How To Live a Good Life? A Note On Confucianism and What Can It Teach Us When It Comes To Building Professional Networking Strategies.

Updated on June 13th 2023

May 30th 2022

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  • The Harvard Study of Adult Development reveals that the quality of relationships is a better predictor of health and happiness than fame, wealth, or job satisfaction.

  • Confucianism, an ancient Chinese philosophy, emphasizes the significance of building and nurturing various types of relationships. Confucius believed that family relations were key to happiness.

  • The teachings of Confucius can be applied to professional networking in modern world. While building your professional career, you should aim to create a “professional family” and develop and nourish these relations.

What Truly Makes Us Happy?

Millions of professionals today develop the toxic mindset of “go go go!” (often referred to as the “hustle culture,” popularized in mass media by public figures such as Gary Vee) and end up in a burnout. Today’s fast world sets us all apart and make us lonely.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development was running for over 85 years now. In this study, 724 men enrolled at the point when they were reaching adulthood. (hence, “adult development“) They were then tracked for decades concerning their health, relationships, and overall life satisfaction.

According to Robert Waldinger, the chief researcher in the study, it turns out that it is not fame, wealth, or cholesterol level at age 50 that best predicts health at age 80. It is the quality of relationships with family and friends.

The same study also revealed that job satisfaction has little to do with salary or social status. In fact, the jobs which make people unhappy are usually those that isolate them from others.

Can Confucianism Be The Answer To Hustle Culture and Loneliness?

In the professional world, it can be hard to find the time to absorb quality information on the philosophy, lifestyle, and history that help us improve the way we live.

With professional endeavors and anything else going on in our lives, we need to actively learn how to set aside time to pause and reassess the situation in a peaceful and introspective manner in order to keep balance and continuously improve.

In the Western world, we are familiar with some of the far-East philosophical concepts and schools of thought, such as Buddhism or Ikigai‘s philosophy of good living. 

However, one forgotten philosophy highly relevant to today’s society is Confucianism (also known as Ruism, or Ru classicism). In this article, we would like to briefly introduce the central concepts of Confucianism and explain how they can be relevant for building career development strategies in the job market of today.

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What Is Confucianism?

Confucianism originates from ancient China. The term “Confucianism” comes from Confucius, a Chinese philosopher living between 551–479 BCE. 

Little is known about the life of Confucius since most of the stories about him are legends passed from generation to generation. However, the consensus is that Confucius himself was a real, historical figure, not just a legend.

In ancient China and throughout most of Chinese history, Confucianism was the system of beliefs of the educated elite …to such an extent that if you were planning to join the state bureaucracy and climb the social or political ladder, you had to pass public exams dedicated to the five Confucian classics.

According to Confucius, human beings are fundamentally good, constant learners that aim for achieving perfection via personal and communal efforts. To Confucianists, the essence of the human being is ‘benevolence’ (or, ‘humaneness’) which manifests as compassion.

As a system of belief, Confucianism transcends the dichotomy between religion and humanism. Namely, it considers ordinary, daily activities in human life — and especially human relationships — as the expression of humanity’s morality and therefore, a manifestation of the sacred.

How To Be Happy According To Confucius? Five Main Types of Interpersonal Relations.

Every religion and system of belief tackles the question of “how to live a good life?” or “how to be happy?” In Confucianism, the essence of a good life is building relations — with a special focus put on the importance of the family and social harmony.

Confucius was analyzing various types of interpersonal relations. In his view, we need to build and nourish a few distinct types of relationships to live a fulfilling life:

  1. Ruler and Subject,
  2. Father and Son,
  3. Elder Brother and Younger Brother,
  4. Husband and Wife,
  5. Friend and Friend.

In a way, Confucius tried to decompose society into a complicated graph, where society members point to each other with different types of connections. In this classification, only the relation between two friends is truly symmetric.

All the other relations require some form of dependency. These are just theoretical constructs, but in practice, any relationship can be classified as a proxy to one of these types.

Confucius believed that to secure harmony in society, people should adopt certain “proper attitudes” in their relationships, depending on the type of relationship we are talking about. For instance, a ruler is expected to be generous and kind, and a son is expected to be obedient to his father.

To Confucius, family relations were key to happiness. In his view, as long as family members are respectful to each other and citizens are respectful to the ruler, the whole society becomes a gigantic family in which everyone is supported and happy.

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Confucianism in the Modern World.

We recently released a few tutorials on why and how to network as a professional on this blog. So, what does the ancient philosophy of Confucianism add to the picture in terms of building relations in professional life? Well, it is relevant in every single way — from connecting with colleagues to empathizing with customers.

On the way to pursue your career endeavors and goals, you will undoubtedly find some obstacles that just completely overwhelm you for a while. Once in a while, things get tough no matter what you do or don’t do in your career. And when these situations happen, we need to have tools to confront our problems.

This is where Confucianism can come in handy. This philosophy encourages us to develop deep relationships and in a professional life that may mean our business partner, co-worker, boss, supervisor, et cetera. It is nice to have a family who cares but sometimes they just don’t understand the nuances and unique difficulties of your work.

When you expose your thoughts and feelings to a trusted professional friend, you can discuss the issue at hand, its causes, and solutions together, working on your personal development as well.

And the end, you’re much more likely to feel catharsis and be more prepared to confront any professional issues you may have. And likewise, you may want to share your positive experiences with someone who understands them.

Build Your Alternative, Professional Family!

There are two main types of networking strategies: the horizontal and vertical networking strategy (as explained in detail in our article Make Strategic Networking a Part of Your Career Development Plan: The Depth vs The Width of Your Network“). 

The horizontal network is broad and shallow, while the vertical network is small but deep. Counterintuitively, the latter is much more important for your career development, especially at the beginning of your professional career.

This is why it is important to develop your alternative, “professional” family: a network of professionals around you with whom you develop various types of close relations and with whom can share your daily struggles at work.

Building firm relationships is a skill that will be crucial for both your professional and social life. To develop a healthy network, you need to have a good understanding of the different types of relations, and make sure that you are aware of how each one of your relationships classifies.

Although Confucius primarily related to relations as a societal construct, they can be translated to the professional setting as well, as follows: 

  1. Ruler and Subject: Employer and Employee,
  2. Father and Son: Mentor and Mentee,
  3. Elder Brother and Younger Brother: Senior Specialist or Manager and Junior Specialist or Manager,
  4. Husband and Wife: Manager and Team Member (as in Confucianism, marriage is patriarchal, more on that topic later),
  5. Friend and Friend: Coworkers.

What is important to remember is that these professional relations don’t translate 1 on 1 with societal relations. For instance, while you have one father in real life, you can and even should have multiple mentors in your professional life.

It is important for your career and balance in professional life to harmoniously develop your professional relations, invest time into many of these areas and build your alternative, shadow “professional family” which will help you to work on your professional development.

So, how do we properly build proper relationships with other professionals? Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution here; it is always a process. Even people who you might think of as successful in their relationships work on them for a lifetime — and unfortunately, that is the only way to do it.

However, the first and most important step is to take action, actively engage in networking activities, and nourish your relations on a daily basis.

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Applying Confucius’ Teachings In Business: The Golden Rule.

Many of Confucius’ teachings can be applied directly to business. For instance, “emulation of moral exemplars” might be professionally interpreted as “go research the people in your industry and imitate the good ones.”

One of his famous teachings, perhaps now better known as “the Golden Rule” was: what you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others. Like the example mentioned before, knowing how to speak in a friendly manner to your customers is very important.

You might be able to get away with a serious tone but you will be pushing away potential customers if you do not have the flexibility of kindness. The way of contacting customers should be an element of personal development.

In the business world, people can be cruel and cutthroat to win the competition of sales, a number of customers, et cetera. So, keep your morals with you and understand that everyone is human just like you, and do not abandon your kindness. All these things will help you in business: cultivating good business relationships, gaining trust, and becoming a better person overall.

Network Online!

Today, building relations partially moved to the Internet. We often choose to value our mental proximity higher than our physical closeness, both in our social and professional lives. Building your online network also requires certain skills, such as the ability to brand yourself, or present yourself, online.

Please find more advice on professional networking in our other articles:

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Last Words on Confucianism in the Today’s World.

Of course, not all Confucianist principles are still relevant today. For instance, Confucius had an outdated view on marital relations and believed that a wife should be obedient to her husband. Today, his original teachings meet with lots of critics for that matter.

Regardless of this, there is still value in learning about this ancient Chinese philosophy of the good life. While the Western world currently suffers from a persistent lack of interpersonal connection.

Please also check out our article “How To Be Happy? The Only Justice in the World.” In this article, we talk about scientific studies on the real sources of happiness and we discuss the ways in which you can build happiness in professional life.

Would you like to learn more about our philosophy of the East in its good impact on the Western world? Please find our article “How To Stop Grinding and Worrying in Our Careers? What Can We Learn From Taoism.” 

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Please cite as:

Wright D., Bielczyk, N. (2022, May 30th). How To Live a Good Life? A Note On Confucianism and What Can It Teach Us When It Comes To Building Professional Networking Strategies? Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/how-to-live-a-good-life-a-note-on-confucianism-and-what-can-it-teach-us-when-it-comes-to-building-professional-networking-strategies/

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