Confucius said: “Yan Hui has just about achieved perfection, but he lives in constant poverty. Zigong is never satisfied with his lot and engages in trading and speculation. He frequently succeeds in his business ventures.”
Poverty isn’t necessarily a price you have to pay in order to be virtuous. Indeed, it can be very difficult to stick to the right path if you can’t pay the bills.
You don’t necessarily have to compromise your morals in order to become wealthy either. Indeed, you have a greater chance of success if you stick to your values. Be sure to remember, though, to you use your riches productively for the overall benefit of society. That new multi-million dollar yacht you’ve just bought to impress everyone will soon lose its luster when someone else has one that’s even bigger and shinier. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the pursuit of perfection
Zigong asked: “Who is better: Zizhang or Zixia?” Confucius said: “Zizhang overshoots the mark and Zixia falls short of the mark.” Zigong said: “Then Zizhang must be better?” Confucius said: “Both miss the mark.”
When does your greatest strength become your greatest weakness? This is a question you should think deeply about when analyzing your actions. A lot may depend on the circumstances you’re in.
Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: both miss the mark
When at Confucius’s side, Min Ziqian was straightforward but respectful; Zilu was bold and intense; Ran Qiu and Zigong were frank but amiable. Confucius was happy but said: “A man like Zilu won’t die a natural death.”
How well do you know your colleagues? Not just how good they are at their work, but their personal strengths, weaknesses, and character traits. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: close to the edge
Zigong said: “If you had a precious piece of jade, would you hide it in a box for safekeeping or would you try and sell it for a good price?” Confucius said: “I would sell it! I would sell it! All I’m waiting for is the right price.” (1)
Pricing is one of the trickiest tasks in business. Set it too high and you risk putting off potential customers. Set it too low and you risk leaving money on the table – not to mention attracting customers who don’t appreciate the full value of the product or service you are offering. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: waiting for the right price
The Grand Steward asked Zigong: “Your master’s a true sage, isn’t he? He’s skilled in so many things.” Zigong replied: “Heaven indeed made him a sage, but he also happens to have many different skills.” 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 a number of menial skills. Does a leader usually have so many different 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
Duke Chu of Wei (衛出公) only became the ruler of the state because his father, the former crown prince Ji Kuaikui (姬蒯瞶), had been forced to flee the state after failing in an attempt to kill Nanzi (南子), the notorious consort of his father, Duke Ling (衛靈公), in 499 BCE. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Chu of Wei
Ran Qiu said: “Does the Master support the Duke of Wei?” Zigong said: “Well, I’m going to ask him.” Zigong went in and asked Confucius: “What sort of people were Boyi and Shuqi?” “They were virtuous men of old.” “Did they complain?” “They sought goodness and attained goodness. Why should they have complained?” Zigong left and said to Ran Qiu: “The Master does not support the Duke of Wei.”
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that other people will support you just because you have a good relationship with them. Learn to accept that their opinions will differ from yours no matter how close you happen to be with them. In fact, the stronger the bond you have with someone, the greater the chance that they will free to voice their disagreement with you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a tawdry tale
Zigong said: “What about someone who acts generously towards the people and benefits the masses? Could that be described as goodness?” Confucius said: “Why stop at calling it goodness? It could be defined as perfection. Even Yao and Shun wouldn’t be able to match it! Good people help others get on their feet while establishing their own career; they help others to achieve their goals while achieving their own objectives. By standing in other people’s shoes, it can be said that they’re on the right track to goodness.” (1) (2)
A rising tide lifts all boats. Leadership is not just about improving your own effectiveness but also that of everyone around you. It requires building a platform that enables everyone to learn and grow. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a rising tide lifts all boats
Kong Wenzi (孔文子) was the posthumous name given to Kong Yu (孔圉) a minister of the state of Wei (魏)) who died about a year before Confucius in about 480 BCE.
Kong’s posthumous name literally means Kong-the-Refined or Kong-the-Cultured. Some people considered this to be rather ironic given that he was said to have been rather an unsavory character notorious for his disloyalty and dissoluteness. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Kong Wenzi
Zigong said: “The teachings of the master can be learned; but his views on the nature of things and the way of heaven can’t be learned.” (1)
What’s the purpose of education? Is it to teach people how to think or what to think? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the teachings of the master