Tag Archives: Yan Hui

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: creative and critical thinking

critical and creative thinking

子曰:「溫故而知新,可以為師矣。」
The Master said: “Bringing new meaning to the old to understand the new makes you fit to be a teacher.”

As AI proliferates, it won’t just be blue-collar jobs like driving that will be replaced by algorithms that never sleep. White-collar positions in legal, accounting, finance, and other professions will also be under threat from super AIs that are way more efficient at specific tasks like sifting through mountains of documents at the speed of light. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: creative and critical thinking

Leadership lessons from Confucius: deep listening

Temple of Yan Hui: deep listening

子曰:「吾與回言終日,不違如愚。退而省其私,亦足以發,回也不愚。」
The Master said: “I can talk to Yan Hui all day without him ever arguing with me, as if he is slow. But when I observe how he behaves in private after he has retired from my presence, I can see that he’s learned everything I’ve taught him. Indeed, Hui isn’t slow at all.”

When was the last time you really listened to someone speak without sneaking a surreptitious glance at your smart phone or even just around the room? Think carefully before you give an answer. By “really listened” I mean that you gave them your full and undivided attention – not just taking in every word they said but also observing the expressions that appeared on their faces and the movements their bodies made? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: deep listening

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: succession management

Temple of Yan Hui, Qufu
Temple of Yan Hui, Qufu

有子曰:「其為人也孝弟,而好犯上者,鮮矣;不好犯上,而好作亂者,未之有也。君子務本,本立而道生。孝弟也者,其為仁之本與!」
Youzi said: “A man who practices filial and fraternal devotion is unlikely to question the authority of his superiors. Such a man will never provoke disorder. A leader focuses on the root; once this takes hold the way appears. Filial and fraternal devotion is the root of goodness.”

Confucius was a master of talent development, training thousands of students and followers (1) who went on to take official positions and run businesses in the patchwork quilt of states that comprised China during his lifetime. (2)

Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: succession management

Best of breed

顏淵問為邦。子曰:「行夏之時,乘殷之輅,服周之冕。樂則韶舞,放鄭聲,遠佞人。鄭聲淫,佞人殆。」
When Yan Hui asked how to govern a state, Confucius said: “Observe the calendar of the Xia Dynasty; ride in the chariot of Yin Dynasty; wear the ceremonial cap of the Zhou Dynasty. As for music, follow the Coronation Hymn of Shun and the Victory Hymn of Wu. Ban the music of Zheng. Stay away from smooth talkers. The music of Zheng corrupts. Smooth talkers are dangerous.”

Far from advising his favorite disciple Yan Hui to copy slavishly from the past, Confucius is telling him to adopt only the finest traditions and practices from previous dynasties. Continue reading Best of breed

The Golden Rule reprised

仲弓問仁。子曰:「出門如見大賓,使民如承大祭。己所不欲,勿施於人。在邦無怨,在家無怨。」仲弓曰:「雍雖不敏,請事斯語。」
Ran Yong asked about goodness. Confucius said: “When you are away from home, act towards everyone as if you are meeting an important guest. Manage people as if you are conducting a great sacrifice. Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself. Allow no resentment to enter your public affairs; allow no resentment to enter your family affairs.” Ran Yong said: “I may not be particularly bright, but with your blessing I will strive to follow your guidance.”

The essence of goodness can be summed up in this variation of the famous “Golden Rule” of reciprocity first mentioned by Zigong in Chapter XII of Book 5 of the Analects. “Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself” (己所不欲,勿施於人) is as good a maxim as any to live by – though not always easy to follow. Continue reading The Golden Rule reprised

The steps to goodness

顏淵問仁。子曰:「克己復禮,為仁。一日克己復禮,天下歸仁焉。為仁由己,而由仁乎哉?」 顏淵曰:「請問其目?」子曰:「非禮勿視,非禮勿聽,非禮勿言,非禮勿動。」顏淵曰:「回雖不敏,請事斯語矣!」
Yan Hui asked about goodness. Confucius said: “Overcome the self and restore the rites. This is what goodness is all about. If you overcome the self and restore the rites for just a single day, the whole world will respond to your goodness. The practice of goodness comes from the self. How can it come from others?” Yan Hui said: “May I ask what steps I should follow?” Confucius said: “Don’t look at anything that doesn’t conform with the rites; don’t listen to anything that doesn’t conform with the rites; don’t say anything that doesn’t conform with the rites; don’t do anything that doesn’t conform with the rites.” Yan Hui said: “Although I may not be quick to understand it, with your blessing I will strive to follow your guidance.”

Book 12 of the Analects kicks off with the first in a series of three very famous passages on the key Confucian concept of 仁/rén, which I have chosen to translate as “goodness” but could just as easily be rendered as “humanity”, “benevolence” or more loosely “the right way you treat other people”. Continue reading The steps to goodness

In danger in Kuang

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

I get the poignant irony of Yan Hui’s words. I just can’t help thinking that they’d be better suited to a romantic novel or soap opera. Continue reading In danger in Kuang