Over the years, Charlie had been the go-to guy for those who needed advice on challenging situations.  Charlie was known for his wisdom and his practical guidance.  Over the years, Charlie only asked for two things from those whom he advised:  “Let me know how my advice worked out and be willing to support others whom I might send to you.”

Charlie retired after 35 years, but still wanted to remain active.  He was approached by the local superintendent of schools with an opportunity:  “I know how much you helped my daughter with your wisdom when she was struggling.  I could really use your help with problem students in our schools.  When we suspend them, we make them go to an alternate school.  But this doesn’t work.  We just place all of the bad behaviors in one place.  We don’t really deal with the underlying reason for the bad behavior.  What I need is someone who can work with our students as you did with my daughter.  Would you be willing to help?”

While Charlie never worked with young people, he was glad to help.  When students were sent to him, they were surprised by how Charlie greeted them.  There was no mention of why they were sent there.  Charlie simply got to know them as persons.  Then he asked how he could help them.  “Let’s work through a challenge you have,” Charlie said.  While students were reluctant at first to open up to Charlie, they became more responsive as Charlie asked them follow up questions.  At no time did he make judgmental comments.

Next, Charlie asked students:  “Describe the person you want to become.” They found this difficult to do, so Charlie would ask them what they valued in other people.  He also asked them to describe the principles they want to live by.  All of these were written down.

With this background insight, Charlie started working through the challenge the students described earlier.  Mostly he asked questions that linked the challenge to their values and principles and the person they wanted to become.  As the students answered Charlie’s questions, the strategy for responding to the challenge became clearer.

Once the discussion had concluded, Charlie would summarize the discussion by reflecting on the wisdom the student had shown.  In nearly every case, Charlie could sense how proud the students were in working through their challenge.

Charlie would then repeat this approach for other issues the student was facing.  As this process continued, Charlie would see how the student began to be able to ask themselves the questions that were important to the resolution of the issue.  When the student’s suspension was up, Charlie would hand them a certificate that said:

Wisdom is not what you know, but the questions you ask yourself to become the person you want to be.

We often confuse wisdom with intelligence.  Wisdom is more about how you approach life’s challenges.  Knowing your values and life principles are key to having wisdom.  But the key to all wisdom is thinking always about the person you want to be.  Charlie was known for his wisdom, but in reality he was a facilitator of wisdom in others.

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“Science is organized knowledge.  Wisdom is organized life.”  – Immanuel Kant (Philosopher)

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