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The 10-year Journey from Knowledge to Wisdom

In Touch - Newsletter - #45

Welcome to the forty-fifth edition of "In-Touch". As always, I would love to continue the conversation so please hit "reply" and let me know what you think.

Story of the Week: The 10-year Journey from Knowledge to Wisdom

Chris Yiallourides was one of my first ever mentors. At the beginning of my career, we would meet up after almost every seminar I led or keynote presentation I gave and, over lunch, he would offer me his critique of my latest performance. 

On one such occasion, he told me something that I have never forgotten. He said that, while I was extremely talented on stage, my slides were too full of information and l was falling into the trap of reading from them, which was guaranteed to make the audience switch off. 

I was taken aback. The words ‘talented’ and ‘switch off’ didn’t go well together and, on hearing them, I felt a knot in my stomach. I naturally asked him how I should correct my approach to ensure that my audience remained switched on all the time. 

His answer was succinct and to the point: "Less reading from your slides, Michael, and more storytelling."

"But Chris, where am I going to find the stories?" I asked.

He smiled, paused and spoke just three words, "Wait ten years." 

Ten years? Who can wait ten years to perfect their craft? The idea sounded impossible but I had never received a piece of bad advice from Chris before and so I told myself that he must be right. As the next 10 years whisked by, I came to understand why. Ten years was the time needed to turn theory (what was written on my slides and what I had learned from books) into experience (being able to offer a first-hand account of events and, thus, an interesting story to tell). I now believe that 10 years is, indeed, the time required to turn knowledge (experiences) into wisdom (lessons). 

It's said that we overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in 10 years. When we’re young, we rush to compete what we think is a 100-metre sprint, only to find out that we’re are actually running a marathon. It’s no exaggeration to say that 10 years is a lifetime. When I was 40, I was single and had no children. Today, at 50, I’m a happily married father of three. The person who lives to the age of 80 or 90 has eight or nine lives to learn from.

So, here are three of the important lessons that I have learned in the last 10 years: 

1. Knowledge is simply knowing whilst wisdom involves a healthy dose of perspective and the ability to make sound judgements. More simply put, knowledge means knowing that tomato is a fruit but wisdom ensures that you don’t put it in a fruit salad. 

2. Knowledge can be learnt but wisdom can’t be taught. To turn your knowledge into wisdom, you need to try new things, talk to people from different backgrounds with different perspectives from yours. Get out there and live. Go backpacking, apply for a job in another country, take classes to gain a variety of new, different skills. In short, leave your comfort zone. 

3. 'When you lose, don’t lose the lesson'. This famous quotation by the Dalai Lama is all about learning from mistakes and failures. You can read as many books as you like on a topic and watch thousands of online tutorials (and you should) but you will only hone your skills by practising them. When you do, you will make lots of mistakes and the key is to learn from those mistakes. Thomas Edison had the right approach when talking about his failed attempts to make a working light bulb: "I have not failed," he said. "I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." 

The idea that you may need 10 years to perfect your ability in a particular field is a daunting one. Others have suggested that you need 10,000 hours. That’s still a lot of time. But once you accept that the road to wisdom is a long one, all it takes is that first step. From my own experience, Chris Yiallourides and all those who propose a similar long-term approach to gaining expertise are right. Knowledge is power but wisdom only comes with time. The good thing is that you can start the journey right away.

Words of Wisdom

Knowledge vs. Wisdom

"Before you pass your test", my mother told me, "you will learn how to drive a car. After you pass your test, you will learn to drive on the road." That was very true. 

Max Pleasance 

A Question to Ponder, dear friend.

"How can I transform my knowledge into wisdom?"

Let me know in the comments below

Announcements

  • Jump-Start Monday was back this Monday! Click here to see an excerpt from our latest episode, "Managing the newly promoted team-lead" with Dr. Paul Donovan. The 'Peter Principle' dictates that people in a hierarchy can only rise to a level of 'relative incompetence', but what happens when a team member must surpass this point? Our guest, Paul Donovan, has shared his invaluable advice on how managers can ease this daunting transition from team-member to team-leader.