Tag Archives: Confucius on Yan Hui

Leadership lessons from Confucius: not everything’s about you

Not everything’s about you

顏淵死,門人欲厚葬之,子曰:「不可。」門人厚葬之。子曰:「回也,視予猶父也,予不得視猶子也。非我也,夫二三子也。」
When Yan Hui died, his fellow followers wanted to give him a grand burial. Confucius said: “This isn’t right.” When the followers gave him a grand burial, Confucius said: “Yan Hui treated me like a father, but I was not given the chance to treat him like a son. This is not my fault, but yours, my friends.” (1)

If your team ever decides to disregard your advice or instructions, accept their decision with grace. Not everything’s about you. If there’s any blame to be apportioned, it should probably be placed on you for putting them into a position where they are given no choice but to ignore you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: not everything’s about you

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a highly emotional state

highly emotional state

顏淵死,子哭之慟。從者曰:「子慟矣!」曰:「有慟乎!非夫人之為慟而誰為!」
When Yan Hui died, Confucius wailed bitterly with grief. His followers said: “Master, such grief is excessive.” Confucius said: “Is it excessive? If I don’t grieve for this man, who else should I grieve for?” (1)

When people are in a highly emotional state, it’s not the right time to intervene – much less pass judgment on their actions. Better to signal that you’re there for them if they need you and then allow them to work out their grief or anger on their own. There’s nothing you can say that will comfort or calm them down. Indeed, no matter how well-intentioned your intervention is, the chances are that it will only serve to fuel their emotions further. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a highly emotional state

Leadership lessons from Confucius: letting your emotions show

letting your emotions show

顏淵死,子曰:「噫!天喪予!天喪予!」
When Yan Hui died, Confucius cried: “Alas! Heaven’s the ruin of me! Heaven’s the ruin of me!” (1)

How far should you go in masking your true emotions when disaster hits? Should you strive to remain calm and in control or is it OK to show your shock and grief with those around you? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: letting your emotions show

Leadership lessons from Confucius: rose-tinted glasses

rose-tinted glasses

季康子問:「弟子孰為好學?」孔子對曰:「有顏回者好學,不幸短命死矣!今也則亡。」(1)
Ji Kangzi asked: “Which of your followers love learning?” Confucius replied: “There was Yan Hui who loved learning. Sadly, his life was cut short and he died. Now there’s nobody.” (1)

There’s nothing wrong with indulging in the occasional bout of nostalgia. Just be mindful that the good old days were never quite as wonderful as you imagine them to have been. In most instances they weren’t by any measurable criterion better either – just different. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: rose-tinted glasses

Leadership lessons from Confucius: an interactive process

interactive process

子曰:「回也,非助我者也!於吾言,無所不說。」
Confucius said: “Yan Hui is no help to me at all: he delights in everything I say.” (1)

Teaching is an interactive process. How do you know if your students are truly imbibing the great wisdom you are imparting to them if they just sit quietly in front of you without asking any questions? You may think that this shows they’re taking in everything you have to say, but it’s much more likely that they are either so bored that they don’t think it’s worth interrupting you with a question or so overwhelmed that they don’t want to appear dumber than everyone else by asking for clarification of a point that they don’t understand. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: an interactive process

Analects of Confucius Book 9: new English translation

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.

Chapter 1
子罕言利,與命與仁。
Confucius disapproved of profit, but he approved of fate and goodness. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 9: new English translation

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a bitter pill to swallow

bitter pill to swallow

子謂顏淵曰:「惜乎!吾見其進也,吾未見其止也!」
Confucius said of Yan Hui: “What a tragedy! I watched him make progress; I never saw him stop improving.” (1) (2)

How to react when someone you’ve mentored closely decides to move on? This can be a bitter pill to swallow when you’ve invested a lot of time and resources in helping someone develop their skills only to see them bestow the benefits of their knowledge and experience on another organization. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a bitter pill to swallow

Leadership lessons from Confucius: presentation tips

presentation tips

子曰:「語之而不惰者,其回也與?」
Confucius said: “If anyone could listen to me without growing weary, who else could it be than Yan Hui?” (1)

It takes more than a stunning PowerPoint deck and a compelling story to maintain people’s attention when they are just a tap on their smartphone screen away from the temptations of social media and email. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: presentation tips

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