Leadership Lessons from Confucius: threadbare clothes and coarse food

Richard Brown
2 min readMar 8, 2019

Confucius said: “A scholar who pursues the way but is ashamed of his threadbare clothes and coarse food is not worth talking to.”

Follow the path that you believe in — not the one that you think will help you make the most money and bring you the greatest fame. That might mean making some minor sacrifices to begin with, but you will be much happier and more fulfilled over the long term because you are following your passion and doing something worthwhile.

Note

This article features a translation of Chapter 9 of Book 4 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 4 here.

(1) The term 士 (shì) refers to the class of educated youth that emerged during the Spring and Autumn period. They came from relatively humble backgrounds and worked as clerks and officials in state governments, stewards and administrators for the aristocratic families, bookkeepers and managers for merchants, and teachers and specialists in the classics and ritual. Confucius was himself a member of this class, having grown up in a poor family that placed a high value on education and starting out his career as a stockman. The term 士 is also translated as knight, scholar-knight, and scholar-apprentice.

I took this image at the Taipei Confucius Temple.

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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.