Category Archives: Confucius

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Music Master Zhi

Music Master Zhi (師摯) was a famous court musician of Lu, and may also have been the conductor of the state orchestra. Like most musicians of the time, he was blind. Confucius was a huge fan, commenting in Chapter 15 of Book 8: “What rich and beautiful music fills my ears when Zhi, the music master, is conducting…” Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Music Master Zhi

Leadership lessons from Confucius: rich and beautiful music

rich and beautiful music

子曰:「師摯之始,關睢之亂,洋洋乎盈耳哉。」
Confucius said: “What rich and beautiful music fills my ears when Zhi, the music master, is conducting – right from the opening passage through to the finale of the Cry of the Ospreys!” (1) (2)

What kind of music are you making with your leadership? Have you brought everyone together to work in perfect harmony with each other towards a common goal? Or do you have them playing discordant notes because you’re not giving them a clear direction to follow? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: rich and beautiful music

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a covetous glance

covetous glance

子曰:「不在其位,不謀其政。」
Confucius said: “Don’t concern yourself with the affairs of an office that you don’t hold.”

Concentrate on your own job rather than casting a covetous glance at your boss’s chair. Even though you’re performing your responsibilities well, there are always plenty of ways in which you can improve and multiple gaps in your knowledge and experience that you can fill. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a covetous glance

Leadership lessons from Confucius: an unwinnable battle

unwinnable battle

子曰:「篤信好學,守死善道。危邦不人,亂邦不居,天下有道則見,無道則隱。邦有道,貧且賤焉,恥也,邦無道,富且貴焉,恥也。」
Confucius said: “Commit yourself sincerely to the love of learning. Defend the great way with your life. Do not enter an unstable state or live in a country that is in chaos. Take office when the way prevails in the world; withdraw from office when it disappears. In a state that has adopted the way, be ashamed if you remain poor and obscure; in a state that has lost the way, be ashamed if you become rich and achieve high rank.”

There’s no point in working with a leader without a clear ethical sense. No matter how honorably you act, you will inevitably get dragged into the morass and emerge with a sullied reputation or perhaps even worse. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: an unwinnable battle

Leadership lessons from Confucius: it’s your life

it's your life

子曰:「三年學,不至於穀,不易得也。」
Confucius said: “Someone willing to study for three years without taking up an official position is hard to find.”

Not everyone has the privilege of being able to spend three or four years at college. If you’re lucky enough to attend one, make the most of your time there. It’s one of the rare occasions in your life that you’ll have the opportunity to explore your true interests before you have to enter the world of work. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: it’s your life

Analects of Confucius Book 8: resources

Here is a list of resources covering Book 8 of the Analects of Confucius. You can click on the links below to learn more about the main themes of the book:

Analects of Confucius Book 8: translation 

Here is a list of articles I have written about each chapter in the book. Again, click on the links to learn more. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 8: resources

Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke of Zhou

The Duke of Zhou (周公) is a legendary figure in Chinese history and Confucius’s hero for the pivotal role he played in unifying the country under the Zhou Dynasty (周朝) and putting the foundations in place for its social, economic, and cultural development while acting as regent until his nephew assumed the throne as King Cheng (周成王). Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke of Zhou

Leadership lessons from Confucius: an uncomfortable question

uncomfortable question

子曰:「如有周公之才之美,使驕且吝,其餘不足觀也已。」
Confucius said: “Even if someone has all the outstanding talents of the Duke of Zhou, if they’re arrogant and mean all their other qualities aren’t worth looking at.”

Do you have the right character to make the most of your talent? This is an uncomfortable question to ask yourself, but also an extremely important one. After all, it’s impossible to achieve long-term success based on your abilities alone. You need to be able to complement them with diligence, integrity, modesty, generosity, and a host of other traits that will enable you to become a well-rounded person – or, as Confucius termed it, a leader (君子/jūnzǐ). Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: an uncomfortable question

Leadership lessons from Confucius: relentless demands

relentless demands

子曰:「好勇疾貧,亂也。人而不仁,疾之已甚,亂也。」
Confucius said: “If people with a courageous streak find themselves trapped in poverty, chaos will ensue. If people without a trace of goodness decide their sufferings are too great, chaos will ensue.”

The harder you push people, the likelier they are to push back either by voting with their feet or openly rebelling against the system. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: relentless demands

Leadership lessons from Confucius: elitist thinking?

elitist thinking

子曰:「民可使由之,不可使知之。」
Confucius said: “The common people can be made to follow the way, but they cannot be made to understand it.” (1)

Never underestimate the knowledge and wisdom of the people you lead. You may think that you have much greater experience and expertise than they do, but if you take the time to listen to them closely you’ll quickly find out that they have their fingers on the pulse every bit as much as you do. Perhaps even more so. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: elitist thinking?