and luxurious your yacht is, it won’t be long before somebody else comes along with something even grander and even more tasteless.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 8 of Book 13 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 13 here.

(1) As a minister in the government of the state of Wei and a member of the ruling family, the prince had ample opportunity to enrich himself and enjoy the trappings of office but was known for his lack of extravagance. By praising the prince for his (relative) restraint, Confucius is also probably indirectly criticizing others for their unbridled greed and dissolute lifestyles.

(2) Confucius was no hair-shirted ascetic. He had no objections to virtuous people like Prince Jing “doing well by doing good” as long as they weren’t excessive about it and didn’t become a slave to their desires.

I took this image in the stunning primal forest of Taipingshan. You can read more about the magical place here.

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