Tag Archives: Confucius on goodness

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the wise are never perplexed

The wise are never perplexed

子曰:「知者不惑,仁者不憂,勇者不懼。」
Confucius said: “The wise are never perplexed; the good are never anxious; the brave are never afraid.”

Put in the time required to understand what’s really happening. Don’t take what other people have to say at face value. Question all your assumptions. Ignore all the fake narratives and bogus statistics designed to befuddle rather than enlighten you. Blow away the smoke and smash the mirrors until you reach such a state of clarity that you can make a decision without any doubts or second thoughts.

Embrace uncertainty rather than resist it. Analyze the opportunities and the threats and decide on your course of action. While others are flailing around trying to figure out what’s going on and what to do about it, you’re ready to swoop in and make your move.

Don’t confuse courage with recklessness. The reason you’re not afraid is because you’ve fully prepared yourself for this very moment. While others waste valuable time complaining about the vagaries of fate, you’ve already executed your plan and decided what your next step will be. Because they are in control of their thoughts and emotions and know the right time to take action, the wise are never perplexed.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 29 of Book 9 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 9 here.

I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Yilan, Taiwan. You can read more about the rather convoluted history of this temple in this excellent article by Josh Ellis here.

Leadership lessons from Confucius: pointless arguments

Temple of Confucius Yilan: pointless arguments

子罕言利,與命與仁。
Confucius disapproved of profit, but he approved of fate and goodness. (1)

Pay close attention to how you speak and write. A poor choice of words or a lack of clarity in grammar or syntax might not just lead to misunderstandings today but also condemn others to thousands of years of pointless arguments over the meaning of the message you originally meant to convey. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: pointless arguments

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

Analects of Confucius Book 7: new English translation

Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 7 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher. It provides a vivid portrait of the sage’s personality and motivations, as well as his opinions on various followers and other contemporary and historical figures.

Chapter 1
子曰:「述而不作,信而好古,竊比於我老彭。」
Confucius said: “I transmit but I don’t create. I am faithful to and love the past. In this respect, I dare to compare myself with Old Peng.”
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 7: new English translation

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the search for goodness

search for goodness

子曰:「仁遠乎哉?我欲仁,斯仁至矣。」
Confucius said: “Is goodness really so far away? No sooner do I desire goodness than it’s at hand.”

The search for goodness is a cumulative process. The harder you work to hone your character, sharpen your skills, and deepen your knowledge, the closer you come to finding it. The key is to keep on striving towards it every day. There are no magical spells or five-step formulas to instant success. The greater the effort and commitment you put into it, the greater the rewards and satisfaction you will reap. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the search for goodness

Leadership lessons from Confucius: set your heart on the way

set your heart on the way

子曰:「志於道,據於德,依於仁,游於藝。」
Confucius said: “Set your heart on the way; act in accordance with virtue; hold fast to goodness; enjoy the arts.”

No matter what path you choose to pursue in life, the more strongly you dedicate yourself to it, the more likely you are to achieve fulfillment. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: set your heart on the way

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a rising tide lifts all boats

a rising tide

子貢曰:「如有博施於民,而能濟眾,何如?可謂仁乎?」子曰:「何事於仁,必也聖乎!堯舜其猶病諸!夫仁者,己欲立而立人,己欲達而達人。能近取譬,可謂仁之方也已。」
Zigong said: “What about someone who acts generously towards the people and benefits the masses? Could that be described as goodness?” Confucius said: “Why stop at calling it goodness? It could be defined as perfection. Even Yao and Shun wouldn’t be able to match it! Good people help others get on their feet while establishing their own career; they help others to achieve their goals while achieving their own objectives. By standing in other people’s shoes, it can be said that they’re on the right track to goodness.” (1) (2)

A rising tide lifts all boats. Leadership is not just about improving your own effectiveness but also that of everyone around you. It requires building a platform that enables everyone to learn and grow. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a rising tide lifts all boats

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’ll 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