Knowledge vs. Wisdom

“All the riches of the world are yours if only you seek wisdom.”

Education can be divided into two facets of learning: one is knowledge, and the other is wisdom.  Knowledge comes from the books, lectures, etc. we have in class. Wisdom is this knowledge put to practice through our life experiences teaching us universal truths. 

Gaining knowledge is very tangible. You can obtain your AA, BS, Masters, Doctorate, for instance. These are all important and we should never stop learning and gaining knowledge. Yet all the degrees and knowledge in the world won’t benefit us unless we turn them into wisdom.

There are two ways to gain wisdom. The first is through our own experiences, sometimes referred to as the “school of hard knocks.” I have always encouraged young people to work as a driver, bartender or waitress for at least a year because of the life experiences one will gain. The second is by learning from the experiences of others, as the proverb says, “he that walketh with wise men shall be wise.” This is one of the single most important aspects in hiring because so many people are inherently afraid to hire someone better than they are. A successful CEO or president knows that they must have people around them who are wise. Henry Ford, when questioned regarding his lack of intelligence, commented, “Why do I need to clutter my mind with those things when I have people around me who are paid to know those things?”

Five Universal Truths

Over the years, I have used five universal truths; I believe that if every young person graduated understanding these truths, most issues in society would be resolved. It is never too late to gain wisdom; don’t disregard these truths. The jewel of each is in their simplicity.

  1. GOALS:  One of the greatest universal truths that our school system demonstrates is the positive power of goals in life. Just ask yourself a simple question, “How long can your child remain in the 6th grade?” Do you want them there for one year, two years or three years? I think all of us would agree on one year. A goal is a worthy idea realized in a reasonable period of time. Though never discussed by the school system, the example it sets and the experience of advancing through the system for twelve years teaches us the results of having goals. 
  1. DISCERNMENT: The advancement of the Internet has brought about some very interesting challenges, yet with wisdom those challenges only make us better. If you are raising a teenager or teach at the high school level or are hiring young professionals, you know exactly what I mean. No longer is it okay to say, “Because I said so.” Young people today want to understand “why” not just “how.” If you cannot support your instructions, they won’t follow. There is so much information available today. Remember in the early days of the Internet, you could witness the weakness of discernment in people because if you were on the Internet, it had to be true. Our youth knows how to better research information today. Though you may find this disruptive to your management techniques, they are actually challenging you to new heights. But the Internet doesn’t teach wisdom, it only shares knowledge. As a parent, teacher or employer you have to demonstrate the wisdom of discernment to put the proper knowledge into practice in order to achieve success. 
  1. CHARACTER:  Our school systems are now attempting to teach character. This is so critical because the understanding and development of one’s character is the true meaning of wisdom, because everything starts with us. An individual will never rise above their true character; therefore teaching character is a great starting point for ensuring the success of our future. The character of the individual will determine the character of an organization. Hire for character and train for skill.
  1. ECONOMICS:  The principle of “pay yourself FIRST” is only gained through wisdom. Our society has a national savings rate of less than 1%, and we have accumulated a multi-trillion dollar debt structure. We must teach financial responsibility to our children; save 10% of everything you earn.  Everyone gets those statements from Social Security showing us how much we have earned over our lifetime and our retirement payout. Look at the cumulative total of your lifetime earnings then look at your savings. If we had started saving 10% from the very first job we ever had, there would be a lot more millionaires – cash ones, not paper ones.  
  1. THINK:  We know that less than 20% of physical brain capacity is used. This simple truth is the single separating fact of success, “as a man thinketh so will he become.” Wisdom is gained by controlling the thinking process. We spend countless hours working out our bodies, almost no time working our brains. Listen to the words of people, and you will know their thoughts. This is why most teenagers struggle with verbal communication; their thinking processes run haywire during this stage of life.

Finally, guard against the “performance trap.” We tend to judge others by the school they attended, the degrees or honors they have obtained, or the things they have accumulated. It amazes me how much pressure is put on young people to achieve these items. Though society would have me believe I couldn’t get very far with my Physical Education degree from Troy University, I’ve managed to do just fine. The truth is, unless you’re going to be a brain surgeon, the school that diploma is from rarely determines one’s success in life. 

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Jeff Piersall

Jeff Piersall is a proven leader in all endeavors of his life having positively affected thousands of people throughout his career. As founder and CEO of TREP Advisors, Jeff and his team guide business owners through the process of growth capital, business succession and how to use these as tools to project their businesses forward. Jeff is known for his strategic vision and how to manage chaos; he is the classic multi-tasker for the successful obtainment of the goal. He is a tireless worker and known for his 4:00am emails to get things done. He is the ultimate problem-solver by uniquely taking the complex and breaking it down to the simple fundamentals for a plan of action and implementation. He is a sales savant with a diverse background in people and business skills making him the quintessential advisor for succession planning to entrepreneurs. Jeff is also co-author of Dogs Don't Bark at Parked Cars. 

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