Confucius, 551 to 479BC
8 Life Lessons
At some point in our lives, pretty much everyone has questioned the big philosophical questions:
Where do we come from? Where do we go? What’s the purpose of it all?
For generations, wise men across the planet have sought answers, to give us some guidance in this world. In order, to help you achieve new routes on your philosophical journey, I’ve collected some of the most important lessons of the great Chinese philosopher Confucius for you.
1. ALWAYS KEEP GOING
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
Success is a work in progress - so don’t stress yourself if you aren’t where you expected to be at a certain point in time. Confucius teaches that it doesn’t matter if you are moving a step closer or an inch closer to your dreams - the most important thing is that you keep moving forward.
2. Go All IN
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”
Wherever your life takes you, be there with all your being and let your energy be infectious. When you put your heart and soul into what you do, your spirit can move mountains. And it doesn’t matter what you do - once people see your passion you can truly change the world.
3. PREPARATION IS KEY
“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation, there is sure to be a failure.”
This sentence goes hand in hand with another Confucian principle: “The mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.” The meaning behind this is that for many things in life, success is all dependent on preparation. Greatness doesn’t come easy and hard work is required to become successful in life.
4. FRIENDS MATTER
“Never contract friendship with a man that is not better than yourself.”
Your friends are a guiding light to your future as you are often headed where they already are. Therefore, surround yourself with friends who are going where you want to go, who share your values and convictions, and drive each other to be the best self you can be.
5. LEARN TO FORGIVE AND FORGET
“To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.”
Don’t sweat the small stuff because to be wronged is no great offence. Don’t let the actions of others ruin your day, or external negativity into your thoughts. Learn to forgive and move on to important things.
6. YOU CAN LEARN FROM EVERYONE
“If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.”
This is one of the great lessons of life. Everyone around you is a lesson, so learn everything you can from them. Pick out qualities in others that you admire and implement them, and use negative qualities as reminders of where you don’t want to go or get rid of bad traits you might have yourself. There is always something to be learned.
7. ALL OF US ARE EQUAL
“To lead the people to war without having taught them is to throw them away.”
This warning cautions people, especially those in positions of power, against harbouring too much elitism in leadership. It also reminds us of regular folk to not follow people and ideas blindly.
I like this quote because it evokes a familiar sense of community. As citizens, neighbours, and fellow humans, we are equals, which means we must work together in our endeavours, no matter how much we want to put ourselves above others or the other way around.
All too often we see smart students who simply cannot afford a university education and therefore do not pursue one. This is s waste of good manpower.
However, because the Internet has allowed information to be so widely available, this piece of advice encourages us to seek out knowledge, no matter what socio-economic background from which we may originate. It provides a path toward success, acknowledging that education can really transform one’s life in beautiful ways.
8. SHOW RESPECT
“Respect, liberality, trustworthiness, earnestness, and kindness.”
“If you are respectful, you will have no regret; if you are liberal, you will win the multitude; if you are trustworthy, you will be trusted; if you are earnest, you will be effective; if you are kind, you will be able to influence others.”
Arguably a derivative of the Golden Rule — treat others the way you would like to be treated — Confucius emphasizes to us his most treasured values and reminds us of their reciprocating qualities.
When we treat others with high regard, are open to others’ ideas (not only liberal ideas as in leftist, but all ideas), always choose honesty as the best policy, and treat others with an open heart, others will be receptive. Incorporating these actions into our daily routines will also help us lead happier lives, for our actions and attitudes adopt more meaning.
Of all of Confucius’s directives for how to be “humane,” this is what I believe to be the most effective advice for how to truly live a fulfilling life.