Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the very wise and the very foolish
Confucius said: “Only the very wise and the very foolish never change.”
Even if you are the smartest person in the room, that does not mean you should break out a bottle of champagne. There are plenty of people outside it who are ten times smarter than you. You have just not had the opportunity to meet them yet.
Not of course that you should be comparing your smartness with anyone else’s in the first place. Intelligence is not a competition. Given the unprecedented speed with which the world is changing as a result of rapid technological and scientific advances, you should be devoting every ounce of your it to figuring out how to make the most of emerging trends and opportunities rather than worrying about how you stand in comparison to others.
This article features a translation of Chapter 3 of Book 17 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 17 here.
(1) Presumably the “very wise” Confucius is referring to are people like his favorite follower and protégé like Yan Hui. Because they are born with an innate knowledge and instinctive understanding of how the world works, they have no need to change. As for the “very foolish”, they are most likely the “common people” in 16.9 “who go through the trials and tribulations of life without ever learning anything.” The vast majority of the population is, of course, to be found between the two extremes. Unlike the very foolish, they recognize that there is always room for improvement in their knowledge and how they engage with the world.
I took this image in the Four Beasts Scenic Area in Taipei.