“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” –William Shakespeare, As You Like It
- You don’t need to be smart to be wise. In fact, some of the best wisdom I have received is from people who I wouldn’t call particularly intelligent. Similarly, some of the most intelligent people I know lack wisdom.
“If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” –Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan wasn’t known for his intelligence. It was his talent that made him a superstar. His wisdom came from years and years of practicing and from both his successes and failures. Michael Jordan played a total of 1,072 games in his 15 NBA seasons, not including the playoffs. He won 706 and lost 366. Michael Jordan knew about overcoming obstacles.
- You don’t need to be old to have wisdom, although older people tend to have more wisdom than younger ones. Some young people are surprisingly wise and some older ones are remarkably unaware.
One day I was in a karate lesson. I was feeling a little blue and it showed. The 20-year-old instructor asked me what was wrong. I said that everyone was making New Year’s resolutions and I didn’t have any that I felt passionate about making. He reflected for a moment and said, “Perhaps what you need is not a resolution, but a resolve.” He took me completely by surprise because he was right on the mark—and he was only half my age!
- Wise people have the gift of knowing what is outside of their control. That in itself is worth paying attention to. No matter how smart or talented you are, if it’s outside your control, you can’t control it.
“It is our attitude toward events, not events themselves, which we can control. Nothing is by its own nature calamitous — even death is terrible only if we fear it.” –Epictetus
In his book Being Mortal, Atul Gawande imparts innumerable pieces of wisdom about what is in and outside of our control as we age. In fact, it is precisely control that is most important to us as we age. We want control over our freedom to choose. Current methods of attending to aging people tend to take that away. No, we don’t have control over aging and dying, but we may be able to control to a certain degree how we live as we age and die.
“The reason many people in our society are miserable, sick, and highly stressed is because of an unhealthy attachment to things they have no control over.” –Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
- Don’t ignore wisdom. Have you ever heard the expression “history repeats itself?” Sadly it’s true and it’s mostly because we ignore the wisdom of people who warn us not to.
We like to think it won’t happen to us or we’re smarter, more capable than the people who tried and failed before us. While that may be true, if we don’t listen to the reasons why things turned out the way they did before, we won’t learn and do it differently.
“There are times when the world is rearranging itself, and at times like that, the right words can change the world.” –Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game