“Wisdom is about taking what we know, applying it to what we are experiencing, and learning from the results”… Wisdom Vs. Knowledge

Have you ever sat back and just – observed people? I’m not talking about “people watching,” which I am convinced should be an Olympic sport, but really notice how people are? The way they act and react? Well I do, and not in a creepy way. I’m actually conducting an experiment, and every one I encounter in the world is in it; they just don’t know it. Through my research (which is backed up by facts…and data…and all that good scientific stuff…be on the watch for my dissertation, this is serious stuff you know) I have been noticing a cultural phenomena.

Here are my findings:

I feel like in today’s world so many people think they’re smart. All you have to do is have a conversation with someone to know what I’m talking about. The level of arrogance in some people is actually quite appalling. What’s even more annoying is that many of these people believe themselves to be a philosopher. You know the people I’m talking about. Those who appear to levitate off the ground due the sheer might of their intellect. They always seem to have an answer to something, but their life is always in turmoil. They think they are so wise.

But that isn’t the case is it? That’s because I believe there is a difference between the two (being smart and being wise), and I think it’s something our generation needs to recognize, because it’s often confused. Now, I don’t want to give off the impression that I’m sitting on a hilltop here. So I’d like to venture off for a few minutes and clarify where I’m coming from. Stay with me…there is a point.

There is a reason more and more people have this attitude of feeling like they know more. It’s actually a very simple answer with a simple reason; it’s because they do: more people believe they know more, because they actually do. Our generation has significantly more information than any of the previously existing. We are in a technology and information revolution. We have all this info flying around at the speed of light and instantaneous access to it. Today, we can learn about anything literally with the push of a button.

So now we have all this information – but that’s all it really is. Just lots of facts. Blurbs. Snippets here and there. Just more stuff. It doesn’t mean we are getting any smarter, or more intelligent, and definitely not wiser. If anything, it might be hurting us. Think about it. Are we actually retaining or learning anything anymore? Do we even go out to experience anything anymore? Or do we just lean on our technology like a crutch, and claim that it is helping us better understand the world?

I think what we have, is simply better access. We aren’t getting smarter. We aren’t getting more intelligent. We aren’t getting wiser. Information has just become convenient. I’ll use myself as an example. I know that when I look something up – whatever it is – I pull out my iPhone, search it, and then forget about it five minutes later. If I want to know about something or someone, I search it, and then forget about it. It just kind of goes in and out because I know I can just look it up again.

With that said, I’d like to say this: you can have knowledge but not be smart, you can also be smart but not have knowledge, and you can have knowledge but not be wise. It’s a mouth full. Kind of makes you go “huh…?” But it’s like that old idea, “not everyone that goes to college is smart.” Or, “just because you have a degree, doesn’t mean you’re qualified for anything.” It just means you had the fortitude to endure four (maybe more) additional years of schooling on top of the twelve to thirteen already acquired.

Ok. So now that we have taken that tangent, lets get back on track and see how any of this makes any sense. Believe me, I’m not attacking our generation or condemning technology. I love my smartphone and computer just as much as everyone else. But I do believe our generation needs to look carefully at the trend our society is taking. There is a difference between all these terms I’ve thrown out: knowledge, intelligence, information, smarts, and wisdom. Knowledge, we have learned, can be gained very easily. Anyone can be knowledgeable about anything. But wisdom, that has to do with experience and tenure. It’s not about a piece of paper you get after walking across a stage, how many books you’ve read, or how fast you can figure out a random fact.

I will never forget what my grandfather told me, he said: “the mark of a truly wise man, is he knows how much he doesn’t know.” That has really stuck with me. It’s the kind of sagely advice that comes from someone with wisdom. Wisdom is about taking what we know, applying it to what we are experiencing, and learning from the results. I think our generation coming up now is moving further and further away from going out and getting that experience. Maybe this is partly due to the discontent from hiding behind our screens.

Now, I know what your thinking (or I’m guessing), but allow me to say it before you do: “But Barrett, doesn’t writing something like this make you one of those people who levitate off the ground because you feel like you know so much….” NO! I just think too much. So the Mentor Up team likes to throw things like this my way.

Our generation has knowledge. That’s not where we are lacking. What we need is wisdom. And that comes from having years under your belt. It comes from having time. But how do we get time if we don’t have time?!?! Well, I haven’t figured out how to warp the space-time continuum…but I do know that we don’t have to wait our entire lives to get some of this wisdom. All we need to do is get out from behind our computer screens and get involved! This is why we need the generations that came before us! They have experienced the world and the lessons that come with it. They have true wisdom.

Mentor Up believes that all of us have something to offer. Tall or short. Old or young. Wise or inexperienced…you get the point. The opportunity is sitting right in front of us; we just have to take the action. I know our mantra is usually, “What You Know, Is What They Need” but it really does work both ways. Mentoring in all of its forms is a relationship. That means it will always be reciprocal, even if what is passed between the two parties is just experience. There is so much to gain from those who came before us. And it can be as easy as listening and soaking up what they know.

It is my hope that one day I will be as wise as some of my mentors. I know that the journey to get there starts with them.


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