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
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
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
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.