The Wisdom Equation

If you were asked to find a wise person, who exactly would you look for? Would you search for the archetypical sage on the top of a mountain? A very old person? A well-traveled adventurer?

Your answer likely depends on your definition of wisdom.

At GXG, our definition of wisdom is all about shortening your journey to find it. The way we see it, you’re likely already surrounded by wise people every day!

We like to explain our view of wisdom through an equation: Wisdom = Knowledge X Experience. And you don’t just have to take our word for it. In a newsletter for the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology program, Ben Dean writes:

“Wisdom is the product of knowledge and experience, but it is more than the accumulation of information. It is the coordination of this information and its deliberate use to improve well-being. In a social context, wisdom allows the individual to listen to others, to evaluate what they say, and then offer them good (sage) advice.”

In other words, anyone who uses their knowledge and experience toward a good end, and who can apply their knowledge and experience to the problems of others, is wise. Perhaps not about all things, but certainly about something. We call this “being wise in a swim lane.”

For our clients, it means there’s very likely someone out there who has already worked through a similar challenge with practical advice to share. This offers a huge sense of relief to leaders who feel stuck! Outside the narrow circle of your peer-network – your industry, company, department, role, and so on – is an untapped source of wisdom specifically applicable to you.

Think of something you’re struggling with in your job. Maybe something new you’re trying to learn, and not progressing as quickly as you’d like. You’ve probably done a lot of Googling, read a bunch of articles, watched some webinars. All of those are great for building fluency in a new skill set, but when you need to go faster, having someone who can answer your questions in context makes a huge difference. So think again, what kind of wisdom would help you here?

What kind of person has the knowledge and experience you need to learn from?

I bet you don’t have to look far to find them.

For tips on how to make a valuable connection with your own wise person, read our post here. If you’re interested in regular content like this, sign up for our newsletter!