When I first began hiking the trails of the Four Beasts, I generally wore my trusty AirPods to listen to podcasts and audio books. Nowadays, I don’t even bother to bring them with me because I have come to prefer taking in the sounds of the birds and animals in the surrounding bushes and trees. What a difference a year makes!
Looking back, I suspect that one of the reasons I kept my AirPods on was to shield myself from the unfamiliar physical grind of slogging up step after concrete step. I also view it as a sign that I was not quite mentally ready to embrace the challenge. It was only as I became more confident in my fitness and strength that I was able to throw off my AirPod shackles so to speak and open myself up to the full experience of simply being on the mountainside. Continue reading Notes from the field: throwing off my AirPod shackles
Gongming Jia (公明賈) was a high-ranking official of Wei, who presumably also worked as a retainer for Gongshu Wenzi, a widely respected minister of the state.
Given the fulsome praise that he heaps on his master when speaking to Confucius in 14.13, Gongming Jia was clearly a great admirer of Gongshu and probably a close friend as well. The clarity of the description he gives of his master’s ability to respond appropriately to each situation he encounters with effortless action (無為/wúwéi) marks him out as a highly sophisticated individual as well. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Gongming Jia
Confucius asked Gongming Jia about Gongshu Wenzi: “Is it true that your master never spoke, laughed, nor took anything?” Gongming Jia replied: “Whoever told you this exaggerated. My master spoke, but only at the right time, and so no one ever thought he spoke too much; he laughed, but only when he was happy, and so no one ever thought that he laughed too much; he took things, but only when it was right, and so no one ever thought that he took too much.” Confucius said: “How commendable! Assuming of course it is true.”
How to get yourself into the zone when everything you say, do, and touch turns to gold? Even the greatest athletes and artists in the world only manage to achieve a state of peak performance on the rarest of occasions. For most of the time, they are busy fine-tuning their skills, bodies, and minds in preparation for that magical moment when they hit the perfect home run or create their masterpiece. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: getting into the zone
Confucius said: “If a leader behaves in the correct manner everything will operate smoothly even if they don’t issue orders. If a leader doesn’t behave in the correct manner, nobody will listen even if they do issue orders.”
If you’re not taking the right path, how can you expect others to follow you along it? If you don’t conduct yourself in the correct manner, how can you expect others to act in the right way? As so many autocrats have learned to their cost during the course of history, no amount of force is strong enough to compel people to blindly follow you. Even if repression works in the short term, it will ultimately result in your downfall – not to mention untold harm to everyone who has suffered from your hubris. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the correct manner
One very good reason to study the Analects of Confucius and the Daodejing is that, for all the archaic and in the latter case mystic language they feature, these two ancient works focus on providing practical solutions to real-world problems.
Unlike many of the works in the Western philosophical cannon, neither text features an agonized search for a universal “truth” or any promises of eternal salvation for ascribing to the “right” set of values or behaving in the “correct” manner. Instead, they are concerned with dealing with the challenges of the here and now, exploring how you can improve your character to make a greater contribution to the stability and prosperity of your family, community, and society overall. Continue reading Situational leadership in the Analects and the Daodejing
No matter how intractable a problem appears to be at first sight, there’s always a way to solve it if you examine it from all possible angles rather than rushing into dealing it with the first possible answer that comes into your head. Continue reading Effortless action
The definition of wuwei (無為) is much more subtle than simply “take no action” or “do nothing”; more strictly speaking, it means “don’t interfere” or “only act when it is absolutely necessary”. Continue reading Take no action
The Daoist principle of effortless action (無為/wuwei) should apply to everything we do no matter whether we are balancing the books or tying a knot. The only way we can achieve it is by assiduously cultivating the Dao like a great athlete training to ensure that they are “in the zone” for a major competition. Continue reading In the zone