Confucius said: “Serving the duke and his ministers at court; serving my elders at home; mourning the dead with proper reverence; not being troubled by drink: how could I find any of these things difficult?”
Best not to become too complacent. Just as you think that you have control of your life, something is bound to happen that will knock you off balance. Pride comes before the fall. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: pride comes before the fall
Confucius was seriously ill. Zilu had his followers act as if they were retainers of a lord. When his illness went into remission, Confucius said: “Zilu, this deception has lasted long enough. Who do I deceive with these bogus retainers? Do I deceive heaven? Rather than die among retainers, I would prefer to die in the arms of my followers. I may not receive a grand funeral, but I’ll hardly die by the roadside.”
Respect other people’s wishes. Don’t try to second guess them. Even if you think your idea is better, their priorities may very well be different than yours. It’s no accident that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the road to hell
Whenever Confucius saw someone in mourning dress, a grandee in ceremonial robes, or a blind person, he would always rise to his feet even if they were younger than him and quicken his step when he passed by them.
Never underestimate the potential of a friendly smile or a sincere thank you to lift the mood of people you encounter during your day. We all like to be acknowledged and appreciated for who we are and the contribution we make. Even the most seemingly innocuous of words and gestures can be enough to boost our morale and restore our faith in ourselves and the rest of humanity. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: simple acts of common courtesy
Confucius said: “According to ritual, the ceremonial cap should be made of hemp; these days it’s made of silk. This is more economical and I follow the general practice. According to ritual, you should make your bow at the bottom of the steps; nowadays people make their bow at the top of the steps. This is arrogant, and even though it goes against the general practice I make my bow at that bottom of the steps.” (1)
Times change. So do fashions and styles. How to decide which traditions to maintain and which ones to jettison in favor something more modern? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: change for change’s sake
Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 9 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher, including his thoughts on how to observe ritual and his hopes for the younger generation.
Confucius disapproved of profit, but he approved of fate and goodness. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 9: new English translation
I have completed my work on Book 8 of the Analects of Confucius, at least for now. Talk about a long hot summer! I’m not sure I ever really recovered my enthusiasm for the text after having to battle through five chapters of the follower Zengzi early on in the book. Why spend time on the stilted prognostications of a pale imitation of the sage when you can go direct to the source?
Myths and counter-myths
The most enjoyable part of reading the book was digging through the myths and counter-myths surrounding the legendary sage kings Yao, Shun, and Yu in the final five chapters. Were these three men truly the paragons of leaderly virtue that Confucius praises to the skies? Did Yao and Shun really voluntarily cede power to their hand-picked successor rather than keep it in the family? Or were they summarily kicked off the throne when they became too old and weak to maintain their grip on it and bundled off into exile or prison? Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 8 overview: from sage kings to ritual and music
Confucius said: “Find inspiration with the Book of Songs; establish character with ritual; achieve perfection with music.” (1)
If you’re serious about inspiring creativity and innovation in your team or organization, you could do a lot worse than making poetry a key element of your efforts. Poetry not only teaches us how to express ourselves more eloquently; it can also give us a lifelong love of language and literature. Its ability to encapsulate complex and often conflicting emotions in powerful and evocative phrases provides powerful fuel for our imaginations – not to mention a powerful antidote to anodyne official language. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: poetic inspiration
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 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 to 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