Thursday, August 02, 2018

The Art of the Good Life #33 : Prevention

This chapter begins by asking ourselves what is wisdom ?

This is a difficult question made more so if you play a lot of Dungeons and Dragons.

In D&D, characters are defined by attributes in both Intelligence and Wisdom. Intelligence is a trait favoured by Wizards and governs language and skills acquisition ( in the appropriate edition ) whereas Wisdom, favoured by clerics,  determined your ability to resist spells that affect your emotions.

Occasionally, a D&D player can end up with a character that has high Intelligence but low Wisdom and vice versa and it would be quite difficult to portray such a character properly in a role-playing game.

Rolf Dobelli has an interesting solution to this puzzle in D&D.

Whereas a person with high intelligence can find all sorts of creative and novels way to get out of the trouble, a person with high wisdom is usually smart enough to avoid trouble from happening in the first place. As such a cleric may be able to diplomatically talk his way out of fight, a wizard would throw a fireball to end the fight as quickly as possible, possibly triggering all the ramifications of murdering a bunch of hobgoblins in enemy territory.

A enjoy playing wizards a lot, but as I got older I realise that my playing style also reflects my general lack of wisdom that has made many of career transitions fail in the past in spite of my strong academic ability.

I was trained primarily work in an American MNC. We focused on results often through innovative approaches towards short-cuts and creative solutions in daily work. I thought I could attack bureaucratic paperwork when I transitioned into the government agency aggressively but for every short-cut I tried taking, things took a turn for worse, and I got slowed down even further.

A good government officer has wisdom but that often brings work habits that are bad in a faster moving environment. My most effective colleagues are expert ring-fencers. They had a deep encyclopaedic knowledge of what their specific job role and took steps to avoid taking on extra work which fell off the cracks. This way they can prevent being saddled with the paperwork in the workplace.

They even had better appraisal grades because they do their work well when it finally falls on their laps and there is very little that you can pin on them as fewer mistakes were made during the year.

Financial planning requires an equal does of intelligence and wisdom.

The intelligence is requires to decode the mathematical jargon and resolve the puzzles that Mr. Market constantly throws at you on a daily basis but wisdom is required to address the deeper mysteries of personal finance such as to realise your own personal risk appetite.


  1. Hi chris

    Wisdom is like strong contextual knowledge / street smarts?
    Knowing the hidden rules and navigate smoothly and to get things done without disrupting the flow? IMHO this requires strong situational awareness and understanding of human / workplace dynamics, and experience to acquire.

    Intelligence can allow you to solve complicated problems and inspire revolutionary ideas and change . But if the problem lies with the people / culture, there probably is no straightfoward solution to weed out a strongly embedded culture.

    Warren buffet often quoted business problems are easier to solve than the human ones. One may perform exceptional in the right environment and fail miserbaly in anothe. Look at the track record cord of our SAF generals =>CEOs

  2. If you choose between high Intelligence or Wisdom, which would you choose ?

  3. Hi,

    Intelligence will be more important to me. Wisdom is more of a survival trait. Everyone's answer may be different according to his circumstances.

  4. Hi

    My take is that flexibility is the way to survive in the dynamic working environment. The ability to adapt to the changing circumstance beat best to having the intelligence and wisdom. At the end of the day, the reward goes to those who are able to solve the problems and not always given to those who completed the given work.