Wisdom by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Photo by Author

Ever have silly arguments? You know, the kind that even IF you win, don’t gain you anything? … The kind that AFTER you “win,” you feel like you lost? Like winning an argument with a 6 year old. … Yes, right is right, but being right doesn’t always make us wise. There’s a difference between being RIGHT and being WISE.

We’d taken a trip to Lost Dutchman State Park (in Arizona’s Superstition Mountains). It was spring and there were some amazing wildflowers. Spring in the Sonoran desert is the HOT time before it gets REALLY hot. And wildflowers in the desert are always incredible. Why? Because the desert is usually brown and wildflowers are colorful. It’s quite a spectacle to see beautiful, colorful flowers in a desolate, hot, and brown environment. The contrast is breath-taking.

A few years later, as we looked at the pictures, we all agreed that we’d made the trip. The pics proved it (well, Photoshop aside). We all agreed that we’d seen wildflowers and that they were beautiful. What we DIDN’T agree on was the date of the trip. I said one year. Someone else said another year. We got into an argument. … I KNEW I was right. As the argument escalated (over the date of the trip – unbelievable!), I went to my computer, pulled up the original jpeg file and “proved” I was right. … Yep, won the battle and lost the war. Over something as silly as the DATE of a trip. Who cares?

Recently, I heard a CEO get introduced (within his own company) as the CFO. The CEO didn’t say anything. Didn’t correct the guy making the introduction. Never batted an eye. … Last week, I witnessed someone mispronounce a word while making a presentation. Someone else in the room “corrected” them. It was a trivial part of the presentation, but the person who was “right” made a big deal of the mispronunciation, embarrassed the speaker, and looked like an idiot. True.

Please don’t misunderstand; there ARE times correction is necessary. When right is right. When a word, number, or time are critically important. When it’s worth publicly correcting another. There are times when it’s trivial and being “right” results in loss. Loss of relationship. Loss of face. Loss of time. Etc.

The world-class leader understands the difference. When to correct. When to “let it go.” … Think how “small” the CEO would have looked if he had made a big deal about being introduced incorrectly.

There are times to assert your rights. Times to point out something that isn’t 100% right. Times when it is worth correcting someone publicly. Yet, more often than not, what I observe is that those who consistently point out every trivial mis-truth don’t move ahead. They aren’t looked upon favorably. Why? They lack tact. They lack wisdom. They look “small.” They focus on the minutia (whether it’s important or trivial).

Wisdom understands what is important. What is critical. What is trivial. What is worth “letting go.” What is worth correcting publicly. What is worth correcting privately. What is worth ignoring.

The CEO’s stature grew in the eyes of his audience because he overlooked the mis-introduction. It was not critical to his presentation. On the other hand, though I was “right” about the date of the trip, the argument and my assertion of my “rightness” damaged a relationship (for a few hours). It was definitely NOT worth it!

Learn to focus on the major. The critical. The important. Learn to overlook the trivial. The meaningless. The unimportant. That which is not germane. … Be wise. Focus on the outcome of the war, not the battle.

What are some ways you’ve demonstrated wisdom? … Or asserted your “rightness” at the expense of wisdom?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

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