Leadership Lessons from Confucius: leaving this world

Confucius said: “A leader hates the thought of leaving this world without having made their name.”

What do you want to be remembered for when the time comes for you to shuffle off this mortal coil? This is a useful question to ask yourself whenever you think about your future because it helps you to define what your true priorities are.

In the midst of your busy daily life, it can be all too easy to lose sight of the long-term goals that you would like to accomplish. Take some time to reflect on the changes you need to make in order to make sure you are moving in the right direction.

This article features a translation of Chapter 20 of Book 15 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 15 here.

(1) Confucius uses the term “make your name” in the sense of having accomplished something worthwhile to be remembered for rather than simply being famous. Throughout the Analects he vigorously criticizes people who seek to achieve fame at all costs. His belief was that if you acted in a virtuous manner, you would ultimately be recognized for it even if this occurred after your death.

(2) Some commentators suggest Confucius is implying that he will one day be vindicated for his quest to restore the Zhou dynasty to its former glories despite the ridicule he received from his contemporaries for his efforts. This is possible, of course, but it is just as likely that Confucius is encouraging others to persevere in their quest for self-cultivation.

I took this image at the Mencius Cemetery in Qufu.

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