Grow Wiser As You Get Older
1. Seek Out Those Who Don’t Act Right (Like You)
Beginning with our first success in childhood we become attached to what we believe are our strengths, in temperament and talent, which enabled us to win. Why not? They seem to be what makes us popular, even sought-after. As well, we are most drawn to people who seem to act right, like us. We instinctively project onto them other traits we admire, even when they do not have them.
People like people who are like them. People like people who like them.
Those factors warp our judgment, stifle creativity and innovation, and reduce our chance to live a more adventuresome, satisfying life of accomplishment with others. To overcome that natural proclivity, go out of your way to engage with people vastly different than you in talent, temperament, experience, age and view. To overcome the instinctual irritation that happens in such encounters, seek out and speak to a sweet spot of strong, shared interest. In short, find your mutuality to bring out the better side in you both. Here are other tips for living fully.
2. Move From Smart to Wise
“Smartness is like a wild horse: riding it can be exhilarating for a while until you are thrown from it. To tame and harness smartness for the long run, you need wisdom — the stuff that gives you ethical clarity and a sense of purpose, according to From Smart to Wise co-authors, Prasad Kaipaand Navi Radjou.
“When wisdom provides the moral compass, smartness can become even more potent. As we grow older, we tend to lean on our particular area of strength, honing our capabilities in that area. As we do so, we become attached to that kind of intelligence, and without much conscious thought, we can get stuck in it. Our strength becomes a winning formula and we grow dependent on it, which eventually makes us weak and vulnerable in other areas. This type of smartness shapes our worldview and defines our personality. We can develop such an attachment to our kind of smartness that we see only negative aspects of the other kind of smartness without recognizing — or being willing to accept — the limitation of our own kind of smartness.”
As Good to Great author Jim Collins discovered, “being good at something gets in the way of being great.”
To expand your capabilities, Kaipa and Radjou suggest that you identify which kind of leader you tend to be, then hone your expertise in the other and come to realize your underlying “noble purpose”:
• Functionally Smart: Go deep, excelling in one function or field in which they have considerable expertise, and are careful in risk taking
• Business Smart: Go broad, as big picture thinkers who are risk takers at heart.
The reward, according to the co-authors: “Since wise leaders are grounded in a noble purpose and accept that change is constant they are more adept than smart leaders in turning the key drivers of complexity (diversity, interconnectivity, velocity, ambiguity, and scarcity) to their organization’s advantage.”
3. Notice and Emulate Those With Depth Perception
Those who live reflective lives, like leadership expert Mark Sanborn, tend to notice the nuances in others who are similarly wise. Here are two of his actionable observations about such extraordinary people:
- “Their failures don’t impact them as negatively and their successes don’t get overblown. They let neither success nor failure distort the big picture because they know life is always a mixture of both. They learn from setbacks but don’t wallow in them and they appreciate successes but don’t rest in them.”
- “They make as many mistakes as others but have fewer regrets. Extraordinary people acknowledge they’ve grown into who they are as much from their mistakes and defeats as their wise choices and victories. To eliminate past mistakes would diminish present wisdom.”
- ”The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.” ~ James Buchanan