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What Does Wisdom Mean to You?

OPINION PIECE: lan Berry Heart-Leadership


For over twenty years now I have kept Viktor Frankl’s wise words close to my heart:“Between stimulus and response there is a space. 
In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Whenever I stumble or simply stay on my path in bringing the best version of me to the moment, these words have great meaning.

Since 2014 I have endeavoured to live the life of a nowist, inspired initially by the work of Joi Ito and building on Eckhart Tolle’s great contribution ‘The Power of Now’. I reread this recently for the third time since my initial discovery of his book in the year 2000.

Living in the now gives perspective to our past and our future as well as enriching the gifts of hindsight, foresight and insight.

I meet lots of people living in the past and wondering why the present isn’t what they want.

I meet lots of people waiting for the future, predicting it will be better, yet doing little in the now that will create their desired future.

The most joyful people I know are nowists.

In my Heart-Leadership book I was thrilled to be able to include stories from my colleagues in the Heart-Leadership Online Village. Brad Smith’s ‘now over normal’ story is highly relevant here. The mantra Brad and his people developed is one of my favorites, ‘accept the now/appreciate the now’. I’ve adopted the mantra myself.

I don’t want to be normal. Of course by definition each of us is a one-of-a-kind human being and so normal is actually an oxymoron.

Brene Brown sums it all up beautifully: “There will be no new normal. There will only be a series of not normal.”

I’m inspired my many people throughout history who were nowists. I’m a student in particular of the Renaissance and the Reformation periods of the 14th through 17th centuries and the likely birth therein of humanism. 

700 years ago knowledge was power. And it was power wielded by a few over the many.

Today I believe that wisdom is power and such power is about how the wise inspire others to be and to become wise.

Wisdom can be illusive. Ask ten people what does wisdom mean to them, and likely you will get ten different answers.

What does wisdom mean to you?

Before the printing press invention in 1439 knowledge was definitely power. Printing enabled a shift from the few having access to knowledge to many people having access. This didn’t necessarily lead to wisdom though.

For centuries the English Church was governed from Rome. Most people couldn’t read the bible because they could not read Latin. Church leaders therefore acted as self-appointed mediators between God and the people, with Priests primarily interpreting the bible for their congregations.

William Tyndale first printed an English translation of the bible in the 1534. It caused furore to say the least. It was strictly forbidden then to translate the bible into English. Tyndale believed everyone should be able to read and interpret for themselves. He was executed because of his belief. I feel he would have died proud that he acted in the now for what he believed was in everyone’s best interests.

We are a little more civilised in most places today. Sometimes on social media and in the language of angry, misinformed protesters, and those that incite them, it seems we have learned very little.

The internet of course has been the great enabler of giving access to information to most people. 

In an era of fake news, post-truth and conspiracy theories though it is difficult to sort out disinformation and just plain lies from reality right?

Hence I offer the following definition of wisdom as a conversation starter: wisdom is being true to yourself in the now regardless of the situation.

My favorite insight about this is from William Shakespeare. In his play Hamlet, that was first performed in 1609, is the famous line that you of course know, “this above all, to thine own self be true.”

As I have discovered Aristotle had a similar perspective. He said “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

What does wisdom mean to you?

Your answer I believe is a key to the thriving of your leadership.

Image courtesy of Nick Helliwel

Author: lan Berry  https://www.ianberry.biz/


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