Buy truth, and do not sell it;
buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.

Proverbs 23:23 RSV

Yesterday, I said I’d deal more with wisdom acquisition so here are a guidelines I’ve found helpful so far. I know there’s a lot more, but I don’t know what all of it is yet. None of this is supposed to be novel. But the subject is worth coming back to again and again even if all the information isn’t new.

  1. A know-it-all attitude destroys opportunities to learn, so try to approach every person and all information as if it has something to teach you.

  2. Read some old wisdom literature. The biblical book of Proverbs quoted at the start of this post is both time-tested and packed with delicious one-liners. If you need somewhere to start, you won’t go far wrong.

  3. Time is limited. Don’t waste it.

  4. Time spent calming yourself often feels wasted, but it often isn’t.

  5. Protect the seat of decision-making: beware intoxication, sleep deprivation, etc. A wise person who’s exhausted will have a tough time using wisdom. And that can lead to a monumental bad choice or a downward spiral of bad decisions.

  6. When you get a chance to be told you are wrong, try hard not to reflexively get defensive. It is better to find out early, and if someone cares enough to correct you, don’t shut that down. I’ve been surprised to see, upon reflection, that even the most assenine confrontation will contain something useful.

  7. The tough part is knowing what an article, book, or talk can teach you – sometimes it’s just an example of what not to do. Time is limited and information is plentiful so try not to be too afraid to abandon something if you don’t see where it fits. Relevant stuff has a way of cropping up again. Not every book, article, or YouTube comment merits even 60 seconds.

  8. People are much more fun, complex, valuable, interesting, subtle, and even dangerous, than their writings so try to be a little more thoughtful about how you engage. Respect yourself by being careful who you spend time with. Stay clear of idiots engaged in idiocy no matter how entertaining it might seem. Respect yourself by choosing friends well, and making them mindfully. Respect your friends by being reluctant to dump them.

  9. Mull over peoples’ circumstance, decisions, and the results. Many people I respect like to read biographies. I have had a tough time getting into this genre, but I keep trying because I recognize the value in it. At least equally good, is to cultivate the habit of drawing out what people know.

  10. The fear that keeps you away from the cliff’s edge is generally wise. The fear that makes you procrastinate is generally foolish. Take the procrastinating fear as a sign that you’re on the trail of something you really find important.

  11. Finally, as a Christian, I believe that the root of wisdom is to hold God in the highest honor and to seek and value experiences of his presence most of all. When I have tried to, “dump all this superfluous faith baggage,” as I once thought of it, I have grown miserable. When I have returned, I have found a source of life and peace – and on a few occasions ecstatic conversation.

There is a lot more to say about it. I wish I could write much more and with more certainty. I wish I could even just do these things with more consistency. I wish I could tell you that the wise choice will always feel right. But like most things that pay out well, wisdom is a long-term investment. It pays sooner than you expect, but you always wish you’d started making better use of your time a few years ago. There’s always something you didn’t know then. Since you can’t go back in time, the best time to start is now.

Of course I want to know what you do to gain wisdom. Is there anything I overlooked? Is there anything you think is wrong? Let me know in the comments. If you’re using Facebook, Twitter, Google, you’re already logged in and ready to join the conversation.