From the Publisher - September 2015
“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.” —Alfred Lord Tennyson
Now that it is September, most students have been back in school long enough to be getting comfortable in their routines. While the thought of learning, exploring and studying doesn’t provoke a lot of excitement in most kids, the fact of the matter is they will know more by the holidays than they know today. Gaining knowledge is a side effect of school, even for those who don’t try very hard.
Every year during September, my birthday rolls around and sometimes I celebrate and sometimes I don’t. This year, I have been wishing my birthday would just go away; but, I guess the alternative—being dead—is worse. The reason I’m being a baby about my birthday is it’s a big one—a milestone. I am entering a new decade that starts with an “F” but it isn’t my forties. I am not handling it well.
I know there are many perks to aging, although most seem to have slipped my mind at this moment (great—my mind is already slipping), though there is one I would not trade to regain my youth. It is wisdom. I have always been pretty smart. However, being wise is a whole different level of smart. We learn in the first grade that 1+1=2. In the 12th grade, 1+1 still equals 2. That is knowledge; it is what it is. Wisdom is much deeper. It is a deep knowing that is the culmination of layering all of life’s lessons gained through each day of living. Thus, the longer you live, the wiser you should be (there are always exceptions to the rules).
Knowledge is what you need to make a living. Wisdom is needed to make a life. In sending my children back to school this year, both as seniors—one in college and one in high school—I started thinking about all the knowledge they will gain and all the wisdom I have gained in my 50 years. I deduced there are many lessons you don’t learn in school. In fact, there are some lessons that have taken me years to unlearn. Here are four I would like to share with you:
Everyday You Have a Choice
In school, we had no choices. Your school year and daily routine was chosen for you. You had classes that were chosen for you, taught by teachers who were chosen for you, at times that were set for you. A student doesn’t have much say in their learning. They are even told what classes they must take in order to graduate. It’s not surprising we grow up looking to be told what to do: Get in line; keep it straight; and follow along quietly.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned since school, is that I do have a choice of how my day is going to look, feel and be. I have a choice how I will react to situations that may arise to thwart my choices. No matter how stuck I may feel, I always have a choice. My life has been tough lately and sometimes I feel helpless, but the truth is, I have a choice. I get to decide. If I don’t like something, I can change it and so can you!
There are multiple ways to be successful
In school, most rewards and recognition come to those who make stellar grades or excel at sports. You can’t blame the schools. Merriam-Webster narrowly defines success as achieving wealth, respect or fame. Unfortunately, children who don’t fit into achieving academically or athletically can feel they are less, even if they have other amazing talents, which simply do not have a platform from which to shine at school.
I believed that narrow definition once, but life has taught me that success comes in many different packages. There have been various people throughout history who were average performers or school dropouts and still became wildly successful. Not to mention those who succeed in areas such as art, music, ministry, mechanics, building, cooking, counseling, charity and so much more. Where on the SAT do you get to shred a guitar, cook like Julia Child or take an engine apart and put it back together?
Success has many forms that can quake a 4.0 into being not so groundbreaking. Recognize and celebrate success even if it’s not the traditional type!
Think before you speak
In school, students are rewarded for being the first to raise their hands to speak out. It means one is smart, quick and on the ball. At the risk of looking dumb, I have learned that thinking before you speak is the wiser method. For someone who is very sarcastic and loves to crack a joke (that is usually politically incorrect) this has been a very hard lesson for me. In meetings, with employees, in relationships, with my children, thinking before I speak has been nothing short of a tactical strategy to maintain my dignity. It’s amazing how much wisdom can rush into your brain and trickle to your mouth if you only take a few seconds to think before you speak. Here’s another thing…silence speaks volumes!
It’s OK to be wrong.
Wow! What a concept. In school, it is never OK to be wrong. Never. If you are wrong, that means you are not right, thus, you will score lower on your test, homework, report card, etc. Not to mention you may get laughed at. Just think how we have built a learning environment where there is no tolerance for being wrong. That’s intense.
Wisdom has taught me that being wrong is OK. Admitting wrongdoing is even better. It is a pathway to freedom. Saying “I am wrong” has saved people over and over again in marriages, friendships, jobs, driving situations, criminal punishments, etc. We are taught: don’t be wrong—don’t be vulnerable. However, it is when we are wrong and/or vulnerable that we learn the most. Those are the times when the layers of wisdom get slathered on like creamy peanut butter on white bread.
Knowledge is power and it can help you make a good living. However, wisdom helps you make a life and it comes from living a big, sloppy, imperfect, vulnerable life. And, that is A-OK. Go ahead, live it up—50 is the new 30! In the words of Robert Browning, “Come grow old [and wise] with me. The best is yet to be.”
Please join the celebration for my 50th at this month’s Pink Partini on September 10th (my actual birthday) at the Big Bamboo. Get the details on page 4.