What I hear, I forget; what I see, I remember; what I do, I understand.
—Confucius, 451 B.C.
by Gloria Petersen
Wisdom is described as the quality or state of being wise and as having insights that go beyond the average person’s knowledge base. It comes with age; and it comes with experience. It is achieved by trying the unknown, learning from missteps, and valuing differing opinions. Wisdom is about learning from errors and recovering—not dwelling on them. It has a philosophical element, an educational element, even a biblical element. Wisdom embodies intellect, knowledge, and reason, and demonstrates an openness to interpretation.
There is a vast difference between “having knowledge” and “sharing wisdom.” We can gather all the knowledge and all the “book learning,” but without wisdom, knowledge loses its impact. We must learn how to live out what we know with consideration, kindness, and respect. The foundation of knowledge is to be unfailingly willing to learn and to respect each other’s viewpoint. Wisdom means far more than simply knowing a lot. It is a basic attitude and foresightedness that affects every aspect of our life. Common sense is about being appropriate and sensitive; and it is about timing.
- Knowledge: Having the facts; honoring and respecting each other.
- Wisdom: Applying those facts to life.
- Common Sense: Knowing how and when to use knowledge and share wisdom.
Wisdom is truly a gift, and a gift that is not developed all at once. Some people have more knowledge than common sense. Other people have more insight than discretion. It is important to understand the differences and create the right balance in order to develop all aspects of wisdom. For example, loyalty and kindness are important character qualities. Both involve action as well as attitude. A loyal person acts responsibly. A kind person works for justice for others. Thoughts and words are not enough; the way we live our life reveals where we are truly loyal and kind. Ask yourself: Do your actions measure up to your attitude or to your intention?
We send messages electronically, by postal mail, and in person in the hope of imparting knowledge and sharing wisdom. We want to learn, to understand, and to find solutions—it is part of our inner fabric. The combination of knowledge and wisdom identifies ability, intelligence, brilliance, genius, and wit. And that is just a start. We can also gain wisdom from experience and the circumstances of our life, which we often refer to as the “school of hard knocks.” So be open to the advice of others, especially those who know you well, who have a wealth of experience, and who can give you valuable insight and counsel. This is how you truly learn from others and gain wisdom.
Cross Mentoring Wisdom
The typical role of a mentor in the business world is for a seasoned employee to provide guidance and support to a new employee. It is about sharing one’s wisdom. However, “cross mentoring” is more rewarding and gratifying. For example, it is important that new hires learn the ways of a company’s culture through its seasoned employees. However, it is equally important that the seasoned employees learn new ways from the new hires who bring their unique knowledge and outside experiences to the company. This is how a company grows and stays competitive.
It is also important to realize that not every idea is going to work, so focus on the ideas that will enhance workplace effectiveness and bond relationships. Make sure that there is a balance of sharing and that no one’s time is monopolized. Wisdom lies in validating ideas or opinions and in being diplomatic when you are not in agreement.
Wisdom Ages Gracefully and Is a Core Biblical Teaching
Have you ever wondered why the president of the United States or the president of a major corporation can be in his 70s, while at the same time corporate America wants to retire their long-time employees at the age of 55? Corporations send their older employees on their way with a severance package in exchange for younger employees who have stronger technical skills and for whom they can pay less. This is like throwing wisdom in the waste basket. It just does not make sense. Other countries are not in such a hurry. They recognize the value of wisdom that comes with age and experience.
The irony is that, while wisdom is too often replaced with technology, technology is only as good as the wisdom that drives it. In this age of information, knowledge is plentiful, but wisdom is becoming scarce. We should treat it as a protected species. After all, the greatest historians through the ages are remembered for their wisdom. These people serve as a constant and invaluable resource. In the corporate arena we have resources like SCORE (Service Corps Of Retired Executives) through which we can benefit from specific leaders’ years of experience. So find your “wisdom” resource, and you will build a solid foundation for success and happiness.
Solomon, the wisest leader of his time,
left us a legacy of written wisdom.
For the Lord grants wisdom!
From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest.
He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
He guards the paths of the just
And protects those who are faithful to him.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
And knowledge will fill you with joy.
Wise choices will watch over you.
Understanding will keep you safe.
In the Balance: Do you agree that wisdom is a company’s most valued asset?
What is wisdom to you?