Confucius said: “Reverence unregulated by ritual descends into indifference; cautiousness unregulated by ritual descends into timidity; boldness unregulated by ritual descends into disorder; frankness unregulated by ritual descends into hurtfulness. If a leader is devoted to their family, the people are inclined towards goodness; if a leader doesn’t forget about their old friends, the people will not shirk their obligations to others.”
Nobody’s an island. If you focus solely on improving your own performance you without any form of external mediation, the law of unintended consequences will inevitably kick in and you’ll find the strengths you’ve worked so hard hone becoming weaknesses. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the invisible line
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.
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
Wu Mengzi (吳孟子) was the name that Duke Zhao of Lu (魯昭公) gave to his wife to mask the fact that he had violated a strict ritual convention by marrying a woman with the same family name (姬/Jī) as his own. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Wu Mengzi
Duke Zhao (昭公) was the predecessor of Duke Ding (定公) as the ruler of Confucius’s home state of Lu. He spent much of his reign from 541–510 BCE struggling to prevent his power being undermined by the Three Families, Jisun 季孫, Mengsun 孟孫, and Shusun 叔孫, that dominated the state. Ultimately, he failed in his attempts to control them and spent the last part of his life in exile in the states of Qi and Jin. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Zhao of Lu
The Minister of Justice of Chen asked: “Did Duke Zhao understand ritual?” Confucius said: “Yes, he understood ritual.” Confucius withdrew. With a bow, the minister invited Wuma Qi to come forward and said to him: “I’ve heard it said that a true leader is never biased. But isn’t your master biased after all? The duke took a wife from the state of Wu; but because she had the same family name, he called her Wu Mengzi. If the duke understood ritual, who doesn’t understand it?” Wuma Qi reported this to Confucius. Confucius said: “I’m fortunate indeed: whenever I make a mistake, there’s always someone on hand to let me know about it.” (1) (2) (3)
Don’t let yourself get drawn into an argument when someone asks you a question that is designed to embarrass you. Give a short and succinct answer and shrug off any mock outrage that ensues from it. Life’s too short to waste time getting upset about it. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a short and succinct answer
Occasions when Confucius used standard pronunciation: when reciting the Book of Songs and the Book of Documents, and when carrying out ritual ceremonies. On all these occasions, he used standard pronunciation.
Language provides a unifying force in the communities we live in, the institutions we learn in, and the organizations we work in. A common lexicon that everyone is fluent in is vital if we are to live harmoniously, learn effectively, and work efficiently with each other. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a common lexicon
When Confucius dined with someone in mourning, he never ate his fill. On a day when he had been weeping, Confucius never sang. (1) (2)
When you attend a funeral or visit someone in mourning, your purpose is to pay your respects and offer your condolences. If you are offered something to eat and drink, you should of course accept the invitation but exercise restraint on how much you consume. You are there to show your empathy and support for the person who is grieving their loss – not to disturb the mood by drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: on dining with someone in mourning
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: “A cornered chalice without any corners. How can that be called a cornered chalice? How can that be called a cornered chalice?” (1)
Say what you mean. Mean what you say. If you’re running a political polling company dedicate your efforts on finding out what people are really thinking rather than attempting to dictate what they should think by massaging the results to support a pre-determined narrative. Quite apart from the moral issues at stake, why sacrifice your long-term credibility for short-term fame? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: say what you mean
Here is a list of resources covering the Analects of Confucius Book 3. You can click on the links below to learn more about the main themes of the book, including ritual, music, and leadership. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 3: Resources