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Wisdom Is Knowing What to Ignore

Long ago, in the summer holidays, I worked in an engineering workshop, fixing machines in the local textile mills.

One day on a job with the engineer he discovered that he was missing a specific bolt that he needed to finish the work. We could have gone all the way back to the workshop which would have taken a couple of hours or, he said “Let’s go find one.”

We walked through a couple of cavernous rooms full of obsolete equipment. He then said, “There’s one!” He was pointing to the back of a pile of ancient machines. We clambered through to that old machine and sure enough, there was the bolt we needed.

Years of experience had told him where to look, and what to ignore. I would have had to check every single machine.

Perhaps your team has a new member. To begin with, they have no idea which of the conflicting demands on their time are the important ones – the ones that really need their attention. Someone else, who has been around a while, has a much better idea which tasks can go to the back of the queue without impacting on projects.

When I work with clients it’s much the same. My decades of learning are irrelevant to the client in front of me; I just need to find those bits that are most likely to be helpful right now, and ignore the rest.

How wise are you when you work?