Notes from the field: the ancient water town of Wuzhen

wuzhen

A great pleasure to visit the ancient water town of Wuzhen for the first time and take a brief stroll among the beautiful old buildings that line its picturesque lanes and charming canals.

Wuzhen owed its bustling prosperity during the Soong, Yuan, and Ming dynasties to its location along the Grand Canal, which was once the main trade route connecting Hangzhou and Beijing. Nowadays, much of its economy is dependent on the tourist industry. Following major renovations that were completed in 2013, it now reportedly receives over 1.5 million visitors per year. Continue reading Notes from the field: the ancient water town of Wuzhen

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the blurring of the lines

blurring of the lines

寢不尸,居不容。
In bed, he didn’t lie stiffly like a corpse; at home, he was informal and relaxed. (1)

We are living at a time when the distinction between our working and personal lives has never been more blurred. Thanks to ubiquitous connectivity, we are increasingly expected to be available at all times – no matter what day or time it is. Even if we aren’t answering email, our minds are still busy spinning over work issues in the background like the cogs and wheels of a clock. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the blurring of the lines

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a horse and carriage

horse and carriage

朋友之饋,雖車馬,非祭肉,不拜。
When receiving a gift from a friend, he wouldn’t bow even if it was a horse and carriage. The only gift he would bow for was one of sacrificial meat.

Customs change along with the times. Long-established conventions like wearing a suit and tie to the office give way to more casual forms of dress and behavior. Centuries-old church services are spiced up to appeal to younger audiences. Do you stick to the old ways and decry the loss of age-old traditions? Or do you keep up with the times and celebrate the latest social innovations? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a horse and carriage

Leadership lessons from Confucius: beyond the ritual script

ritual script

朋友死,無所歸,曰:「於我殯。」
When a friend died and there was no one to take care of his funeral, he said: “Let me look after it.”

Ritual is a form of automation. It provides you with the script and stage directions to follow when carrying out interpersonal interactions such as meeting another person or attending an event or religious ceremony. Memorizing and internalizing these conventions enables you to get through your day much more smoothly because you don’t have to think about how to behave or what to say in most common situations. In most cultures, for example, when you meet someone for the first time, you automatically shake their hand. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: beyond the ritual script

Leadership lessons from Confucius: visiting the Grand Ancestral Temple

Grand Ancestral Temple

入大廟,每事問。
Whenever he visited the Grand Ancestral Temple, he asked about everything that was happening there.

Never stop asking questions. There are always new things to find out even if you’ve already been to the place you’re visiting many times before and know its geography and history. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: visiting the Grand Ancestral Temple

Leadership lessons from Confucius: misdirected energy

misdirected energy

君命召,不俟駕行矣。
Whenever his ruler summoned him, he would set off without waiting for the horses to be harnessed to his carriage.

There’s no denying the importance of keeping your boss happy, but that doesn’t mean you have to leap at his or her every command. If you’re not delivering real results, all the effort you put in to impress the higher-ups will quickly go to waste. Focus on what’s important for the organization in order to get ahead rather than trying to look good in front your superiors.
Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: misdirected energy

Leadership lessons from Confucius: putting on a brave face

brave face

疾君視之,東首,加朝服拖紳。
When he fell ill and his ruler came to visit him, he had himself laid with his head facing the east and his body covered by his court dress with a sash laid across it. (1) (2)

Even at times of great personal discomfort or distress, do your best to put on a brave face when people come to visit you. This not only helps you to preserve your own personal dignity, but it also enables you to show your respect for them taking the time to come and see you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: putting on a brave face

Leadership lessons from China: a trusting relationship

trusting relationship

君賜食,必正席先嘗之。君賜腥,必熟而薦之。君賜生,必畜之。侍食於君,君祭先飯。
When his ruler sent him a gift of pre-cooked food, he straightened his mat and was the first person to taste it. When his ruler sent him a present of raw meat, he cooked it and made an offering to his ancestors. When his ruler gave him a livestock, he reared it. When dining with his ruler, he was the first one to taste the food after the ruler had performed the sacrificial offering. (1) 

Trust is the key to a successful relationship. The stronger it is between two people, the easier it becomes for you to work together and understand each other’s thinking. Continue reading Leadership lessons from China: a trusting relationship

Notes from the field: the more things change the more they stay the same

the more things change

Glorious fall weather in Taipei to mark the double tenth holiday! It was absolutely beautiful when I took a leisurely hike along the trails skirting Tiger Mountain.

Along the way, I came across a hillside temple readying itself for what looks set to be a huge celebration. Tables inside the main structure and courtyard were festooned with offerings of bottles of booze, packages of food, and even toy cars to make the ancestors more comfortable. Continue reading Notes from the field: the more things change the more they stay the same

Leadership lessons from Confucius: when the stables caught fire

when the stables caught fire

廄焚,子退朝,曰:「傷人乎?」不問馬。
When the stables caught fire, Confucius returned from court and asked: “Was anyone hurt?” He didn’t ask about the horses. (1) (2)

How do you decide what’s truly important to you? Your family? Your friends? Your job? The beautiful house you were finally able to purchase after years of hard work and scrimping and saving? Or perhaps even your pets? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: when the stables caught fire