“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” —Doug Larson
The Internet is amazing.
It is literally a treasure of information and inspiration—available at our fingertips whenever (and almost everywhere) we desire.
The Internet has torn down traditional barriers, where now almost anyone can become an author, a guru, an expert, or an influencer. There is no need to go through a gatekeeper to publish your voice. Anybody can publish and teach what they know.
I stand as proof—dating all the way back to 2008.
I’ve been blessed for the last 15 years to have a voice and community on the Internet (and my guess is that some of you do too).
Yes, as with many things in life, the very tool that brings us so much opportunity has its drawbacks.
There’s an aspect of this anybody can have a voice landscape that sometimes gives me pause.
I call it the rise of “This-Just-Started-Working-For-Me” Wisdom.
My guess is that the idea is not entirely new. But it may be louder and more prevalent than ever before.
You see, in a world where anyone can publish their voice, there is constant pressure to stay relevant and not be replaced by the cool new thing.
The pressure (both external and internal) to publish content, to be liked, to chase pageviews and email subscribers, and to be followed on social media can be intense.
And this pressure can result in a tendency for creators to jump on quick conclusions and project them as universal truths.
They discover something new, try it out for a few days, and quickly begin talking about it as a means to pump out new and fresh content. “This-Just-Started-Working-For-Me” Wisdom.
For instance, someone finds a new diet that seems miraculous and works for two weeks, and suddenly tells the world about it. Or they hear about a new parenting technique that works wonders one Saturday afternoon and feel compelled to declare it a revolution in child-rearing.
But are people really testing these new “discoveries?”
Is everyone allowing time to reveal whether these nuggets of wisdom have lasting value?
Sometimes I think people (myself included at times) are so eager to share something they’ve learned that they don’t give themselves the opportunity to truly experience, understand, and assess what they’ve learned. Lasting wisdom takes time to discern.
The diet becomes unsustainable and the 10 lbs lost in two weeks comes back, plus 5 more pounds. The parenting hack that momentarily kept your kids quiet leaves them feeling isolated in the long run.
Meanwhile, the “expert” has moved on to the next lifestyle change that seems to be working and needs to be shared with everyone.
And once you recognize it, you begin to see it everywhere:
Investment Tips: Someone has immediate success in the stock market with a particular strategy or individual stock and immediately starts sharing it as a fail-proof way to get rich quick.
Exercise Routines: After experiencing some initial success or endorphin highs with a new workout regimen, people might advocate for it as the ultimate fitness solution. However, such routines may not be sustainable or suitable for all body types or health conditions.
Productivity Hacks: Someone discovers a new app or method that seems to make them hyper-productive for a few days and immediately begin promoting it, without considering the longer-term implications or if the hack can survive the initial fascination and commitment.
Natural Remedies: Some might try a natural or home remedy for a health issue and, upon seeing immediate relief, tout it as a miracle cure—overlooking any number of other factors that might have been in play, including the well-known placebo effect.
Relationship tips, spiritual advice, get-rich-quick schemes, tech products, life hacks, the list goes on and on.
Because this type of untested wisdom is everywhere, we need to be on guard. The stakes are incredibly high.
This is about more than just wasting time on foolish ideas. We could end up following advice that does more harm than good.
There’s a way to avoid this. Whether it’s the teachings of ancient philosophies, the writings of spiritual leaders, or simply the advice from our grandparents, we have a wealth of knowledge available to us that has stood the test of time. There is tried-and-true wisdom available to all of us—we just need to make the effort to go look.
Because it’s probably not trending on Twitter or Reddit.
We should listen to people who’ve lived more life than us. Our grandparents, our elders—they’ve seen a lot and they have wisdom that’s stood up over time. We should study the lives of people we admire and ask them questions. Look for wisdom that has stood the test of time for multiple generations.
I often talk about minimalism, which I know full-well has roots going way back. It is timeless wisdom about choosing what really matters in life. That’s the kind of wisdom that sticks around.
So, what do we do the next time we come across a “This-Just-Started-Working-For-Me Wisdom” article? I think we should stop and ask ourselves some questions. How long has this author been practicing this advice? Will it last? Does it line up with what we’ve learned from people who’ve been around longer than we have?
There’s no doubt the advice they are offering may actually be healthy, life-changing advice. But there’s also a chance it won’t stand the test of time.
At the end of the day, our lives are built on the choices we make and the things we allow into our heart, mind, and soul. Let’s make room for wisdom that’s been tested, that’s been around the block a few times.
If we do, I think we’ll find our lives become richer and fuller. And that’s always a wise choice.