Tag Archives: Zilu

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

Analects of Confucius Book 2: Confucius on balanced learning

learning

Confucius is almost universally (and unfairly) blamed for the style of rote-learning that has plagued Chinese education for millennia. In reality, however, he advocated a balanced and intellectually-rigorous approach to learning that remains highly relevant even today. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 2: Confucius on balanced learning

Leadership lessons from Confucius: dumb questions

dumb questions

子曰:「由!誨女知之乎!知之為知之,不知為不知,是知也。」
Confucius said: “Zilu, let me tell you what knowledge means. Knowing what you know and what you don’t know. That is what knowledge means.”

It can be very tempting to pretend that you understand what someone is droning on about during a meeting or presentation out of fear of looking stupid in front of everyone else. Tempting but stupid, because the likelihood is that if you don’t have the foggiest idea of what the person is talking about then most of the other people in the room don’t either! Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: dumb questions

A false note

子路從而後,遇丈人,以杖荷蓧,子路問曰:「子見夫子乎?」丈人曰:「四體不勤,五穀不分,孰為夫子!」植其杖而芸。子路拱而立。止子路宿,殺雞為黍而食之,見其二子焉。明日,子路行以告。子曰:「隱者也。」使子路反見之。至,則行矣。子路曰:「不士無義,長幼之節,不可廢也。君臣之義,如之何其廢之?欲潔其身,而亂大倫。君子之仕也,行其義也,道之不行,已知之矣!」
Zilu fell behind while traveling with Confucius. He met an old man who was carrying a basket hanging from his staff over his shoulder. Zilu asked him: “Have you seen my master?” The old man said: “You don’t toil with your four limbs, and you can’t even distinguish between the five types of grain. Who is your master?” He planted his staff in the ground and started weeding. Zilu stood respectfully, his hands clasped in front of him. The old man invited him to stay with him overnight, killed a chicken and cooked some millet for him to eat, and introduced his two sons to him. The next day, Zilu resumed his journey and reported to Confucius. Confucius said: “The man you met is a hermit.” He sent Zilu back to see the old man, but when he reached his place Zilu found that the old man had gone. Zilu said: “It is wrong to withdraw from public life. The codes that govern the rightful relationship between the old and young cannot be discarded. How can the rightful relationship between ruler and subject be discarded? You cannot disrupt the most basic human relationships just to preserve your purity. A leader takes office and performs his rightful duties even if he already knows that the Way will not prevail.”

This final allegorical tale warms up nicely with its lyrical opening scene – only to end on a false note in the final section. Zilu’s closing comments are way too harsh to ring true and have only the most tenuous of connections with the rest of the story. Indeed, it’s not even clear who Zilu is meant to be talking to at the end because in the previous section the old man had already disappeared. Continue reading A false note

A fine line

子曰:「由也,女聞六言六蔽矣乎?」對曰:「未也。」「居!吾語女。好仁不好學,其蔽也愚;好知不好學,其蔽也蕩;好信不好學,其蔽也賊;好直不好學,其蔽也絞;好勇不好學,其蔽也亂;好剛不好學,其蔽也狂。」
Confucius said: “Zilu, have you heard of the six virtues and their six attendant vices?” “No, I haven’t.” “Sit down, and I will tell you. Loving goodness without loving learning leads to ignorance. Loving knowledge without loving learning leads to foolishness. Loving trustworthiness without loving learning leads to criminality. Loving frankness without loving learning leads to offensiveness. Loving valor without loving learning leads to chaos. Loving steadfastness without loving learning leads to recklessness.”

I wish I could find a better way of rendering the first sentence (言/yán literally means “words”) but the point that Confucius makes to Zilu is clear: even the most positive personal qualities need to be carefully cultivated in order make sure they don’t turn into negatives. Continue reading A fine line

A new Zhou Dynasty in the East

公山弗擾以費叛,召,子欲往。子路不說,曰:「末之也已,何必公山氏之之也?」子曰:「夫召我者,而豈徒哉?如有用我者,吾其為東周乎!」
Gongshan Furao, using the town of Bi as a stronghold, launched a revolt. He summoned Confucius to join him and Confucius was tempted to go. Zilu was unhappy about this and said: “We may have nowhere to go, but why must we go to join Gongshan?” Confucius said: “Since he has summoned me, it must be for some purpose. If his purpose is to employ me, perhaps I could establish a new Zhou Dynasty in the East.”

Like Yang Huo in Chapter I of Book 17, Gongshan Furao was another disaffected retainer of the Ji family who rose up against them and asked Confucius to join him in a revolt. The major difference between the two men, allegedly at least, is that Gongshan planned to restore the rightful authority of the hereditary ducal family over the state of Lu whereas Yang was only interested in boosting his own power and prestige. Continue reading A new Zhou Dynasty in the East