Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been. When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day. What follows is one piece of that advice. I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.
Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.
Studies have shown that there is almost no correlation between how smart a person is and how successful they become. Superior intelligence—even combined with education and knowledge—just isn’t enough to make you successful. You need wisdom to go along with it.
I recently read about a young boy in India, Akrit Jaswal, who had an IQ greater than that of Einstein. In 2001, when he was seven years old, he performed a real-life surgical operation—I kid you not.
His eight-year-old patient had been so severely burned that her fingers had fused together. Living in a poor village, her family couldn't afford a real doctor, so Akrit was called in. The operation was a success, and before long Akrit became India’s youngest university student. He showed a great gift for medicine. At age fourteen, he became convinced that if someone would fund a laboratory for him, he would be able to cure cancer within a year.
He traveled to London’s Imperial College, where he met with some of the world’s leading cancer researchers. He amazed everyone with the depth and breadth of his medical knowledge. But the researchers soon realized that, despite his obvious gifts, his theories were unworkable. He came away understanding that—as smart as he was and as much as he had learned—he had a very long way to go.
The end of this story has yet to be written. Akrit Jaswal may yet cure cancer, but I suspect it will take many years—and he certainly won’t do it on his brainpower and knowledge alone.
Believe it or not, you’re sorely lacking in the knowledge department. Do you have any idea how rudimentary a high school education, and even a degree from a very fine college, is? As necessary as such an education is, it’s still just a start. Even scholars with doctorates often say that the biggest thing they have learned from their years of in-depth study is how little they actually know about their specialty.
Understanding the limitations of your present knowledge is one of the first steps down the long road to wisdom. The good news is that you already possess everything you need to succeed. Keep learning. The more you learn, the faster you’ll advance in your life and career.