Exactly what kinds of experiences award an individual entrance into the wisdom club? Now there’s a question that stops the creative process with the finality of the word end on the last page of a book. So, where to from here? According to Wikipedia wisdom in the Western tradition is one of the cardinal virtues. As a virtue, it is a habit or disposition to perform the right action under given circumstances. This translation I like better. Wisdom is a disposition to find the truth coupled with an optimum judgment as to right actions. A decent synonym is insight. (According to this my 7-year-old grandson has wisdom. He looked at me the other day and said, “Grandpa you have big ears”! Thanks kid. Always good to have the ego stroked. 😉
Usually, parents have wisdom. My father did not necessarily prove that out. In all the years I knew him he gave me one bit of sage advice, which was ‘go into sales’. As it turned out that was a brilliant bit of truth that came at the right time. But that was it. Apparently, Harry decided that he wasn’t going to offer any other truths; he wanted to offer one humdinger of a truth and then rest on his laurels. Harry was also a shy individual who did not want to impose his will on anyone. My mother would disagree but that’s for another day and venue.
Whatever shortage of wisdom my father offered I made up for in spades by offering more than people needed. That’s where ego and wisdom intersect. If people think they are wise and they have a larger than required ego they believe that they need to dispense their wisdom freely to everyone. Really a bad idea! I don’t think that I fell into that category although my kids and wife may disagree. How you deliver wisdom, when you do it and to whom are the real keys to this virtue.
I freely dispensed (some might say dictated) suggestions under the guise of wisdom. There was a better way to do it. Making a query as in “Mind if I share an opinion on….” is better. My intentions were good but the delivery sucked. When you offer wisdom (if it really is that) non-stop people get really annoyed and before you know it they tune you out. Kids tend to model their parents anyway so if the modeling is good then how much ‘wisdom’ needs to be dispensed? Probably not as much as most parents think.
One of my bosses offered this pearl to me when I became a first time manager. “If you need help or have questions give me a call”. Okay. The sign on his desk could have read Wisdom will be dispensed upon request. His theory was that if I had a problem or question I was smart enough to know that I needed help and that he was a phone call away. Either that or he didn’t know what to tell me because no one had ever taught him how to manage. He basically winged life anyway and I suspect that’s how he handled sales management.
Past the age of 16 (my own very arbitrary number) wisdom should be delivered with some finesse as in a tactful, diplomatic maneuver. Why the touchy feely approach? Maybe the person already knows the best way to approach a problem. Maybe they have already proven they can handle tough situations. Maybe they enjoy the process of learning from their own mistakes. Maybe they’re stubborn SOB’s. Maybe they’re tired of listening to you. Regardless, not everyone is anxiously awaiting the next pearl to escape your frontal lobe. Offering wisdom that might actually have a lasting impact on a person or situation should be offered upon request, humorously, in a metaphor mixed with humor, with permission or to sell a book. 😉 And isn’t wisdom akin to advice?
George Carlin was one of the funniest humans on the planet. He had a classic one liner jam-packed with wisdom. Don’t let your ego write a check your body can’t cash! Or something like that. Not a bad bit of wisdom.