Leadership Lessons from Confucius: long-term planning

Richard Brown
2 min readOct 8, 2021

Confucius said: “A person who does not think about what is still far off is sure to have worries close at hand.”
子曰:「人無遠慮,必有近憂。」

Do you have a long-term plan for the future? If not, now is the time to write one. Of course, it will change as you adjust your expectations. Nothing is set in stone. But without a clear picture of what you want to do with your life, you will soon find yourself drifting along with no clear objectives.

Your plan should not just chart out the direction you want to follow and the goals you want to achieve. It should also include a list of the steps you will take to reach them. The “how” is just as important as the “what”, if not more so. You will not have much chance of becoming a millionaire by the time you are thirty if you do not have any idea what career to pursue or business to build.

As the old saw goes, no plan survives contact with the enemy. That makes it all the more important to constantly review the progress you are making towards your long-term goals and make the necessary adjustments to your short-term actions. This will enable you to build up an effective process for strengthening your effectiveness in dealing with the inevitable challenges you will face along the way and remaining focused on the big picture.

You only have one life. It is only through clear long-term planning of what you wish to accomplish during the few short years allotted to you that you will be able to make the most of it.

Notes
This article features a translation of Chapter 12 of Book 15 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 15 here.

I took this image at the Mencius Cemetery in Qufu.

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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.