True wisdom comes from giving…

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”

Epictetus

This might be one of the best definitions of wisdom I have read in a long time. The wealthiest people I know are those who are satisfied with what they have. These same folks are the ones that always, and continually seek to find ways to serve more, do more, give more. They are indeed the wisest people that I know.

We all have the opportunity to give, serve, and help those that aren’t as blessed as we might be. At the end of my life, I would prefer the measure of my success here on this earth to be in what I have given to others, not gained for myself.  

Wisdom = Patience

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.”

Saint Augustine

It takes wisdom to appreciate having patience, and it takes patience to build wisdom. But who has the patience to sit and wait for things to happen so that one might gain that knowledge?  

In today’s world, everyone seems to want everything NOW. All information is at our fingertips, but access to information isn’t wisdom; knowing how to use the right information requires knowledge and experience, the foundational learning elements. 

The only way to gain access to these things is with patience and understanding that growth takes time. So when you are growing impatient with something, try flipping your perspective and ask yourself, “what opportunity for growth in wisdom is being presented to me right now?” It might make all the difference.

Seek wisdom…

“It is said that wisdom lies not in seeing things, but seeing through things.”

Manly P. Hall

What is wisdom? Is it knowledge? Is it understanding? Something more?

I went the dictionary to find a more precise definition of the word: “Wisdom = knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.” From this definition what stands out to me the most is the connecting word “coupled.”

Knowledge without being coupled to action is simply information. Knowledge without understanding and insight is just data. Knowledge without application is merely a book on the shelf. Wisdom is the ability to apply data and information justly and rightly. In order to have wisdom, one must be willing to see all sides and have a willingness to be wrong. So what does one gain when you find wisdom? Let the words of the reputedly “wisest man to ever live” bring some perspective here…

‘Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding. For wisdom is more profitable than silver, and her wages are better than gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. She offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left. She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying. Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.’ Proverbs 3:13-18

With all that King Solomon shares on wisdom it is something that I definitely need to have more of in my life!

The “decade” of March…

“Knowledge comes from learning. Wisdom comes from living.”

Anthony Douglas Williams

A friend of mine sent me something the other day that I just found to be hilarious. In it he said “I just realized that I have been alive in seven decades. The 70’s, the 80’s, the 90’s, the 2000’s, the 2010’s, the 2020’s, and March…”

For many people I am sure that March certainly feels like it has been the longest month in the history of time doesn’t it? So much has happened that many people never expected was even possible. No matter how much knowledge you had going into this nothing compares to the wisdom that will come from having lived through it.

I have written before about my daily journal habit and the format that I use to capture my thoughts and learnings. I recently added a new question to my routine.

What is the wisdom I am meant to learn from this situation and how will I be able to apply that in my life as we grow out of this?

The time will pass, how can we ensure that our opportunity to gain wisdom doesn’t slip by?

Listen carefully…

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”

Jimi Hendrix

How do you know when you are gaining wisdom? When you are listening to learn, not to simply respond. What is the most effective way to accomplish this? Improve your ratio of questions to statements. If you are making more statements than asking of questions you are focused on imparting knowledge. If you are asking more questions then you are learning to gain wisdom. The value of wisdom is knowing how and when to use your knowledge. Without wisdom, you just have information, and that’s not nearly as valuable…

To learn, find your joy…

“All wish to possess knowledge, but few, comparatively speaking, are willing to pay the price.”

Juvenal

What is it that you find exciting about learning? What topics motivate you to put forth the effort to study and grow? Do you find the time to embrace opportunities to gain new knowledge and wisdom? Do you intenionally create those opportunities?

I have long believed that the minute one stops learning you begin to descend into a place of complacency and then irrelevancy. Perhaps this comes from my formative years as a autodidactic where everything I learned from 5th grade until college was self-taught and self-directed. (I was home-schooled through those years and 100% of my learning was self-directed) For years I believed that this was a impediment and something that held me back, but now I believe that it was exactly the opposite, it created an insatiable thirst for knowledge and learning for topics that I was intrigued by. It never felt like work to put forth the effort into the topics I was interested in.

That is the key to learning, you must have the motivation to do the hard work. The magic happens when the effort is joyful and it doesn’t feel like labor at all. Instead the energy and time spent acquiring knowledge feels like a gift and a blessing. Motivation to invest the energy and time required to develop mastery of any subject comes in two forms.

First, a passion for the topic itself and whatever it is that you are learning. For me that would be reading books on history and leadership throughout history. I love digging into a great book on historical figures and understanding how and what they did in their lives that impacted the course of the world. For example, I am reading the book “Hamilton” right now and it is absolutely fascinating. Other great examples are the Walter Isaacson books on Steve Jobs, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Einstein. For some, reading these books would be pure torture and boredom but for me they were all fascinating and the effort to read them wasn’t work at all.

Second, a passion for the end result that comes from gaining new wisdom and knowledge. This can take many forms but it is the desire to achieve some goal that makes the hard work to attain knowledge worth the effort. An example might be a topic in college that isn’t personally interesting but is required to achieve the end state, the degree, so one puts for the effort to learn and master the material.

The key to learning is this, discover your motivation that makes it worth paying the price of learning. These will either be internal or external but they must exist or one will never be able to motivate themselves to enact the discipline required to learn something new. Learning is hard work, but it doesn’t have to be joyless work. I would strongly argue that the best way to learn is to discover your joy for the work. Then, and only then, does learning becomes easy, and worth the price…

Quicksand…

“The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.”

Jean Paul

How is it that you only start to really understand the value of life and time when you have gained some experiences and taken a few knocks? As the sand in our hourglass slides past are we focused on maximizing the value of each grain? Or are we lost because we are focusing on the next big thing that may or may not be important at all?

Don’t let a single grain of sand slip through unappreciated and unvalued. This is our one and only life. Why would you waste any of it?

Wisdom doesn’t come quickly…

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.”

Saint Augustine

As I reflect on this quote I am reminded of this verse, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

In today’s “I want it all now” world patience seems to be a diminishing virtue. Everything in life seems to be a single click or web search away and because of this we tend to expect wisdom to be immediate and instantaneous. I can’t think of anything that I have achieved with ease that I value nearly as much as those things I have had to work hard for and pursue with patience and diligence.

What are you pursuing diligently?

Say “no” to non-essentials…

“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”

Lin Yutang

I have been on a journey to simplify in life and focus only on the most essential and important things. It is incredibly challenging for me to do, but has been very enlightening and clarifying. Definitely not saying that I am wise, but that I can see and have great appreciation for this wisdom.

It is interesting to see how much time we spend doing things that truly aren’t essential. There are so many things in life that are competing for our attention that saying “no” can be truly liberating. I will say that doing so takes more discipline and intentional focus than I would have ever thought possible. But it is worth every tough decision.

What is the one thing you should say “no” to today?

Wisdom is applied knowledge…

“It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.” 

Oliver Wendall Holmes

The older and more experienced I have become in life the more I have learned to value great questions. Great statements can be profound but they don’t create the opportunity for change and growth the same way a great question does.

What I love about a really great question is that it gives one the opportunity to listen and gain both knowledge and perspective. If you think about it, if you focus on gaining knowledge you can just have more information. If you listen and ask questions you can gain both knowledge and wisdom. With wisdom being the distinct ability to apply the knowledge you have learned.

What are the right questions to ask that focus not just on gaining knowledge but on gaining wisdom?

The most important variables…

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

John Wooden

This is probably one of my favorite quotes. It states so clearly the danger of this world if you remove just two key variables. Humility and Gratitude. Without either you are going to go astray.

Why do you have your God given gifts and talents? Is it to serve others or serve yourself? If you have fame then how are you using that fame to serve others or impact the world? I would argue that if you aren’t using your gifts to serve then you are treading dangerously close to the definition of conceit.

The minute you believe you are better than someone else, that your life has more value or meaning than another person you have lost your way. My Dad used to tell me that “everyone puts their britches on the same way in the morning. No person is more important or deserves better treatment because of their role or wealth.”

How do you guard against conceit and selfishness?

Seek wisdom, or risk being a fool…

 “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
 
Proverbs 13:20 ESV
 

We are product of the people we spend time with, the things that we watch and read, the groups that we associate with.  This quote applies both to the people we spend time with, and the things that we choose to watch and read.  

I love to read and to learn new things that challenge my beliefs and perspectives.  Reading is a great way to get outside of your own perspective and find wisdom from others; it’s another way to walk with the wise.  In my mind not reading and seeking new information is the same as choosing to be a companion of fools.

It doesn’t mean you have to read to excess or try to read a book a week.  Just pick one book, and walk with the wisdom that is being shared.  You don’t have to agree with all of it, in fact you probably shouldn’t!  But pick one book that interests you and commit to reading 15-30 minutes per day.  

Seek wisdom.  Seek knowledge.  Seek to learn from the wise.  Or you will run the risk of being one of the fools mentioned above…

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