Confucius and Ran Qiu
Every one of Confucius' students had his own character. Some were modest and keen to learn; some were strong and argumentative; some were cowardly and slow to improve. However, Confucius would teach each student according to his nature and help him become a useful and talented person.
Ran Qiu was a very talented person. He really hoped to improve his political abilities and obtain the opportunity to be promoted to become a government official after learning from Confucius.
Officials in ancient times had to understand poetry, literature, ritual, and music, and only when they had a good understanding of this knowledge could they work for the people. In order to improve on these abilities to become a government official, Ran Qiu followed Confucius as his teacher and diligently studied a variety of subjects and skills.
After some time, however, Confucius found that Ran Qiu had become idle and lazy and was no longer curious to understand and discuss the principles taught in the class. Therefore, one day after the class, Confucius asked Ran Qiu the reason for this.
Ran Qiu said, "It is not that I don't like the principles that you teach. It is just because I am lacking in ability!"
In fact, Ran Qiu thought that the principles that Confucius taught were too high and were different from what he had expected them to be. Ran Qiu had only planned to learn from Confucius the abilities necessary to become a government official. Then, with the help of Confucius' reputation, he would get the chance to start his political career. But when he came to Confucius's school, he found that the principles Confucius taught seemed to be apart from society. Though the ideals were high, it was not easy to follow them in practice.
Therefore, Ran Qiu started to become lazy and felt it was useless no matter how much more he learned. In addition, Ran Qiu also attributed his poor performance in the class to his own insufficient abilities. He thought that, since he was not capable enough, he would never be able to achieve the level that Confucius was teaching, so why did he need to study carefully?
But Confucius didn't think that Ran Qiu's declining performance was due to a lack of ability. Therefore, he told Ran Qiu, "Look at those people who don't have enough ability. They usually stop and give up halfway, whereas you draw a boundary in front of yourself to restrict you from moving forward. How can you make progress that way?"
After hearing what Confucius had to say, Ran Qiu was ashamed and lowered his head. Confucius continued, "Before you fully demonstrate your ability, you should not easily give up moving ahead, and you should not feel desperate about yourself so easily. As long as you try your best to do everything well, you will find that you have good potential!"
After Confucius had encouraged him, Ran Qiu was again full of confidence and resumed his usual earnest learning attitude. And he also realized that Confucius was really a good teacher!