“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.”
— Sandra Carey, American writer, speaker and motivator
My coffee had grown cold and a white film formed on the top.
I swirled the dark liquid around in the cup, steeling myself before downing the last swig. I thought of the old song by Carly Simon, You’re so Vain and the line, “I had some dreams; they were clouds in my coffee.”
Someone had told me the baffling metaphor referred to the confusing aspects of life and love and our inability to see things clearly. I could relate, especially from the place where my mind now dwelled. I gulped down the last of my coffee and stared at the dregs in the bottom of the cup. I wondered if a gypsy fortune-teller might discern some profound message in the pattern.
My dinner partner watched me steadily with dark brown eyes. A Cree healer, he was a man of few, yet powerful words. A retired RCMP officer, he had spent the past few years of his life touring the country helping young Cree men heal their lives and communities.
“My good brother is perplexed,” he noted. “Your energies are dark and scattered.”
I appreciated the way my friend always referred to me as his good brother.
“Your sister’s passing weighs heavily upon you.”
I nodded. The sudden death of my sister at age 42 had hit me harder than I had anticipated. As administrator of the estate, I had been unprepared for the level of stress, anguish and anger that would confront me. It had shaken my resolve.
“I’ve worked so hard,” I said. “And I’ve learned so much. I’ve read dozens of books. I’ve written columns and hell, I even wrote a book. I’ve gotten up in front of hundreds of people and talked about awareness and purposeful living, yet here I am now feeling anything but aware or on purpose — I can’t seem to find my way through this situation.”
My friend was aware of my recent history: having retired from my full-time job to pursue a career as a writer, speaker and motivator.
He knew as well that shortly after retiring, my wife had been transferred to another city. As my business was solidly established within the city, much discussion followed as to whether or not I would accompany her.
The house was in poor repair and required a tremendous investment in time and energy to make it marketable. Stressed and tired, I had taken a tumble down the basement stairs, badly twisting a knee. In the middle of the renovations, word came of my sister’s passing.
My life had taken and unexpected and unwelcome detour.
“You’ve learned much,” acknowledged my companion. “And you’ve shared much of what you’ve learned with the world. This is a good thing.”
I nodded as our server arrived to refill our coffee cups.
“Now life has come to visit demanding that you show it what you have learned.”
I stopped for a moment to ponder what he was saying. Before I could say a word, he reached over and took the pen from the breast pocket of my shirt. The restaurant had brown paper on the table tops and my friend quickly drew a diagram upon it — it resembled a set of steps.
“You were here,” he said, pointing to the tread — the horizontal part of the step. “Life was moving along pretty good. You were learning new things and you felt like you understood what you were learning. You even took this knowledge out into the world, held it up high and said, ‘This is what I know to be true.’”
That sounded right — I had been in “information acquisition” mode for years.
“Now you’re here,” he said, pointing to the riser, the vertical part of the step. “Think of the riser as the place where knowledge meets action. It’s where life tests you to see if you shall be knowledgeable or become truly wise. Knowledge is a good travelling companion but a reluctant help mate. Your knowing must be put to work before it can become wisdom!”
My friend was right. Knowledge is information. Wisdom is knowledge applied. It is doing what you know.
Having wisdom means taking action to create what you want whatever it should happen to be: happiness, success — abundance. The persistent application of knowledge is a key component which separates a truly enlightened individual from all others.
Was life testing me? Was life saying, “You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” Maybe it was simply a perceptional shift but by viewing stressful times in this manner, I was able to turn a perceived negative into an opportunity for positive change.
If you lack wisdom, it simply means that you have not put your knowledge to work for you.
Start applying your knowledge today and noting the results. Without application in the field, knowledge is really just theory and likely someone else’s. When you take your knowledge out into the world you’re going to make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes! Learn from other people’s mistakes! Once you’ve applied your knowledge in a real world setting and have noted the results, seek more knowledge. The more knowledge you possess, the more knowledge you can apply. Spend time in reflection looking at past events free of confusing emotions.
Jennifer Edwards, stress expert and founder of Jen Ed Dot Com explains wisdom in the follow manner, “The beauty of life is, while we cannot undo what is done, we can see it, understand it, learn from it and change — so that every new moment is spent not in regret, guilt, fear or anger but in wisdom, understanding and love.”
Once I began to search through my storehouse of knowledge, I was surprised at how many strategies I had and how effective many were when put into practice. Knowledge can be easily acquired. Wisdom must be earned with sweat, courage and perseverance. Are you currently on the tread or against the riser? Best get ready because either way, there’s a test coming.
Murray Fuhrer is a local self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca