You Don’t Have To Be Old to Be Wise (But it helps)

Wednesday, December 9 2015

A few years ago, my wife and I were driving down Main Street in Winnipeg, recalling our experience from living there a quarter century earlier. Promoted into sales management, we moved from Ontario to lead a sales team that stretched from Brandon to Thunder Bay. I was elated with my new-found success and keen to do a great job.

“If I knew half as much today as I thought I knew then, I’d be brilliant,” I reflected wistfully. I had great intentions and wanted to change the world. I was both a little naïve and a little full of myself. I meant well. I was going to teach them great things. But most of the team members were double my age and I soon learned that not everyone was as excited about personal and professional development as I was.

Wisdom is learning from experience, education, reading, and the good advice of others. It’s also taking time to think. How do you take another’s idea and make it work for you or for others? What is the lesson in that failure? What are the trends? How do you connect the normally unrelated dots? Why did one approach work while another didn’t?

Wisdom comes from curiosity, observation and active learning. Wise sales people continue to deliberately learn long after they finish school. They read widely; fiction, non-fiction, self-help books, books about their profession. Even if they aren’t academics, they invest in the stuff between their ears.

Wisdom comes from making time to think. Given our active lifestyles with hundreds of interruptions per day, it’s a wonder that anyone has time to become wise. You have to make time to stop and think, to ponder, to ruminate upon and make sense of the world.

Wisdom sees the world in shades of grey. Few things in life are totally black or white. In my youth, there wasn’t as much nuance, complexity or uncertainty as I see today. That said, according to Adam Grant, PHD, wisdom isn’t always age related. Some 25 year olds are wiser than some 80 year olds. It has more to do with the way that you think. Philosopher Bertrand Russell said, “fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”

Wisdom balances self-interest with the needs of others. Wise people seek answers for the common good, not just themselves.

Why strive for wisdom? In this complex, competitive and overwhelming world in which we live, a wise salesperson is the one we seek out to give us trustworthy advice.