Key Point: The incredible accomplishments of the 83-year-old Oracle of Omaha, investor Warren Buffett, are well documented. He is revered by millions of people world wide for reasons well beyond becoming the third richest man in the world and turning many Berkshire Hathaway investors into multi-millionaires. Buffett, who by his very nature might modestly resist the following assessment, is perhaps most admired because he personifies the essence of PERSONAL WISDOM. What is wisdom?
Ursula M. Staudinger is a life span psychologist/professor at Columbia University and long time researcher on “wisdom.” She distinguishes between general wisdom, the kind that involves understanding life from an observer’s point of view (for example, as an advice giver), and personal wisdom, which involves deep insight into one’s own life. Buffett certainly has been a man symbolizing general wisdom though his proclivity for sage investment advice. However real PERSONAL WISDOM, according to Staudinger, involves the following:
1. Self-insight; the ability to demonstrate personal growth.
2. Self-awareness in terms of your historical era and your family history.
3. Understanding that priorities and values, including your own, are not absolute.
4. An awareness of life’s ambiguities.
The example that Buffett is demonstrating on achieving personal wisdom in his life and openly sharing it with all of us might be his greatest legacy. He exudes and defines equanimity. Do a search on the web and you will find evidence that Buffett exemplifies personal wisdom in every area defined by Staudinger. But there may be an additional and complimentary element in achieving deep personal wisdom?
Daniel Goleman, author of “Focus” and “Emotional Intelligence,” was quoted in this New York Times article stating: “One aspect of wisdom is having a very wide horizon which doesn’t center on ourselves, or even on our group or organization. Goleman notes that an important sign of wisdom is “generativity,” a term used by the psychologist Erik Erikson, who developed an influential theory on stages of the human life span. Generativity means giving back without needing anything in return. The form of giving back can be creative, social, personal or financial.” Goleman goes on to emphasize that the wisest people are abundant in a way that doesn’t see their lifetime as limiting when this generative behavior might happen. Buffett’s financial philanthropy is legendary, but his generativity is pervasive. He openly gives his ideas, time, energy and uses over every available channel. During a recent interview on Mike and Mike, the popular ESPN sports talk show, he challenged millions of listeners (in addition to providing everyone an opportunity to win one billion dollars) with a simple reflection about personal health: “What if you could have only one car your entire life? How would you treat that car? Why don’t we treat our bodies and minds with that prospect in mind?” That accessible and insightful analogy will likely inspire many people to think and hopefully act differently… You can mark me down as one of those people.
- Be intentional about achieving personal wisdom. Deep personal insight AND living with abundance gives us a directional roadmap. Finding personal wisdom is a long walk on a continuum and not something that automatically shows up with your old age pension. To accelerate your journey, understand the definition and behavior associated with two words: Equanimity and Generativity. Where are you relative to each definition?
- Be a relentless student. To accelerate your path to greater wisdom, seek out people who you can learn from. The adage that the “teacher arrives when the student is ready ” is profound. Be ready. This student mindset is more inspirationally active than simply networking, finding sponsorship and/or having mentors.
- Own “one lifetime car.” So that personal wisdom can show up in a vessel that is in shape to sail for a long time, think of treating your body and mind as THE only car you’ll ever have. I bet if you embrace that Buffett challenge, you will be more diligent about an “oil change” and “tune up.” It certainly made me wish I embraced that philosophy earlier in my life.
BTW… I loved the last 10 day break. Definitely an oil change, if not a full tune up.
Finding wisdom in the Triangle,