You can learn a lot from experience but you cannot learn everything. You don’t have the time or resources to make all possible mistakes, or create all possible successful outcomes. What to do?
It is a difficult problem. You may have noticed that your life, your body and your finances are present without an owner’s manual. There is some tech support available but many people ignore it.
Some tech support is not very helpful because they are pushing their agenda instead of addressing your needs. A priest or minister may not be zen-like. A counselor may want to “fix” you without addressing the underlying issues. A financial advisor may have a tactical bias. Doctors may not take the time or ask enough probing questions.
And then there is the listening problem. People tend not to notice things that don’t fit their world view. They hear what they want and often assume they know enough to make a decision when their knowledge is superficial.
Doing something about the problems requires an approach with some chance of success. The first requirement is to find ways to dismiss the 99% of data you can find as wrong, not appropriate for you, unproven, or not appropriate yet.
The 1% that remains may be considered as information. Information is a precursor to knowledge. The advantage of collecting information and sorting it into knowledge is twofold.
- The pieces support each other and provide insight to why it is true
- It is easier to notice the missing parts.
Applying knowledge is another level – wisdom. It is “wise” to know what you want, need or prefer and then use your knowledge and skill to provide it. If you don’t know what you want, you can never be sure you have it or don’t have it.
Meaning is motivating. When you have it, you understand processes, time and areas to avoid.
Meaning is self limiting. Over-solving an issue is weak. The resources could have been used better.
Meaning is the key to all. If you have an advisor who seeks to assign meaning to financial, medical and personal information, you have someone who can help you. For example, I queried my doctor about the side effects of a medication. Her response was useful. “There are side effects of the medication, but most people don’t experience them. Not taking it has side effects too, and in those cases most people do have the side effects.”
Life is imperfect, but if you work at learning the meaning of things, you will do better.
Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.