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Wise things to know
September 29, 2018 Anniversary Wishes For Parents 5 comments

30 Things Every Young Man Should Know Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will.

Quick -- who are the wisest people you know? Chances are they have at least a few things in common: They're experienced, kind and of a certain age. Wisdom, the thinking generally goes, is hard-earned by putting in your time and piecing together scraps of knowledge along the way.

But maybe a younger person also sprang to mind -- someone who, despite his or her relative youth, you regard as genuinely wise. That's because wisdom -- which University of Florida, Gainesville sociology professor Monika Ardelt, defines as a combination of cognitive, reflective and compassionate qualities -- is not the sole purview of the elderly. Wisdom, explains Ardelt (who studies the topic), is something that can be cultivated, and the potential pay-offs are big: Her research has shown that wise men and women enjoy improved well-being as they age, because they're better able to deal with challenges, such as declining health and the loss of loved ones.

So what are the secrets of those people who are wise beyond their years? Ardelt shares a few traits that wise people tend to have in common, as well as several pathways for getting there ... soon.

1. Wise people have a lot of experiences ...

The reason it's often said that wisdom comes with age is, in fact, because older people tend to have had more life experiences than their younger counterparts. And experience, Ardelt says, is one of the true cornerstones of wisdom.

2. ... And they're sponges.
"It's not just experiences alone that make you wise, it is learning from them," Ardelt says -- and not everyone does that. That's why she pushes back against the idea that travel necessarily cultivates wisdom. Sure, some people leave their comfort zone and see the world through a different lens, which opens them up in new and valuable ways, but others travel the world and don't learn at all. If anything, Ardelt said, traveling just reinforces their negative stereotypes. The key is soaking up lessons wherever you are, whether it's the town where you've lived your entire life, or some far-flung location.

3. Wise people see what's right in front of them.
After the publication of a recent New York Times article on the connection between age and wisdom (which referenced Ardelt's research) a reader wrote her summing up wisdom as, basically, understanding the obvious. "Wise people know something," Ardelt says. "But the interesting thing is not that they know more, about, say, the origin of the universe ... wise people actually know the deeper meaning of things that are generally known, actually."

We all know we're going to die, for example. Wise people have a better understanding of the meaning of that, and live differently -- placing an emphasis on relationships, spirituality and personal growth rather than on more superficial markers of success.

4. They meditate.

In order to achieve that kind of direct, I-see-who-I-am, who-you-are, and-the-circumstances-right-in-front-of-us kind of knowledge, reflection is paramount, Ardelt says. Which is why meditation -- a kind of self-examination -- has long been believed to be a pathway to wisdom. "It's kind of a time out of everyday life by just observing the breath, or observing sensations," she says. "Naturally, things come up and the trick is just to accept it, whatever it is, and not to react with negativity."

5. Wise people grow from crises.
Often the people who are considered wise beyond their years have survived a trauma, or several, and have effectively coped with it, according to Ardelt. Indeed, there's an entire area of psychology dedicated to post-traumatic growth -- exploring the ways in which people who have survived something devastating emerge changed for the better.

But wisdom can also come from managing smaller problems, she says -- such as a really bad day at work, or someone cutting you off in traffic: "These are little crises, and you can say, 'How do I react to this?' Do you get all riled up, or do you look at it from another perspective?" Your boss may have had a bad day, or that the man in traffic may have been under enormous pressure to get home for reasons you can't fully know.

6. They have a strong support network.
One of the conditions that tends to separate people who are able to grow and learn from a difficult situation from those who are not is the presence of a strong support system, Ardelt explains. It may be a formal support group, therapy, friends or family. "People who feel that they are alone ... if there is nothing, it can be very difficult to learn anything [from the trauma] because it's just so devastating," she says.

7. They're tolerant.

Compassion is a key component of wisdom, Ardelt says. She cites the example of very skilled politicians or sales people who may have a keen understanding of themselves, or great insights into how the world works, but if they use that knowledge for self-centered means, they lack true wisdom.

That's why reflection is so important -- it helps you see yourself as you truly are, limitations and all, so you can then empathize with others, and act accordingly.

How do you know if you, or someone you know, is actually wise, not just pretending Part of what makes wisdom hard to define is that it isn't just one thing: it's a.

30 Quotes About Change, Because We Never Stop Evolving

wise things to know

“Chiron had said once that nations were the most foolish of mortal inventions. “No man is worth more than another, wherever he is from.”

“But what if he is your friend?” Achilles had asked him, feet kicked up on the wall of the rose-quartz cave. “Or your brother? Should you treat him the same as a stranger?”

“You ask a question that philosophers argue over,” Chiron had said. “He is worth more to you, perhaps. But the stranger is someone else’s friend and brother. So which life is more important?”

We had been silent. We were fourteen, and these things were too hard for us. Now that we are twenty-seven, they still feel too hard.

He is half of my soul, as the poets say. He will be dead soon, and his honor is all that will remain. It is his child, his dearest self. Should I reproach him for it? I have saved Briseis. I cannot save them all.

I know, now, how I would answer Chiron. I would say: there is no answer. Whichever you choose, you are wrong.”
― Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles

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wise things to know

Proverbs 16:16 states, “How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!”

This is sage advice, but not really a prevailing attitude in today’s culture. Today, we often see people racking up huge bills on their credit cards because they can’t wait to get the latest and greatest products and services. We see people with huge homes and expensive cars, but empty, sad hearts. We see people on the brink of destruction due to bad decisions and bad habits. As the proverb says, wisdom, not wealth, gets you through this life successfully. If you are a wise person, you can wisely manage your finances as well.

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If you want to become a wise person, you need to start acting like one. Here are some characteristics of a wise person to consider emulating:

Characteristics of a Wise Person

1. They Educate Themselves.
Educate yourself. Wise people learn the basics of personal finance, including information about budgeting, retirement accounts, mortgages, and life insurance. You can’t make solid decisions about money without a deep understanding of all of the elements involved in your finances.

2. They Are Disciplined.
Wise people exercise self-control. If you’ve invested in a stock as a long-term investment opportunity, don’t panic and sell the stock based on one day of volatility. If you have a set budget, use discipline to stick to your budget as you walk though the shopping mall. Tip: If you have trouble following a budget, try the envelope budgeting system.

3. They Admit Their Mistakes and Learn From Them.
People learn from their mistakes because they must live through the consequences. For example, if you’ve ever lent money to a friend or relative who wouldn’t pay you back, you are wise if you never lend money to these people again. No matter how hard the fall, always get back up and start again. Begin by admitting your mistakes, and then use those mistakes as learning opportunities.

4. They Are Patient.
Patience is a virtue, and valuable when it comes to personal finances. A wise person saves enough money to purchase a fun, new gadget instead of charging it to a credit card. Wise people take their time when making important decisions, like buying a new car, or a home. When you exercise patience, you give yourself a chance to properly gather information, and to weigh all of your options.

5. They Take Instruction Humbly.

A wise person admits that they don’t know everything. They accept the fact that other people are more qualified and more knowledgeable than they are, without dismay. By valuing others’ opinions and knowledge, a wise person opens up to the possibility of acquiring and retaining valuable information. Wise people are not entitled, and they welcome the input of others.

6. They Can Handle Rejection and Failure.
A wise person doesn’t worry about rejection when asking for a promotion during a job performance review. A wise person takes action on side business ideas to earn passive income, without worrying about failure. If you don’t risk failure, you may never obtain significant success.

7. They Know That They Can Only Control Themselves.
Wise people don’t worry about what other people think or what other people do. They know that they can only control themselves and that what other people think doesn’t matter. For example, if a wise person lives in a small, modest home because the house was affordable, he or she doesn’t worry about people in larger, costlier homes.

8. They Are Guided by Wisdom.
Wisdom is better than riches. Wealth is important, but does not take precedence over family, friends, and health. Money should be used as a means to achieving one’s goals, but should not be the end goal.

9. They Know Their Priorities.
Wise people put first things first and last things last. They put family time first, before hobbies or free time. They pay off debt, before they buy something new. Wise people have their lives sorted out, and they know where they should direct their attention.

10. They Are Trustworthy and Steadfast.
A wise person treats others as they want to be treated, because they know it will help them, not hurt them. The wise person is who we always go to when we need solid advice. Wise people are who we turn to and who we trust in times of need.

11. They Take Calculated Risks.
Without some risk, there is limited chance of success. Wise people take risks in support of their goals, without endangering themselves or harming others. Most great stories about entrepreneurial success started with someone taking a chance.

12. They Make the Most of Their Relationships.
Wise people understand and revere the power of networking. They don’t shy away from asking advice of successful friends and family members, and they share their successes with others. Wise people continue to learn and increase their base of knowledge, and they know this is significantly impacted by the relationships they cultivate.

13. They Don’t Live Beyond Their Means.
Wise people pay their bills on time and only buy things they can afford. They don’t feel pressured to spend money on items they don’t need.

14. They Don’t Pay Full Price.

Wise people clip coupons, sign up for discount clubs, and shop during sales. They don’t mind holding up the line at the grocery store while cashiers ring up coupons (i.e. extreme couponing). They willingly buy half-price sweaters in the summer, and discounted sandals in the winter. They comparison shop online to find the best prices for big purchases, and they never, ever pay full price.

15. They Don’t Squander Money.
Whether it’s a tip, winnings from a poker game, or a well-deserved bonus at work, wise people know they need to save or invest this money. Many people squander “found” money, but wise people know this money can help them achieve their long-term financial goals. Instead of wasting this money on something that won’t last or on items they don’t need, wise people put found money to work for them.

Final Word

If it’s true that you can become a wise person by emulating one, this article gives you the blueprint for success. Whether it’s gaining knowledge, putting family first, or taking risks, there’s a lot to be learned from wise people. Take a close look at your personal finances to determine whether you make wise financial decisions and how you can improve. It might just the right time for a change.

Do you have wise tips for managing your finances?

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wise things to know

The Practice of Wisdom

"Sometimes life is like this dark tunnel. You can't always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you just keep moving, you will come to a better place."

Iroh, retired General of the Fire Nation, The "Dragon of the West," and proprietor of The Jasmine Dragon tea house in the Avatar: The Last Airbender animated television series

1

Most people grow up wanting to be famous, to be wealthy, to be loved, to be powerful.

I've always wanted to be wise.

Of all of the qualities people can develop, wisdom is potentially the most beneficial. If developed and used in a skillful way, wisdom can help you (and the people around you) get most of the benefits of common worldly values like attention, status, money, esteem, and influence while mitigating most of the severe drawbacks and tradeoffs.

It's also one of the most difficult human qualities to define, let alone cultivate.

What is wisdom, really? How do you know if you, or someone you know, is actually wise, not just pretending, bluffing, or trying to signal special insight? Appearing to be wise and actually being wise are very different things, and self-deception and puffery are common, since wisdom is usually considered a valuable status signal.

Philosophers have attempted to define wisdom in many ways over the years, without much luck. Most of the philosophical definitions of wisdom I've found boil down to "acting in a wise way" or an abstract sentiment like "the right application of knowledge," which suffers from hindsight bias. Psychologists and neuroscientists have been studying (and trying to measure) wisdom as well, so they usually define it along the lines of "a demonstrated superior ability to understand the nature and behavior of things, people, or events." 2

Those definitions aren't so useful if you're trying to cultivate wisdom yourself. I'm all about developing "a demonstrated superior ability to understand the nature and behavior of things, people, or events." The question remains: how exactly do you go about doing that?

Media depictions of "wise" characters don't do us any favors, either. In practice, being wise doesn't have anything to do with acting like a Zen master, Yogic guru, or Stoic sage. It's not about spouting aphorisms, acting detached and aloof from the rest of the world, or having supernatural insight above and beyond the reach of mere mortals.

Part of what makes wisdom hard to define is that it isn't just one thing: it's a cluster of several specific qualities that are used together. Here's my current working definition of wisdom, based on many years of research:

  1. A set of specific, learnable ways of thinking and acting that…
  2. Are used in combination…
  3. To make decisions and recommendations that are…
  4. Likely to produce positive outcomes…
  5. In uncertain, ambiguous, and changing circumstances.

People who decide to learn how to make decisions (or advise others) in ways that are likely to result in positive future outcomes in uncertain conditions are learning to be wise: it's a skill that can be developed, albeit a very complex one.

Here's what I've been able to piece together about the primary qualities of wisdom over the years:

1. Understanding

Accurate knowledge of how the world works in fundamental ways. Why things are the way they are, how they got that way, and how to potentially go about changing them without producing unintended consequences. Acting to change something without understanding it first is the definition of foolishness.

Understanding requires learning as much as you can about the world, cultivating curiosity about how things work, considering novel information, expanding your worldview, updating your mental models whenever you have new information, and noticing when you're wrong, surprised, or confused so you can change your mind and use the information in the future.

2. Prudence

Acting in ways that are likely to produce the best possible outcomes for everyone involved. You don't quite know what the future holds, you don't know what others will do (or not do), and unexpected things always happen, so those uncertainties must be taken into account. It's usually prudent to look out for the best interests of everyone, not just yourself: harming others is myopic, detrimental, and a good way to make enemies.

Prudence requires collecting information, considering the available options, and making considered decisions that use that information to produce the desired result.

3. Discernment

It'd be easy for an omniscient being make the best possible decision, but you're not all-knowing: the future is always uncertain and changing. Making important decisions often feels like trying to walk along a trail in the fog – you can see a step or two in front of you, but beyond that, the path is fuzzy and indistinct. Your desires and goals are often just as fuzzy, other people have their own ideas of what you should do, and people often lie and dissemble to get what they want. If it "sounds too good to be true," it often is, but not always – that's a determination you have to make for yourself.

Discernment requires deciding what you want to do and why, looking for subtle clues to determine what's best and avoid false trails, paying close attention to avoid being mislead or deceived, and being cautious and self-aware when you want very much for something to be true or false.

4. Foresight

What do you want things to look like in the days, weeks, months, decades, and centuries ahead? What do you need to do to make that potential future a reality? Are there challenges, barriers, or potential opponents to that future? How could you work around, avoid, or work with them? Could you develop new skills, find helpful people, prevent unnecessary setbacks, or mitigate the risks?

Foresight requires taking the time to think through likely future events, acting in ways that prevent problems from happening in the first place, and making investments and decisions in the present to make the future better in some specific way.

5. Control

Acting in ways that will lead to more of what you want, less of what you don't want, and avoid major unrecoverable errors. Many a person – even the most "successful" people for various definitions of the term – has been brought low by failing to control their emotions and actions, or failing to act when action was necessary. Inhibiting and tempering hubris, arrogance, anger, and despair is necessary if you want to make good decisions. Even then, you don't want to be too controlled, and overlook the value of flexibility, intuition, and fun.

Control requires fighting akrasia, resisting temptation, and inhibiting unproductive impulse in favor of considered and deliberate action.

6. Flexibility

Avoiding being tied to a single, permanent, static way of thinking and acting. Many things are possible if you're willing to consider all of the possible paths and change your strategy. Rigidity is fragile, and it's easy to over-constrain your options in a way that forces poor decisions. On the other hand, you don't want to be too flexible – compromising on something critical doesn't help anyone.

Flexibility requires active exploration of what's possible, keeping an open mind, and being willing to admit your first impulses or gut instincts might be sub-optimal.

7. Persistence

Moving toward the future you want and overcoming errors and setbacks. Everyone wants to have great results, but few are willing to put in the effort necessary to get them. The most important and valuable things in life require effort, and it's easy to give up too early. Almost everyone who achieves or builds something important or valuable puts in years, often decades, of focused energy and attention.

Persistence requires working through the rough spots, keeping the faith in the hard yards, and being patient enough to keep doing what's important long after most people would give up. As long as Discernment says the goal is still worth pursuing, the wise person keeps going.


The more you cultivate wisdom, the better your life becomes. You'll produce better results with fewer major issues or unintended consequences. You'll handle challenges in a more skillful way. You'll troubleshoot your own issues, prevent unnecessary mistakes, and give useful advice to people who are struggling with their own unique problems.

The qualities of wisdom aren't innate: they're cultivated, mostly by paying attention in the moment and remembering to use them as the situation requires. Wisdom – real wisdom – changes the way you approach every part of your day-to-day life.

It's also a continuum – wisdom is not a binary thing. Like intelligence, you can go to bed with a little more wisdom than you had when you woke up. All it takes is patient, long-term practice of the right qualities.

Read more essays by Josh Kaufman »

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Sure, someone who is 20 years older will know a lot more about life than you. Don't buy stuff you don't need. 6. Save for things that matter.

wise things to know
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