How to be the best you can be? This is the question Confucius raises in 6.29 of the Analects. His answer is that it’s by applying the “golden mean” (中庸 /zhōngyōng), a dynamic process that enables you to maintain a constant state of balance in your character and attitude towards life.
In 6.18, Confucius describes the two key forces that drive the application of the golden mean. Native substance (質/zhì) and cultural refinement (文/wén) comprise a complementary and conflicting duality that needs to be constantly tweaked to maintain the optimum equilibrium. If you don’t put enough focus on learning, you risk becoming as coarse as a peasant; if you put too much focus on learning, you risk becoming as pedantic as a clerk. The goal is to hit the mark in the middle. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 6: Confucius on the golden mean
Confucius covered four subjects in his teaching: culture; conduct; loyalty; and trustworthiness. (1)
Confucius defined four key ingredients in the basic recipe that an individual needed to formulate in order to create their very own brand of secret sauce. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the basic recipe for your secret sauce
Confucius said: “A leader who expands their learning through culture and keeps their behavior in check through ritual is unlikely to go wrong.” (1)
Creativity doesn’t happen by accident. It requires cultural fuel to spark it. Creativity doesn’t happen in isolation either. Even a writer bashing out a novel alone in their room at the dead of night needs a well of cultural inspiration to draw from to build the plot, describe the settings, and mold the characters.
Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a creative ritual
Confucius said: “When native substance wins out over cultural refinement, you get the coarseness of a peasant; when cultural refinement wins out over native substance, you get the pedantry of a clerk. Only when native substance and cultural refinement are in balance do you get a leader.”
There’s no doubt that weight-training is great for making you healthier. A regular program enables you to build up both physical and mental strength through exercise and discipline and can provide a platform for achieving more than you imagined possible in your personal and professional life. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: native substance and cultural refinement
With civilization collapsing around him as multiple states and factions within them fought for control of China, Confucius looked back to the “golden age” at the beginning of the Zhou dynasty in the 11th century BC as the model for restoring stability and culture to the country. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 3: I follow the Zhou!
The character 文 (wén) originally meant “patterns”, though it is more often translated as “culture” or “civilization” as it refers to arts such as literature, calligraphy, music, ritual, mathematics, and even archery and charioteering. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on culture
Confucius said: “Even the Yi and Di tribes that have chieftains can’t match the various states in our land that don’t have rulers.” (1)
The culture of an organization requires constant renewal in order to stay strong and vibrant. That means it needs to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking from people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: constant renewal
Zizhang asked: “Can we predict the future ten generations from now?” Confucius said: “The Yin Dynasty adopted the rites of the Xia Dynasty; we know what was dropped and what was added. The Zhou Dynasty borrowed from the rites of the Yin Dynasty: we know what was dropped and what was added. If the Zhou Dynasty has successors, we know what they will be like, even a hundred generations from now.”
How to manage continuity and change? This is a key challenge for any leader. What elements do you need to add to your organization so that it’s ready to meet the challenges of the future? What elements do you need to drop that are holding it back? Perhaps most important, what are the core values you need to retain to ensure its long-term resilience? Without such an anchor, your organization will undoubtedly veer off course and crash into the rocks. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: continuity and change