Tag Archives: life of Confucius

Analects of Confucius Book 7: a vivid portrait of Confucius

portrait of Confucius

Book 7 of the Analects paints a vivid portrait of Confucius striving to put the lofty principles and values he teaches his followers and students into practice in his daily life. This is a never-ending quest that causes him to constantly reflect on his inability to live up to the standards he has set for himself.

“Although my commitment is as strong as anyone’s when it comes to cultural knowledge and refinement,” he laments in 7.32, “I haven’t yet hit the target of becoming a true leader in how I conduct myself.” “How could I possibly dare to claim that I’m a man of great wisdom and goodness?” he adds in the next chapter. “All that can be said of me is that I never grow weary of learning and never get tired of teaching others.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 7: a vivid portrait of Confucius

Analects of Confucius Book 5: frustration and despair for Confucius

frustration and despair for Confucius

There’s a strong air of frustration and despair for Confucius in Book 5 of the Analects. This is most graphically illustrated in 5.27, when he metaphorically throws his hands up in the air and declares: “I give up! I have yet to meet a person capable of seeing their own faults and taking themselves to task in the court of their own heart.”

It’s as if all his hard work in guiding his followers like Zigong, Zilu, and most notably Zai Yu have been for nothing. Despite all his teaching and cajoling, none of them are cut out to achieve the gold standard of goodness. Not even Confucius himself is able to equal the only one of his followers who hits the mark, the beatific Yan Hui. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 5: frustration and despair for Confucius

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a touch of ironic humor

a touch of ironic humor

子畏於匡,顏淵後。子曰:「吾以女為死矣!」曰:「子在,回何敢死!」
While Confucius was held captive in Kuang, Yan Hui had fallen behind. When they were finally reunited, Confucius said: “I thought you were dead.” Yan Hui said: “While you’re alive, how would I dare to die?” (1) (2)

There’s nothing like a touch of ironic humor to take the tension out of an awkward situation. A detailed analysis of what went wrong and the reasons for it can wait until later. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a touch of ironic humor

Leadership lessons from Confucius: through thick and thin

through thick and thin

子曰:「從我於陳蔡者,皆不及門也。」
Confucius said: “None those who accompanied me in Chen and Cai are still with me.” (1)

Life is an incredible journey. Be grateful for all the wonderful people you meet along the way: the family that nurture and love you; the teachers that give you knowledge and inspire you to move on to greater things; the bosses and colleagues who recognize your talent and provide you with the opportunity to develop it; and the friends who stick with you through thick and thin. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: through thick and thin

Notes from the field: Zhusi Academy

Zhusi Academy

Like the Cemetery of Confucius’s Parents, the Zhusi Academy probably isn’t on the must-see list for Qufu, but it’s worth checking out if you have the time.

The Zhusi Academy marks the place where Confucius is said to have taught and edited ancient canonical texts, including the so-called Five Classics (1) and the Book of Music, after returning to his home state of Lu in 484 BCE after spending fourteen years in exile. It provides an elegant and graceful symbol of the importance attached to learning in Chinese culture. Continue reading Notes from the field: Zhusi Academy

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the phoenix doesn’t appear

phoenix doesn't appear

子曰:「鳳鳥不至,河不出圖,吾已矣乎!」
Confucius said: “The phoenix doesn’t appear; the river doesn’t yield its diagram. It’s over for me!”

When the signs are clear that you have no choice but to give up your quest, face the truth with courage and grace. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the phoenix doesn’t appear

Leadership lessons from Confucius: real world experience

real world experience

大宰問於子貢曰:「夫子聖者與!何其多能也?」子貢曰:「固天縱之將聖,又多能也。」子聞之曰:「大宰知我乎?吾少也賤,故多能鄙事。君子多乎哉?不多也!」
The Grand Steward asked Zigong: “Your master’s a true sage, isn’t he? How come he’s mastered so many menial skills?” Zigong replied: “Heaven indeed made him a sage, but it also gave him many different talents.” When he heard of this, Confucius said: “What does the Grand Steward know about me? In my youth I was poor, so I had to learn lots of different menial skills. Is it necessary for a leader to master so many menial skills? I don’t think so.”

There’s no better preparation for adult life than a part-time or temporary job waiting tables, flipping burgers, valeting cars, doing construction, or working on a production line. You can learn far more in few months from that about how the world really works than studying two years for an MBA in a fancy college. It’s only though practical experience that you can understand the challenges of working with other people from diverse backgrounds, dealing with prickly customers, and meeting seemingly impossible deadlines. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: real world experience

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the moment of truth

moment of truth

子曰:「甚矣吾衰也!久矣吾不復夢見周公!」
Confucius said: “I am becoming terribly weak. It has been a long time since I last saw the Duke of Zhou in a dream.”

Sometimes things simply don’t work out. Despite years of hard work, your great dream comes crashing down around you. Your sweat and tears have all been in vain. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the moment of truth

Leadership lessons from Confucius: reaching the point of despair

point of despair

子曰:「誰能出不由戶?何莫由斯道也?」
Confucius said: “Who would leave a house except through the doorway? Why is it that nobody follows the way?” (1)

It’s inevitable that there’ll be times when you reach the point of despair when you are leading a challenging new project. If there aren’t, then it probably means that you aren’t pushing yourself far enough out of your comfort zone. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: reaching the point of despair

Leadership lessons from Confucius: personal development path

personal development path

子曰:「吾十有五而志于學,三十而立,四十而不惑,五十而知天命,六十而耳順,七十而從心所欲,不踰矩。」
Confucius said: “At fifteen, I applied myself to learning. At thirty, I stood on my own two feet. At forty, I had no more doubts. At fifty, I understood the mandate of heaven. At sixty my ear was attuned. At seventy, I followed all my heart’s desires without overstepping the line.” (1) (2) (3)

Do you have a personal development path? How do you see yourself growing over the next few decades? Will you be able to achieve the same level of contentment that Confucius claims to have reached in this famous snapshot that he composed of his life? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: personal development path