Tag Archives: Zilu

Leadership lessons from Confucius: permission to pray

permission to pray

子疾病,子路請禱。子曰:「有諸?」子路對曰:「有之。誄曰:『禱爾于上下神祗』」子曰:「丘之禱久矣。」 (1)
When Confucius fell seriously ill, Zilu asked permission to pray. Confucius said: “Does such a practice exist?” Zilu replied: “Certainly. The liturgy says: ‘We pray to the spirits from above and the spirits from below.’” Confucius said: “If that’s the case, I’ve been praying for myself for a long time now.”

Is it appropriate to offer to pray for someone if they don’t share your religious beliefs? No doubt Zilu was so worried about his master’s condition that he was willing to try anything that might help him to stay alive, but Confucius clearly thought not and decided stuck to his own secular principles. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: permission to pray

Leadership lessons from Confucius: young at heart?

young at heart

葉公問孔子於子路,子路不對。子曰:「女奚不曰,其為人也,發憤忘食,樂以忘憂,不知老之將至云爾。」
The Duke of She asked Zilu about Confucius. Zilu did not reply. Confucius said: “Why didn’t you say, ‘He’s the kind of man who gets so lost in his passions that he forgets to eat and so caught up in his happiness that he forgets his worries and doesn’t even notice he’s growing old?’”

How would you like your friends and colleagues to describe you when someone asks about you? Or would you prefer that, like Zilu, they say nothing at all? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: young at heart?

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke of She

The Duke of She (葉公) was a feudal lord and high-level minister of the state of Chu whose fiefdom was located in what is now Henan province. Also known as the Duke of Ye, his full name was Shen Zhuliang (沈諸梁) and he lived from ca. 529 BCE to ca. 478 BCE. He is mentioned several times in the Commentary of Zuo (左傳/Zuǒ zhuán). Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke of She

Leadership lessons from Confucius: courage and recklessness

courage and recklessness

子謂顏淵曰:「用之則行,舍之則藏,惟我與爾有是夫。」子路曰:「子行三軍,則誰與?」子曰:「暴虎馮河,死而不悔者,吾不與也。必也臨事而懼,好謀而成者也。」
Confucius said to Yan Hui: “To take office when needed and to stay out of sight when dismissed: only you and I can do this.” Zilu said: “If you had command of the Three Armies, who would you appoint to help you?” Confucius said: “I wouldn’t choose someone who wrestles tigers barehanded or swims across rivers without fearing death. But I would choose someone who approaches difficulties with due caution and achieves victories through careful planning.” (1) (2)

There’s a huge difference between courage and recklessness. Courage means having the bravery and determination to bide your time until the right moment arrives for you to strike. Recklessness means diving in without thinking about the possible consequences of your action until it’s too late. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: courage and recklessness

Leadership lessons from Confucius: divine intervention?

divine intervention

子見南子,子路不說。夫子矢之曰:「予所否者,天厭之!天厭之!」
Confucius went to see Nanzi (the consort of Duke Ling of Wei). Zilu was not happy. Confucius swore: “If I have done wrong, may heaven punish me! May heaven punish me!” (1) (2) 

No matter how honorable your intentions are, it’s inevitable that there will come a time when someone views your words or actions in a less than favorable light. This can be particularly hurtful when your motives are questioned by a friend as close as Zilu was to Confucius. No wonder he begs heaven to punish him if he has erred! Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: divine intervention?

Leadership lessons from Confucius: hopes and aspirations

deepest hopes and aspirations

顏淵、季路侍。子曰:「盍各言爾志?」子路曰:「願車馬、衣輕裘,與朋友共,敝之而無憾。」顏淵曰:「願無伐善,無施勞。」子路曰:「願聞子之志。」子曰:「老者安之,朋友信之,少者懷之。」
When Yan Hui and Zilu were sitting together with him, Confucius said: “How about telling me what you would most like to do?” Zilu said: “I would like to share my carriages, horses, clothes, and furs with my friends without getting upset if they damage them.” Yan Hui said: “I would like to avoid boasting about my abilities or causing trouble for others.” Zilu said: “We would love to hear what our master would most like to do.” Confucius said: “I would like to provide comfort to the elderly, be faithful to my friends, and cherish the young.” (1)

No matter how immersive technology becomes, nothing will ever replace face-to-face communication. It’s only when you can truly look someone in the eye that you can share your deepest hopes and aspirations. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: hopes and aspirations

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: fake knowledge

fake knowledge

子路有聞,未之能行,唯恐有聞。
Whenever Zilu learned something new but hadn’t had the chance to put it into practice, he was afraid that he might learn something else before he did so. (1)

How to stay focused when the next shiny pearl of wisdom is just a click of a mouse or swipe of a finger away? How to truly master a new topic or skill when you can easily delude yourself into believing that you already understand it after watching a few videos on YouTube or skimming a few articles furnished with attractive graphs and alarmist statistics based on dubious models? Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: fake knowledge

Leadership lessons from Confucius: how to handle a leading question

leading question

孟武伯問:「子路仁乎?」子曰:「不知也。」又問。子曰:「由也,千乘之國,可使治其賦也,不知其仁也。」「求也何如?」子曰:「求也,千室之邑,百乘之家,可使為之宰也,不知其仁也。」「赤也何如?」子曰:「赤也,束帶立於朝,可使與賓客言也,不知其仁也。」
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

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a fine line

a fine line

子曰:「道不行,乘桴浮於海。從我者,其由與?」子路聞之喜。子曰:「由也好勇過我,無所取材。」
Confucius said: “If the way doesn’t prevail, I’ll take a raft and put out to sea. I’m sure Zilu will come with me.” When he heard this, Zilu was delighted. Confucius said: “Zilu is much braver than I am, but he brings no materials to make the raft with.” (1)

There’s a fine line between engaging in friendly banter and making a hurtful comment. Confucius just about manages to stay on the right side of it with his dig at Zilu for his impetuousness, but the margin is at best a very fine one. Surely, his faithful follower deserves at least a pinch of gratitude from the sage for his eagerness to give up everything he’s doing and accompany Confucius on a perilous voyage to almost certain death! Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a fine line