How Fools and Novices Gain Wisdom

Teams crash when fools lead.

Wisdom is:

  1. Useful, not theoretical.
  2. Connected, not isolated.
  3. Self-distancing, not self-absorbed.

Wisdom is perspective-taking.

Wisdom is gained by practicing wisdom.

Happy old woman.

Wisdom is habitually happy.

2 ways fools and novices gain wisdom:

#1. Listen.

Foolish leaders talk like monkeys and listen like chipmunks.

You struggle with listening because talking feels powerful.

Empathetic listeners seem wise. Blabbermouths seem stupid, even if they’re smart.

Active listening is too much for blabbermouths. Beginner-listeners can ask a question, nod, smile, and zip it.

7 wise questions even fools can ask:

  1. What’s important?
  2. What should I be noticing?
  3. What are you learning?
  4. What’s working?
  5. What are we doing that isn’t working?
  6. What might I be missing?
  7. How might customers respond to this course of action? (Colleagues, Employees, Higher Ups)

#2. Generate third options.

I asked Asher* if he wanted to date short girls or tall girls. He paused and said, “Medium.” He might have said height doesn’t matter, but at least he generated a third option.

  1. Wisdom rejects our inclination toward either/or answers.
  2. Wisdom says, “Go for it,” to other people’s reasonable solutions.
  3. Wisdom doesn’t rush to solutions. Wisdom asks, “What other options might you suggest?”

Even a fool can ask, “And what else?”


Foolish leaders talk like monkeys and listen like chipmunks.

Perceived wisdom:

Wisdom is habitually happy. Nagging unhappiness is the plight of fools.

You are perceived as a sage when you…

  1. Demonstrate the ability to take another’s perspective. Wise people rise above themselves.
  2. Exude calmness. Wise people are seldom frantic.
  3. Reflect modest confidence. “I believe we can make this situation better.”
  4. Seek improvement. Wisdom perfects imperfect solutions. (All solutions are imperfect.)
  5. Have some gray hair. Older people are perceived as wiser than young.
  6. Bring experience to current frustrations.
  7. Live confidently with uncertainty. Predicting the future is less important than responding to it.

What practice of wisdom is important to gaining wisdom?

*Asher is one of our grandsons.

Added reference:

Perceived wisdom.pdf (