The wisdom of Confucius

Raphael Reiter
July 16, 2023

What I am enjoying doing these days is taking a book that is 3000 years old and realising how much is still true to this day. So today, we will study some of the wisdom from Confucius. The extracts that I am about to share come from the Analects of Confucious, which is a book I highly recommend. Get your copy here.

Like most ancient authors, we cannot pinpoint when they were alive and wrote their texts. However, we can assume that he was around in the 5th, 6th century before the common era. This is actually around the same time as Lao Tzu and our friend, the Buddha!

He dedicated his whole life to learning and teaching how to be the best person possible. However, of course, the book also contains a lot of funny Ancient Chinese customs, which are anecdotal now, but always fun to learn about.


"The master said, if out of the three hundred songs I had to take one phrase to cover all my teachings, I would say 'Let there be no evil in your thoughts."

Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome, said a few hundred years later:

"Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts, for the soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thoughts as, for example: Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible."

Yup, the similarities are striking, and that is a huge flag telling us to pay attention.

You need to learn how to control your thoughts. Otherwise, they will control you, and that is not good. It is not good for you, and it is not good for your loved ones.


You don't have to eliminate your thoughts, but take control of them. This is what we learn to do in all of our meditations together. I always tell you: don't try to eliminate your thoughts. Notice they are there, and just put them in the background instead of the foreground.

Learning how to control your thoughts doesn't happen from one day to another. It takes skill and a lot of practice. Even if you are the best meditator in the world, whatever that means, you need to constantly practice.


There are other ways to learn how to control your thoughts. A good example is journaling.

You guys probably read Harry Potter or at least saw the movies (the books are so much better, right?) If so, you probably remember Dumbledore's pensive.

With the help of his wand, he pours his thoughts in the pensive. So that he has a place to store his memories and help him put away some thoughts; I love this because this is exactly why I'm a big proponent of twice a day journaling. I do it for productivity, and for that reason, too: Get the thoughts on the paper so that they are out (or at least half out) of my system.


"The Master said, He does not preach what he practices till he has practised what he preaches."

Practising what you preach is a matter of honesty first, of integrity second, but also, it is a mark of respect.

If you can't practice what you preach, just don't preach it. You've heard the expression "leading by example". People don't want to hear you talk about stuff they should be doing. They want you to do it, to inspire them, to show them that this is something that is making you improve too! When they see that what you practice is something you SHOULD preach, they will want to model your actions and follow in your footsteps. If you don't practice what you preach, most of the time, you will look nothing other than foolish.


"The Master said, In vain I have looked for a single man capable of seeing his own faults and bringing the charge home against himself."

Remember the quote by our other Stoic mentor Seneca "Be harsh with yourself at times."

If you cannot look back for a second and see your own faults, then how do you think you will ever improve in anything? There is nothing to improve! Humility is the first factor in learning. Acknowledging that we have faults and a lot to learn, and then putting in the work and effort to learn. This is not only about taking responsibility for your actions; this is about having the mindfulness to recognise that not everything you do is perfect. This probably seems obvious to you. Because I mean you are here, listening to me talk to you about some dude writing some stuff 3000 years ago because it can improve the quality of your existence. You are, by default, opened to change and opened to improvement. But still, you can always do better. So ask yourself this question: What fault should you take responsibility for, and how will you improve it?


"The Master said, He does not mind not being in office; all he minds about is whether he has qualities that entitle him to office. He does not mind failing to get recognition; he is too busy doing the things that entitle him to recognition."

Don't let your happiness depend on what other people think of you.

I know that it's harder said than done. When you do something that makes you proud, only having another person take all the credit for it can be quite frustrating.

It's also easy to say: don't seek recognition. But is this something you can improve on too?

If you do what you have to do with authenticity and integrity, the recognition you get on the moment is just fluff.

You don't need that fluff to live your life with your Dharma, your purpose. You don't need fluff to live your life with Eudaimonia, with a good soul.

Continue to put in the effort and continue to be the best at whatever you do. The recognition, if you really need it, and to a certain extent I think we all do at least a little, will come. The people who steal your credit? Well, they probably didn't have a choice at that moment. So don't bother yourself with it. Things will take a good turn for you. Just continue improving, and continue being the best you can be, day after day, like Confucius tried to do, like Seneca tried to do, like Marcus Aurelius, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and many of our wonderful mentors we are inspired by tried to do.

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