Leadership Lessons from Confucius: like a social butterfly

social butterfly

A boy from the village of Que came bearing a message. Someone asked about him, saying: “Is he likely to improve himself?” Confucius said: “I have noticed that he seats himself among others and walks alongside people older than himself. He is not looking to improve himself; he wants to grow up too fast.”

It takes time and care to build up an effective personal network. Hanging out at parties or making noise on social media might be enough to trigger some attention from the makers and shakers, but unless you prove yourself to be sincere and to have something of value to offer they’ll soon lose their interest in you. Better to focus your time on building something great rather than flitting around like a social butterfly.


This article features a translation of Chapter 44 of Book 14 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 14 here.

(1) Although there’s nothing exceptional about the boy’s behavior in the more informal social climate that prevails today, Confucius is scandalized by the lack of deference he shows to his elders. By wanting “to grow up too fast”, the boy promises to be nothing but trouble.

(2) The village of Que was just outside Qufu, the capital of Lu. Confucius is said to have lived in the area during his later years following his return from self-exile.

I took this image at the Temple of the Duke of Zhou in Qufu. The duke was Confucius’s great hero and role model as a result of his tireless efforts to the establish the foundation of the fledgling kingdom of Zhou while acting a regent to the young King Cheng. You can read more about the temple here.

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