Turning Knowledge into Wisdom

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By John Napolitano CFP®, CPA, PFS, MST 

How often have you heard the statement that knowledge is power? While this sounds true to many, I generally disagree with that statement. Instead, I wish the saying was “knowledge is fuel”. Knowledge can be empowering, and in some cases it may be all you need to make simple decisions. But in general, knowledge enough is not the power, it is using that knowledge to make better decisions and take more appropriate actions.

 

As I write this, I am sitting in educational sessions at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas Nevada with 4,000 of my closest CPA buddies at the AICPA Engage conference. Lots of nerds here (yes, I have a nerdy streak in me). Most are taking copious notes, trying to retain an excruciating level of detail in some of the most complex financial issues faced by all of us. 

 

My reflections now that I’ve been attending this conference and its predecessor for 25 years are that the knowledge is necessary, maybe even table stakes to deliver competent financial guidance. But using that knowledge to uncover issues or plug the gaps in the financial lives of the people that we serve is where the rubber meets the road. 

 

This knowledge becomes wisdom after you’ve had enough real life experience with the technical issues at hand, and recognizing when there are or could be problems. No one can see into the future clearly enough to know what problems may be lurking in the background... but wisdom helps convey the possibilities.

 

And even with wisdom, execution is key. Take my golf game for example. I have a base level of knowledge, some of that experience has turned to wisdom about reading greens, knowing what club to use and evaluating conditions and the likely impact on my ball. But in the execution phase, I still stink at golf. 

 

Start with knowledge. Use that knowledge often to turn it into wisdom. Then, flawless execution perfectly closes the loop. So I guess I’ll practice my golf wisdom tonight at Top Golf in Las Vegas. Basically target golf, set up in an adult amusement like environment with a bar and crazy targets. And if this doesn’t work, there’s always mini golf.

 

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