Tag Archives: Confucius on Yan Hui

Leadership lessons from Confucius: courage and recklessness

courage and recklessness

子謂顏淵曰:「用之則行,舍之則藏,惟我與爾有是夫。」子路曰:「子行三軍,則誰與?」子曰:「暴虎馮河,死而不悔者,吾不與也。必也臨事而懼,好謀而成者也。」
Confucius said to Yan Hui: “To take office when needed and to stay out of sight when dismissed: only you and I can do this.” Zilu said: “If you had command of the Three Armies, who would you appoint to help you?” Confucius said: “I wouldn’t choose someone who wrestles tigers barehanded or swims across rivers without fearing death. But I would choose someone who approaches difficulties with due caution and achieves victories through careful planning.” (1) (2)

There’s a huge difference between courage and recklessness. Courage means having the bravery and determination to bide your time until the right moment arrives for you to strike. Recklessness means diving in without thinking about the possible consequences of your action until it’s too late. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: courage and recklessness

Leadership lessons from Confucius: don’t let the tough times drag you down

Don’t let the tough times drag you down

子曰:「賢哉,回也!一簞食,一瓢飲,在陋巷,人不堪其憂,回也不改其樂。賢哉,回也!」
Confucius said: “Yan Hui was so admirable! A handful of rice to eat, a gourd of water to drink, a hovel in a shabby lane to live in: while others would have been unable to endure such misery, Yan Hui never let it make any difference to his happiness. Yan Hui was so admirable!” (1)

Don’t let the tough times drag you down. Life doesn’t always give you what you want. Look on them as an opportunity to build up your inner strength and resilience. By maintaining a positive attitude, you will learn to appreciate the simple joys of life that much more and be better equipped to face the even bigger challenges that inevitable lie ahead. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: don’t let the tough times drag you down

Leadership lessons from Confucius: don’t break the chain

don't break the chain

子曰:「回也,其心三月不違仁,其餘則日月至焉而已矣。」
Confucius said: “Ah! Yan Hui could focus his mind solely on goodness for three months, whereas others can manage only a day or a month.”

Don’t break the chain. That’s the wise advice the comedian Jerry Seinfeld gives about maintaining focus. No matter whether you’re planning to write a book or lose weight, you need to make sure that you work on it every day. Miss a day or two because you’re too tired or busy, and you risk going back to square one or coming to a complete halt. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: don’t break the chain

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a bittersweet moment

bittersweet moment

哀公問:「弟子孰為好學?」孔子對曰:「有顏回者好學,不遷怒,不貳過。不幸短命死矣,今也則亡,未聞好學者也。」
Duke Ai asked: “Which of your followers love learning?” Confucius replied: “There was Yan Hui who loved learning; he never vented his anger; he never made the same mistake again. Sadly, his allotted time was short and he died. I have not heard of anyone else with such a love of learning.” (1) (2)

It’s always a bittersweet moment when one of the star members of your team decides to move on to pastures new. On the one hand, you’re happy for them because they have found an exciting new opportunity and perhaps even a little proud at the part you have played in helping them to develop their character and talent. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a bittersweet moment

Leadership lessons from Confucius: deep listening

Temple of Yan Hui: deep listening

子曰:「吾與回言終日,不違如愚。退而省其私,亦足以發,回也不愚。」
Confucius said: “I can talk to Yan Hui all day without him ever arguing with me, as if he is slow. But when I observe how he behaves in private after he’s retired from my presence, I can see that he’s learned everything I’ve taught him. Indeed, Hui isn’t slow at all.” (1)

When was the last time you really listened to someone speak without sneaking a surreptitious glance at your smart phone or even just around the room? Think carefully before you give an answer. By “really listened” I mean that you gave them your full and undivided attention – not just taking in every word they said but also observing the expressions that appeared on their faces and the movements their bodies made? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: deep listening

Followers of Confucius: Yan Hui

Yan Hui (顏回), otherwise known as Ziyuan (子淵) or Yan Yuan (顏淵), was Confucius’s favorite disciple and protégé. Born in 521 BCE in Confucius’s home state of Lu, he was thirty years younger than the sage and became one of his followers at an early age, no doubt under the influence of his father Yan Wuyao (顏無繇), who was one of the first followers of Confucius. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Yan Hui