Tag Archives: Confucius on goodness

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a trick question

trick question

宰我問曰:「仁者,雖告之曰,『井有仁焉。』其從之也?」子曰:「何為其然也?君子可逝也,不可陷也;可欺也,不可罔也。」
Zai Yu asked: “If a good person was told that someone lies at the bottom of a well, should they jump in after them?” Confucius said: “Why should they? A leader be enticed down the wrong path but not into a trap; they can be deceived, but not made a fool of.”

There’s no need to put someone on the spot with a trick question. The aim of any conversation or meeting you hold should be to generate a positive discussion – not to show how clever you are. The more you put other people down, the more you will stifle the sharing of different perspectives and ideas. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a trick question

Leadership lessons from Confucius: mountains and water

mountains and water

子曰:「知者樂水,仁者樂山。知者動,仁者靜。知者樂,仁者壽。」
Confucius said: “The wise love water, the good love mountains. The wise are active, the good are tranquil. The wise are joyful, the good enjoy long life.” (1) (2)

Wisdom and goodness are not mutually exclusive: just as mountains and water come together to form a perfect whole, so too is the human experience enhanced by the fusion of conflicting qualities and impulses. The sum is indeed greater than the parts. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: mountains and water

Leadership lessons from Confucius: wisdom and goodness

wisdom and goodness

樊遲問知。子曰:「務民之義,敬鬼神而遠之,可謂知矣。」問仁。曰:「仁者先難而後獲,可謂仁矣。
Fan Chi asked about wisdom. Confucius said: “Do what is right for the common people; respect the spirits and gods but keep them at a distance. This is wisdom.” Fan Chi asked about goodness. Confucius said: “A good man is first in line to confront difficulties and last in line to collect rewards. This is goodness.” (1) (2)

Wisdom isn’t an abstract concept. It means figuring out what needs be done and then going ahead and doing it. It requires that you use your knowledge and insight for the benefit of everyone – not just on behalf of a select few of friends and associates. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: wisdom and goodness

Leadership lessons from Confucius: don’t break the chain

don't break the chain

子曰:「回也,其心三月不違仁,其餘則日月至焉而已矣。」
Confucius said: “Ah! Yan Hui could focus his mind solely on goodness for three months, whereas others can manage only a day or a month.”

Don’t break the chain. That’s the wise advice the comedian Jerry Seinfeld gives about maintaining focus. No matter whether you’re planning to write a book or lose weight, you need to make sure that you work on it every day. Miss a day or two because you’re too tired or busy, and you risk going back to square one or coming to a complete halt. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: don’t break the chain

Analects of Confucius Book 4: by numbers

Analects of Confucius Book 4: by numbers

As in Book 2 and Book 3, Confucius dominates Book 4 of the Analects with the curious exceptions of Chapter 15, in which his younger follower Zengzi steps in to clarify the meaning of his words, and Chapter 26, where his follower Ziyou takes the reins. The only plausible explanation for these two anomalies is that they were slipped in by unscrupulous or careless editors.  Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: by numbers

Analects of Confucius Book 4: overview

The Analects of Confucius Book 4 begins with an exploration of the meaning of goodness. Only people who practice it constantly in their daily lives without a desire for personal profit are able to enjoy true satisfaction and contentment.

Even though Confucius claims that he has never seen “anyone whose strength is insufficient” to devote themselves to goodness for a single day, he despairs that he hasn’t ever seen anyone who “truly loves goodness and truly detests evil” either. The path to goodness that he urges everyone to follow is indeed a lonely and difficult one! Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: overview

Leadership lessons from Confucius: people’s flaws

people's faults

子曰:「人之過也,各於其黨。觀過,斯知仁矣。」
Confucius said: “People’s flaws reveal the type of person they are. By observing someone’s flaws, you’ll understand the true extent of their goodness.”

By all means listen to what other people have to say, but it’s only when you quietly observe what they actually do that you will understand their true character. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: people’s flaws

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a good rant

good rant

子曰:「我未見好仁者,惡不仁者。好仁者,無以尚之;惡不仁者,其為仁矣,不使不仁者加乎其身。有能一日用其力於仁矣乎?我未見力不足者。蓋有之矣,我未之見也。」
Confucius said: “I’ve never seen anyone who truly loves goodness and truly detests evil. Anyone who truly loves goodness would place nothing above it; anyone who truly detests evil would practice goodness in such a way that they would allow no evil to enter them. Is there anyone with the ability to devote all their strength to goodness for a single day? I’ve never seen anyone whose strength is insufficient. There may be people who don’t have even the small amount of strength it takes, but I’ve never seen them.”

There’s nothing wrong with having a good rant now and then to get things off your chest. Except of course you should realize that harsh words and blanket condemnations are more likely to have a counter-productive effect on the people you are trying to sway than persuade them to follow your way. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a good rant

Leadership lessons from Confucius: riches and rank

riches and rank

子曰:「富與貴,是人之所欲也,不以其道得之,不處也。貧與賤,是人之惡也,不以其道得之,不去也。君子去仁,惡乎成名。君子無終食之間違仁,造次必於是,顛沛必於是。」
Confucius said: “Riches and rank are what people desire; but if they can only obtain them through improper ways, they should not pursue them. Poverty and obscurity are what people detest; but if they can only escape from them through improper ways, they should accept them. If a leader abandons goodness, how can he live up to that name? A leader never abandons goodness, even for as long as it takes to eat a single meal; in moments of haste and confusion he still stays true to it.”

How to stick to your core values and beliefs through thick and thin? The lure of “riches and rank” and the fear of “poverty and obscurity” are too great for most mere mortals to resist. A true leader is as rare as a pearl in an oyster bed. Or perhaps one doesn’t really exist except as an ideal to aspire to. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: riches and rank

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the pursuit of goodness

pursuit of goodness

子曰:「苟志於仁矣,無惡也。」
Confucius said: “Dedicating yourself to the pursuit of goodness leaves no room for evil.”

Focus! Focus! Focus! There are no big secrets to the successful pursuit of goodness. Simply take a deep breath and put your best foot forward. The bright shiny objects that appear along the way will soon lose their luster as you build up your momentum. You’ll soon understand that they’re only there to distract you from your true purpose. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the pursuit of goodness