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Modern Wisdom

George Grombacher August 10, 2023

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Modern Wisdom

What is wisdom and is it different from modern wisdom? What role does age play and does it matter? Are you a wise person today, and will you be one in the future?

George talks about why and how to pursue wisdom, and why its pursuit has never been more important. 


Here are the quotes referenced:

“There are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots.”

  1. Hamilton Lee, 1949

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”

Isaac Asimov

“Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”

Albert Einstein


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George Grombacher

Episode Transcript

There are old pilots, and bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots. Have you ever heard that before? You probably have. It was a quote by E. Hamilton Lee from 1949, talking about air mail, and the importance of getting mail across the country via airplane and staying on schedule and meeting deadlines. And having the wisdom to recognize that, yeah, we’re up against it. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to cut corners or be too overly aggressive. take unnecessary risks. So I’ve always enjoyed that. And I’ve been thinking about wisdom, in the context of wisdom and age, as well as wisdom and technology, as we’re living through constant technological advancements and innovations, most recently, AI and chat GPT and stuff like that. And where does wisdom fit into this? For my my work, specifically, I work at personal finance. And so I think a lot about financial literacy versus financial wellness, and in some ways, that the, the relationship there hinges directly on wisdom. Financial literacy is I know, I know stuff. I have amassed information at my fingertips, it’s in my head. Financial wellness is actually using the information, putting it to work in a way that serves me. So I’m not just an educated derelict. I’m somebody who is wise and a good steward of my resources, and has an understanding, I think that that’s really, when I think about what wisdom is, those are big parts of it. In terms of age, and wisdom, I think that it’s an interesting relationship. Sometimes it’s a direct relationship. And sometimes there’s not a relationship at all. There are plenty of old people, older people who are incredibly wise, but being old does not necessarily equate to wisdom, any more than being young does not necessarily equate to being foolish, you know, people who are young people who are very wise, we call them old souls, just people that are wise beyond their years, so and so forth. Maybe that’s you, I hope that it is. Fundamentally I think that we need a lot more people that fall into that camp. That’s certainly something that I’m aspiring to do is to acquire wisdom. And I could certainly attest to that I’m getting closer to it as I get a little bit older experience and things like that. And that being said, there is also a diminishing relationship between age and, and wisdom. Because the reality is, Father Time is undefeated. Getting old comes for all of us at some point, we reach a point where we’re just cognitively, physically not able to do the things that we used to do. And I think what really got me on this topic, though, I’ve sort of been on it with technology and struggling with that, and my place with it and its place in my life. was watching our elected officials age, like right in front of our eyes, blatantly, sometimes pretty grossly got Mitch McConnell doing what happened with him and Dianne Feinstein what’s happening with her? And obviously, President Biden and John Fetterman, that’s less so that’s just ability, not necessarily correlated with age. And that’s probably deeper conversation. That’s sort of what got me on, on on this one. Perhaps a better or a different way to think about that is is through through sports. We’ve got Tom Brady, I think he retired, he finally retired. But he wanted to perform as long as he possibly could. And you have the emergence of athletes like Tom Brady and LeBron James, who are 20 years into their professional athletic careers, which is is amazing and beating odds. And these are people that I think that it’s such a hard thing because they want to be just to themselves. And a, and for every Tom Brady and LeBron, we have people that also want to be just to themselves who feel like they could still perform at a really high level. But it becomes clear that they cannot. And that’s a really, really big, that becomes a sad thing. When we see athletes that are going out there, and maybe they’re having to do it for a paycheck, maybe they’re doing it because they’re passionate about it. But they clearly are no longer able to perform at the level or anywhere close to the level that they used to be able to perform at. This is particularly clear when it comes to professional fighting. If it’s boxing or mixed martial arts, you can just tell when a fighter has crossed over that crossed the Rubicon as it would be over to the point where they’ve gone on for too long. And Father Time has caught up with them. But I totally get it. biological age, it’s very, very subjective and very, very relative. And for people who want to ride it till it dies, and hold on for as long as they possibly can. I I totally get it. And who am I to say that you ought to or you ought not to do that. It’s a tricky thing. The same thing goes for I suppose politics and in business. I think also I know that ageism is a real problem and a real thing. That how do we how do we reconcile all these things? How do we reconcile the value of the wisdom that we attain over time, hopefully, with our ability to perform in at a higher level as we possibly can? It’s a very tricky thing. What do you think about wisdom? Do you think about wisdom? Do you think about your relationship with wisdom? Are you a wise person? Do you wish to be a wise person? I think that maybe we will stumble upon wisdom on our own hard won lessons through adversity. And I think that we can also endeavor to become wise people endeavor to be the kind of people that we want, as we, as we do get older. And as we do take on different roles and responsibilities in our lives. I had on a couple of times, a very wise man named Mark winters on the podcast. He said something to me so profound that has stuck with me for years and years and years, and has really informed my thinking about who, what, how I want to be perceived when I’m old, when I’m already old, when I’m older. When I’m a quote unquote senior citizen, when I may, a grandparent if I am blessed and find myself in that situation. Anyway, Mark said, I want to be the kind of person I want to be a person that my kids and my grandkids and other people want to be around. When I’m old. I don’t want to be the grandpa or the grandma that sits in the corner by by themselves. And you know, the parent has to force their kids to go go give grandma grandpa hug and a kiss. But they don’t have anything to offer. And the kids do it reluctantly. That’s certainly not something that I want at all. And we’ve all witnessed that. We’ve all had to prod kids to go and interact with grandma or grandpa or whoever it might be. So how do I make myself as in? I know about Simran? A little bit but I think you get the idea.

How do I make myself as strong and capable and contributed Tori as I possibly can be for as long as I can be that way. And I think that that is a very, very positive aspirational way to think about getting older. And to do that requires wisdom. It requires that I am wise in how I am making decisions about every aspect of my life and making big trade offs. Am I am I working to keep My noodle sharp noodle being my brain? Am I Am I maintaining my physical health for as long as I possibly can? Am I being mindful of the foods that I’m putting into my body and how I’m moving my body and maintaining my, my strength and my muscles and all these things? I think that that’s all part of wisdom is recognizing the need to make wise decisions and good decisions and the trade offs that we must make. When I’m saying yes to one thing, I’m saying no to everything else. And I’m making decisions. Today, I am planting trees that hopefully I will sit under, but certainly other people will sit under. But I am putting myself in position to either be that grammar or that grandpa in the corner that nobody wants to talk to, sorry, grandma, or grandpa, or the really engaging grandma or grandpa that everybody wants to be around. They want to get counsel from them. They want to hear their stories, they want to just spend time with them. I think that that’s really what I want. So it’s a desire to become wise, and then to continue becoming wiser. And there’s so much wisdom out there. And I think that you’re probably like me that you love a good quote. And it was a couple of quotes on wisdom that I wanted to share with you. And I’m confident that they will stick with you. And I’ll put them in the in the in the notes of the show as well. So four quotes, the first from Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, saying the invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common. What do you think about that one? The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common. And this, this one strikes me that it’s easy to fall in love with progress and innovation. And easy to forget that things that are working are amazing. And we can see this, as we struggle in our major cities across the United States with homelessness and addiction, and just how this experiment of taking New York City, for example, you’ve got, you know, 10s of millions of people living in this really and successfully working together and, and and, and interacting with one another every day, pretty flawlessly. And to be able to recognize that that is not an easy feat. And we think it’s common, but it is miraculous. So to be able to it’s a mark of wisdom to be able to see the miraculous in the common. It’s like, wow, this thing works. It is working. It is miraculous. We really ought to take that perspective. And you can think about that in every aspect of life. It’s just you and I are going out and about and going through our daily lives. There is a lot of miraculous stuff going on there. And we should be extremely grateful for that. The next one is from an Isaac Asimov and it gets more to technology. And Isaac Asimov, it appears to be unclear what year he was born. But I believe it was in the 20th century, so the early 1900s, and he died. I just looked at it, I think in the 70s, or maybe the 80s. So 1970 1980 the status aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. So what would he say? You know, let’s assume that he died in the 70s. So 50 years ago, who satis aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. Well, there is no doubt about that. One of the things about artificial intelligence, just take it right at its name. It’s intelligent, sure, but it is artificial. So it’s not real intelligence. And again, this whole idea of being educated, their elective, you can know plenty of stuff that if you are unable to interpret, or to put to work into practice, the information that you have, well, you might be smart, but you’re certainly not wise. And I’m really fun to say and I’d rather Be useful than brilliant. And I think that that in itself is a wise desire and statement doesn’t mean I pull it off. But I think that’s really what Iceman is getting at here. So again, the status aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. And we are drowning in information. It’s everywhere, at our fingertips, on our phones, everywhere on our wrists, soon to be right in front of our eyes, even though it’s always been right in front of our eyes. But are we getting any wiser? And I tend to think that we’re not MLK Jr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Knowledge is a process of piling up facts, wisdom lies in their simplification, drowning in information, starving for wisdom, that is what we are doing. What we’ve probably always done, isn’t that what this is getting at is that this is a common hallmark of humanity. Whether it’s, you know, 100 years ago, 500 years ago, is that it’s not about information. It’s rather the simplification, the understanding the application, and the wise use of wisdom. And finally, from Einstein, any fool can No, the point is to understand. So you know, something, but do you understand it? These are questions that I’m struggling with, and quotes that I really enjoyed. And been spending a good amount of time thinking and writing about writing, and the value of thinking and writing. And as those words leave my mouth, kind of a silly thing. But how much time do you spend thinking? Like really thinking? I know that I’m constantly thinking, but am I intentionally thinking, am I considering Am I pondering? Am I ruminating on things? Am I then writing down thoughts and formulating my own thoughts and opinions and making up my own mind on things? I think that that process, we’ll just call it journaling writing is super, super valuable thing, and is a great way to get on the path to greater wisdom, greater understanding, greater simplification. And those are really, really important things as they have been 1000 years ago, as they are today, as they will be 1000 years from now. So as always, do your part by doing your best

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