Tag Archives: Confucius on learning

Analects of Confucius Book 4: Confucius’s approach to learning

Confucius on learning

Confucius can certainly never be accused of sugarcoating the difficulties that any would-be student would face if he chose to follow his path. He promises no seven-step plan to guaranteed success or shortcut to fame and fortune with his approach to learning. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: Confucius’s approach to learning

Analects of Confucius Book 11 themes: learning and death

Analects of Confucius Book 11 themes

Book 11 of the Analects provides the most detailed collection of Confucius’s thoughts on the abilities and characters of his followers. No less than sixteen of them go under the microscope, with – surprise, surprise – the usual favorites Yan Hui (9 appearances), Zilu (9 appearances), Ran Qiu (5 appearances), and Zigong (4 appearances) receiving the lion’s share of the sage’s attention.

The lesser-known Min Ziqian and the arrogant but talented Zizhang come in next with three appearances. Three followers also make their debuts on the Analects, in the form of the “dumb” Zigao, the father of Yan Hui, Yan Lu, and the father of Zengzi, Zeng Dian – the latter two for the first and final time. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11 themes: learning and death

Leadership lessons from Confucius: paper qualifications

paper qualifications

子路使子羔為費宰。子曰:「賊夫人之子!」子路曰:「有民人焉,有社稷焉,何必讀書,然後為學?」子曰:「是故惡夫佞者。」
Zilu appointed Zigao as governor of Bi. Confucius said: “You’re harming another man’s son.” Zilu said: “There are people there for him to learn from as well as the altars of the spirits of the land and grain where he can learn how to perform ritual ceremonies. Why should learning consist only of reading books?” Confucius said: “It’s this kind of remark that makes me hate people with a smooth tongue.”

Do you need to have all the necessary paper qualifications first before going on to employment or can you pick up what you need to know on the job? For specialist fields such as medicine, law, and some engineering disciplines, you obviously do need to pass the required courses and examinations before being let loose on the unsuspected world. But for many other positions in more general areas such as sales and marketing, enthusiasm, intelligence, good writing skills, and a willingness to learn are at least as important as a degree from even the most prestigious college – if not more so. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: paper qualifications

Leadership lessons from Confucius: rose-tinted glasses

rose-tinted glasses

季康子問:「弟子孰為好學?」孔子對曰:「有顏回者好學,不幸短命死矣!今也則亡。」(1)
Ji Kangzi asked: “Which of your followers love learning?” Confucius replied: “There was Yan Hui who loved learning. Sadly, his life was cut short and he died. Now there’s nobody.” (1)

There’s nothing wrong with indulging in the occasional bout of nostalgia. Just be mindful that the good old days were never quite as wonderful as you imagine them to have been. In most instances they weren’t by any measurable criterion better either – just different. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: rose-tinted glasses

Leadership lessons from Confucius: an interactive process

interactive process

子曰:「回也,非助我者也!於吾言,無所不說。」
Confucius said: “Yan Hui is no help to me at all: he delights in everything I say.” (1)

Teaching is an interactive process. How do you know if your students are truly imbibing the great wisdom you are imparting to them if they just sit quietly in front of you without asking any questions? You may think that this shows they’re taking in everything you have to say, but it’s much more likely that they are either so bored that they don’t think it’s worth interrupting you with a question or so overwhelmed that they don’t want to appear dumber than everyone else by asking for clarification of a point that they don’t understand. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: an interactive process

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the same path?

same path

子曰:「可與共學,未可與適道;可與適道,未可與立;可與立,未可與權。
Confucius said: “Those who learn together won’t necessarily take the same path; those who take the same path won’t necessarily stand together; those who stand together won’t necessarily exercise their judgment in the same manner.”

Education is about providing people with the intellectual tools they need to make good decisions in a complex and dynamic world. It’s not about attempting to ensure that everyone conforms to a certain set of pre-approved values. Even if you attempt to force everybody to sing from the same hymn book, their opinions will naturally diverge based on their own experiences of the world. There is no universal truth that applies to everything. There is no single right answer for resolving every problem. Life is far too nuanced and complex for that. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the same path?

Leadership lessons from Confucius: grow and blossom

grow and blossom

子曰:「苗而不秀者,有矣夫!秀而不實者,有矣夫!」
Confucius said: “There are some plants that grow but never blossom; there are others that blossom but never bear fruit.”

The odds of building a successful startup are extremely low. According to various estimates only around one in ten make it. That doesn’t mean you should give up on your dream of entrepreneurial success, but that you should be well aware of the risks before you embark on your venture and make sure that you’re prepared for the challenges ahead. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: grow and blossom

Leadership lessons from Confucius: presentation tips

presentation tips

子曰:「語之而不惰者,其回也與?」
Confucius said: “If anyone could listen to me without growing weary, who else could it be than Yan Hui?” (1)

It takes more than a stunning PowerPoint deck and a compelling story to maintain people’s attention when they are just a tap on their smartphone screen away from the temptations of social media and email. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: presentation tips

Leadership lessons from Confucius: perseverance and perspiration

perseverance and perspiration

子曰:「譬如為山,未成一簣,止,吾止也!譬如平地,雖覆一簣,進,吾往也!」
Confucius said: “Let’s take piling up earth to build a mound as an example: even if I stop when I only need to pile on one last basket of earth, I have still stopped. Let’s take filling a hole in the ground as another example: if I have emptied the first basket of earth, I only need to keep on emptying more in order to continue to make progress.”

It doesn’t matter how much progress you’ve already made if you give up before achieving your goal. The responsibility for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory rests on your shoulders alone. You have no right or reason to blame anyone else. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: perseverance and perspiration

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a man from Daxiang

man from daxiang

達巷黨人曰,「大哉孔子,博學而無所成名。」子聞之,謂門弟子曰,「吾何執?執御乎,執射乎?吾執御矣。」(1)
A man from Daxiang said: “What a great man Confucius is! Despite his vast learning, he still hasn’t managed to make a name for himself in any particular field.” When Confucius heard of this, he said to his followers: “Which skill should I master? Should I master charioteering? Should I master archery? I think I’ll master charioteering.”

Who makes the best leaders? Generalists or specialists? There are strong arguments on both sides. Deep expertise and experience in a single domain such as finance or engineering shouldn’t necessarily disqualify you from taking on a senior management position in an organization, but it can lead to blinkered thinking unless you round yourself out with some time in sales, business development, or operations roles. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a man from Daxiang