Don't see an advisor you admire? Let's add him to the database! - Request

Smartbits. Practical Wisdom in the Modern World

Nick Oleksyn
co-founder at Rendors

Professors Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe are the authors of Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing. Of course, reading the book won’t make us wise, but in it, we will find a valuable and practical framework for making better choices in challenging situations. 

In the modern world, an average person needs a practical approach to exercising wisdom. While brilliant and valuable, the guidance of the Bible, Stoicism, Zen, Confucianism, etc., often falls on deaf ears when it comes to stressed and overwhelmed city dwellers. By definition:

Wisdom - knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action.

But can anything be singularly “true” or “right” in a polarized society? 

Below is an excerpt from the book Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing which explains what it means to be wise in practice:

  1. A wise person knows the proper aims of the activity she is engaged in. She wants to do the right thing to achieve these aims—wants to meet the needs of the people she is serving. 
  2. A wise person knows how to improvise, balancing conflicting aims and interpreting rules and principles in light of the particularities of each context. 
  3. A wise person is perceptive, knows how to read a social context, and knows how to move beyond the black-and-white of rules and see the gray in a situation. 
  4. A wise person knows how to take on the perspective of another—to see the situation as the other person does and thus to understand how the other person feels. This perspective-taking is what enables a wise person to feel empathy for others and to make decisions that serve the client’s (student’s, patient’s, friend’s) needs. 
  5. A wise person knows how to make emotion an ally of reason, to rely on emotion to signal what a situation calls for and to inform judgment without distorting it. He can feel, intuit, or “just know” what the right thing to do is, enabling him to act quickly when timing matters. His emotions and intuitions are well educated. 
  6. A wise person is an experienced person. Practical wisdom is a craft and craftsmen are trained by having the right experiences. People learn how to be brave, said Aristotle, by doing brave things. So, too, with honesty, justice, loyalty, caring, listening, and counseling

The six points above provide an excellent eagle-eye view of what wisdom is and what is at play when facing tough decisions and trade-offs. And I’d like to emphasize #6. It hits close to home and reminds me that books and conversations can only get us so far. We need to get out there and make things happen. Unfortunately, we can’t always learn from the mistakes of others.

To dig deeper into the subject, consider reading:

Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing

Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing: Schwartz, Barry,  Sharpe, Kenneth: 9781594485435: Books