Tag Archives: Confucius on the rites

Leadership lessons from Confucius: beware of Greeks bearing gifts

beware of Greeks bearing gifts

康子饋藥,拜而受之,曰:「丘未達,不敢嘗。」
When Ji Kangzi sent him some medicine, Confucius bowed as he accepted the gift but said: “Since I don’t know what this substance is, I dare not taste it.”

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Or, in the case of Confucius, a messenger arriving with a present from Ji Kangzi, the most powerful man in his home state of Lu who, at least in the estimation of the sage, was leading it into chaos because of his arrogant disregard for the conventions of ritual. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: beware of Greeks bearing gifts

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a handwritten note

handwritten note

問人於他邦,再拜而送之。
When sending his greetings to someone in another state, he would bow twice before sending the messenger on his way.

Bowing even once before sending a message doesn’t make any sense in our world of instant ubiquitous connectivity where speed is prized above all else. But when it comes to less time-sensitive communications such as a thank you for a gift or invitation, why not send a handwritten note on the finest paper? In addition to showing how much you value your relationship with the recipient, you will have a much better chance of capturing their attention with such a thoughtful gesture. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a handwritten note

Leadership lessons from Confucius: pestilent spirits and ghosts

pestilent spirits and ghosts

鄉人儺,朝服而立於阼階。
When the villagers carried out the ceremony to exorcize pestilent spirits and ghosts, he put on his court dress and stood on the eastern steps. (1) (2) (3)

Marvel at the color and spectacle of the ritual. Immerse yourself in the rhythm and sound of the music. Breathe in the fragrance of the incense. Lose yourself in the cacophony of drumbeats and the grace and power of the dancing. Celebrate the cleansing of the pestilent spirits and ghosts from the earth and air around you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: pestilent spirits and ghosts

Leadership lessons from Confucius: respect for the elderly

respect for the elderly

鄉人飲酒,杖者出,斯出矣。
When the villagers were drinking together, he didn’t leave until the elders had departed.

Show respect for other people and their customs. It’s not for you to question them. They’ve welcomed you as an honored guest. Enjoy their hospitality and observe their way of life. You’ll be sure to learn a lot from them – not least how to be a good host when others come and visit you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: respect for the elderly

Leadership lessons from Confucius: keeping your mat straight

keeping your mat straight

席不正不坐。
He didn’t sit on a mat unless it was straight.

Take a look at your workspace. Is everything laid out neatly so that you can easily find what you need? Is the plant a colleague gave you a few months ago healthy or clinging on for dear life? And how about those photos you have displayed of your family? Can you see them clearly through the dust covering the frame? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: keeping your mat straight

Leadership lessons from Confucius: coarse and unappetizing fare

unappetizing fare

雖疏食,菜羹,瓜祭,必齊如也。
Even if the food only consisted of coarse rice or vegetable soup, he made a sacrificial offering with the same level of respect as when he was fasting. (1) (2)

Be grateful for the meal in front of you even if it consists of coarse and unappetizing fare. Remember that it’s a gift from nature and everyone who worked to bring it to your table. Remember, too, that there are still billions of people in the world who struggle to fight hunger and diseases resulting from an inadequate diet. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: coarse and unappetizing fare

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a restful sleep

restful sleep

食不語,寢不言。
When eating, he did not talk. When retiring to bed, he did not speak.

Put your smartphone aside when you’re about to eat your lunch and turn off the alerts so that you won’t be distracted. Nothing urgent will happen while you are eating your food. Take time to enjoy the texture and flavor even (perhaps especially) if it’s only a sandwich. Reflect on the pleasure that it brings you. Immerse yourself completely in the magic of the moment. There will be plenty of time afterwards to deal with any messages that you may have received during the course of it. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a restful sleep

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the conventions and the spirit

practice and spirit

祭於公,不宿肉。祭肉,不出三日;出三日,不食之矣。
After taking part in a public sacrificial ceremony, he didn’t keep the meat bestowed on him overnight. After carrying out a family sacrificial ceremony, he didn’t keep the meat for more than three days. After the third day, he didn’t eat it.

Observe the conventions and the spirit of the ceremony. Even if the origins of its protocols and procedures have been lost in the mists of time, respect and honor them. Rather than question the meaning and integrity of the ancient traditions it embodies, celebrate the shared sense of meaning and identity that they preserve and transmit from generation to generation. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the conventions and the spirit

Leadership lessons from Confucius: maintaining a healthy diet

healthy diet

食不厭精,膾不厭細。食饐而餲,魚餒而肉敗不食,色惡不食,臭惡不食,失飪不食,不時不食,割不正不食,不得其醬不食。肉雖多,不使勝食氣。惟酒無量,不及亂。沽酒,市脯,不食。不撤薑食。
He didn’t eat too much finely-milled rice and finely-cut meat. If the food was rotten or rancid, if the fish wasn’t fresh, and if the meat was spoiled, he didn’t eat it. If the food was off-color, he didn’t eat it. If it smelled bad, he didn’t eat it. If it was undercooked, he didn’t eat it. If it wasn’t served at the proper time, he didn’t eat it. If it wasn’t butchered properly, he didn’t eat it. If it wasn’t served in its proper sauce, he didn’t eat it. Even if there was plenty of meat, he didn’t eat more meat than rice. As for liquor, however, there was no limit as long as he remained sober. He didn’t consume liquor or meat bought from the market. He was never without ginger when he ate, but used it only in moderation. (1) (2) (3) 

As with most things in life, moderation is the key to a healthy diet. Even if you can afford the finest gourmet foods and drinks that the world has to offer, that doesn’t mean that you should eat them all the time. Yes, you can have too much of a good thing. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: maintaining a healthy diet

Leadership lessons from Confucius: periods of purification

periods of purification

齊,必有明衣布。齊,必變食。居,必遷坐。
During periods of purification, he wore a plain robe made of coarse linen. During periods of purification, he simplified his diet and did not sit in his usual place when at home.

In today’s age of relentless connectivity, it’s more vital than ever before to take time to unplug from all the noise and shed all the gunk that has accumulated in your body and mind. Even a short hike on the weekend can be enough to put you back in touch with yourself and clear your head. More extended retreats are even more effective in helping you to truly wind down. Rather than asking if you can find time to fit one in your schedule, you should ask yourself how to make it possible. The longer you postpone taking one, the harder it will be to truly recharge yourself. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: periods of purification