“Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge expanded by experience. Wisdom is the product of knowledge, learning, courage, perseverance, reflection, adaptation, and self-perfection with equal parts of blood, sweat and tears to season the experience.” From THINK Like a BLACK BELT
There is a great deal of interest lately in finding ways to quantify and measure the intangible assets of our companies. Not just the obvious like intellectual property and brand value, but the quality of internal and external relationships and the inventory of accumulated wisdom and experience of a company’s people- particularly in leadership.
Of all the qualities of leadership, wisdom is the one that most assures longevity. Our problem is that wisdom, to the Western ear, is too often associated with stale fortune cookie slogans and miniature bits of profundity in your Twitter stream.
Wisdom is a dynamic process. Wisdom is the continual development of knowledge, experience and awareness that can only be cultivated through the consistent application of wonder, curiosity and dedication to self-perfection.
You see, the sage isn’t some old bearded guy sitting in the mountains spouting off mystical quotations for hardy pilgrims. The sage is the guy who shows up when your shoulder is against the wheel and with a little different angle, gives it a push and shows you how to do it better.
When I earned my first Black Belt, my Master gave me a special gift. He gave me a heavy-duty Black Belt to wear in place of the economical version presented to me at my ceremony. He told me that if I continued my life as a martial artist, I’d probably tie and untie my belt thousands of times. He said that after a while, the rich, dark color would fade and my belt would become worn and frayed.
I knew what he was talking about. His was a bit worn and the Master above him, Professor Nick Cerio, had a belt that was so frayed it almost came apart at the knot. When you looked at the Professor’s belt, you knew this guy was the real deal. The only way to put that much wear on a belt was to put mileage on the wearer! I remember one time when someone joked with the Professor; “When are you going to get a new belt?” My best recollection is that the Professor fired back something to the effect, “Never! You put me in the box with this belt.”
The significance of the frayed belt runs a little deeper than the wisdom implied in the weathering. Brand new, your Black Belt is a rich, deep tone of black. This is just the outer covering. As the belt wears this black covering starts to slowly peel away. Under that black cover is an inner core; a belt of a different color: white.
The white belt represents the beginning of the whole journey as a martial artist. The white belt is the first belt you’re given, just enough to keep your uniform jacket closed during training. Every time the seasoned Master ties on this beaten and worn Black Belt, he should be reminded of the continual cycle of martial arts life, and of real life too! Every time I tie on my belt, I’m reminded to keep Beginner’s Mind, to approach every new day with curiosity and wonder and a commitment to continual self-perfection. What a truly beautiful symbol!
You want the sage, the master in your organization. You should want to BE the master- if not of your whole organization at least in your area of responsibility. You should, at the very least, want to be the master of your own destiny!
“Wisdom transcends knowledge. Sincere reflection and introspection are essential if you want to develop authentic wisdom. Live, and experience life through the dynamic component of time; then let it all simmer in the pot of self-reflection and you might become a valuable sage. We need the sage to move the human species forward.”
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