“Can a young person be considered wise?”

I was at a business function recently where this question was posed to the room without much resolution.

Some people had their own personal views based on experience, instinct or belief. But there does not appear to be much scientific data to specifically support an answer either way.

My own conclusion backed by some of the information about to be presented is possibly Yes but more likely to be No.

The main reason is that the attributes most commonly attributed to ‘wise people’ are those that improve with age, not in every case but in most.

Does that mean older people are automatically wiser?

Clearly not. However, several of the attributes required to acquire wisdom do improve with the accumulation of our life experiences. And that can only come with the passing of time.

Many of us will be familiar with the expression ‘the wise old owl’ with the emphasis on the old and then we have the expression ‘you can put a wise head on old shoulders’. On the other hand, there are expressions and observations like ‘that person is an old soul’ meaning a young person who has wisdom beyond their years.

I tend to agree with this quotation from Jordi Alemy:

Wisdom is NOT an inborn ability. To gain wisdom, we must nurture some specific skills and accumulate experience over the years. The more experience you gain, the wiser you will become.

What is wisdom?

A simple dictionary definition is:

The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.”

Wisdom is different to knowledge.

Knowledge has been defined as:

Information gained through experience, reasoning, or acquaintance.

Knowledge can exist without wisdom, but not the other way around.

One can be knowledgeable without being wise. Knowledge is knowing how to use a gun. Wisdom is knowing when to use it and when to keep it holstered.

It’s important to readily distinguish each of knowledge, intelligence and wisdom. I define these three elements as:

  1. Knowledge: accumulating facts and information.
  2. Intelligence: skilfully using that knowledge and information to create an outcome or solve a problem.
  3. Wisdom: Contemplating how that knowledge and intelligence is to be interpreted and applied by considering the wider impact of a specific course of action.

Here are two simple examples:

Example #1

Knowledge: Exercise is good for you.

Intelligence: If I exercise I can improve my strength and aerobic capacity.

Wisdom: If I exercise it will trigger a range of physical and emotional outcomes that will have benefits beyond my health and energy such as improving confidence, self-esteem, resilience and decisions making. It’s a trigger activity.

Example #2

Knowledge: Our staff member John is not performing.

Intelligence: I can see the pluses he brings to the table so am prepared to overlook the bad.

Wisdom: If I take no action on John what message will that send to the rest of the team, will I be setting a precedence I may live to regret?

Why does wisdom matter?

There has been much written around this subject but less about the specific benefits. Here are three key reasons to acquire the attributes of wisdom.

Overall you have a better chance of:

  1. Making better more informed decisions every day that impact on yourself and people you care about.
  2. Becoming a role model that other people gravitate to, seek advice from and are inspired by.
  3. Living a life on purpose in harmony with your core values, principles and beliefs.

Perhaps the best way to gain a snapshot of what constitutes wisdom is via the following table that is drawn from multiple sources including my own life experiences.

This table illustrates the key attributes commonly associated with wise people and my opinion on whether a young person can possess those attributes.

Attributes and Actions of Wise People


I leave you with two questions to help you reflect and (hopefully) act upon the ideas presented in this article.

(1) If you have young people in your family or your business, what assistance can you provide in terms of training, coaching or mentoring to develop some of attributes of wisdom?

The goal is to help them develop maturity in their thinking and their actions.

(2) As a business owner, how you can capture and retain the knowledge and wisdom generated within your business?

The goal is to ensure you are maximising the potential of each person and safeguard yourself against losing that knowledge when staff leave.

At Pathfinder Advisors we have specific solutions to answer those two questions. If you would like to have a conversion about this call Steve Clark on 0408 754 976 or contact us.