Ran Qiu said: “It’s not that I don’t enjoy the way of the Master, but I don’t have the strength to follow it.” Confucius said: “If you don’t have enough strength you can always give up halfway. But you’ve already given up before you’ve even started.”
You’ll never know what you’re truly capable of unless you commit yourself wholeheartedly to a project. That means putting aside all your doubts and in the words of a sage sneaker company “Just do it.”
If you eventually fail or run out of steam, you can look on the experience with pride because you’ve put all your effort into the project and learned a lot about yourself and the people working with you on it. That’s far more productive than not trying at all or sniping from the sidelines while others attempt it without your help.
This article features a translation of Chapter 12 of Book 6 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 6 here.
(1) Confucius had a highly fractious relationship with his follower Ran Qiu. This was caused in large part by Ran’s close relationship with the Ji Family and his love of money. Despite Confucius’s criticisms Ran was extremely loyal to the sage, persuading Ji Kangzi to allow the sage to return to Lu from his self-imposed exile in 483 BCE.
I took this image at the Temple of Mencius in Zoucheng, a small town near to Qufu.