Being Smart vs. Being Wise

facebooktwitterlinkedinby featherMy son, the law professor and published author (, recently included this quote in a birthday card to me.


There is a wisdom that develops as we age. What was once unnoticed gets noticed. What was once important is no longer important.

My friend and jazz teacher Vinny Ruggieri told me something interesting recently. He was performing with a band and quickly realized that the other musicians were not very good. He felt like he was the only one improvising sophisticated melodies, while the rest of the group was lagging behind in talent and skills. Then one day, he heard the band perform without him. They were fantastic! Humbled, he realized that it was his performance that had been dragging the band down all along… Vinny just experienced “wisdom.”

What is the difference between being “smart” and being “wise?” Today, because of the Internet, the average person has access to more knowledge and information than ever before in history. Moreover, many more people are literate and hold professional degrees. We could argue that society as a whole is getting smarter. But does intelligence immediately equate to wisdom? Or can you be smart without necessarily being wise?

It is a common conception that wisdom is a natural by-product of aging, like sprouting white hair or getting more wrinkles. A few years ago I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Steve Franklin, who directs the site, which attempts to “capture the wisdom of America’s Centenarians and share it with the younger generation.” At the end of his talk, he handed out 10 Centenarian take-aways, which I have listed below:

  1. Educate. Centenarians suggest you get educated about finances.
  2. Save 10% minimum of your income. Centenarians advise 10% as an absolute minimum.
  3. Diversify your assets. Centenarians suggest you don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
  4. Own your home. Many Centenarians said with a “twinkle in their eye” this was their best financial decision in life.
  5. Don’t bet on NOT living to 100! Plan for it. 99+% of our Centenarians never thought they would live to 100.
  6. Write down your definition of Rich. Pursue it. Centenarians define rich as much more than money.
  7. Select your own “Secrets” for living to 100. Centenarians give you lots of tips and options
  8. Don’t worry. Centenarians say it just causes stress and puts lines in your face.
  9. Be a Giver. When asked what they would do with a million dollar gift, Centenarians said they would give it away.
  10. Work as long as you can. Many Centenarians worked into their 80’s, 90’s and past 100.

I once heard someone define being smart versus being wise by saying that a smart man learns from his mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.

We don’t have to wait till we turn 100 years old to begin acquiring wisdom. We can start now by learning from the experiences of those who’ve gone before us. The wisdom of the centenarians was developed through years of mistakes and successes that we can learn from.

But wisdom is more than a head full of information. True wisdom is the ability to practically apply the things we learn. It is smart to read these nuggets of advice from those who have lived a century. But we become wise when we take this advice and begin applying it to our life.

To see some terrific Centenarian videos, visit

Written by Jaimie Blackman

Jaimie Blackman

Jaimie Blackman — a former music educator & retailer— is a Certified Wealth Strategist & Succession Planner. Jaimie helps business owners maximize the value of their company through education & coaching. He is a frequent speaker at the National Association of Music Merchants, (NAMM) Idea Center and has spoken at Yamaha’s succession advantage.

As a financial literacy educator he has taught at New York University and has lectured at the 92nd Street Y, Marymount Manhattan College and CUNY.

His column is published in The Music & Sound Retailer and contributes to NAMM U online, as well as other industry trade magazines.

Jaimie is CEO of Jaimie Blackman & Company, President of BH Wealth Management, and Creator of MoneyCapsules® and the Sound of Money®.

To register for Jaimie’s live webinars, or to subscribe to his podcasts, visit

The purpose of this post is to educate. Our content should not be construed as advice. If legal, tax or other advice is required by the readers, professional advice should be sought.

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