Up Your Business is an exclusive GEARS Magazine feature in which I share stories, insights, and reflections about real business and life challenges.
As we turn the calendar page from 2017 to 2018, this is a good time to reflect on the past and make plans for the future.
Have you ever noticed that, when we reflect on the past, we tend to think in the negative? We say things like, “If I could do it again, this time I’d do it differently.” In other words, we’re learning from our mistakes.
In contrast, what if you rephrased the reflection by asking yourself, “If I had it to do over again, what would I do over again?” This is a much more positive approach, don’t you think? It also provides an inventory of our successes and affirms that we can learn from our successes as well as from our mistakes.
My dad used to tell me that smart people learn from their mistakes, but wise people learn from other people’s mistakes. As I said before, I believe success breeds wisdom, and we can learn from successes as well.
It’s also been said that experience is a cruel teacher: First she gives us the test, and then she gives us the lesson. All too often, experience is something that happens to us that we’d have preferred to have happened to someone else. But many experiences are good ones, and they, too, contribute to gaining wisdom.
I help facilitate a business leaders’ group every Monday morning at 6:30 and attend a men’s discussion group at 6:30 AM on Thursdays. I know: I thought I was retired, too! Don’t ask me what I was thinking when I agreed to this. But we do get into some deep conversations that challenge our views on a multitude of topics.
Lately our discussions have focused on the importance of wisdom in making better decisions as leaders in business, and in life in general. We’ve differentiated between having knowledge, being smart, and exercising wisdom.
In this article, I’ll share a synopsis of our discussions around the topic of wisdom. I’ll discuss the secret to making wise decisions. In fact, I’ll share a secret that will revolutionize the way you make decisions.
The Wisdom of a King
Nearly everybody knows what a proverb is. Some may not know that there’s an entire book of proverbs in the Bible. Know it or not, at one time or another, you’ve likely been admonished and corrected with a proverb or two.
The Bible tells the story of when Solomon became King of Israel. God asked him what He could give him, and Solomon asked God for wisdom.
This turned out to be a wise request and great for the King’s business, too. God not only blessed Solomon with wisdom, but God also blessed him in many other ways. For example, Solomon became the richest man in history. In fact, many financial experts have estimated that Solomon’s net worth would exceed $2 trillion in today’s dollars.
Solomon also authored most of the Book of Proverbs. Proverbs essentially contains teachings of moral, practical, and ethical principles. Many everyday sayings and admonishments originated with the proverbs.
You’ve likely heard many of them. Just for fun, here are some common sayings that are rooted in the proverbs.
- Only a fool seeks the counsel of fools. (Our parents often rephrased this as, “If Billy rode his bicycle off the pier, would you do it too?”)
- Spare the rod and spoil the child. (My dad would add, “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you.” He was so wrong.)
- Be slow to anger and quick to forgive. (Where was this when my dad applied the previous one?)
- What goes around comes around.
- Talk is cheap.
- Laughter is good medicine.
- It’s better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. (This is a good one for some of our politicians.)
While not all of Solomon’s success was attributable solely to wisdom, making wise decisions certainly was the major factor. Additionally, his wisdom gained him much favor in the eyes of other world leaders, past and present.
But in his later years, Solomon acquired a major character flaw: pride. In fact, you’ve no doubt heard this proverb: “Pride goes before the fall.” Solomon’s downfall was his self-pride, and it did precede and arguably cause his fall. With all his success, he became so prideful that he made foolish choices, rejecting counsel and ignoring the likely consequences of his unwise decisions.
So, if the ultimate outcome for Solomon wasn’t good, why did I use this example?
It’s because it illustrates that being rich, being smart, having knowledge, and having wisdom don’t guarantee lasting success. The secret resides in consistent application of wisdom along with a healthy dose of humility.
Success is Intoxicating
Success is a natural consequence of making wise choices, but truly wise people don’t allow their successes to go to their heads. They know that success is intoxicating, but failure is humiliating.
Humility is the recognition that you don’t have all the answers and that sometimes the key to your success comes from the counsel of others. Be humble enough to seek the counsel of others rather than being humiliated by failure.
This is where learning from other people comes into play. It begins by accepting that you can learn from other people’s mistakes as well as from their successes. Just ask… you’ll find that wise people recognize and seek the company and counsel of wise people. They freely share their knowledge, experience, and wisdom with wisdom-seekers.
Another proverb begs the question, “Who’s the bigger fool; the fool or follower of the fool?” Many times, when we try to go it alone, this question fits. It’s like the old lawyer adage, “A man that represents himself in court has a fool for a client.” I’m not sure, but that might also be in the Book of Proverbs.
Rest assured, when you need it, help’s just a phone call away. Don’t be too proud to pick up the phone and call ATRA. They have an arsenal of business leaders and trainers, each of whom are gifted with wisdom.
I’d list them, but I wouldn’t want to overlook anyone… they’re all great, and there will always be one or more that will be a perfect fit for your specific situation.
The Secret to Making Wise Decisions
Before making any major decision, if you’ll ask this question, you’ll at least be able to discern the wisest choice. What you do with the answer is up to you. This question will revolutionize how you make decisions: It has for me.
Here it is: “In light of your past experience, in light of your present circumstances, and in light of your future hopes, dreams, and goals, what’s the wisest thing to do?”
If the answer isn’t self-evident, then the default answer is to be humble enough to seek the counsel of someone who is wiser. Another proverb says, “It’s unwise to despise wisdom and instruction.”
Space and time prevent me from going into the details of how to integrate wisdom into other key areas of your life, but we’ll examine some of those topics in upcoming articles. A preview includes wisdom in handling conflict, wisdom for dealing with ethical challenges, and the wisest and best use of time.
In the meantime, consider applying this simple approach to evaluating your planning decisions. Wise plans are balanced plans and they include the following considerations:
- New things we need to start doing…
- Things we’re doing now and need to keep doing, and…
- Things we’re doing now that we need to stop or avoid doing.
When considering each of these points, ask yourself: “In light of my past experience, in light of my present circumstances, and in light of my future hopes, dreams, and goals, what’s the wisest thing to do?” If the answer isn’t perfectly clear, seek the counsel of someone who is wiser… learn from other people’s experience.
While not officially a proverb, someone far wiser than me offered this guiding advice, “Be careful how you live; not as the unwise but as the wise, making the most of every opportunity.”
About the Author
Thom Tschetter has served our industry for nearly four decades as a management and sales educator. He owned a chain of award-winning transmission centers in Washington State for over 25 years.
He calls on over 30 years of experience as a speaker, writer, business consultant, and certified arbitrator for topics for this feature column.
Thom is always eager to help you improve your business and your life. You can contact him by phone at (480) 773-3131 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.