Leadership Lessons from Confucius: enjoy your wealth

Confucius commented that Prince Jing of Wei knew how to manage the finances of his household well: “When he began to accumulate some wealth, he said ‘this is truly an ideal fit.’ As his wealth increased, he said ‘this is truly complete.’ When his wealth became considerable, he said ‘this is truly beautiful.’”

Enjoy your wealth. You have worked hard for it. Just be sure to manage it responsibly. Do not go overboard with the accumulation of possessions that you will never have any use of or get caught up in competitive displays of ostentation with others to prove that you have truly made it. No matter how massive and luxurious your yacht is, it will not be long before somebody else comes along with something even grander and even more tasteless.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 8 of Book 13 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 13 here.

(1) As a minister in the government of the state of Wei and a member of the ruling family, the prince had ample opportunity to enrich himself and enjoy the trappings of office but was known for his lack of extravagance. By praising the prince for his (relative) restraint, Confucius is also probably indirectly criticizing others for their unbridled greed and dissolute lifestyles.

(2) Confucius was no hair-shirted ascetic. He had no objections to virtuous people like Prince Jing “doing well by doing good” as long as they were not excessive about it and did not become a slave to their desires.

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Richard Brown

I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.