Steve Webel

Self-cultivation

Let’s return to the ancient meaning of learning

I’m currently reading Confucius Analects and a theme that has come up is the notion that learning meant something else in ancient times than it does today. One section this comes up is 1.14:

1.14 The Master said, “The gentleman is not motivated by the desire for a full belly or a comfortable abode. He is simply scrupulous in behavior and careful in speech, drawing near to those who possess the Way in order to be set straight by them. Surely this and nothing else is what it means to love learning.” — Confucius

This idea of being “scrupulous in behavior and careful in speech” is something which deeply inspires me, and I’m glad that it has become part of the Buffer culture too.

In essence, I see the Buffer culture more than anything else as a set of values and character traits which the whole team has decided are important for them in their lives (not just at work). Since we established them at the beginning of the year we’ve found others who have these same values and aspirations for their character, and they’ve joined us. It’s incredible to see what is forming.

One of the great things about this version of Confucius Analects is that it has commentary. This is useful because the Analects by themselves are rather difficult to read. Here’s a comment on this particular theme:

“The primary focus of students in ancient times was to cultivate themselves by being meticulous in speech and careful in action, rather than merely memorizing, reciting, and composing texts … Students nowadays, on the other hand, devote themselves exclusively to memorizing, reciting, and composing texts with the sole purpose of passing the civil service exams and obtaining official positions. Very few of them ever get around to paying careful attention to their actual behavior or speech. Perhaps this is why they pale in comparison to the ancients.” — Wung Shu

Do you think about being meticulous in speech in careful in action? I’d love to hear what you think about this theme.