Experience does not always mean wisdom.
It is true. I never thought I would admit that, but grazing my 5th decade in this world I think it’s better I admit what everyone else seems to know so well. As you grow old, you learn. There’s no more to it than that if you think about it. Quite simple, quite plain. And yet for the longest of times, that simplicity would make my skin crawl.
Every time someone who was older than me or had more experience than me said that I would scowl at them. What the hell did they mean? Like my piano teacher who told me I had to learn to walk before I could run, or my bookbinding master who said if I didn’t master details I would never complete a full book of which I could be really proud. They were right of course.
The simple truth is that there is a difference between experience and wisdom though and I think it’s important to at least introduce it here before going on with this blog:
Experience: something you acquire through repetition over a period of time. Cumulative. Quantitative. You can, in fact, say “I have 10 years of experience doing this.” It can be good or bad and it’s still valid.
Wisdom: the actual gain from those repetitions. Your impressions, your reactions. Definitely cumulative but not quantitative. There is no such a thing as bad wisdom.
Irony. That thing life loves using with us. It’s always there you know only sometimes we fail to see it. I now find myself telling people younger than me that their lack of experience has to do with their lack of age. Horrific really and still ironic of course. Sarcastic too sometimes but that’s only when I don’t like the other person.
It is as when you start training or running. The first few steps are great, the next ones really hard and by the end of the run everything hurts. It doesn’t get any better the next day or the week after that. It takes time until your body gets used to the exercise. It takes time for your mind to learn what your body is telling it when you’re running: it feels great. And how do we call the process of time passing by on our bodies and minds? Aging. So it is true here too: it comes with age.
The problem to me was that at some point people would call my lack of experience lack of “wisdom”, as if not having it was a sin. It made me angry: what did they mean other than the fact that maybe I needed to take more time to experience things, gain something out of it and put it to use? Why did it make so angry, why did it put in defense mode?
A few months away from my 40th birthday I think I understand this a bit better: it is easier to quiet someone down by telling them they just don’t have the experience than actually helping them gain it. It makes the other person quiet with the obviousness of the statement: that they have not gained enough wisdom yet. Mind-numbing but real.
What one usually leaves out and what the other person purportedly ignores too is that experience is only a vehicle for wisdom. It is how you gain it.
Originally published at IT is what IT is.