I like to learn from others who have been successful. In our culture, some people look to successful business leaders; others look to athletes or entertainers. I find some of the best advice from wise people from the past — from classic literature from previous civilizations and cultures.
Here are some thoughts from a king and writer of literature from about 3,000 years ago:
Wisdom in the most important thing; so get wisdom. If it costs everything you have, get understanding. Treasure wisdom, and it will make you great; hold onto it, and it will bring you honor. He goes on to espouse the pre-eminence of acquiring wisdom, and that it will lead to virtually everything else good in life — wealth, influence, health, and peace.
So the question becomes — how does one become wise? The author responds to this question:
Don’t follow the ways of the wicked; don’t do what evil people do. Avoid their ways, and don’t follow them. Stay away from them and keep on going, because they cannot sleep until they do evil.
The author then lays out the principles for obtaining wisdom:
- Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.
- Don’t use your mouth to tell lies; don’t ever say things that are not true.
- Keep your eyes focused on what is right, and look straight ahead to what is good.
- Be careful what you do, and always do what is right.
- Don’t turnoff the road of goodness; keep away from evil paths.
So to summarize, he encourages his readers to:
- manage their thoughts,
- watch what they say and speak with honesty,
- keep focused on the good
- act with integrity
- keep away from those who repeatedly make poor choices.
I find these thoughts interesting and applicable to our lives today because there are so many voices telling us what to do and how we should live. Being past 50 years old and having had the opportunity to view different economic and political seasons, it has become more evident to me that living according to patterns of behavior that have been proven over long periods of time (decades, centuries) is wise.
Although some patterns (leveraging business ventures through credit, buying now and paying later for personal purchases) can work within a short time frame or certain conditions, living within one’s means, saving for the future, and taking preventative steps to manage potential risks seem to work well over the long term. They are not as exciting, and also are not as potentially rewarding within the short term.
Some may say: “Desperate times call for desperate measures” and this may be true. But many desperate people have perished by making unwise decisions in their desperation. I hope this does not become the case for our country.