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
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
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
As in Book 2, Confucius is featured in all the chapters of Book 3 of the Analects. The sage’s faithful followers Zixia and Zigong also appear in the book along with three new ones in the form of the rather dim-witted Lin Fang, the grasping Ran Qiu, and the clever but arrogant Zai Yu. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 3: by numbers
Confucius never defines exactly what he means by ritual in Book 3 of the Analects. Instead, he spends most of his energy on criticizing others, most notably members of the Three Families, the true powers behind the throne of his home state of Lu, for their violations of the unwritten rules governing important ritual ceremonies that had existed since at least the beginnings of the Zhou dynasty in the early 11th century and probably even before that. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 3: Confucius on ritual ceremonies