Posts Tagged ‘Wisdom’

Serenity PrayerA few months ago, my daily lesson learned blog post was on the subject “Don’t Fret What You Can’t Control.”  It was inspired by a long traffic jam on Interstate 75 returning to Louisville from a visit with my son in South Carolina.  Mentioned in that post was the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

It came to mind again tonight when my wife came home about 10:00 p.m. and announced upon her arrival “Your car has been vandalized.”  Immediately, my mind imagined the worst with windows broken, major damage, dents, scratches, etc.  I was somewhat relieved to see that it was “only” some writing in red permanent marker over about a one-square-foot area on the back of the car.  I didn’t like it, of course, but it wasn’t nearly what came to mind with the message I was first given.

It only took a post on Facebook to quickly have people tell us to use nail polish remover to get rid of the markings, a suggestion seconded by the police officer who came to check out the damage and record the incident.  Minutes after the officer left, the markings were gone.  Immediate problem solved.  Of course, that doesn’t solve the potential problem of it happening again since we have no idea who did it.

In that short span of time between learning of the incident and removing the markings, I had to decide how I would respond.  Part of me wanted to sound off on my social networks and threaten this unknown vandal – someone who would not have seen any post I made, anyway.  It might have felt good getting the anger off my chest, but it would have just looked hot-tempered to others without contributing to solving the problem.

So I decided to just be practical instead and ask in a post how to remove it.  I decided to focus on solving the immediate problem rather than feeding my anger.  It was the right call.

So how does the Serenity Prayer fit in to this?  Let’s see…

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change“:  I couldn’t change the fact that the markings were already on the car.  I couldn’t change the fact after the vandalism that the car had been parked in the driveway of an empty house across the street.  I couldn’t change the fact that we had no witnesses or evidence of who might have done it.

the courage to change the things I can“:  We could crowdsource the question about how to remove the markings.  We could make a conscious choice not to get loud and angry. We could use my friends’ wisdom to find a way to remove the markings.  We could call the police and report it.  We could make the decision to stop using the absent neighbor’s house for a spare driveway and use our own instead, even if it means more switching cars in and out as we come and go.

and the wisdom to know the difference”:  It wouldn’t make sense to leave the markings on the car and not try to find a way to remove them.  Breaking out into my best Doris Day impression (young people, ask your parents) singing “Que sera, sera, whatever will be will be” would not have accomplished anything.  It wouldn’t make sense to not report the vandalism and thereby keep the police in the dark about something they should be aware of as they patrol the neighborhood.  It wouldn’t make sense to think that I have to get angry and loud and make a scene just because I may have reacted that way at times in the past, especially when it comes to vandalism and the sense of being violated that comes with it.  It wouldn’t make sense to continue parking across the street if we suspect it is safer to park the car in our own driveway instead of the uninhabited house’s driveway.

I don’t always react the way I should when bad things happen.  The personal satisfaction is much greater, however, when I get the last part of that prayer right – the wisdom to know the difference.  It seems to me that spending some time looking at situations through the lens of the first two parts of the prayer – taking time to ponder what you can and can’t change about a situation – contributes greatly to the likelihood of gaining the wisdom to know the difference.

Sip WineI’ve been reading through the biblical book of Proverbs recently.  It’s the kind of book that one can (and should) read over and over again because of the wisdom it contains.  In fact, it’s one of the few biblical books included in the genre called wisdom literature.

Parts of the book are written in a style where multiple verses go together to form a thought.  The bulk of the book, however, consists of shorter sayings usually captured in one or two verses, although they are grouped logically so as not to be a purely random series of unrelated sayings.

As I read this book for perhaps the 25th time in my life, I am struck by the need to do so slowly.  The content does not consist of long stories where reading large quantities is necessary to understand the context, therefore one can easily fly by great wisdom too quickly if not careful.

For example, look at just a small sample of verses on the subject of wisdom and knowledge (from the English Standard Version):

1:7 – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction”;
2:6 – “For the Lord gives wisdom; and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding”;
3:13-14 – “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold”;
4:13 – “Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life”;
8:10-11 – “Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.”

There are many subjects addressed in Proverbs beyond wisdom, but it is one of the major topics scattered throughout its 31 chapters.

When wisdom is captured in short, pithy sayings, it doesn’t work to drink them through a fire hose quickly.  You need time to reflect, think, ponder, learn and apply.  You need to revisit them time and again as your life experiences and readiness equip you to understand them.

Whether you find wisdom in what you read or in conversation with others, leap year lesson #364 is Sip wisdom slowly.

Top Five Regrets Of The DyingI read a brief article today called Top Five Regrets of the Dying.  The author, a nurse, has spent years with people in the final weeks of their lives, and she has documented in a blog and a book her findings.

In a nutshell, the top five regrets of those near death in this nurse’s experience are:

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Do you recognize yourself in any of the above?  I do.  Perhaps you can envision one or more additional possible regrets down the road if you continue on your current path.

The good news is that we have the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others and thereby avoid those same mistakes.  If so many at the end of life express regret at the above patterns of behavior, then that is our clue to avoid them and to take a different path.

Is there something different you can do today to make sure you don’t eventually express one of the above regrets?

Leap year lesson #344 is Learn from the dying.

I love folk wisdom.  I find it to be true, simple, and worth as much or more than all the formal education from which I have benefited through the years.  If you are like me, there are a few life lessons that come to mind from time to time as experiences reinforce the simple sayings passed on by others.

One such lesson is a statement I first heard from a down-to-earth, kind, wise gentleman a number of years older than me.  I don’t remember the situation many years ago which provoked the statement, but I will never forget the remark: “If you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that yelps is the one that got hit.”

In this shortest lesson of the year, leap year lesson #275 is There is much truth in folk wisdom.

What are some of the folksy life lessons you’ve heard that ring true from your experience?

How many times have we heard or used the phrase “From the mouths of babes…”?  It is usually in the context of some simple, wonderful truth or honest statement spoken by a child.  It is an acknowledgment that even the youngest of children can have perceptive, deep insights.

In the business community, then, why is it that my generation of boomers (or older) sometimes think that they have a corner on wisdom or business acumen?

Yes, experience should bring with it wisdom gained from successes and failures, but mere age alone is no guarantee of understanding or wisdom.  Neither is being younger an indicator of their absence.

Case in point…

I had the pleasure of spending a few days recently with key people from a company I do business with regularly.  Their company began not too many years ago and has been very successfully operated to the present, including an impressive acquisition of their business by a major software company.

Most of the people involved are young – think Facebook startup young.  But as I met these people face to face last week, I had to marvel at how accomplished, knowledgeable and insightful they are, all while still being in their 20s or – at the oldest – in their 30s.  The one “older” lady (still younger than me) described herself as the mother hen to her cute little chicks.

If I am to go into a business battle in matters related to the line of business these people deal with every day, who do you think I want on the front lines?  It isn’t many people my age or older that I would choose to lead the charge.  I would want these creative, intelligent, driven young men and women who have a vision for the future and are doing what it takes to shape that future.

I loved doing college ministry at my church for many years because I was energized by being around and interacting with the students.  I guess in business, I’m still energized by the presence, creativity and can-do attitude of those much younger than myself.

Leap year lesson #242 is – Wisdom knows no upper or lower age limit.