Age Doesn’t (Always) Equal Wisdom

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Age Doesn't Always Equal Wisdom

Do you remember how you used to look up to adults when you were a kid?

Wow, they know everything. I can’t wait until I grow up!

Then you’re older and you realize you’re still a kid, except now you’re in an adult body.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” others used to ask you. You’d answer with the most amazing thing you could think of. Maybe you’d tell them you wanted to be an astronaut. Or even President of the United States would do nicely.

Then you’re older and you realize it’s not easy knowing what makes you happy.

I never had an answer when people asked what I wanted to be and I still lack a proper answer.

Maybe answering that question with nonsense would be more fun. I want to be a Sadasfer.

Googling Sadasfer

Surprisingly, Google actually shows results for that! My dreams can come true!

Should I be worried that I don’t know what I want to be yet? I’m an adult so the answers should be popping into my head any minute now…

The only thing becoming an adult made me realize is that getting older doesn’t magically make you wiser.

There was no sudden moment of clarity where everything just made sense when we hit age 18. We don’t automatically learn how to deal with our problems.

Some of us repress. Some of us distract ourselves while our thoughts poke at us from behind a curtain we pray no one else can see through.

I was frustrated as I grew up and realized adults didn’t have all the answers. Reality didn’t match up with the idea in my head of what the world should be. There was something that took me a long time to realize.

We all learn as we go.

Everyone you walk by today is just figuring it out and playing along. They’re trying their best to control as many outcomes as they can but the bulk of it is out of their hands.

It’s liberating to know that you’re not alone in struggling on a daily basis. We’re all flawed and frightened, so relax if you’re not perfect. You don’t have to be worried that you’re the only one with these insecurities because we’re all just as lost as you are!

That’s a good thing.

Four months ago, I had someone critique my writing because he thought it was ridiculous to listen to a 21-year old for life advice (I’m 19, so HA!)

Sure, I’m not 55 but so what? Maybe our 50s bring a sudden clarity that I’m missing out on…

Nah.

Since when did age matter?

Kids learn from adults most times but it works so well the other way too.

For example, there was an eight-year old boy named Danny Keefe who was getting bullied by some kids at an elementary school in Boston. He was being made fun of because he had a speech disorder called apraxia.

Kids can be cruel with their words and can really destroy a person’s self-confidence. They see an easy target and they unleash hell.

But…

Watch the video below and tell me what you see.

Can you imagine a group of adults doing what these kids did? How many of us would band together to defend someone who was getting harassed?

My guess is that we’d probably hang back and hope the problem resolves itself. We’d cross our fingers hoping that the issue will go away through some sort of divine intervention. Maybe we’ll tattle if we’re worried enough.

Although I’d like to think that I would do that stereotypical step in front of the victim with my arm outstretched as protection thing, I know in reality it’s not that easy. Who knows what I’d do?

We may think that “kids don’t know better” but that’s not true. Kids are capable of amazing things and we adults can learn a thing or two from them.

So why do we give age so much credit? Does a 40-year old person’s advice have more weight than a 19-year old?

Never discredit someone just because they’re young.

Back when I wrote 40 Things I Wish I Knew Sooner (The Compact Guide to Life,) I had a few people say on other websites that they agreed with the bulk of what I said. But… They were concerned that it came from someone so young.

See what’s wrong with that? Agreeing that the advice works for you but then thinking twice just because it came from someone who wasn’t older is crazy.

There was a time when I thought adulthood meant a sudden enlightenment.

Now I know it’s never that simple.

I try to make every day a learning experience. I find that it helps to have an insatiable hunger for personal growth.

Keep looking inside and reflect on your past experiences. Always be self-reflecting. Always be looking out for wisdom because it can come from anywhere and anyone.

Improve yourself on a daily basis and you’ll be wise for your age regardless of your exact number.

Photo Credit: Empty007 – Flickr

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Vincent Nguyen is the author of Self Stairway. After landing his dream job with Empire Flippers, he dropped out of college and began living a location independent lifestyle (still always drawn to coffee shops though.) Don't worry, he still publishes every Monday and hasn't missed a single week since starting this site in January 2013.

Latest posts by Vincent Nguyen (see all)

38 responses to Age Doesn’t (Always) Equal Wisdom

  1. Seriously, I’m amazed at just how intelligent kids are!

    It makes me think, “was I like that when I was young?”.

    I remember being young and looking up to those even a year or two older and they seemed massive and so much wiser! :)

    It’s interesting… I only started to realise it around the age of 18-22 or so, that everybody really is the same. It’s just a journey of life and that a 70 year old, a 40 year old and a 20 year old all have the same needs, desires and fears.

    It’s a humbling experience.

    • Yup! I was never a fan of “respect your elders” when I was younger. I understand the need for such a saying and I do believe in respecting everyone, but it was usually abused to mean that adults can’t be wrong. As a kid, I saw how unfair people could be, so I was a bit jaded from the start towards the attitude that age is an absolute factor in everything.

      What I know now is that age is pretty damn irrelevant. None of us are always right and sometimes a little kid can be “wiser” than the oldest person in the room.

  2. Vincent,
    You’re right. Age is a really poor indicator for intelligence/wisdom.

    It’s all about how much we engage in self-experimentation, critical thinking, and in learning new things through trial and error.

    Most people, IME, do the same things over and over, so how could they expect to change or “grow wise”?

    Just my five cent.

    Regards,
    Ludvig

    • I agree with you. I think people assume age is important because older people would have had more time for self-experimentation than younger people. Too bad that’s making a lot of assumptions. Not everyone is introspective, for example.

  3. I agree, Vincent. CJ and I just discussed this a day or so ago. While we should treat others with kindness and decency, who you choose to listen to or not is your choice. I know many young people, children even, who are very wise. They are often very good listeners too. They don’t just want to hear themselves talk or be the sage on the stage. No one gets a free pass. It’s not like the Senior Discount at the movies – when you’re ____ you get ____. Great article!

  4. Age isn’t working for me so far.
    (could not resist.)

  5. Hey Vincent, great article. I’m same age as you (for another 4 days anyway), and can’t help but feel the same. When my parents talk about how they were when they were younger (and poorer), they already seemed so adult-like that I figured it would always eventually come. Unfortunately you’re right, it really doesn’t.

    What I do think makes a difference though, is they were forced to change. My gramps and dad didn’t have money, so my dad had to grow up fast and be part of starting the family business at 14. Part of the problem for our generation is we’re not forced to do anything, to get out of our comfort zones or work without a safety net, and it’s definitely costing us in terms of learning to make big decisions and dealing with pressure.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on what you think makes people grow up!

    • Happy early birthday!

      I wouldn’t completely agree with the idea that our generation isn’t forced to do anything. It all depends really. A lot of people are in much more difficult financial situations than both you and me. You and I are fortunate enough to not have to deal with the same pressure as your dad and grandpa so we can focus elsewhere.

      I can’t say for sure that there’s any one factor that makes people grow up. There are far too many variables that seem insignificant and irrelevant that go into molding us. Both the good and bad experiences causes us to change one way or the other.

      I’m working on an article that explores the Butterfly Effect which I’ll be publishing this upcoming Monday. You know the old saying, “A butterfly in South America that flaps its wings causes a storm in Texas.”

  6. Age rarely equals wisdom, Vincent. All it does is give perspective. But there’s a lot of unenlightened, geriatric dumb asses walking around who can still predict what will happen…simply because they’ve seen things so many times. They just don’t know how to get out of their own way. :)

    • I had to look up what “geriatric” meant. That’s a fun word! For anyone reading this who was just as clueless as me it basically means an old person. Geriatric! Geriatric!

      Thanks for the lesson in vocab. :)

  7. Vincent, you’ve hit the nail on the head here. I get so frustrated at times when I hear people make a big deal about age. It’s as if they put blinders on and only see someone’s age and nothing else. I honestly think that experience is more of a factor in determining wisdom than age is. Someone can be older but not have many life experiences and not be very wise, whereas someone else who is younger can have experienced quite a bit and have more wisdom to share as a result. Then, of course, there’s society’s obsession with age when it comes to employment and relationships…but probably another topic for another time :)

    Melissa

    • Let’s pass a law that makes it illegal to ask someone about their age! Maybe give jail time for even having a negative reaction upon looking at someone’s face and guessing their age. MWahahah!

      Obviously I’d be a terrible lawmaker.

      I used to be pretty bothered by age when it came to relationships. It wasn’t something that I genuinely was put off by though. It was more like an expectation that others put out that I picked up on.

  8. The last few years have been odd for me because I’m the youngest of the team I lead. Leadership and age have little to do with each other – keep doing what you are doing…if people are following then you are a leader.

  9. Age has little to do with life or wisdom, but experience certainly does. Often, experiences accumulate with age. Some can experience life way before they age. Dave Pelzer (A Child Called It) is prime example. His experience of life was horrible way before he turned your age, Vincent. Through his experiences he gained great wisdom at a very young age.

    I had little wisdom until I aged. I still lack plenty of wisdom at 52, but have more now than some 30 years ago. The experiences I created forced me to find far better reasoning than I had as a 19-year old.

    Vincent, I think you have experienced something recently that provided great wisdom: it is better to share than to tell.

    Again, “Don’t believe me on anything. Try this out for yourself.” Buddha

    • Still trying to remind myself to share and not just tell, tell, tell. I hope I’m succeeding so far.

      Ah, loving the quote again. Good reminder and I should probably frame that somewhere. :)

  10. Hey mate hope you weren’t talking about me when you said someone four months ago critique your writing?.

    I just wanted to say its Fucking Awesome that your stepping up to the plate, calling shots and leading life on your terms. I wish I had of stepped up to the plate myself sooner instead of leaving it till a fucking tragedy that happened to me, for me to fully commit to change and the person who I always wanted to become your an inspiration and someone who I would turn to for advice.

    You have the courage and drive to do what a lot of people your age don’t do and society/ people aren’t accustom to that, so don’t take anything personal, after all age is just a number.

    Here is some videos you could share around/ watch that I’m sure would be helpful for more young people-
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hbJJEcbTzw
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMkHFiquDA4
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYDznRaAl20

    Leadwell!
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Leadwell-Fitness/371633592921138

    • Nope, that part wasn’t about you. That was actually towards someone who had commented about my article on a different website. It was on Reddit, if I remember correctly.

      I’ll make sure I check those videos out tomorrow. Thanks, Joel!

  11. You’re 19 – Ha! I think you’re a wise old soul in many ways Vincent. I know some 70-year old idiots with the wisdom of a donkey. It’s all in perspective.

  12. Age a terrible indicator of life. Couldn’t agree more man.

    I’m 20 years old so I feel you on the age thing. There’s definitely some people out there that will judge negatively due to age. There’s also people out there that will have the opposite reaction and say “Wow! You’re 20? That’s amazing!”

    Age is simply a number. I don’t even bring up how old I am to people anymore unless they ask. It doesn’t matter. Whether you’re 60 or 16 – you can do extraordinary things.

    • Definitely right! I’ve had a pretty amount of people who had the “Whoa, you’re only 19?!” reaction which makes it pretty nice. Almost like everything we do in the present is amplified. The haters are definitely the minority in most circles.

  13. Of course these kids are not an indicator of how most kids act at all, and my guess is there are at least a somewhat of a similar number of adults that wouldn’t stand for bullying, not sure they would react in the exact same way. But then again, they might have never stood for bullying even as children, so maybe it has nothing to do with age.

    When I was a kid, I was so afraid of turning into the outcast, that I participated somewhat in bullying. One time I made what I thought was a funny play on a guy’s last name and he just completely broke down crying, after that I stopped for a short time, but even after being on the wrong end of bullying I pitched in at times. One of the most embarrassing things in my life is that I helped ridicule this guy I was actually pretty good friends with out of school. Oh and at some point I told a pretty cute chick no to dancing with her because my “friends” were apprehensive… talk about the wrong priorities!

    The sad thing is that “adult bullying” is becoming a pretty serious issue on workplaces in Norway apparently. Just goes to show that some of us never change. Although i think that “silent bystander syndrome” only gets worse with age as most of us just want the smallest amount of trouble and drama in our lives at this point. And peer pressure doesn’t seem to lose it’s efficiency on most people until they are in at least their thirties.

    In my case I like to think that I’ve gotten wiser with age, but most of it is still skin deep. I’m still way too worried about what people think, despite having known for years that it doesn’t matter at all.

    Age is far from everything, it’s what you make of your years that make you wise or unwise. Keep it up and you’ll be the new Confucius by 30!

    • Loving the insight, Ragnar.

      A lot of how people behave are dependent on both the individual and the accumulation of experiences over the years. That’s why I don’t think age is a reliable metric. Obviously someone older has a higher probability of having a “life-changing” experience, but I wouldn’t say it’s guaranteed.

      I participated in bullying back when I was younger too. There’s a kid that I was especially cruel to that I look up on Facebook every year hoping to apologize. So far, I’ve messaged at least 3 different people who I thought may have been him but no luck yet.

  14. My parents would tell me, “Just wait until you are our age!”, or “When you have a child and that responsibility you’ll start to understand”. And in some ways, they were right. The more rewarding part is seeking why what they said even slightly pushed or pushes our buttons. That is where the gift of challenge to my world raised my personal expectations. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened. Age can be comforting if you use your time wisely getting there. Expect answers in the present, not the future or the past. Love your stuff!

    • Thanks for the comment, Nick! There definitely are some things that are valid when people say “You won’t understand until you’re older.” Saying something like that without a condescending tone is what a lot of people need to work on though.

      One thing I’ll never stop hearing is “You’ll change your mind about not wanting kids when you’re older.” Pretty damn sure that won’t be true. Some people just know they don’t want kids. :)

  15. In Addition:

    Aging: Eventually you will
    Reach a point when you stop
    Lying about your age and
    Start bragging about it.

    Some people try to turn back
    Their odometers. Not me, I want
    People to know ‘why’ I look this
    Way. I’ve traveled a long way and
    Some of the roads weren’t paved.

  16. Hi Vincent, I agree with you that young people can offer a lot of insight and unique perspectives about life. I remember thinking I knew it all at the age of five! But as I get older (now at age 48), I definitely see myself developing “wisdom” I didn’t have 10 or even 5 years ago. At the same time, I often feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing and I’m just doing the best I can to get through life. I think the wisdom of adults only comes through self-reflection, self-knowledge and exploration of the new. My quest right now is self-knowledge. I strive to understand myself better every day and engage in all sorts of activities to get to know myself.

    • Every year for me it’s a repeat of “Hah! I was sooooo dumb last year. Now this year. This

      Then it happens again and I realize how far I’ve come.

      That’s self-reflective people like you and me though. Most people just carry on through life with eyes shut. We’re the lucky ones!

  17. Present Vince looks back on Past Vince, Future Vince looks on Present Vince, and it keeps getting better and better :)

    Keep the unique stuff coming bro. Struggled with the age thing quite a bit while growing up, but I appreciate the experience so I know not to impose it on others.

    If only this article could be broadcasted on the news, lol, it would do the world a big favor

  18. I think I know a lot, but in reality I know exactly as much as I know. Which is absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. Sure I know the capital city of Burkina Faso but I have no idea how to pop a champagne cork.

    Knowledge is always relative and we all know different things. That’s what makes communication so amazing. We will always learn from every interaction we ever have in our lives.

    As someone famous once said ‘everyday is a school day’.

    • I don’t know the capital city of Burkina Faso or how to pop a champagne cork!

      That’s true that we all know different things and that’s absolutely fascinating. Right now I’m sitting here learning about email marketing automation. :)

      Every day is indeed a school day!

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