Earlier in this chapter we observed that the difference between information and knowledge is experience. The difference between knowledge and wisdom, then, is character. It’s not only knowing the things that bring positive results or even knowing how to do them; it’s also doing them—for the right reasons, at the right time, and in the right way.
According to a recent survey conducted by bankrate.com, “When it comes to personal finances, most people generally know what they should do, but a lot of them don’t do it . . . Like an over- weight person who perpetually vows to start dieting next week, the typical American plans to whip those finances into shape, just as soon as there is time.” (Emphasis added.)
Yet, the average American watches over four hours of television a day.
Probably we all know more than we do in almost every area of life. So what’s the solution? It’s character. It’s having the moral or ethical strength to subordinate our immediate desires to our longer term values and commitments and to do what will bring the positive results we want—even if we are tempted to procrastinate or be distracted by paths that appear to be easier or more pleasant in the short run. It’s having the integrity to be true to the best within.
And how do you develop character? You seek it. You grow it. You exercise it in the decisions you make every day. Every time you choose to spend time on what’s important instead of what’s merely urgent, every time you decide to invest instead of merely consume, every time you decide to avoid a time trap, get out of a financial “black hole,” or contribute at work or at home, you’re building character strength. Character is forged in the crucible of daily living.
That’s why living with awareness and processing our own experience are so vital. You can learn about principles. You can read about the experience of others. But the place you really develop navigational intelligence is on the water. That’s where cognitive learning becomes experiential. That’s where experiential learning— properly processed—becomes wisdom. It is as you confront the challenges of daily living with awareness that you learn to set your compass and your course based on “true north.”
“Financial Literacy in America,” www.bankrate.com, March, 2003.