The whole concept of wisdom is a simple one:
Tell younger generations about your experiences and mistakes so that you may save them decades of lost effort, not only drastically improving their lives, but also allowing them to discover whole new mistakes themselves that they may in turn warn future generations about, resulting in a beneficial perpetual cycle that will advance humanity into infinity.
In theory, it’s a great idea and if implemented “perfectly” in a “perfect world” it would solve most of society’s problems in a matter of a few generations. However, of the many inherent problems with wisdom, there is one in particular that blunts this cycle—wisdom is really hard to take.
For example, if I, now nearing the age of 40, were to tell a young 18 year old man,
“Dude, don’t bother with the nightclubs. They’re loud, they’re temples of attention-whoring women, it isn’t worth the money, and for a fraction of the cost you can simply purchase a monthly prostitute.”
would the young man heed my advice?
Chances are he would not.
Not necessarily out of disrespect or because he believes I’m lying, but rather because there are so many sociological and psychological factors that have affected him throughout his upbringing, that he believes I’m simply misinformed, out of touch, or don’t know what I’m talking about.
For example society has nearly every 18-year-old man convinced that nightclubs aren’t just cool, but that they are their destiny. Through TV, reality shows, stories from their friends, advertisements, the Vegas DJ scene, and music videos, they just can’t wait to get into the nightclubs. They can’t even think of anything more glamorous or desirable—just try recommending a jazz club to your average 19 year old male and see how many takers you get.
Another example is overconfidence. Movies play a huge role in predisposing Americans to think their chances of success are greater than they actually are. They’re used to always winning. The Guns of Navarone. Kelly’s Heroes. Die Hard. But how many of them have watched A Bridge Too Far? Ergo, a young man could fully believe what I’m telling him, but prefer to take his chances anyway because he thinks he’ll beat the odds.
And then there’s the “I’ll just work harder” or “be more clever” thought. Ha! That 40 year old fool. Yes, he may have tried, but I’ll try harder and be twice as cunning about it!
But sociological pre-conditioning and overconfidence aside, the biggest reason younger folk have a hard time taking wisdom, the one that trumps them all is;
not finding out for yourself.
At first this may not seem all that convincing. What does somebody care if they don’t find out about it themselves? Why don’t they just listen to their elders? But the reason this is such a deterrent to accepting and digesting wisdom is because if they don’t try it themselves then they will never know if they personally would have succeeded.
If they WOULD have been that statistical anomaly.
If they WOULD have been able to work harder and beat the odds.
This in turn causes (or at least threatens) something arguably much worse than trying and failing—life long regret. It is here I must change from my traditional stance where I normally suggest a course of action toward having no regrets in life.
Yes, take the chance and ask the girl out.
Yes, take the shot and apply for that job.
Unfortunately, not all life’s decisions are costless as merely asking a girl out and firing off a resume. Some are life-debilitating, if not life-destroying and it is here we must find a way to get the younger generations to overcome their psychological conditioning and listen to their elders.
Sadly, all of us “older, wiser men” have to admit we have no way to “force” you to accept and incorporate our wisdom. We cannot guarantee that had you pursued that career in music therapy you would NOT have become successful. We cannot guarantee that had you tried to get into investment banking you would NOT have become a millionaire. And we cannot guarantee that had you tried to become a basketball star you would not have become the next LeBron James. But if we were to switch it, focusing instead of the risks and consequences of you FAILING, rather than what idealistically “may have been,” perhaps these severe costs will make you heed our words.
At first, this may seem intimidating. A “scare tactic” trying to deter you from pursuing your dreams and desires. And given how American society has made you think your dreams and desires are entitlements, you may even get violent when somebody dares to question their feasibility (1:15 mark). But if you can open your mind, take off the horse blinders society has put on you, step back and look around and see what is happening to your peers, or even people just a few years older than you, perhaps you can both see the true life costs associated with making bad decisions (divorce, student debt, worthless degrees, damaged women,etc.) and be able to assuage yourself of any potential “regret” that you heeded any wisdom from us old farts.
The point is wisdom is not meant to rain on your parade or bring you down. Nor is it to destroy your dreams or condemn you to a life of “what if’s” and regrets. It is meant as a warning from more experienced, older men who have been down that path before and genuinely want to see you have a better life than we did. This doesn’t mean you need to implement every word of wisdom handed to you by your elders, but it does mean you should at least listen to it, heed it, and thoroughly think through the consequences of ignoring it. And if every young man did that, the generational cycle of dramatic improvement into infinity would not be so theoretical.