Editor’s Disclosure: This post reveals that the author is a 40-something interloper on the “Gen-Y” career network Brazen Careerist. For anyone disturbed by this revelation, the author claims to really only read it for the “stories.” And now, on to the show….
The other day, I got involved in an interesting discussion on Brazen Careerist about whether length of experience matters in establishing credibility these days.
The comment that led off this discussion:
The conversation really struck a chord with me, because I think it is central to understanding, and perhaps navigating, the divide between Millennials and their Gen X and Boomer managers. There is a disconnect between their generation, which wants to be acknowledged for their ideas, and those who came before, who do value ideas, but feel they’ve earned respect through hard work and years of experience (and sometimes feel they don’t get it from the youngsters.)
The discussion about the value of experience and status, versus the value of ideas, goes back much further. The young have always felt discounted, the old disrespected, the rich and scholarly have always felt more enlightened than those who work in the trenches, and those who work in the trenches have valued their experiences in life and work more than ‘book learning.”
My favorite example:
Socrates was a great example of someone who was in fact a great teacher (and a guru), but it’s useful to remember that he’s only thought of this way because of what others said about him, and none of that would have gotten down to us, if it hadn’t been for Plato.
Socrates was actually a stonemason, who spent his days in the Forum taking people down a notch, by asking them simple and pointed questions, giving his observations, and playing devil’s advocate. It was Plato who enjoyed his style, wrote about it, emulated it, and taught it in his academy.
So herein lies the crux of the credibility issue: Are you someone who is engaged in questioning as the means for discovery, in debate as a delivery vehicle for new knowledge and points of view, and in mutual interplay between others who might teach you something (including people you may not agree with, or even find to be “small-minded?”) Are you nimble enough, confident enough, and curious enough, to be engaged?
The key to wisdom, then, is to know a good question when you hear it and a good conversation when you are in it. And to ENGAGE.
There are many, many cartoons that depict a seeker going to the mountaintop to ask a wise guru for advice, only to be met with questions. The punchline here shouldn’t be lost on you…this is how people learn.
So you can’t be a guru if you only learn by osmosis, or repeat back what you have learned verbatim. To be a guru, you must light a fire in others for knowledge, ask them compelling questions, and send them away with their minds racing, frenetic, and full of wonder for the search.
And how will you know if you are a guru?
They’ll climb back up the mountain with more questions.
And this time, they’ll bring friends.