By the time you reach your 50’s, you know alot of stuff. Whether or not it is relevant is another question.
Knowledge or “knowing” can quickly become obsolete. In the age of Google and YouTube, one can find endless sources of knowledge and step-by-step instructions for almost anything you can imagine.
Knowledge per se is quickly becoming less valuable
But wisdom – that is something different
Wisdom can only be found through understanding
What is the difference between knowing and understanding?
The term knowing implies an absolute truth, approach, or specific skill required to accomplish a particular task.
Some “knowings” are timeless. These are the “I know more about ____ than you have forgotten” knowings:
Knowing how to knit.
Knowing how to garden.
Knowing how to paint.
But in a rapidly changing technological society, “knowledge” and “best practices” are constantly evolving and, as they do, our “knowing” in many areas becomes irrelevant.
I knew how to program once, but that was a dozen languages ago and at least as many operating systems.
I knew about stock market fundamentals and investment models once, but most of the old rules no longer apply.
I knew about managing projects and teams once, but now there are new approaches better suited to the younger generation and apps for that.
All my technical knowing in these areas is obsolete and basically irrelevant. I haven’t kept up in these fields and getting up to speed would require way more time and energy than I care to expend. Besides, I’m over it, which is why I left those things behind to begin with.
“Knowing is generally factual. You have learned a particular kind of knowledge and you know its truth as it applies to a particular problem. Understanding, however, is more fluid. You have learned a particular kind of knowledge, but you don’t see it as a fact or a truth applied rigidly to one thing. Rather, you understand that knowledge’s essence and you can see how it relates to everything else, with nuances and contradictions included” . – Rat Zana from his article on Medium.
Webster’s Dictionary defines Wisdom as “the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships”.
So how do we add value and relevance in our workplaces and communities?
We need to focus instead on sharing our understanding of the nuances and contradictions that are needed to discern inner qualities and relationships.
By sharing our understanding, the essence of our knowledge, we share wisdom. It is this understanding that makes our contributions relevant.
One of the objections commonly raised to hiring older employees is that they are difficult to train and set in their ways. Unfortunately, there is some truth in this. Insisting that we “know” better without even attempting to understand the new technology or system is unproductive and generally not helpful.
One example of this are those who refuse to use smartphones or any technology beyond basic email. They have a puritan arrogance about their objections despite the fact they have never tried to use any of these tools or made any effort to understand their usefulness.
They are oblivious to the frustration that others feel when trying to communicate with them and their refusal to learn actually creates more work for those around them. When pressed, many of these folks admit they simply aren’t interested in learning how to use such things. Sadly, they fail to understand that this is isolating them and fueling the stereotypes of aging.
We need to adopt the new technologies, especially in communications, whenever possible if we want to participate. Lifelong learning is key to staying relevant.
We must come to terms with the fact that our knowledge of the way things “work” may no longer be relevant and adapt whenever possible.
This doesn’t mean we need to learn every new tool or methodology that comes down the pike. Instead, we can gently guide those who do towards more integrative solutions by observing the new methods and sharing our understanding of the big picture based on our experiences as it relates to new innovations.
Want to stay relevant? Share Wisdom – Not Knowledge
Sharing wisdom is very different from sharing knowledge. Wisdom can only be shared gently and humbly – without judgement or insistence.
Sharing wisdom is about connecting seemingly unrelated dots, not claiming to be an expert on any one dot.
Sharing wisdom is about helping others to understand the connection between those dots so that they (not you) can connect them using the tools that work best for them. It is not up to you how or if they apply the wisdom that you share.
Ageism and the stereotypes of aging are real. The best way to eliminate these negative stereotypes is to prove them wrong. Lifelong learning and understanding are the keys to staying relevant. With wisdom we can continue to make a difference in our world. We got this!!