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How can wisdom be gained?

"A wise person is made not born".
Is this true? Why?
If it is, how is wisdom accumulated? And why is it 'practical' ?

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    Oct 9 2012: Wisdom I think, cannot be gained nor accumulate but shows itself spontaneously by opening the heart.

    Wisdom has no need for education for it's directed by love, presented with humility and the cause of a deep understanding.

    It is found among. men and women, among young and old, the literate as well the illiterate..
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      Oct 9 2012: Opening one heart is merely a figure of speech and metaphorical. What actually occurs physically? Wisdom hardly needs be presented with humility. Also, what is necessary to recognize this kind of wisdom your describing?

      Oddly enough if one Googles "Wisdom" one will find that most of the links are associated with religious references.
      Your reply implies a spiritual aspect as well, which creates an impression that wisdom has no secular meaning.
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        Oct 10 2012: Opening ones heart is metaphorical for connecting with the one heart we all share and to be aware that all living is one life. As Juliette says wisdom is born into our being but we forget it by learning stories that in the end covers all truth.

        It is wise to feel first and to think later.

        Spiritual is secular plus wisdom, religion is cultural.
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      Oct 9 2012: Ik hoor je Frans. Wijsheid is aangeboren voor alle schepping. Verloren door de slechte geheugen van een generatie. Het is altijd aanwezig en het is onze keuze om het te vinden ...... door zich stil en het beklimmen van de roert van het bewustzijn. Vandaag heb ik verveelde me dus ik besloot om nederlandse :) leren en te fleuren deze grijze dag ....... Ik hoop dat je het niet erg :)
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        Oct 10 2012: Your translation is a funny fuzzy wordmix Juliette.
        Yet you've brightened my day anyway.
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          Oct 11 2012: Men kan nooit genoeg vrienden in dit leven.
      • Oct 10 2012: De mijne ook
  • Oct 9 2012: First we have to understand what wisdom is, which has stumped me many many times.
  • Oct 12 2012: Experience is of supreme value in life.
    Good judgment comes from experience.
    Experience comes from bad judgment.

    A smart person learns from their mistakes.
    A wise person learns from others. (mistakes)
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    Oct 10 2012: By looking at the other side of the river and realizing that we ARE on the other side.

    By emptying our cup to fill it up again - unlearning what we learned to learn new things, forgetting past experiences to give room for new ones, serving others to rule over them, dying to live, etc.

    By using reason to explain what does not make sense. By not using reason to explain what is unreasonable. What makes sense does not need an explanation.

    To see things clearly, we need to stop seeing things that are not there (e.g. any meaning in these words).

    Wisdom is understanding nonsense. :-)
  • Oct 9 2012: Deep within, Plato says, one experiences a field of life that is pure, eternal, immortal, unified, and unchanging. Plato calls this state wisdom. The practical part of being wise is to be able to put your understanding into practice, to make a difference in your life and the lives of others.
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      Oct 9 2012: I agree..Plato states it with unparalleled beauty....
      and Socrates : "Wisdom begins in wonder.
      • Oct 10 2012: Hi, Juliette !
        Yes, wonder , beauty is the key ; the final call that directs to truth is always aesthetic.
        The capacity to wonder is the special gift of childhood that is destroyed by the act of growing up.
        What is actually growing up ? Our ego , the ego leads very quickly to separation and spiritual cul de sac...So , maybe the right question is not how wisdom can be gained , but how it can be restored or not lost ? Tame your ego and your wisdom will shine again. At least we should be aware that raise of ego was the wrong-turning :)
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          Oct 10 2012: It seems that the ego is actually what grows and changes along with the body. Healthy ego in children: "wow!! I can see my hand....hey I can crawl" ...I can walk...I can open a door.......In young adults: "let me help that blind person across the street...Wow I am strong...let me lift the heavy groceries for that elderly lady". We can further inflate our ego by pumping up our muscles or buying a sports car, or marrying someone half our age, etc ;-) Perhaps luckily ......"The ego is as permanent as are bodies" (Ernst Mach), which explains why when on the other side of youth, as age takes away the eye catching symbols of pride, then wisdom has a chance to show itself again:)
      • Oct 10 2012: It has something to do with pineal gland / the third eye/ the seat of the soul . It is constructed like an eye with all its eye rods and cones, it observes the light flashing inside the brain. It is observing the reality within.So to awaken the third eye, one must look within for the unconscious as Jung puts it, there is no room for ego.

        From Wikipedia : "The human pineal gland grows in size until about 1–2 years of age, remaining stable thereafter...".
        And a match from the older source :
        " Except you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven "

        Interesting ....:)
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          Oct 10 2012: That is a relief !!!!
      • Oct 11 2012: " The whole purpose of education is to recapture the mind of a child "
        ( A Chinese philosopher, don't remember the name )
        So, there is a hope , we can educate or reeducate ourselves to become curious like children ; ask questions always , not enjoy gained answers like adults do :)
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          Oct 11 2012: as we get older i think we get into malformation,children is the most right direction we should go to .as long as in china what runs like that .many men throw half of their food just in order to keen on is not a good thing ,
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          Oct 11 2012: There is hope for adults... an adult must climb up the ladder of wonder and innocence in order to live in heaven.
  • Oct 16 2012: Challenge accepted

    Challenge: Wisdom is when your reaction is equal to what you would've done if you had time to think about it.

    So experience is really the cornerstone of wisdom, if you want to be wiser you have to get out there and experience something new, (or maybe see someone else do it.) Because, as I see it, you can only become so familiar with something that your first thought/reaction is the right one, through a massive collection of trail and errors.

    Also I wonder if you get some good advice, and you can just imagine the situation(s) where this would come in handy, or get the adviser to tell a few examples, and in that way internalize this advise - put it into the subconscious - thus improving your wisdom?
  • Oct 14 2012: Wisdom is the form of love.

    Love is the why, wisdom is the how, and use is the result.

    End, Cause and Effect.

    So, love without wisdom is nothing, wisdom without love does nothing.

    The quality of the love sets the quality of the wisdom and so the quality of the person. So, we are what we love.
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      Oct 16 2012: Yep... 1 Corinthians 13.

      Focusing on love is a good advice. This is true of hate as well. If we focus on hate, we become what we hate.If in doubt, try hating intolerant people.

      "Love your enemy..." We are our own enemy (?) ... Hmm... I need to meditate on that...

      We are what we eat also. Avoid nuts in your diet. :)
      • Oct 16 2012: Seems to me that those that think differently than we do, we see as enemies. We need only little reason to kill them, especially if they go after our nuts in our diet.. :)
  • Oct 10 2012: Wisdom is gained by broadening one's frame of reference for understanding and acting from a broad view of potential consequences. The answer of how gain wisdom derives from this framework. Or, so it seems to me.
  • Oct 10 2012: I believe that humans are born in the innocence of ignorance. The object of life is to progress to the innocence of wisdom. Innocence is the willingness to be led by another.

    Wisdom consists in perceiving, willing and doing truths from love, and it involves an appetite for the good that comes out of, or is caused by, truth. It is, however, distinct from knowledge and intelligence, but these may lead to wisdom and are necessary for it.
    Just telling a kid what they did was stupid, does not do any good. A loving approach would do much more good.

    There are some very knowledgeable and intelligent people in jail, but would we call them wise?
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    Oct 10 2012: Yes..... In my case almost always through the billfold. I now have the wisdom to understand I am not a plumber .... a electrician .... and many other things I tell myself no sweat I can do this.

    The most terrifying words in my house is; "Dad said he will fix it".

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      Oct 10 2012: i think you are happy .with a dad that you can let him do the work that
      and i think you are lucky that you have a dad who can help you a lot in your life .
      and i think you are lucky that you can have much more rest .
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      Oct 10 2012: Re: "The most terrifying words in my house is; "Dad said he will fix it"."

      Brilliant advice for those who thinks that somebody "will fix it for them" and for those who thinks they "can fix it all by themselves". I would put this on a church billboard :-).
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    Oct 9 2012: Some think that what we recognize as wisdom is the result of multiple connections between neurons.
    Our brains absorb data, this data becomes information by linking the data together into neural networks, and in turn, information becomes knowledge. Knowledge can grow to be wisdom.
    A good analogy would be the way the letters of the alphabet can be combine to form words. These words can be placed in an order that forms sentences, which can then form paragraphs, essays and books. These all provide information and even knowledge. Wisdom is more abstract, in that it seems to be insight that is gained from a collection of knowledge.

    "Wisdom is not what is wise, but that by which it is wise; not what should be done, but why it should be done; not the answer, but the explanation."
    • Oct 10 2012: Looks like you're talking about my car.

      Everything is very beautifully linked in different networks. All parts are combined to form a car. Many of its parts "provide information and even knowledge."
      Sometimes it has the "insight" to lock the doors or stop a wheel from slipping.
  • Oct 9 2012: Having an ability to find a difference between being reckless and being brave could be one way to be wise, I suspect.
    While being logical, if a person can embrace another, he's wise.
    Even though I can't precisely define who a wise person is.

    We just know when see 'wise people'.

    What's interesting is that some people regarded as wise ones aren't always wise.
    They sometimes seem to be not enough(to be called "the wise")
    So it's like we happen to see traces of wisdom every day from the people we know of or from some events or from books, newspapers we read.
    Besides, from every proverb we hear from our parents and older generation could be slice-of-wisdom that shows our ancestors' wisdom.
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    Oct 9 2012: What I have learned by seeking wisdom:

    1. You should never be satisfied with what you think/feel you know.

    At the point where you think/feel you have gained wisdom, you should disregard the thought/feeling. If it is practical (useful and able to be built upon) no amount of rejecting can prevent the understanding. What tends to be practical does not consist solely upon static understanding, but majorly anticipates evolution and change.

    2. Individually we are limited to one perspective, so strive to not be an individual; desire multiple consciousnesses.

    Approach life realizing you know nothing, and look to others to configure what we collectively do not know. The happiest and/or most positive decision may not be the best in longevity; treat both the bad and good as equal momentarily in order to configure what 'works' in the long run. *Whether what 'works' is for yourself or everyone, is a question of virtue.
    (Appropriate school of thought: Existential Nihilism)

    3. Language is prior to understanding everything; words convey thoughts.

    Words are your friend as well as your enemy; treat them with the same respect you would the person you are talking with. Just like the idea/word of God varies from place to place, one must question what others mean when metaphysical concerns are being analyzed. Be mindful of the culture and society you are responding with.
    (Example: Platinum rule) (Relative ideologies: Ignosticism)

    Questions I ponder from what I learned:
    *Does virtue equal wisdom? Can a wise person have no virtue? Can a virtuous man have no wisdom?

    What does virtuous thinking look like; what is a positive spectrum of thought? When does or should knowledge and morality disconnect?

    If knowledge equals power, then what are we striving to gain power for? Altruism? Selfishness?

    What is the 'one' focal point where all questions lead? Is there there such a point of singularity?
    • Oct 9 2012: "*Does virtue equal wisdom? Can a wise person have no virtue? Can a virtuous man have no wisdom? "

      I think your asking some very important questions here. My question in return is what role do origins play in this quest? Is a man who has been conditioned to be virtuous also a man of wisdom? Is he still considered a man of virtue?
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        Oct 9 2012: Aesthetically... origin stories... they please mankind because it satisfies metaphysical longings. Wanting to know how we began is arguably wired into our brain. Whether the wiring is natural, or a response to evolving culturally; is a great question.

        Religiously; groupthought. The origin stories are less important than the entire group believing the story.

        I find that the question of 'God' assimilates a lot of euphoric thoughts. Therefore, God is all knowing and all good, so to aim towards finding God will access virtuous thinking (feeling enlightened while acting/thinking), or at least the thought-feeling you are being virtuous... Project this determination into a group mindset = hard to change either mindset.

        Objectively, I don't think origin stories are as much to blame as cultural-based virtues. Christians do a lot of work to feed children around the world, yet the whole world is responsible for millions of them dying a year from starvation. No logical conclusion is being made, rather, the position no system is teaching virtuous thinking apparently. Perhaps if nationalism equates virtue, like Socrates in the Crito. Which I disagree.

        “One will do what is right or best just as soon as one truly understands what is right or best” - Socrates.

        Virtue epistemology or epistemological ethics, has been around forever.

        Why did we ignore those propositions?

        So, I sum up with this; longevity mindsets is a major key for virtue. Good for health also.
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        Oct 9 2012: Interesting question Brian!
        Virtue: "strength; courage; commendable quality or trait; capacity to act; moral excellence; beneficial quality or power"

        Wisdom: ";accumulated philosophic or scientific learning; ability to discern inner qualities and relationships; insight; good sense; a wise attitude or course of action;"

        From the basic definitions, it seems that virtue and wisdom support each other?

        I cannot imagine how a wise person would not have virtue (strength; courage; commendable quality or trait; capacity to act; moral excellence; beneficial qualities).

        And I also cannot imagine how a virtuous person would not be wise (accumulated learning; ability to discern inner qualities and relationships; insight; good sense; wise attitude or course of action).

        Wisdom and virtue both provide a foundation for the other....what do you think? Can you think of a situation where a person may NOT have all of these qualities?
        • Oct 10 2012: I think it all depends on the social context. Is a person wise to have moral excellence in a vicious narcissistic environment where altruistic qualities would be maladaptive? Im not sure, we are humans and have evolved to be social creatures so this question may be unanswerable. However I guess if I have to take a stance on this I think it is impossible to be either virtuous and unwise or to be wise and unscrupulous. They seem to go hand in hand and from my personal experience the times i had no virtue I certainly wasn't wise. I don't claim wisdom and hope I never do, but I know when i try to behave virtuously i am more at peace with myself. Either way they seem to work in unison colleen, good question.
      • Oct 9 2012: Is a wise man virtuous? No. And Yes.
        If we think of a typical evil villain (let's say a mad scientist wishes to destroy the world) he may "have" wisdom but he chooses to ignore it. On the other hand, is he really wise if he ignores it?
        On the other hand, imagine a villager who is innocent to the point of gullibility. He is charitable and kind and loving, bla bla bla. If he gives away all his possessions in order to rid his village of poverty and lets himself be tricked by men who wish to get a bit of free money, he is most certainly unwise. But no one can argue that he is not virtuous.
        • Oct 10 2012: Maybe the man who gave away everything to those who wish to extort him is not virtuous. Maybe he knew he would perpetuate a pathological selfishness in these men/women by offering everything up. Or maybe he meant to propose a choice where one either listens to the conscience or ignores it. Could be either...
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          Oct 30 2012: Leo and Brian,
          Using the example of an evil villain who wishes to destroy the world, who may have wisdom and chooses to ignore it, you ask Leo,..." he really wise if he ignores it?" In my perception, he is neither wise OR virtuous! It seems unwise to ignore wisdom in oneself for the purpose of destroying the world! I do not think wisdom can be ignored, because, in my perception, it is a "knowing".....too much a genuine part of us to be ignored.

          Regarding the villager who gives away all his possessions...
          I agree with Brian that there could be many underlying influences for his decision, so I could indeed argue that he may not be virtuous.
    • Oct 9 2012: Hello Mr. Lukowiak!
      Thanks for writing here. I have a question about something you wrote in your text.
      Words. Wonderful words. Why are they important? You said : "Language is prior to understanding everything; words convey thoughts." So if I come from a setting where words are used seldom and my vocabulary is limited, am i less wise? Am I stupid because I am often speechless? And if I like to think in colors and pictures, am I inferior to others?
      Yours sincerely
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        Oct 9 2012: Even if this exchange was verbal, you would still rely on words - whether they are few and limited.

        I don't feel frequency (amount of words) is as important as the context or content.

        No words at all... That's a situational concern. When and why would you have nothing to say, is as important as what you are not/reject responding to.

        I feel it is 'how' you think and not 'what' you think that matters most. The process, not the results - should be continually analyzed. However, the 'what' and the results are still important.

        So, if you use less words, does not mean anything. Speechlessness is the state prior to finding something to say, so not stupid. I doubt anyone purely thinks in colors and pictures, but if they did, I (or anyone) has a way to determine if it is interior in anyway.
  • Oct 8 2012: I believe wisdom can only be accumulated through pain and error. While it sounds morose, experience alone does not insure your wisdom: does the fact you are older make you wiser? I do not believe that true. Rather, I think the intensity of the experience and your choices decide whether you become 'wiser'.
    • Oct 9 2012: Intensity can turn you away from wisdom. Learning wisdom requires we think about the experience, turn it over and around in our minds so it settles firmly. Learning this lesson early in life can make you a wiser person in your later years. If you lean it later in life, it will still serve you well.

      Regrettably, wisdom can have a half-life and be lost altogether by mental disease such as Alzheimer.
      This brings up the question of whiter wisdom is really the main reason for living life. Can a person live a full and comfortable life with only simple wisdom at their command? Should a person's sole reason for living be devoted to learning wisdom?
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    Oct 19 2012: Wisdom comes from the capacity to learn, the hability to listen and the most important, acknowledging our own ignorance
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    Oct 16 2012: I think:
    The virtue (SYNBIOTC rules, conscience, moral, ...) comes form:
    (1) Mainly from our DNA (ancestors' successful experiences), and
    (2) Partly from learning in our life.

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    Oct 16 2012: Wisdom is finding who we are.
    If we dig deep inside, we can find ourselves [even] at the bottom of a trash can.
    Happy National Grouch Day, everybody!
    Let's have a schadenfreude party!
  • Oct 14 2012: YO! Cool answers. Oh, and by the way, dear TEDies, whenever answering to the challenge please write "Challenge : " before the answer.
  • Oct 12 2012: 50 comments! Yay! I really like your thoughts and ideas, TEDies.
    However, I noticed most of the comments here are smart yet complicated to the degree of having an average of 10 letters per word. I would like to pose a challenge.

    Challenge: Write a definition of 'wisdom' in a single sentence. Each word is not allowed to have more than four syllables.

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    Oct 12 2012: Wisdom can be obtained over time, of course, and make up for our general diminishing of reflexes and intelectual ability. In fact, I believe that's what keeps us going as we get older, as what we have learned over the years serves the useful purpose of making us more knowledgeable and capable in different fields. I guess that's the only way to contend with the younger generations.

    Practice makes perfect.
  • Oct 11 2012: A couple of days ago, I read a very interesting article of reasons and intuitions.
    According to that article, when two people are arguing each other, each one has different concepts of "I have a hunch." And when they try to persuade each other, they use logic to make sense. Even if what the opposition part is illustrating sounds reasonable, one can't be convinced because there's his intuition that tells him, "What he's saying is wrong. You're right. You just don't know how to express yourself more clearly." So, reasons can't be the only factor to convince someone.
    Some disagrees with the author of article, but I think it's quite probable in many ways. Some TED talks are very logical and well-organized, but sometimes I think there's something I want to disagree with the speakers. But for me, TED speakers with reasons and also various ways of emotional approaches are pretty inspiring. Perhaps TED is one of the places where 'practical' wisdom is quite prevailing. Not just by mere cleverness, but with creative ways of approaching each one's intuition field, a speaker can be glowing, which I admire.
    And when he is, we applaud out of gratitude, realization and with unutterable joy for the reason that we find a practical wisdom, which enriches our lives including the very moment of listening to him from the talk.
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      Oct 11 2012: David Hume mentioned in 1739 that "An opinion... or belief may be most accurately defined, a lively idea related to or associated with a present impression." Experience or reasoning increases the "vivacity" of the impression or idea making us believe. Belief in itself is always based on emotions. Reasoning matters only as much as it affects our emotions. Modern psychology also reveals that we make most judgments subconsciously, without even being aware of how we arrive at our conclusions. At least, this is what I believe too :-). I "feel" that humans are much less reasonable beings than they like to think of themselves.

      Julian Jaynes mentioned: "Logic is the science of the justification of conclusions we have reached by natural reasoning. My point here is that, for such natural reasoning to occur, consciousness is not necessary. The very reason we need logic at all is because most reasoning is not conscious at all."

      This is what I meant by saying "What makes sense does not need an explanation."
      • Oct 12 2012: Thanks for your reply. Yeah, that reminds me of a remark of David Hume… Reason is the "slave of the passions", which Kant disagrees. Actually Kant admitted the fact that emotions and other desires in ourselves could affect us, that is, he didn't deny the existence of our emotions even though he argues we should cling to reasons and act according to the very laws we give ourselves autonomously (with logical process). Personally I love Kant's idea more than empiricists like David although I found the article very convincing. According to Kant, the fact that principle of morality is dependent on some duty made by pure practical reasons makes me somewhat less uneasy(so to speak) since if it's true, then, the way to serve justice in our society is seemingly clearer than relying on utilitarianism, which contains various contingencies.
        Anyway, I agree with your last part of comment, "What makes sense does not need an explanation." Do you think this is because we, humans, have basically same intuition that makes us sympathize with each other(unconsciously)? Or since we are rational beings, do we almost come to same conclusion, ”This really makes sense, very logical.” ? Perhaps, in our subconscious, we might have both of capability to think logically and to have the same hunch..? Now thanks to (modern)psychology, we can find answers quite flexibly compared to those great philosophers in the past… :)
  • Oct 10 2012: Ah, Leo, it's all about experience. That's what it takes to gain wisdom. When you experience, you see new stuff and improve your senses, response and perceptions about the world around you. It's not necessary only old people are wise, you just have to go out into the world and see stuff for yourself because wisdom has no age - it's all in your head!
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    Oct 10 2012: It feels like wisdom can be gained just through knowledge of all that we experience, but when we think we're nearly there, one realises how little we know.

    For wisdom, I think it's better to have breadth of experience, rather than depth. By going too deep into isolated specialisms, one loses the all-important context of that knowledge and of how it interacts with other branches of knowledge.

    Knowledge on its own is just remembered facts - not wisdom. However, context and interrelatedness go some way in transforming that knowledge into wisdom.

    It's interesting that in education we measure intelligence and wisdom primarily on miniscule parts of our brain's capability - usually memory.

    True wisdom is an accumulation of all that our minds are capable of conceiving and perceiving, tempered by morality and ethics, and made accessible by empathy.

    "Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens"
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    Oct 9 2012: You are wise to ask this question...
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    Oct 9 2012: Wisdom is gained by knowledge and experience. But experience in this case has nothing to do with lengthy years of doing something.
    Wisdom can be gained by a passionate search for knowledge, combined with adoption of the strategies, principles and values of men and women who have been proven to be wise by their results; and then the application of the accumulated knowledge to the peculiarity of one's situation.
    Knowledge and its application with understanding: that is wisdom.
    Why is it practical? Wisdom is known by its result.
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    Oct 9 2012: when you make your choice single.then you gian wisdom
    we human being are contradictory individal .we always consider too much when we make decisions .so it can impact our thought . when you make a quick decision .you will feel the wisdom of yourself ,
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    Gail .

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    Oct 9 2012: In THIS global culture, a wise person is made after wisdom is stripped from them in the earliest years.

    Wisdom is gained by knowing yourself completely. What do you think/emote/feel/believe and why. As we untangle the contradictions, mistakes, and untested assumptions of our belief structures, we become able to probe questions in greater depth than the sheeple. The deeper you can take a problem, the more you see the many parts that relate to one another (just as you can see more by flying over an area than you can see from the ground).

    Shallow thinking is taught to us in our formal educations and by religion. When we allow others to think for us, we become shallow, and shallow people are never wise.
  • Oct 9 2012: I believe wisdom is gained not from experience, but from reflection of experience. There is no wisdom in experiencing any given situation or circumstance, wisdom is a product of understanding through analysis and reflection of circumstance. The reflection would most likely include, the role of self, the role of others, and the role of environment in a given experience. Wisdom arrises from knowing and accepting the self, both "good" and "bad"aspects.
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    • Oct 9 2012: Come è innata saggezza? Da dove viene nuova saggezza viene?
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    Oct 8 2012: Experience. It's the only way. To be able to anticipate outcomes at the level of wisdom, you have to have experienced a lot of outcomes and a variety of variables.

    Too bad corporations and companies have forgotten this.