How to Gain Wisdom

Steve LudwigLife StuffLeave a Comment

an owl signifying wisdom.

“Wisdom is earned, not given.” That famous quote is from Dante.

Yes, that Dante.

Fair enough.

But you can earn it through study, focus, and reflection.

You might ask yourself, “Okay, that’s nice. But why does wisdom matter?”

The greater wisdom an individual has in life and business, the less they will be swayed by emotions –one’s own or someone else’s, ego, fads, binary thinking, and catastrophizing. The metaphor of a big tree with deep roots holds true.

That stability and depth make many aspects of life, including work, easier. It is worth developing in ourselves and our teams.

Before we jump into some suggestions on how to earn more wisdom, let’s be clear on what we mean.

I find this definition by Jest & Lee helpful: “Wisdom is a complex human trait with several specific components: Social decision making, emotion regulation, prosocial behaviors, self-reflection, acceptance of uncertainty, decisiveness, and spirituality.”

Self-reflecting is the first and foremost skill you need to develop wisdom further.

But we should never ignore the wisdom that we can gain from reading. In addition to whatever religious or spiritual text might catch your fancy, here are some highly regarded books that can help you develop wisdom in various aspects of life:

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

  • Theme: History and human evolution.
  • Why Read It: Harari’s sweeping history of the human species provides profound insights into our past, present, and potential future.
  • Option: Most good history books will help you better understand the world.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

  • Theme: Vulnerability and courage.
  • Why Read It: Brown’s research on vulnerability and shame offers a powerful perspective on how embracing our imperfections can lead to a more fulfilling life.
  • Option: Her Ted Talks, here and here, are the Cliff Notes versions, not as good, but not bad either.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

  • Theme: Stoic philosophy and self-reflection.
  • Why Read It: This collection of personal writings by the Roman Emperor offers profound insights into stoicism, resilience, and self-discipline.
  • Option: The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. It’s a broad overview of some of the tenets of stoic philosophy.

The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck

  • Theme: Psychology, love, and spiritual growth.
  • Why Read It: Peck’s classic explores the nature of love, discipline, and spiritual development, providing profound insights into living a fulfilling life.
  • Option: A well-regarded, not faddish, psychology book.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

  • Theme: Psychology, meaning, and resilience.
  • Why Read It: Frankl’s account of his experiences in Nazi concentration camps and his psychological insights into finding meaning in suffering is deeply moving and enlightening.
  • Option: Tuesdays with Morey by Mitch Albom. Not quite the same thing as a Holocaust survivor, but very good.

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams

  • Theme: Happiness and resilience.
  • Why Read It: This book captures a week of conversations between two of the world’s most joyful people, exploring the nature of true joy and how to cultivate it.
  • Option: You want an option to Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama?

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle

  • Theme: Mindfulness and presence.
  • Why Read It: Tolle emphasizes the importance of living in the present moment, offering practical advice for achieving mental clarity and inner peace.
  • Option: Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Bra

Great Literature by many.

  • Theme: Various
  • Why Read It: You can often learn more about people, life, and yourself from fiction than you can from fiction.
  • Options: Stumped? Ask a librarian, Google, ChatGPT, or your friend that reads a lot.

Reading these books can provide a broad spectrum of wisdom, with each offering a unique perspective that can enrich your understanding of yourself and the world around you.

As you may have noticed, there is a significant overlap between someone who is considered “wise” and the characteristics of a Pathfinder.

Pathfinders are individuals who do not accept the status quo, innovate, and find a new way. They create a path that benefits not just their own journey, but all others that follow.

Pathfinders can be your key to unlocking your organization’s innovative potential.

How do you find Pathfinders? We have a proprietary online Pathfinder Assessment that you can learn more about at The Pathfinder Company.

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