The Man Who Mistook His Knowledge for Wisdom.

July 8, 2022

The Man Who Mistook His Knowledge for Wisdom.

May 29, 2023

You know the guy I'm talking about. He's the brainiac or the walking encyclopedia who recites arcane facts but has no idea what "man-splaining" means. He's the one who knows Albert Einstein's birthday but forgets his own wedding anniversary. He's the "knowledge worker" who desperately could use a "wisdom worker" by his side when it comes to understanding humans.

Philosopher and psychologist John Dewey wrote,


"Information is knowledge which is merely acquired and stored up; wisdom is knowledge operating in the direction of powers to the better living of life."

So, how do you turn information or knowledge into wisdom? First off, you need to know that wisdom is a subtractive virtue, whereas knowledge is additive. Wisdom is all about distilling down the complexity of life (with all its distractions) to what's at its core. It requires intentional insight. Here are three things you could do to deepen your relationship with wisdom:

1. Make a practice of asking yourself what you've learned. Many of you know that I did this every weekend for many decades as I sifted through my leadership lessons each week. In the past, I've asked my leadership teams to do this quarterly as a means of both sharing best practices around wisdom and acknowledging that expressing vulnerability (the opposite of the "know-it-all") is a leadership strength.

2. Use the Serenity Prayer as a daily practice, especially when you're faced with challenging situations: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Distinguishing between constants and variables doesn't just make you a mathematician; it makes you a wise human.

3. Make a list of the five pieces of wisdom you might offer someone younger than you. Remember, the capital of Paraguay or how to make a martini won't be on your list. Your knowledge is not your wisdom. Your wisdom has your DNA fingerprints all over it and your personal experiences and history, insight, and humanity. It can't be found in an encyclopedia. It won’t be said by anyone else. You'll also know its original wisdom because it will come from your heart or gut, or the core of who you are.

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