Tag Archives: Fan Chi

Leadership lessons from Confucius: wisdom and goodness

wisdom and goodness

Fan Chi asked about wisdom. Confucius said: “Do what is right for the common people; respect the spirits and gods but keep them at a distance. This is wisdom.” Fan Chi asked about goodness. Confucius said: “A good man is first in line to confront difficulties and last in line to collect rewards. This is goodness.” (1) (2)

Wisdom isn’t an abstract concept. It means figuring out what needs be done and then going ahead and doing it. It requires that you use your knowledge and insight for the benefit of everyone – not just on behalf of a select few of friends and associates. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: wisdom and goodness

Leadership lessons from Confucius: context is king

personal development path

Meng Yizi asked Confucius about filial devotion. Confucius said: “Never disobey.” While Fan Chi was driving him in his chariot, Confucius told him: “Meng Yizi asked me about filial devotion and I replied: ‘Never disobey.’” Fan Chi asked: “What does that mean?” Confucius replied: “When your parents are alive, serve them according to ritual. When they die, bury them according to ritual and make sacrifices to them according to ritual.”

Context is king. This is the lesson from the two exchanges that Confucius has in the fifth chapter of Book 2 of the Analects. In the first one he keeps his answer to the question from Meng Yizi (孟懿子) about filial devotion as curt as possible with his admonishment to “never disobey.” Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: context is king

Considerate, diligent, and loyal

Fan Chi asked about goodness. Confucius said: “Be considerate in your private life, diligent in your public affairs, and loyal to others. Even when you are among the Yi and Di tribes, do not deviate from these principles.”

When stripped of all its trappings, the principle of goodness (仁/rén) is very simple: treat others as you would expect them to treat you. Continue reading Considerate, diligent, and loyal

Short shrift

Fan Chi asked to learn about cultivating grain. Confucius said: “You’d be better off asking an old farmer.” Fan Chi asked to be taught about raising vegetables. Confucius said: “You’d be better off asking an old gardener.” After Fan Chi had left, Confucius said: “What a small-minded man! If a ruler loves the rites, the people would not dare to be disrespectful. If a ruler loves rightness, the people would not dare to be disobedient. If a ruler loves trustworthiness, the people would not dare to be deceitful. If such a ruler existed, people would flock to him from everywhere with their children strapped to their backs. What need would there be to know about farming?”

Some modern critics seized on these comments from Confucius as proof that that he held back the technological development of China with his alleged disdain for practical subjects such as agriculture. Continue reading Short shrift

Virtue, evil, and confusion

Fan Chi was strolling with Confucius around the Rain Dance Terrace. He said: “May I ask how you can accumulate virtue, correct evil thoughts, and recognize confusion?” Confucius said: “An excellent question! To always put service before reward: isn’t this the way to accumulate virtue? To attack the evil in yourself rather than the evil in other people: isn’t this the way to correct evil thoughts? To forget yourself in a moment of anger and bring ruin upon yourself and your family: isn’t this is a case of confusion?”

Fan Chi’s question is similar to the one that Zizhang posed to Confucius in Chapter XII of Book 10 about the phrase “accumulate virtue, recognize confusion” (崇德,辨惑。). Continue reading Virtue, evil, and confusion