Leadership Lessons from Confucius: not the end of the world

Confucius said: “Don’t be concerned if people fail to recognize what you’ve accomplished; be concerned about what you haven’t been able to accomplish yet.”
子曰:「不患人之不己知,患其不能也。」

Focus on what you can control. Forget about what you cannot. Of course, you want millions of people to buy the book you have put your heart and soul into writing, but there is no way you can guarantee that will happen even with the best publicists promoting it.

If it does become a bestseller, enjoy the moment and then get back to work. If it does not take off, understand that it is not the end of the world. You will have learned a lot from the experience and you will be much better equipped to take on your next major project.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 30 of Book 14 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 14 here.

(1) Starting in the very first chapter of the Analects, Confucius emphasizes the need for people to concentrate on cultivating their own talent and character rather than worry about what whether others recognize them:

“Isn’t it the mark of a leader to remain unconcerned when others don’t recognize your talents?”

Other examples include 1.16 and 4.14:

“Don’t be concerned about other people failing to recognize your abilities; be concerned about failing to acknowledge their abilities.”

“Don’t be concerned that you haven’t secured an official position; be concerned that you have what it takes to secure one. Don’t be concerned that you aren’t recognized for your abilities; be concerned that you deserve to be recognized for your abilities.”

I took this image at the Temple of the Duke of Zhou in Qufu. The duke was Confucius’s great hero and role model as a result of his tireless efforts to the establish the foundation of the fledgling kingdom of Zhou while acting as regent to his nephew, the young King Cheng.

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