What I Learned About Wisdom While Crawling Towards the Finish Line

Aaron McHugh

Photo @1997 Rich Cruise Ironman Finish line
Photo @1997 Rich Cruise Ironman Finish line

My definition of wisdom is doing something wrong so many times; you finally learn know how to do it right. The first time I learned this lesson was while I was on all fours crawling towards the finish line. When I was younger, I saw wise people seemingly make fewer mistakes.

As I watched them I witnessed how they operated with some kind of Jedi super power that enabled them to see around the next bend.

In work and life they knew

  • what to do
  • what to say
  • what not to say
  • when to say it.

At the time, I couldn’t claim these as areas of strength.

In the void of having experience I read a lot of books to gather more information.

Experience is worth a lot.

I listened to a younger woman recently expound on how a particular speaker that we listened to failed to connect with the audience.

It wasn’t that I necessarily disagreed with her.

What was missing was the reason she believed that the speaker failed.

She read in a book how a speaker should connect with an audience.

I’ve read a lot of books about how to be a better speaker, or writer, or runner or husband.

None of those books made me wise.

I gained some great information, but wisdom doesn’t come from a book.

“DNF” for my first marathon

In my first attempt at running a Marathon, I decided to wake up at 4 am and eat a whole bowl of spaghetti, take a handful of Advil and only drink water, not Gatorade during the race.

I had a plan.

I read it in a book.

I decided to try it for the first time on race day.

By the time I reached mile seventeen I was involuntarily dispensing the spaghetti on the racecourse.

By mile twenty-four I was on all fours crawling towards the medical tent.

In racing they call it a “DNF” when you “Do Not Finish”.

Now I have wisdom on how to run a marathon.

But most of what I know is a result of doing it wrong more times than I can count.

Use the books for gaining information, but use experiences to solidify wisdom.

I hope we will allow our mistakes to teach us.

Let me know if you want that marathon training program.

I bet I could dig it up for you.