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  • Raghav Sand

Wisdom: Acquired and Borrowed

Wisdom is knowledge that is gained from the experiences in life. It is the ability to differentiate the proper and reasonable from the abstract. Wisdom facilitates better reasoning and decision making. Too often we have been given answers to remember, rather than problems to solve.

The Unknown

Few problems have a cut/copy-paste answers, while others require ingenuity. Trying to solve every problem with a hammer is like treating everything as a nail. Achievers and winners give emotional and practical testimonials, but no one will ever share their secret sauce. Engaging in futile and combative discourse with chronic critics can make you a person you never wish to become. If at any point, you feel someone is trying to talk you down or inject toxicity, forgive them and move ahead.

Unknown problems take time to solve. When you encountered a never seen before question in any sort of examination, what was your approach? You probably recalled the advice of taking a step-by-step approach. There is no other way to solve an unknown problem. And if this was a compulsory question, you had to give it a go anyways. After all, there are only a few questions which come in the either/or category. Those who devote resources to the process before obsessing about the result, find light at the end of the tunnel, sooner.

Process and Purpose

All human endeavours don’t result in success. Every self-help book or audio-visual content on the internet emphasizes that failure is the stepping stone to success. Falling short of triumph is a bigger teacher than making it to the podium. In subsequent attempts, you should substantiate the strengths and pay attention to functions where you had previously fallen short. In case, you resolve to undertake a new project, the first-hand experience from earlier projects is helpful.

The current situation of the person making a statement can make a huge difference to the audience. When a struggling person talks about failure it may sound like an excuse. On the other hand, when a successful person recollects a low point in their journey, it takes the shape of a testimonial. We need an audience, or at least a handful sensible and rational people around us at all times.

When a humble person attains fame and fortune, they are not trying to brag while narrating their story. Similarly, a person who has fallen short of the target is not looking for pity or sympathy. Actions always speak louder than words. Stop talking about dreams and start setting targets, because dreams are visualized, while targets are achieved.

Choose and Pick

It takes both sun and water for a flower to grow. Excess or deficit of either element can become the reason for a plant to perish. Appreciation and criticism have the same effect on humans. Looking for constant approval from one and all is counterproductive. How much criticism is enough and who should be given the liberty to criticize us? You have to set the threshold for both these questions yourself. No one else should be allowed or asked to set them for you.

Some criticism is misguided caring, while on few instances it is feedback through wrong choice of words. The worst form of criticism is when it is irrational and insensitive. Growing old and attaining maturity are two completely different things. Just because someone is older than you, they cannot possibly always be right.

A habit to speak out of turn or the impulse to unnecessarily provide unsolicited and misdirected advice is the main reason why all of us have at least a dozen (could be much more for some of you) self-proclaimed know-it-all gurus loitering too close to comfort. Don’t get easily bothered by anything and everything said to you. Filter the right signal and eliminate the noise.

Endless Possibilities

Being part of the crowd has been crucial for human evolution. Some of our ancestors had the brain, while others had muscle power. When both the elements came together, humans built weapons, ploughed fields, conquered predators and found cures to diseases. Lately, the pursuit of power and prosperity has made us look inward. The misery on Earth will multiply exponentially if the energy and efficiency of crowd is not applied for common good.

The crowd is not an evil force or a collection of misguided people, but those who harness people for myopic acts of self-glorification must be identified and dealt unsympathetically. The opportunities and possibilities of a well-intentioned people’s movement are endless.

Never base your decisions on the advice of those who don’t have to deal with the results. Solitude has long been associated with creativity and transcendence. “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible,” Picasso said. A central narrative of many religions is the seeker. Buddha, Sri Ramakrishna, and Mira Bai — wandered off by themselves and brought profound insights back to society.


Apart from a false sense of cooperation and harmony, groupthink has all the ingredients necessary to ruin relationships in the long term. Government and private corporations have formalised hierarchy, with clear demarcation of function and accountability. More often than not, the head of the group, a President or Prime Minister or Chief Executive Officer takes the final call. The head of state and enterprise consider suggestions from their council of ministers and board of directors, respectively.

Being wrong after taking a decision based on collective wisdom is rare. Groupthink can be helpful in some situations. When a group of friends or acquaintances agree upon watching or playing a sport or make travel plans, groupthink can save valuable resources and the joy of togetherness can multiply the fun quotient.

Government, private enterprises, educational institutions, families and various other groups of individuals function on the basis of decisions. The degree of democratization varies on a case-to-case basis. When groupthink is the norm, critical thinking may succumb due to deterioration of mental efficiency. The probability of success in groupthink is low and personal biases amplify in such dysfunctional groups.

Decision-making by groups can be as bad as the decisions made by an individual on the same subject. Sometimes, groups do worse than individuals. Groupthink can reduce knowledge sharing and creativity, thereby diminishing key benefits of group decision making. Group decisions are subject to factors such as social influence, including peer pressure, and group dynamics.

Become a Seeker

Knowledge and skill are important to make a living. Parents, teachers, genuine friends and few people at the workplace, equip us with vital life-altering lessons. Not all lessons have a happy ending. Some of the experiences of our mentors also include advice about how not to do something. Being cautioned about an impending mistake is priceless. We should make new mistakes and push the envelope of human evolution forward.

You are not going to master these skills right after reading this article. Assess yourself intellectually and emotionally. Depending upon where you stand at the moment, do what is necessary. Internalize the process and seek help. It takes humility to seek feedback and wisdom to understand it.

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