Use the Wisdom You've Already Got

You don't need to learn anything else to make your life better. Nothing. Not a bit. You already know what you need to know. The trick is remembering it.

My niece and I were playing basketball a few days ago. She said she wanted to get better at it, so we were playing. But after about ten minutes, she wanted to do something else.

"That's not the way to get better at things," I said, getting ready to lecture.

"I know," she said, trying to ward off the lecture.

"A long time ago, there was a really good baseball player named George 'Shotgun' Shuba. One time an interviewer said, 'One thing you always had was a great natural swing.' But his swing wasn't natural. It was the result of work. And that's true of being good at anything. Those athletes you see on TV who are so good at basketball got that way because they spent thousands of hours shooting the ball. You can't do it in ten minutes."

She hates lectures, as I'm sure is true for all nine year-olds. And ten year-olds. And twenty-five year-olds. But I continued anyway, because us thirty-seven year-olds love to lecture.

"George 'Shotgun' Shuba tied a rope to the ceiling, and made knots in the rope where the strike zone was, and every day he swung a bat at the rope 600 times. He swung that bat 600 times a day until he was in the major leagues. That's how he got his great 'natural' swing."

About a year ago I bought a guitar and a book, and I practiced for about ten minutes. The guitar has been behind the door ever since, collecting dust. I really would like to play the guitar. What I need is to remember what I already know. The same is true for you, I promise. When you're talking to a younger person, and you're trying to convey your wisdom to them, you can really make sense, can't you?

But when, for example, I sat down to play the guitar and realized how difficult this was going to be, where was my wisdom then? When a situation presented itself with my niece, the wisdom was evoked. How can I evoke it when I need it?

Simple. By asking yourself this question: "What would be good to remember right now?" Make this a question you ask yourself at the drop of a hat. Make it a question that comes to your mind often and easily. When the question comes up, let it evoke an answer. Let it be an opportunity for your wisdom to percolate up. What rules should you apply to this situation? What principles fit? In the case of my niece, the principle was you need to practice to improve your skill.


This question is useful for things like what you need to pick up at the store and what you planned on doing today. It works well to write them down. Write a list of what you need at the store; write down what you planned on doing today. Memory is amazingly fleeting, but what is written is always remembered. But even for these mundane uses, sometimes you won't write things down, and here's where the habitual use of this question comes in handy.

Life is full of interesting things. Combine that with the fact that our memories are so fleeting and you can understand how we so often forget what we were planning to do. But your life will be more the way you want it if you remember your plans.

And remember the good times. They make life richer. Even good times can be forgotten if they aren't recalled several times, so you can see this as pasting photos in your photo album. Going over the memory strengthens it and makes it more difficult to forget. And besides that, it's fun. And it is good for your health.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

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