Leadership Lessons from Confucius: not the end of the world

end of the world

Confucius said: “Don’t be concerned if people fail to recognize what you’ve accomplished; be concerned about what you haven’t been able to accomplish yet.”

Focus on what you can control. Forget about what you can’t. Of course, you want millions of people to buy the book you’ve put your heart and soul into writing, but there’s no way you can guarantee that will happen even with the best publicists promoting it.

If it does become a bestseller, enjoy the moment and then get back to work. If it doesn’t take off, understand that it’s not the end of the world. You’ll have learned a lot from the experience and you’ll be much better equipped to take on your next major project.


This article features a translation of Chapter 30 of Book 14 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 14 here.

(1) Starting in the very first chapter of the Analects, Confucius emphasizes the need for people to concentrate on cultivating their own talent and character rather than worry about whether others recognize them:

“Isn’t it the mark of a leader to remain unconcerned when others don’t recognize your talents?”

Other examples include 1.16 and 4.14:

“Don’t be concerned about other people failing to recognize your abilities; be concerned about failing to acknowledge their abilities.”

“Don’t be concerned that you haven’t secured an official position; be concerned that you have what it takes to secure one. Don’t be concerned that you aren’t recognized for your abilities; be concerned that you deserve to be recognized for your abilities.”

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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