子曰：「若聖與仁，則吾豈敢？抑為之不厭，誨人不倦，則可謂云爾已矣。」公西華曰：「正唯弟子不能學也。」 Confucius said: “How could I possibly dare to claim that I’m a man of great wisdom and goodness? All that can be said of me is that I never grow weary of learning and never get tired of teaching others.” Gongxi Chi said: “This is exactly what we students are unable to grasp.”
Better not to blow your own trumpet. If you’re anywhere near as good as you think you are, others will no doubt sing your praises. Just don’t let all the compliments go to your head, that’s all. Even if everyone else thinks that you’re the best thing since sliced bread, you know deep down that the moment you rest on your laurels complacency will set in and the downward slide will begin. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the best thing since sliced bread→
宰我問曰：「仁者，雖告之曰，『井有仁焉。』其從之也？」子曰：「何為其然也？君子可逝也，不可陷也；可欺也，不可罔也。」 Zai Yu asked: “If a good person was told that someone lies at the bottom of a well, should they jump in after them?” Confucius said: “Why should they? A leader be enticed down the wrong path but not into a trap; they can be deceived, but not made a fool of.”
There’s no need to put someone on the spot with a trick question. The aim of any conversation or meeting you hold should be to generate a positive discussion – not to show how clever you are. The more you put other people down, the more you’ll stifle the sharing of different perspectives and ideas. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a trick question→
Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 4 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher. Its main themes include goodness, leadership, filial devotion, and the need for restraint.
Before you read a single word of the Analects, it is important to understand that the work comprises a collection of conversations and aphorisms rather than a manifesto. Each of its twenty books features multiple exchanges between multiple characters discussing multiple topics – much like a modern-day social media feed. There are no linear arguments based on carefully-marshaled facts that build up to a resounding conclusion. It is left to you, the reader, to pick through the various threads of the text and connect them to the others to build up your overall understanding of the teachings contained in it. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Overview→
Goodness is such an ambiguous concept that even Confucius shied away from attaching an exact meaning to it. He found it much easier to describe the benefits that the cultivation of a strong internal sense of goodness can bring to people rather than defining its precise features. Continue reading Analects Book 4: on goodness→
Book 20 of the Analects is a strange mutant beast, consisting of just three totally unrelated chapters. It’s almost as if its editor hacked it together after a few drinks and then decided to head back to his local for a few more cups of wine when he got bored with it. Continue reading Loosely connected threads→