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HARD WON WISDOM
by Steve Goodier

Theodore Levitt, of the Harvard Business School, said, "Experience comes from what we have done. Wisdom comes from what we have done badly." Theodore Levitt sounds like a wise person. I wonder what he's done badly.

Based on his reasoning, I must be bursting with wisdom. Over the years, I've racked up an impressive number of things that haven't gone too well.

But put another way, wisdom is what the school of life gives us with every poor report card. Wisdom is hard won, and it is often birthed in the ashes of failure.

One man tells of meeting one of the truly "wise" ones among us on a flight to Florida. He was preparing his notes for a parent-education seminar he was to conduct there. Bessie, an older woman sitting next to him, explained that she was returning home after having spent two weeks visiting her six children, 18 grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

Then she asked him what he did for a living. The man explained that he was a psychologist specializing in children. He dreaded telling her this, as he fully expected her to probe him for free professional advice during the three-hour flight. But not this wise woman. Instead, she sat back, picked up a magazine and said, "So doctor, if there's anything you want to know, just ask me."

Bessie's years of parenting and grand-parenting gave her what no professional degrees could it gave her hard won wisdom. Much of what she knew about children could only be learned through experience, including experiences of failure.

I really don't worry about the things I've done badly. If I paid attention to what went wrong and why, then even my most spectacular failures gave something priceless back they taught valuable lessons. Sometimes wisdom can't be gotten any other way.

 

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