Gaining wisdom from others-The art of Listening

I try to maintain a schedule of posting twice per week on this blog, but my work keeps getting in the way.   I’ll try to do better in the coming weeks.

Wisdom is often confused with data and knowledge, but wisdom is very different from either of these two items.  Let me spend a little time first explaining the difference and I’ll then get to the focus of the post.

Data is information, gathered in any number of ways.  We all gather data daily, with some of this data being qualitative (descriptive) and other being quantitative (numerical).  Data is a great asset to have in any circumstance, but it is only the beginning.

Data can be used to generate information.  Information comes from taking data and seeing where the patterns lie.  There may be correlations or relationships between items that occur and having the data will allow you to show causation or lack of such when the numbers are examined.

Knowledge comes from examining information over periods of time.  Having information from one window of time is great, but you can learn much more by looking at information over greater spans of time or from varying sample sets such as geography and other factors.

  • Wisdom is different.  Wisdom may draw from data, information and knowledge, but wisdom is not any of these.  Wisdom comes not just from the gathered data which is then reviewed and examined.  Wisdom also comes from experience, and this is the key factor that makes wisdom so valuable when compared to the ingredients.

I compare wisdom to baking a cake. Let me explain.

Data could be the recipe, listing the ingredients or the list of the proper ingredients.

Information and knowledge will focus on how to combine the ingredients into differing types of cakes.

Wisdom comes from knowing which cake to bake and how you might adjust the recipe or the process based on factors learned from previous experiences.  Baking a cake at low altitude is different than baking a cake at high altitude.  Likewise, certain cakes are difficult to bake from scratch (take Angel Food for example) while others cakes are easy to bake from scratch.  Some cakes are very rich and filling (pound cake) while others are much lighter.

Life provides us with data, information, knowledge and wisdom.  Education typically focuses on the data, information and knowledge and often gives less focus to the wisdom realm.  Some of the best wisdom I have gained has come from listening to those I know and respect.  I’ll focus on two people today to discuss this further.  These two individuals are my mother and father in law.  Listen closely and you may learn something.

My wife and I married over 32 years ago and we dated for 2 years prior to that.  When someone gets married they gain more than a spouse, they gain a family.  I have been so fortunate to gain so much from the family I joined when I married my wife.

Here is some of the wisdom I have gained from this journey:

  • The days are long, but the years are short-As I have gotten older this has become readily apparent.  While a young man I remember well the days when things drug along, but now I see how quickly time passes, especially from week to week, month to month and so on.  Enjoy the day as it appears and learn from the present.
  • Buy a white car-This may seem simple, but there is a deeper meaning here.  We all have systems or organizations we are part of and they all require maintaining to keep them in running order.  The value of an organization comes from both the internal and external appearance and making things simple to maintain is of the essence.  White cars are easy to keep clean, so make your organization a “white car” by being transparent and keeping things in shape and clean.  This could also delve to the area of Lean principles, but I’ll pass on that today.
  • “Nothing wrong with that one”-On the surface this makes little sense, but let me give you context, because wisdom is very context based.  I learned years ago from my father in law that a good parking spot may have shade in the summer and usually always is away from other cars and is next to a boundary.  By parking in these types of spots you can minimize the damage or wear and tear on your vehicle.  You should manage your life in the same manner.  Rather than spending times in situations that may cause damage, keep yourself in the safe lanes and avoid areas of obvious temptation that may lead to a “wreck” in your personal life.  This may also involve parking near the lights when you park at night-nothing good happens in the dark unless you are with your loved ones, so travel in the safe lanes and park in the best spots.  You’ll be glad you did
  • Take care of your vehicle-Again, this comes from my father in law and his passion for keeping his car clean.  This relates closely to the previously mentioned Lean principles in the last segment.  Keep what you need, keep it clean and get rid of what you don’t need.  One of the signs that we live in a society where this is not practiced is the growth of storage buildings (next segment)
  • The world is being taken over by storage buildings-This remark comes from my mother in law and it shows the effect of a society that clings too much to the material and not enough to the value of people and relationships.  If we need to store things away from where we live, this usually means we have too much stuff and we need to get rid of it.  Our society is full of solutions to problems that do not exist.  If you need something, buy it.  When you don’t need it anymore, sell it or give it away.  Why keep what you don’t need.

I could go on and share more, but I think this is a good start to sharing the wisdom I have gained from a series of relationships that have grown over the last 34 years.

What wisdom have you gained in your life journey?

Are you spending time with those who can help you gain wisdom?

Are you sharing your wisdom with others?

Take the time to listen well to those you know, trust and love.  The wisdom will come.