Zizhang asked about vision. Confucius said: “If you’re soaked with slander and wounded by insults but still do not falter, you may be said to have vision. Indeed, you may also be said to be farsighted.”
Ignore all the doubters and critics with their petty insults and slanders. You only get one shot at life. Stick to your vision of what you want to accomplish with it. No point in wasting precious time and energy worrying about what others have to say.
Of course, when you become an overnight success after twenty years of hard and lonely work, everyone will say that they believed in you right from the start and were with you all the way. But by then you won’t even care what they have to say.
This article features a translation of Chapter 6 of Book 12 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 12 here.
(1) Confucius was speaking from bitter experience here. In his efforts to promote his teachings and secure a high-level position with a ruler, he attracted more than his fair share of enmity. Despite being “soaked with slander and wounded by insults”, however, he had the vision to stick to the right path.
(2) The character 明 (míng) is rendered as “discernment” or “perceptiveness” in most English translations of this passage. It refers to the abilities of a ruler to set the right goals and choose the right ministers to execute them.
(3) Zizhang was forty-eight years younger than Confucius. He wasn’t particularly popular among the other followers of Confucius who regarded him as being more interested in self-promotion than imbibing the wisdom of the sage.