Life is full of firsts. Your first breath, step, word, ice-cream, day of school, ballgame, kiss, car, diploma, job, house, pet, wife, kid… Even today is a first. The strange thing about today is we’ve never done it before. Really, every day is a first. Every second is the first time that second has ever been a second.
This amazes me about the Creator God. Every day that’s ever been is its own. Every person that’s ever been is their own. What an astounding reality!? This reality makes everyday unique. Every emotion worth savoring. Every experience novel. Every relationship its own struggle and joy. Every moment worth attention. It gives each waking sunrise promise that yesterday perhaps couldn’t offer.
But it creates a dilemma too. You see, every human being is trying to get somewhere in life. We have a preferred destination for everything. We want our career, marriage, finances, relationships, faith to end somewhere. Specific. We have hopes and aspirations for our lives.
We all have a preferred destination for everything about us, but the bad news is, few of us know how to get there. And why? Because we’ve never been there. Because, well, that’s how life works. Life is full of firsts. Time holds the future hostage tomorrow. And having never been there, we have no real-life experience on how to get there.
We’d all like to graduate with honors and step right into a top-tier job, we’d all like to have a 40 years + forever sort of marriage, we’d all like to get out of debt, save more, spend less, give lots, we’d all like grown-up kids with no criminal record who still like us, we’d all like radical world-shaking faith that influences thousands, but many of us have never been there.
But here’s the good news – even though you have no experience getting “there,” someone else does. No one is experiencing exactly what you are, but chances are, someone else has been pretty close to “there,” whereever your “there” is.
What will be a first to you is presently life to someone else. What looks like tomorrow to you was yesterday for another. What looks like the preferred future of your marriage, money, job, relationships, or faith is sooooo last Wednesday for another person. And I bet if you found them, bought them a cup of coffee, and asked them how they got “there,” they’d LOVE to tell you all about it.
That’s why I know that the smartest thing all smart people do to stay smart and become smarter, most of the time, is this: Smart people ask for advice where they’re stupid.
Smart folks recognize their limits. They recognize their age, experience, and strengths (or lack thereof). And in so doing, when their preferred destination leads them outside of those limits, they call on a guide! Someone familiar with the terrain. In other words, smart people know where they’re not smart. They recognize where they’ve never been and surround themselves with those who have.
And really smart people? They don’t just surround themselves with smarter people, they aspire to be the stupidest person in every arena of their life. And not by becoming stupider, but by acting smarter and surrounding themselves entirely with those who are smarter.
This principle isn’t just conventional wisdom, it’s biblical wisdom. One of the primary avenues through which God’s Spirit directs us is the wise counsel of others. In fact, “smart” isn’t the appropriate word for people who think like this, wise is.
And yet despite the obvious wisdom in this principle, what’s so crazy is most refuse to apply it. High-schoolers trade parents for friends. Men trade pastors for pride. Couples trade counsel for privacy and frustration. And I just don’t get it.
Let’s just go ahead and get this out there – You do realize, your friends often give the worst advice.
Why? Well, two reasons. First, because they’re your friends. And friends aren’t fair, they’re biased. Don’t misinterpret me, there are a lot of positives friend-support offers. I’m not anti-friends! No friends were harmed in the writing of this blog. We love friends. Friends, good. Friends offer a listening ear, caring heart, empathy and sympathy. They offer an environment of acceptance, despite how wrong you might be, coupled with a gallon of Rocky Road and a couple ice-cold Cheerwines.
But just because they’re your friend doesn’t qualify them to give wise, objective, cross-shaped advice. Usually it disqualifies them. This is why they don’t let friends on juries. This is why two conflicting parties bring in an outside mediator. There’s a difference between counseling and enabling. Friends usually tell you what you want to hear.
Second, friends usually don’t have the age, experience, or knowledge to give good advice. Friends have usually never been where you’re hoping to go. They share your limits because they’re your peers. Chances are, your friends are close to the same age and stage of life as you.
So you see, smart people don’t only recognize when THEY aren’t smart, they recognize when OTHERS aren’t either. They don’t only recognize THEIR limits, they recognize others’ limits. And if we were honest, most of us would have to admit that we turn to our friends, not because they’re experts, but because they’re enablers. And that’s easier to swallow than the truth.
So do yourself favor and try humility. Admit you have limits. Admit you need help. Admit what few men will, that you aren’t all-knowing. [Reading this blog is a start.] Pride creates in us a desire to be perceived as special. And special people don’t need the help of others. They’re special. But little do we realize, pride actually works against the result that it tries to maintain.
It’s so strange, most people think wise people are so wise because they just are, they were born that way. Actually, that’s rare. Instead, wise people are wise because of the collective, or should I say collected wisdom they’ve sought.
Wise people get where they need to go by asking others how they got there. Wise people apply others’ mistakes in order to avoid them. And because of that wise people ultimately remove the lid off their potential, because instead of leaning on the wisdom of one person, myself, I submit to the wisdom of many.
Maybe what makes wise people wise is that they never quite think or know that they’re wise so they always continue to seek it?
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