The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are. – C.S. Lewis
What does that mean?
This is a slightly abbreviated version of a longer quote: The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are: that good fortune I have enjoyed for nearly twenty years.
It says that if you are not wise (and I would add that this is a good idea even if you already are), it is prudent to keep the company of those who are. This is one of the quickest ways to become wise yourself, and elevate yourself in the field of wisdom.
By surrounding yourself with wise people, you can learn a lot, if you pay attention. He is saying something similar to Sir Isaac Newton (“If it appears that I see farther, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants” where he was referring to the giants of science).
Why is associating with people more skilled than you important?
In the broader sense, this quote applies to any endeavour. If you want to become a better captain of a small sailing vessel, hang out with other captains of small sailing vessels. If you want to become better at flying an RC plane, find a club and hang out with others more skilled than yourself. If you want to become a better public speaker, look up Toast Masters and learn from their speaking abilities and seminars.
Some people can learn a lot from reading books, but most need some practical experience and expert guidance to really ‘get it’ and become proficient. Then there is the issue of safety – some things probably shouldn’t be tried without a mentor, especially things that can go boom.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Well, you have a good start being on this blog, right? Not because I’m all that great or wise, but the people I discuss are, and there is nearly 200 posts of backlog to explore.
Wisdom is one thing, but practical application is what really matters, at least to me. I’ve known a lot of people who memorized quotes, but never learned to live them. They were quite intelligent, but not very wise. But the point of this post is improving yourself by association with people with greater skill and experience than yourself.
What would you do if you wanted to get better at Chess or Go? I would try to find a group by checking at the local library bulletin board, meeting notices or club listings at local junior colleges and universities, and doing an internet search for local associations or groups.
What would you do if you wanted to get better at model rocketry? I would try to find a group by searching the internet for national rocketry clubs and look for local chapters. I did that recently, as my kids wanted to take a shot at rocketry after watching Discovery’s Science Chanel coverage of the LDRS meetup.
What would you do if you wanted to learn or get better photography? I would try to find a group by checking at the local library bulletin board, meeting notices or club listings at local junior colleges and universities, and doing an internet search for local associations or groups. I would also check with local photography studios to see what groups or individuals they might recommend. For the more advanced student, you might even find a studio willing to rent you some time in their studio. Sweet!
Hopefully you’re detecting a pattern. Grab some paper and write down three or four things in your life at which you would like to get better. It can be a skill, an intellectual pursuit, a physical attribute, a hobby or whatever you like. Write down next to each the amount of time you think you can devote to this pursuit, both in hours per week and numbers of weeks (or years) you think you will be investing in your education.
For each of the things you listed (and you can always come back and try this again with a new group of ideas), write down a couple ideas you can think of for finding a group of experts to help you learn. Your favorite search engine should be on the list, but don’t ignore other sources like library bulletin boards (paper and push-pins) or the ones at colleges and universities. Also, the various phone directories can help, although most of them are on line now.
Now, all that remains is for you to pick the one you most want to work on that best fits your time and finances. Just grab the list of resources and start finding your contacts and take your first step. Call, e-mail or find the date and place of the next meeting.
The journey of a lifetime begins with the first step. Take the first step and get the plan in motion so that you can enjoy a lifetime of learning, and associating with people more skilled than you. At least until you become the wise expert, to whom others turn for learning. 8)