Leadership Lessons from Confucius: does heaven speak?
Confucius said: “I wish to speak no more.” Zigong said: “Master, if you do not speak, how will your followers be able to pass on any of your teachings?” Confucius said: “Does heaven speak? The four seasons turn and all the creatures continue to be born, but does heaven speak?”
Actions speak louder than words. It’s what you do rather than what you say that counts. Better to be the quietest person in the room than the loudest one. The more you talk, the less people will listen to you. The less you talk, the more they will pay attention to what you have to say.
This article features a translation of Chapter 19 of Book 17 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 17 here.
(1) Confucius isn’t promising to stop speaking at all of course. He’s making the much more profound point that that his followers could learn much more by simply observing him in action than listening to him sound off. This idea is probably even more apposite today than in Confucius’s time given the huge volumes of noise we produce and are bombarded with. The next time you feel compelled to speak just to be heard, why not take a few seconds to remind yourself that in most cases it’s better to say nothing at all?
(2) Confucius is contrasting the silent and spontaneous harmony that nature achieves so effortlessly with the harsh and capricious volatility that is threatening to tear humanity apart.
I took this image in the Four Beasts Scenic Area in Taipei.