"The Wisdom of Years"

Forgive the pretentious title – it is intended to be ironic, but I’m not sure it comes across.

This week saw my 37th birthday, and as I trotted out the old phrase one year older and wiser, I actually stopped and thought about it. Sure, I’m one year older, but am I any wiser?

Wisdom is a very slippery fish to catch. The more you think you have of it, the less you probably do. In fact I’d go so far as to say that it’s an attribute that can only be conferred, not assumed. On the other hand, decisions and opinions can be examined in retrospect, and this perhaps provides a rough indication?

But I digress. As a proxy for an increase in wisdom, I decided to reflect on what I’ve learnt. Or perhaps more accurately on something that has struck me in a more than superficial way.

The two items I have chosen are both “soundbites” which have resonated with me. In both cases they are quotes from a blog (although not the same one).

Keep the room clean where you are, and in God’s time, the door to the next room will open.

(Things I have learned, by John Piper)

This quote really struck me, because of my personal profile. I am very much an initiator – I love starting new things, taking on new challenges, attacking new problems. The downside is that I get bored quite quickly, and want to move on to the next thing. I find it easy to lose interest in the ‘room’ I am in – allow dust and cobwebs to settle in the corners, leave stuff all over the floor. I know there’s a new exciting room next door, so I stop looking after this one as well as I could. God, I believe, is teaching me patience – to take pride in the room I’m in, and get it absolutely as clean as I can. To expose all the dark corners, have it open for inspection at any time with no fear of a moudly sandwich being found under the sofa.

Keep feeling stupid

(Thoughts on Developer Longevity, by Davy Brion)

While this piece is particularly about software developers, I believe it applies across life. His paragraph clarifies the sentiment. I hope he’ll forgive me quoting him verbatim:

Once you think you know it all, you’re pretty much done and are only harming yourself, your customers and the poor people who have the misfortune to work with you. Instead, keep reading blogs and books by people who are smarter than you, who are talking about things you don’t understand. When you’re reading their material and their code, you’ll probably feel stupid. Which is great because those are the times when you are most open to learning new things. Keep reading until you get it, and then, start experimenting with what you’ve just learned. Keep doing this over and over again. In short: Keep feeling stupid, it’s the only way to keep learning.

If you generalise the business and computing specific stuff, isn’t that great? Nobody likes feeling stupid, but it’s actually doing things you can’t do, or don’t find easy that provide the best learning.