Leadership lessons from Confucius: the nine Yi tribes

nine yi tribes

子欲居九夷。或曰:「陋,如之何?」子曰:「君子居之,何陋之有!」
Confucius wanted to live among the nine Yi tribes. Someone said: “It’s wild there. How would you cope?” Confucius replied: “How could it be wild once a leader goes to live there?”

You don’t have to agree with everything that someone says to admire them. Indeed, if you do take their every word as gospel, you might want to look more closely at your own capacity for critical thinking. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the nine Yi tribes

Leadership lessons from Confucius: waiting for the right price

right price

子貢曰:「有美玉於斯,韞 而藏諸?求善賈而沽諸?」子曰:「沽之哉!沽之哉!我待賈者也!」
Zigong said: “If you had a precious piece of jade, would you hide it in a box for safekeeping or would you try and sell it for a good price?” Confucius said: “I would sell it! I would sell it! All I’m waiting for is the right price.” (1)

Pricing is one of the trickiest tasks in business. Set it too high and you risk putting off potential customers. Set it too low and you risk leaving money on the table – not to mention attracting customers who don’t appreciate the full value of the product or service you are offering. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: waiting for the right price

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the road to hell

road to hell

子疾病,子路使門人為臣,病間曰:「久矣哉,由之行詐也!無臣而為有臣,吾誰欺?欺天乎?且予與其死於臣之手也,無寧死於二三子之手乎?且予縱不得大葬,予死於道路乎?」
Confucius was seriously ill. Zilu had his followers act as if they were retainers of a lord. When his illness went into remission, Confucius said: “Zilu, this deception has lasted long enough. Who do I deceive with these bogus retainers? Do I deceive heaven? Rather than die among retainers, I would prefer to die in the arms of my followers. I may not receive a grand funeral, but I’ll hardly die by the roadside.”

Respect other people’s wishes. Don’t try to second guess them. Even if you think your idea is better, their priorities may very well be different than yours. It’s no accident that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the road to hell

Leadership lessons from Confucius: temper and tend

temper and tend

顏淵喟然嘆曰:「仰之彌高,鑽之彌堅,瞻之在前,忽焉在後!夫子循循然善誘人,博我以文,約我以禮。欲罷不能,既竭吾才,如有所立,卓爾。雖欲從之,末由也已!」
Yan Hui said with a heavy sigh: “The more I contemplate it, the higher it seems; the deeper I probe it, the harder it becomes; when I catch a glimpse of it in front of me, it’s suddenly behind me. Our master knows how to guide people skillfully and methodically. He broadens my mind with culture and restrains me with ritual. Even if I wanted to stop, I could not. Just as all my talents are exhausted, there seems to be something new towering above me. But although I long to follow it, I can’t find a way to it.”

The greatest idea in the world is worth nothing if it isn’t channeled in the right direction through discipline. That brilliant novel you have mapped out in your mind will never see the light of the day if you lack the willpower to pound away at your keyboard day after day. And that bright fiery potential that burned in your eyes when you were in your twenties will be extinguished by the time you reach middle age if you don’t temper and tend it. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: temper and tend

Leadership lessons from Confucius: simple acts of common courtesy

common courtesy

子見齊衰者,冕衣裳者,與瞽者見之,雖少必作,過之必趨。」
Whenever Confucius saw someone in mourning dress, a grandee in ceremonial robes, or a blind person, he would always rise to his feet even if they were younger than him and quicken his step when he passed by them.

Never underestimate the potential of a friendly smile or a sincere thank you to lift the mood of people you encounter during your day. We all like to be acknowledged and appreciated for who we are and the contribution we make. Even the most seemingly innocuous of words and gestures can be enough to boost our morale and restore our faith in ourselves and the rest of humanity. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: simple acts of common courtesy

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the phoenix doesn’t appear

phoenix doesn't appear

子曰:「鳳鳥不至,河不出圖,吾已矣乎!」
Confucius said: “The phoenix doesn’t appear; the river doesn’t yield its diagram. It’s over for me!”

When the signs are clear that you have no choice but to give up your quest, face the truth with courage and grace. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the phoenix doesn’t appear

Leadership lessons from Confucius: from both ends

from both ends

子曰:「吾有知乎哉?無知也。有鄙夫問於我,空空如也;我叩其兩端而竭焉。」
Confucius said: “Am I knowledgeable? No, I’m not. When a humble farmer asked me for advice about a problem, my mind went blank; but I attacked the problem from both ends until I found the solution.” (1)

Never forget that you don’t have all the answers. Stay humble and keep an open mind. Approach each problem you encounter based on its particular merits, no matter how much experience and expertise you may have in the field. Gather up all the facts and analyze them from all angles. Weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of each possible solution. Only when you’ve completed your analysis should you decide on the appropriate course of action. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: from both ends

Leadership lessons from Confucius: embracing new challenges

embracing new challenges

牢曰:「子云:『吾不試,故藝。』
Lao stated: “Confucius said: ‘Since I was never appointed to high public office I mastered the arts.’” (1) (2) (3)

Don’t beat yourself up too much if you fail to get your dream job. Other opportunities will come along if you continue to work hard and broaden your experience and knowledge. The key is to keep on learning by embracing new challenges and developing new areas of interest. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: embracing new challenges

Analects of Confucius Book 9: resources

Here is a list of resources covering Book 9 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 9: 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 9: resources

Leadership lessons from Confucius: real world experience

real world experience

大宰問於子貢曰:「夫子聖者與!何其多能也?」子貢曰:「固天縱之將聖,又多能也。」子聞之曰:「大宰知我乎?吾少也賤,故多能鄙事。君子多乎哉?不多也!」
The Grand Steward asked Zigong: “Your master’s a true sage, isn’t he? He’s skilled in so many things.” Zigong replied: “Heaven indeed made him a sage, but he also happens to have many different skills.” When he heard of this, Confucius said: “What does the Grand Steward know about me? In my youth I was poor, so I had to learn a number of menial skills. Does a leader usually have so many different skills? I don’t think so.”

There’s no better preparation for adult life than a part-time or temporary job waiting tables, flipping burgers, valeting cars, doing construction, or working on a production line. You can learn far more in few months from that about how the world really works than studying two years for an MBA in a fancy college. It’s only though practical experience that you can understand the challenges of working with other people from diverse backgrounds, dealing with prickly customers, and meeting seemingly impossible deadlines. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: real world experience