A Fresh Look at Wisdom and the Way Forward

– First Published on Nasdaq –

In the midst of the pandemic, and particularly with vaccines and a new year on the way, we’re all more reflective. A direct benefit of such reflection is a willingness to change and reinvent. Where are you in this process?

As I continue my quality life journey – after all, isn’t that what we’re all on? – I’m reminded that, even with the best intentions, having the wisdom to make good decisions is foundational. Those decisions may be about life purpose, finances, relationships or…?

To wit, Plato believed that wisdom was theoretical or abstract. Aristotle, his pupil, disagreed, saying that wisdom was a kind of moral compass that guides our thinking and behavior. Whatever philosopher(s) you follow, there is no doubt gaining wisdom is worth pursuing.

How else can we make the best decisions for our lives, yet reflect on the theories, wisdom and experience of others and see what that might spark in ourselves?

Parsing and deploying wisdom

Central to my continuing pursuit of a quality life: I understand the importance of applying wisdom to the financial and life decisions I make. You might say that’s one of my superpowers that comes from the natural DNA behavior of being extremely rational. That’s coupled with the ability to quickly turn vision into practical reality and being able to easily make sense of messy situations and complicated information. We all have a superpower; it just varies individually.

And, knowing that I am goal-driven, that I will revel in complex challenges and that I will take initiative, it was important for me to understand and measure my level of wisdom. Yes, there are behavioral science tools that enable such measurement.

This measurable wisdom didn’t come without being self-aware, researching, surrounding myself with quality thought leaders and investing in educating myself. While I am inherently wise, I also know the importance of gaining knowledge and applying it judiciously.

As a single man, wisdom in making decisions was never an issue. What changed was becoming a family man, as the needs of others had to be built into my thinking. This is a good lesson for all: Your foundational behaviors do not change, but factors around them do and must be accounted for.

This Family Phase of life is when I began to understand the differences of practical wisdom. That is, knowing the right thing to do in a particular circumstance through understanding that particular circumstance, knowing what matters, and effectively reasoning to bring about what matters. The means to an end.

Practical versus theoretical

Theoretical wisdom is knowledge of things that don’t change. (Akin to unchanging innate behavior, which I talk about a lot because it is at the core of my work.) Then there are ethics – about what is really right and wrong…what is living well and living badly, as stated well in “Key Concepts in Practical Philosophy,” by David Arnaud and Tim LeBon.

Financial decision-making was my first real entry into the whole area of wisdom and decision-making. As a young man I was constantly confused by financial advisors who thought they understood me sufficiently to push investment opportunities my way. I never recall having a conversation about my life goals or reasons for wealth creation.

Their insight must have hinged – or so they thought – on generic or theoretical wisdom, because it certainly was not specific to me, the client.

So, began my (life and career) journey into understanding the importance of gaining wisdom through self-awareness, knowledge, experience and recognizing that I had, for example, a built-in, very high tolerance for financial market movements. And tolerance and resiliency around extreme life and business changes.

Put another way, I can quickly see changes coming and innately know what to do to position myself for the future. Also, with experience and with a rationale mind, I have learned to look at patterns of situations and the messages flowing out of them to discern what to do next. And the vision to synchronize and share that insight with others who needed to understand me in order to work with or advise me.

It became clear to me as I moved through life that wealth creation needed to have a purpose. Family security was obviously at the top of the list, but equally important was a quality life focus. THAT is the difference between theoretical and practical wisdom.

Wisdom, goals & wealth creation

The pandemic has clearly redefined direction for many people, and I’m no exception. Remote working has not harmed my business and the same can be said of many of our clients. Of course, like many others, I have had to invest in additional technology to make communication more effective, but in truth I – with my team – have continued to strategize and run and grow our global business (predominantly online).

In fact, over the last 8 or so years we had been moving the business to a virtual environment so we could be flexible and nimble, knowing that the world had become increasingly dynamic with fundamental business changes taking place every 2 years. The intuitive sense to do this could be said to be innate wisdom at work driven by rationality.

So, where does wisdom fit in this quality life scenario? For me, information alone is not wisdom. I believe wisdom is found in our own insight and the ability to piece together multiple bits of information to build a clearer picture. If nothing else, this period of being on lockdown has enabled many to rethink the life and lifestyle they have been leading.

Many of my friends and colleagues are reflecting on insights they’ve had. Often this is a reflection of ideas, life directions, goals and direction(s) they had in their youth. This fresh awakening of wisdom – and questioning the quality direction of their lives – is providing answers for the here and now.

And, yes, all of this can and should lead to conversations with financial advisors. Why? Wealth creation decisions are – and should be – made around life goals. And life goals are not the same for every person or even for the same people at different stages.

What role wisdom as life realigns?

If we’ve survived with remote working, can/should this approach continue? As our own opportunities increase, who can we help? Where can we make a difference? Who needs to be brought alongside us and coached?

All these thoughts have come not just from coping with a global virus but from knowing the importance of applying wisdom to our quality of life going into the future.

How will you calibrate your wisdom and sync such with quality life goals? In turn, how will you enable that to drive your work with and on behalf of clients, all the while helping them discover their balance for wisdom-quality life-financial decision-making?

Hugh Massie

Hugh Massie

Hugh Massie - President and Founder of DNA Behavior International

Hugh Massie is a Behavioral Finance Strategist helping people and organizations worldwide "behavioralize money". His purpose is to guide people to be Behaviorally SMART for achieving greater financial empowerment so they can live with meaning and unlock their human potential.

Hugh liberates investors, advisors and organizational leaders with a unique blend of financial personality and economic insights to make improved life, financial and business decisions.In particular, he helps people become more self-aware so they do not make emotional decisions under pressure which sabotage their relationships and long-term horizon goals.

Hugh has over 60,000 hours of experience serving millions of investors with assets of $1 to $1 billion+ and the leaders of more than 2,500 businesses in 123 countries. (www.BehaviorallySmart.com)