When I finished college, like so many others, I felt I had the knowledge to go into the business world and be successful. I can remember watching others in business and thinking I had learned some of the good and bad of their successes and failures. Little did I know exactly how much I still had to learn. Even today I have much more to learn to accomplish what I would like.
Because I had the opportunity to have my own small business while I was in school, I didn’t have to work for someone else. That was good and bad. I was able to plan my own work schedule but missed the opportunity to work with other people and see how others might manage a business.
When I started my printing business, I faced the challenge of hiring, motivating and managing people for the first time. As I was learning to work with my own employees, I was naïve enough to think they would appreciate their job and would work hard because they were given the opportunity. I also figured it would be their responsibility to learn how to do their work. I never considered that they would want to be paid for attending training classes, and I had no idea how much my attitude toward them would influence their performance.
Thank goodness I learned from my experiences. Today I have a totally different perspective about people and how they should be treated. I realize they want to be motivated and appreciated. I can’t expect them to succeed unless we take the time to train and teach them the business. I realize I need to trust them while they learn to trust me, and I need to treat them the way I want them to treat our customers.
To each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass and a book of rules;
And each must make, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.
—R. L. Sharpe
I love this idea. We can create stepping stones that lead to successes in life or stumbling blocks that cause us grief and pain. Through experiences with my family, business, public and religious service, I have learned to make better judgments and develop wisdom that has made me a better person. As Will Rogers said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”
Our lives are full of experiences, both good and bad. It’s what we do with these experiences that make the difference. Just having experiences doesn’t guarantee we will become successful. Using our experiences to develop wisdom makes the biggest difference. With wisdom we can also develop good judgment and character.
Wisdom is defined as the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise. From this definition it looks like wisdom is a package deal. We have to cultivate experience, knowledge and good judgment in our lives. Let me share a few thoughts of what I believe we could do to be more wise this New Year.
As I think about mankind’s great learning, our progress in material things, our unsolved problems, and our declining morality, I come to the conclusion that our troubles are in large measure due not so much to a lack of facts as to a want of wisdom. What we desperately need is to recognize and acquire that quality which converts knowledge into wisdom.
—Marion G. Romney, Ensign Magazine, July 1983
First, we need to take more time to think about what we are experiencing from day to day. Most of us get so busy having experiences that we don’t take the time to think about them. We never really analyze what happened to us and why. As a result, the next time a similar situation comes we usually make the same decision as before, even if it’s the wrong decision. Until we take the time to think, we can’t extract the good and allow ourselves to develop better judgment. I know that this is a hard choice because we are all moving so fast, but we must take the time to ponder and review our experiences. In business, our reviews may be with others, but many times we will ponder by ourselves. Thinking time allows us to weigh the pros and cons and decide what was good or bad.
Another step to obtaining wisdom is to continually gain knowledge. John Maxwell has said, “If we are always growing we will always be out of our comfort zone.” Many people find learning and growing to be painful because they don’t like change. Developing knowledge helps us chose, based on our experiences, whether to change or not. We can gain this knowledge and insight from study, talking to other people and watching other people. We don’t always have to learn from our own experiences. They can be very painful. Often we can save ourselves a lot of pain and time by learning from others.
The final step I will mention here, is that after we have thought about and learned from our experiences, and after we have sought knowledge, we have to listen to our thoughts and feelings — what is often called intuition or inspiration. I have a strong sense that all of us have a spiritual side. Many times in life we get so busy that we ignore it, and yet it can be that spiritual direction, from within or above that will help us develop the greatest wisdom. A wise man put it this way: “In soundly judging—which is a function of wisdom…inspiration…can and often does compensate for unknown facts—that is, for lack of knowledge….Not only does such inspiration compensate for want of facts; it also induces men, by self-discipline, to conform in their personal conduct and in their dealings one with another to the highest standards that they know. In other words, it gives men the capacity which distinguishes wisdom from knowledge” (Marion G. Romney, Ensign Magazine, July 1983). We will never have all the facts. Ultimately we have to take what we have and draw on our feelings to help us make the best judgments.
Most of us can relate to this news article about Admiral Robert Peary and his expedition to the North Pole:
On this trip, [Admiral Peary] traveled a whole day toward the north, his sled dogs unflagging in their speed. At night, when he checked his bearings to determine his latitude, he found to his surprise that he was much further south than he had been in the morning. All day, it seems, he had been driving toward the north on an immense iceberg drawn southward by an ocean current. And sometimes it occurs to me that we are all standing on this
iceberg, racing forward in one direction, while the very ground beneath us moves implacably in the other direction.
—Sydney J. Harris, Deseret News, January 7, 1964
In summation, we live in a wonderful world with huge strides being made each year in science, technology and human relations, but are we using the knowledge gained to benefit the world and its people? We all want to be happy, and we will have plenty of opportunities in life to become happy. I hope we will take the time to develop the wisdom needed to make the decisions that will help us, our families and the people we work with, to find greater success and happiness.