Moving from Information to Wisdom

So many books, so little time.

Therefore, I frequently listen to audio books I get for free from the library to maximize my time while driving or exercising. (If you’re a book fiend like me and haven’t yet discovered the Overdrive app, check it out!) Recently before embarking on a long car ride I “grabbed” Ariana Huffington’s new book “Thrive.” In it she said something that has really made me think. I will paraphrase it here:

Information does not beget Knowledge
Knowledge does not beget Understanding
Understanding does not beget Wisdom

How often have you known someone who gathers a piece of Information and immediately considers themselves an expert? (Because obviously WE have never done this ourselves!) There is so much information out there that we consider ourselves wise if we read something on the internet. But I believe there are three important steps that need to take place first.

1. Remember It
Have you read something fascinating then tried to tell someone about it, realized you can’t remember the cool facts, then end up with, “Well, I’ll send you the link so you can read it yourself”? This is the classic and most common blunder of not really paying attention to the information enough to have the knowledge to be able to share it with someone else.

2. Apply It
If you have memorized the data points (and thereby have the knowledge), can you apply it? This has happened to me when I teach my university HR Management class. I have the information and the knowledge about the NLRB and Taft-Hartley Act and other labor relations tidbits, but I’ve never worked with labor relations, so I don’t have the understanding to be able to apply it. (Knowing this deficiency is why I always have my friend, who’s an expert in labor relations, come and be a guest speaker for this portion of class.)

3. Live It
Having true wisdom is akin to the Self-Actualization capstone on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: it reflects angelic-like breakthrough understanding that permeates all levels of the issue. (This is why I believe the best CEOs are those who started out as janitors, line workers, and fry-cooks.) It’s when you study and know and understand something so deeply that it becomes a natural part of your being – your gut reaction, or – as Seth Godin calls it – your “lizard brain.” Like when you can tell your child really doesn’t feel well or something is bothering your spouse. When you can answer a question at work without thinking about it. When you can take one look at a close colleague and know they are applying for another job.

Moving from Information to Wisdom takes acknowledgement, patience, and the courage to have the discipline and to ask the questions to get there. I am convinced we cannot be truly wise about everything (it would take away from the magical quality of wisdom!) but once we achieve true wisdom on those things that we are passionate about, it is a heavenly elation.

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Hide and Seek

Last year, I went through what I affectionately called an Identity Crisis: What do I want to be when I grow up?

I had been asking myself a lot of questions: Do I want to teach? Do I want to be a consultant? Do I want to be a world-renowned speaker? Do I want to head back into Corporate America? Do I want to go back to school?

I had finally decided to combine all of the above and go back to school to get my Ph.D. so I could be a university professor. It’s OK if I go into debt, I reasoned, because I’ll be doing what I love.

Enter in my best friend. “Jen,” she queried, “are you sure you’re not just going back to school because you don’t know what else to do?” I fumed. This couldn’t be the case. I’ve always wanted my Ph.D. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about it. How dare she suggest that!? “Learning is your comfort zone,” she continued. “Learning is what you’re good at, and you want to be good at something right now. But you don’t need to go back to school and spend lots of money to be good at something.” I made a hasty excuse to get off the phone and quickly filed away the conversation in the Forget This Ever Happened portion of my brain.

A couple weeks later, I shared with a friend that I would soon find out if I got accepted into the program to which I had applied. I guess he finally decided I wasn’t going to figure this out on my own so it was time to say something. “How much money is this going to cost you?” he asked. Uh, a lot.  “Are you going to be able to teach what you want to teach after you get this degree?” Well no, but it’s OK because I’m studying what I love. I’ll just focus on my consulting business. Providence will provide me with opportunities when I have the degree if I’m following my heart. Wow – I can justify anything. “Jennifer,” he said, somewhat pointedly, “you already have the knowledge and experience to do what you want to do. You don’t need a Ph.D. to prove you’re worthy of consulting or speaking or writing a book.”

I needed to hear that: That I was good enough. I don’t need to hide behind more schooling and letters after my name. And I don’t need to seek for more answers. I already have what I need. Now I just have to apply it.

My question for you today is this: Are you hiding in your comfort zone and seeking for things that are already staring you in the face? While you’re pondering this, go out and tell someone they are good enough. It just might save them some money.

Getting Started

Tick Tock.

Stare at the blank screen.

Switch over to email to see who the new message is from.

Remember you were starting to write, switch back.

Tick Tock.

I’m hoping that as you’re reading this you’re nodding your head, thinking, “Oh yeah, I’ve been there.” Sometimes we have the best intentions in the world to make it there on time, to start that new project, or to write that blog. Unfortunately, it’s not the thought that counts. It’s the execution.

What is it that keeps us from starting? With me and my blog, it’s fear. Fear that I’ll write something uninteresting. Fear that next month I’ll learn something that will make this post outdated. Fear that someone will question my ideas or flat out won’t like it. Fear that (*gasp!*) I’ll publish something with a grammatical error in it! (No, really. That’s an English major’s worst nightmare.) Do any of these fears sound familiar to you?

But the truth is, all of those things are going to happen. Some people will find my writing uninteresting or factually ill-conceived. Things will continue to happen and I will continue to learn, making my material out of date. And yes, even English majors make grammatical errors from time to time.

So now that I’ve identified my fears and realized there’s nothing I can do about them, I have a choice to make. I can leave my words inside my head, where they don’t help anyone but me. Or I can acknowledge the fact that I read blogs every day written by people who probably (since they’re people) have (or had, at one point) the same fears that I have. And I can acknowledge that I learn a lot from those people – from the things they choose to write about, from the knowledge they impart, or simply from embracing the diversity of a viewpoint different from my own.

Are there people like me out in the world? Are there people who could benefit from my words if I put them out there instead of keeping them in my head? I think so. So I’m going to, as Nike says, Just Do It.

Here it is, friends. Here is my first blog. You may not like it, it may be outdated, and there may be a tiny error in it, but that’s OK. I did it. Columbus wouldn’t have found the New World had he not set sail, and I won’t be able to reach my maximum effectiveness if I keep all my ideas in my head. I’m putting myself out there and opening myself up for criticism and ridicule, as well as praise and admiration.

But that’s not my motivation; it is this: I hope that by reading this, my first blog, you are encouraged and empowered to do something for the first time too. Dust off that thing you’ve been wanting to do for a very long time, and take the first step. We can take this journey together.