When Confucius was in the state of Chen, he said: “Let’s go home, let’s go home! Our young people are full of fire and bursting with talent, but they have no idea how to use it.”
What is the single most important piece of advice that you would give to a gifted and ambitious young person who is about to take their first steps into the big bad world? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: “Let’s go home, let’s go home!”
Meng Wubo asked “Is Zilu a good person?” Confucius said: “I don’t know.” When he asked once again, Confucius said: “In a middle-sized country, he could be entrusted with military recruitment. But whether he’s a good person, I don’t know.” “And what about Ran Qiu?” Confucius said: “Ran Qiu? He could be the mayor of a small city or the manager of a large estate. But whether he’s a good person, I don’t know.” “And what about Gongxi Chi?” Confucius said: “Gongxi Chi? Standing resplendent with his sash, he could entertain distinguished guests. But whether he’s a good person, I don’t know.” (1) (2)
Don’t feel you have to answer a leading question. If you do choose to respond, then only give as much information as you are comfortable with sharing. No need to dig a deep hole for yourself. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: how to handle a leading question
Lin Fang was from Lu, the home state of Confucius. Aside from his interest in ritual matters, there is no concrete information about him. Apparently, he was known for being rather slow-witted. Perhaps that’s the reason why he only appears twice in the Analects. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Lin Fang
The Ji Family was setting off to carry out a sacrifice on Mount Tai. Confucius said to Ran Qiu: “Can you not stop this?” Ran Qiu replied: “I cannot.” Confucius said: “This is outrageous! Can it really be true that the spirit of Mount Tai has even less knowledge of ritual than Lin Fang?” (1) (2)
Leadership means forging your own path rather than following in the footsteps of others. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: forging your own path
Ji Kangzi (季康子) is the posthumous title given to Jisun Fei (季孫肥), the chief minister of Lu between 491 and 468 BCE and head of the Jisun (季孫) clan, one of the notorious Three Families that ran the state. Although Confucius criticized him heavily for disrespecting ritual ceremonies and introducing a field tax, Ji Kangzi invited him to return to Lu from his long exile at the request of his counselor Ran Qiu (冉求), who was also a follower of the sage. Continue reading Ji Kangzi
Chapter I of Book 16 is one of the longest passages in the Analects and is written a narrative style that is very different from the short pithy anecdotes and aphorisms that comprise most of the rest of the tome. Continue reading Justifying the unjustifiable
Zilu asked how to define a “complete man”. Confucius said: “Take a man as wise as Zang Wuzhong, as abstemious as Gongchuo, as brave as Zhuangzi of Bian, and as proficient in the arts as Ran Qiu, as well as being accomplished in the rites and music, and he may be considered a complete man.” Then he added: “But must a complete man be exactly like this today? Someone who thinks of what is right at the sight of profit, who is ready to risk their life when faced with danger, and who can endure hardship without forgetting the teachings that have guided his daily life may also be considered a complete man.”
This is the first and only time that the term “complete man” (成人/chéngrén) appears in the Analects. The moniker that Confucius usually uses to describe someone with such superhuman qualities is君子 (jūnzǐ), which I normally translate as “leader”. Continue reading A complete man
When Ran Qiu returned from court, Confucius said: “What kept you so long?” Ran Qiu replied: “Government affairs.” Confucius said: “Surely you mean private affairs. If it had been any government affairs I would have heard about them, even though I’m not in office.”
Confucius had a rather contentious relationship with his disciple Ran Qiu, who stayed on in the state of Lu after the sage went into exile in 497 BC and was subsequently appointed to a senior government position by Ji Kangzi (季康子). Continue reading Government affairs
Zilu, Zeng Dian, Ran Qiu, and Gongxi Chi were sitting with Confucius. Confucius said: “Forget for a moment that I am your elder. You often say: ‘People do not recognize our talents.’ But if you were given the opportunity, what would you wish to do?” Continue reading The softer side of Confucius?
Ji Ziran asked: “Would you say that Zilu and Ran Qiu are great ministers?” Confucius said: “I thought you were going to talk about something different, but you are just asking about Zilu and Ran Qiu. A great minister serves his lord by following the Way, and resigns if there is no possibility of doing so. As for Zilu and Ran Qiu, they might just be qualified to serve as ministers of state.” Ji Ziran said: “Do you mean that they would just follow their orders?” Confucius said: “They wouldn’t go quite so far as murdering their father or their lord.”
Although most of Confucius’s disciples not doubt followed him to learn the sage’s timeless wisdom, a not inconsiderable benefit of studying at the school of Confucius was that it opened up tremendous opportunities for lucrative job offers from assorted lords, dukes, and wealthy landowners anxious to snap up eager young talent to staff their bureaucracies and manage their financial and business affairs. Indeed, it’s not too fanciful to suggest that the Confucius brand was every bit as strong in its heyday as that of, say, Harvard Business School is today in terms of the doors it opened. Continue reading Great ministers?