Confucius said: “A fine horse is admired not for its strength but its heart.”
Talent can only get you so far. You need to develop a host of other qualities to achieve long-term success in life. Strength and determination are vital if you are to overcome obstacles along the way and complete tasks that other people think are impossible.
Courage and calmness when you are under pressure also come very high on the list. So too are the curiosity to find out what is really going on and the wisdom to make the right judgment about a particular situation or person. A strong sense of morality to guide you in making the right choices in how you conduct yourself and treat other people is also indispensable. The list goes on and on!
Character is one word you can use to sum up all these qualities. Virtue is another. But perhaps the best one is heart. Not only is it the source of all your energy and inspiration and love and compassion; it’s the very life force that enables you to embrace all the challenges that come your way with optimism and enthusiasm.
Don’t be afraid to draw from the power of the heart to get the most out of the myriad opportunities that life offers you.
This article features a translation of Chapter 33 of Book 14 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 14 here.
(1) The character 德 (dé) is usually translated as “virtue”, which would also be fine in this context. “Virtues” or “merits” denoting the horse’s temperament, obedience, and spirit are also good alternatives to heart.
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.