Notes on Wisdom


On Thursday night I was having dinner with friends and we discussed the topic of Wisdom. What it means, and who has it.

I thought I’d share some of our ideas.
In order to have wisdom you need to have had some success. You can’t have failed all the time. Some success is better than all failure.
Mixed consensus on whether to a hire a CEO who has failed twice or one who has succeeded twice.
But having experienced both success and failure is best. Probably the best combo is success – failure – success.

Wisdom requires being articulate and being able to express what you have learned, though this can be done without out words.

Judging the wisdom of an individual has elements of trajectory and their wisdom relative to other’s their age is an important factor as well.

Wisdom about very narrow topics i.e. virality isn’t really wisdom, it’s expertise. Wisdom is about life. A wise person thinks about what it means to have a good life.

A 55 year old is often a wiser than a 75 year old. In general, this is largely due to the emotional baggage and bitterness of those in old age. An important marker signifying when someone’s wisdom begins to decline is when they begin to feel their own mortality and start thinking about death.

Thinking about death could cause some to focus on what’s important in life, but if they weren’t focusing on what’s important in life before they thought about death, how wise were they really?
Wise people focus on what’s important and are still looking to grow. No longer looking for growth is one of the causes of declining wisdom.

Older people who realize their years are limited are often focused on maintenance rather than growth. Seeking growth is essential for wisdom. A wise person has to understand there’s always room to grow. Some would conjure up images of the old Japanese man in the tea garden who is it all figured out, but I don’t think any wise person can profess to have anything all figured out. Perhaps they have mastered certain principles and can share those with confidence and certainty. But there’s always room for improvement and life is a never ending journey in pursuit of growth.