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.

  • StefanLoble

    One thing that adds huge efficiency for me is realizing when my wisdom falls short, and bringing in a resource for what I don’t know. But then the problem becomes being aware of what you don’t know, which is hard – especially in brand new pursuits.

    Great post!

    • Stefan you’ve most certainly developed a backlog of wisdom through your adventure with Bluff Works. Think of how great an NPR interview you’ll make some day. Will be fun to listen to the stories that you’ll have to tell.

  • Lisa-Marie Cabrelli

    This is why it kills me when I hear of someone hiring a business coach who has never had a business other then their business coaching business. Wisdom is only gained through experience – and, as you point out, mostly through failure.

    • yeah isn’t there a saying “those who can’t do, teach”? Not proposing all business coaches can’t do. I’m sure you’ve encountered a lot of self proclaimed experts in your journeys LM. Keep up the good work.

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