21/11/2014 09:59 GMT | Updated 20/01/2015 05:59 GMT

Confucius Has Five Insights on Life Experience

When I worked as a senior project manager for an Innovation Consultancy, I organised a creative think-tank bringing together a cross-section of global distinguished leaders to a chateau in France on behalf of a multinational client.

The CEO client was not a personable man his people flittered around him pandering his poor behaviour. The distinguished leaders helped to make the catering staff; the organising team and their newly found colleagues feel comfortable. One of the leaders, a professor of Happiness was an older version of Malcolm Gladwell. I found it quite funny that the professor would walk out when he got bored of the conversation. Whenever he returned, he would listen to the discussion and then land a curve ball into the conversation.

The other leaders were quite comfortable with the professor. However, the client showed irritation by the professor's absence. When the professor draws something like a spaceship about to take flight, his interpretation of the building to house the expanded client service offering, the CEO dismissed the professor's ideas with 'why knots'.

One of the memorable curve balls was when the professor asked the CEO client "do you know how powerful you are, do you?"The professor enlightened the CEO stating "you can touch over one million people every day all over the world!"

It was 2004 and the thought of touching one million people every day felt awesome and excited to me. I could see the slumped shoulder CEO was not feeling the power, his face showed horror, I was not sure whether this was because of what the professor said or how the professor said it? I got it, how incredible would it be to put a smile on the face of one million customers in a year let alone a day! Even today this blows my mind.

The leaders were absorbed in the shared insights from the think-tank session, thinking how they could apply it to their businesses, they all expressed their gratitude to the client and the team and swooped contact details.

I have gained many insights from this experience that I have since explored with the help of the great Chinese philosopher and teacher Confucius:


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1. The universe is balanced and equal: If we all have equal opportunity why is it that some capitalise on them. It is not having the opportunity; it is seeing and implementing the opportunity that defines those that win. "The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential...these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence." Confucius

2. Our thinking only limits us: Our thinking limits our actions, and our actions limit our results. "The more man meditates upon good thoughts; the better will be his world and the world at large." Confucius

3. Value is what you assign it: How do you value success? Some value success in personal monetary wealth, other people like our professor of happiness values success in terms of influencing and empowering the happiness of others? "What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others." Confucius

4. Open minds consider new opportunities: Ten years on I see the client's business in a highly competitive environment, making very limited and marginal progress against the equally strong competition. "I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it there." Confucius

5. Distinguished people are distinguishable: By their humility and grace: "Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues." Confucius

What life experience has shown you great insight?