Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

The importance of knowing names

Author: Paulo Coelho

By Paulo Coelho

Zilu asked Confucius:

‘If King Wen were to ask you to govern the country, what would your first action be?’

‘I would learn the names of my advisers.’

‘What nonsense! That is hardly a matter of great concern to a prime minister.’

‘A man cannot hope to receive help from what he does not know,’ replied Confucius. ‘If he does not understand Nature, he will not understand God. In just the same way, if he does not know who is at his side, he will have no friends. Without friends, he will be unable to draw up a plan. Without a plan, he cannot direct anyone’s actions. Without direction, the country will plunge into darkness, and even dancers will not know which foot to put down next. So an apparently banal action – learning the name of the person at your side – can make an enormous difference. The besetting sin of our time is that everyone wants to put things right immediately, and they forget that in order to do so you need a lot of people.’

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