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Grow in Wisdom

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Step 3 to Financial Success: Grow in Wisdom!

Teacher Hints:  

---- Students love to hear your personal experience! Before previewing this lesson, jot down how learning (formal and informal) has helped you in life. Think of ways you've continued to learn on a daily and weekly basis. Think of relatives, friends others you know who have succeeded because they kept learning. 


----Either have students read this opening article for homework (online or print) or have several good readers read it aloud in class. At the end of the article, you'll find some activities, discussions and questions to reinforce this lesson. 

The middle finger represents the central practice that will insure good, steady work throughout your life: growing in wisdom. It includes sharpening your skills, increasing your knowledge and improving your character. 


WARNING: If you're not into going to classes and taking tests, please don't think that's the only way to learn! Hang in there to see how many ways there are to learn.   


Sharpen Your Skills
Benjamin Franklin was one of the most remarkable people who ever lived. Besides excelling as a statesman, author, inventor, printer and scientist, he helped to start a pretty neat country - the United States of America. 


The only way he could accomplish so much was to retire early, so that he could devote himself fully to his other pursuits. But he couldn't have retired early without developing his skills.  

As a boy, Ben's father often repeated one of Solomon's Proverbs to him:

"Do You see a man skilled in his work?
He will serve before kings;
He will not serve before obscure men."

In Franklin's case, this Proverb came true literally. He would stand before five kings. (1)


His father made candles and soap. From ages 10 to 12, Benjamin worked with him, but didn't enjoy the business. So his father would take him on walks to observe people working at different trades, to see if any of them appealed to his son. Since Benjamin loved books, he sent him at age 12 to learn printing under his older brother James. (2)


Benjamin worked hard at printing, learning it so well that at the age of 17 he went to work for a printer in Philadelphia. (3) Although the city already had two printers, he eventually set up his own print shop and prospered to the extent that he could take his early retirement. 


What worked in the 1700's works just as well in our time. In middle school, Bill Gates fell in love with computer programming. He developed his skills by spending massive amounts of time programming. During his high school years, he'd go after school to a local company to trouble-shoot their software. No wonder he became a software mogul. (4)


A young boy named Steven was vacationing with his family when he criticized the way his dad filmed the family. Out of frustration, his dad gave the camera to his son  and challenged him to do it better. He did. In fact he began to film his scouting trips and make movies with his neighborhood friends while in Junior High. They'd throw a sheet over a clothesline in his backyard and show the movies to the neighborhood kids. He attended college near Universal Studios and got his foot in the door, continuing to develop his skills until he became one of the most successful film directors ever. You know him as Steven Spielberg. (5)


Increase Your Knowledge
Bill Gates didn't allow himself to have a TV connection for years. And he disconnected the radio in his car. Why? He knew he needed all available time to think about and understand the software industry. (6)

There are so many ways to learn! Find what ways work best for you and pursue them. Here are a few examples:


Hang Out With Other Motivated Learners
Here's a pattern I've seen in many successful people. They keep motivated by hanging out with those who have similar interests. Here are some examples:

  • The world's best known theoretical physicist: Twenty-two-year-old Albert Einstein and like-minded friends met frequently in each other's homes or talked on hikes, sometimes all the way through the night. These conversations had an enormous impact on his future work. They called themselves ''The Olympia Academy.'' (7)
  • The most successful entrepreneur: Fifteen-year old Bill Gates met regularly with other computer enthusiasts who called themselves ''The Lakeside Programmers Group.'' (8)
  • One of the wisest men of his time: Benjamin Franklin met every Friday for decades with a diverse group of civic-minded thinkers called "Junto." Many of his great accomplishments were a result of cross-pollination from this group. (9)
  • Two popular writers: J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings) and C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) met with a group called ''The Inklings,'' on a weekday morning in a pub and Thursday evenings at Lewis' house, often reading their manuscripts aloud to get input. (10)

Do you have areas of interest that you'd like to develop, such as art, a sport, writing or programming? Why not find others with the same interests who can keep you motivated and give you fresh ideas?


Keep Taking Classes
Jack Welch, one of the most respected business leaders of our time, kept in school until he got his Ph.D. Especially in the fields like engineering, advanced degrees can get you ahead.  (11)

When professor  Thomas Stanley studied millionaires, he found that nine out of ten graduated from college. Five out of ten held advanced degrees. Most weren't the most academically gifted students. In fact, the average millionaire had a "C" average. But most hung in there and made it through. (12)


Benjamin Franklin's dad could only afford to send Ben to two years of school. But he self-educated through voracious reading. Franklin wrote:  

"From a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came into my hands was ever laid out in books." (13)

Warren Buffett had read over 100 business books by the time he graduated from high school.  (14) 


Get Creative!
Paul Orfalea is the super-successful founder of Kinko's, the chain of printing shops that brings in $1.5 billion a year. Severely dyslexic and ADD, growing up in a time when these challenges weren't understood, he didn't get any special assistance. To this day struggles to read, write or sit still in a business meeting. So he mapped out his own way to learn. As an adult, he came to see his "disabilities" as assets. He wasn't weird; he was unique. 


He got through school by depending on others to help him. Then, he carried this over to his business. Instead of assuming that he knew best what to do with his business, he assumed that anyone could do anything better than himself. So he hired others and delegated responsibilities to responsible people. 

Orfalea became the idea-machine that relentlessly improved each store. He'd go from store to store asking questions and observing. He'd take the best ideas from each of his stores and pass them on to other stores. His personal office didn't have filing cabinets and e-mail. He couldn't deal with written words. Instead, he'd take ideas from stores on his answering machine and forward those messages to other stores. (15)


The Bottom Line on Knowledge
Orfalea was a voracious learner, picking up ideas from everywhere and applying them to his business. Some people learn best from classes. Others by talking to smart people. Others by learning from mentors. Still others from online classes or books or listening to CD's of books. 

The bottom line? Learn any way you can...but never stop learning! 


Improve Your Character 
Professor Stanley, in his study of millionaires, found that it took more than skills and knowledge to make them successful. When asked about the most important factors that contributed to their success, their top three factors were character qualities  :

#1 - "Being honest with all people"
#2 - "Being well disciplined"
#3 - "Getting along with people" (16)

Benjamin Franklin knew this well, and set up a strategy to improve his character. He listed thirteen virtues, giving each a page in a book. Each week, he'd pay attention to one virtue, recording the specific ways he failed at that virtue each day. The next week, he'd concentrate on the next virtue. (17)


Example: Franklin often needed to persuade people of the importance of a project, or the importance of doing it a certain way. To accomplish this, he found that using words like "certainly" or "undoubtedly" generated more heat than light. Instead, he found his ideas better received when presented them with phrases like "it appears to me...."  By coming across more humble and tentative, people were more receptive to his ideas. (18)


Repeatedly in his autobiography, Franklin noted otherwise ingenious people who became losers through alcohol abuse, laziness or some other character flaw. Franklin knew that character mattered. 


One financial advisor said the key to his success was that he never stopped learning. That's great advice for all of us. (19)

Activities, Discussions and Questions


Targeting a Vocation (Research Activity)
So what kind of education do you need? In part, that might be decided by what kind of job you want. If you start with understanding the job and its requirements you can work your way backward to the education you need. 


Let's say you want to be a Chef. Go to a large database of job openings, such as www.monster.com and see what qualifications restaurant owners are looking for. Are they looking for graduates of big name cooking schools? Then you may need to go there. Are they looking for four year degrees. Then get one.


Do they want five years experience? Then start somewhere as an apprentice or dishwasher to get your foot in the door.


If you want to be a Web Designer, go to Monster to discover what companies are looking for. Do they want four year degrees, or certifications in specific software and programming languages? If the latter, a technical school may do the trick. Do they want at least three years experience and a portfolio of sites you've designed for others? Then get an apprenticeship or start building sites on the cheap to demonstrate your expertise.  


For homework, make a list of at least four vocations that interest you. Then, go to monster.com to see what types of education would best prepare you for that job. 

Extra credit: Talk to someone who has one of these jobs to find out how they'd recommend preparing. 


2. Start Your Resume
Writing  a resume helps you to uncover assets you didn't know you had and helps you find holes in your training that need to be filled. 


Odds are, you'll change jobs several times during your lifetime. So start building your resume now and update it for the rest of your life. Your resume lets your potential employer know that you've got the skills and character necessary to work well with their business. 


Put yourself in the shoes of an employer. What does she want. She wants someone who shows up every day on time, works hard, and either has or is willing to develop the skills necessary to excel in her business. So convince her in your resume that you're the one for the job!


  • List any relevant courses or experiences you've had. 

  • Tell about any awards you've received. 

  • List service opportunities you've participated in.

  • Get quotes from teachers or former employees about your strong points. ("Customers love her!")

Formatting and Writing a Resume:

Get hints from professionals at monster.com. Click "career advice."  


Hang Out With Winners 
Discuss the interest groups that meet at your school. Is there an art club, drama club, robotics club, etc.? How can these serve the same purpose as Tolkien's and Lewis' "Inklings," or Franklin's "Junto"?


Outside of school, you can find other interest groups for everything from PhotoShop clubs to investment clubs to Web Design clubs through Web sites like www.meetup.com


Another plus of interest groups: research suggests that people who hunt jobs as a team find more success than those who hunt individually. If your interest group is heading toward the same type career, you're more likely to get inside information on great companies that are hiring. 


Research Something That Excites You
Not really into learning new things? Why not start with something that already interests you? By seeking wisdom in an area of interest,  you acquire the skill of seeking wisdom in any area. Perhaps you'd love to lose weight, get in better shape, learn to play guitar or learn to draw Anime. 


Whatever your interest, fashion your own short-term and long-term education to learn more about it. 

Example: "I want to learn to play electric guitar." 

Step 1: Ask all the people I know who play guitar to find out how they learned - instructional videos that were helpful, chord books, local instructors, etc. 

Step 2: Search  "Beginner Electric Guitar" at www.youtube.com for free video instruction.  


"Know Thyself"
Does your school do some type of interest/vocational/psychological inventory? If so, this would be a good time to either take one or study the one that's already on file. Students will probably discover something about their interests, personalities and learning styles that will help them know how they learn best.  


"Outside of the Box" Education
Because of his problems with reading and writing, Orphalea developed his own styles of learning. Get in small groups and brainstorm ways to learn that others might not think about. 


Ideas could include downloading talks by experts in your field on your mp3 player, checking out CD's from the library, finding instructional courses on www.youtube.com , studying free curriculum offered on the Web by top universities, such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Growing in Character
Make a list of character traits that you think are important for your success. If you need some ideas, here's Benjamin Franklin's list:

  1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
  13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Now, come up with a method for improving in the traits you chose in your own life. 



Further Resources on Growing in Wisdom
Members of www.character-education.info can look under each character trait in the member's section for ideas, research and inspiration. The section on "Learning" has a tremendous amount of quotes, stories, etc., divided topically into the various ways people learn. 


Connection With Money Book
This lesson and activities correspond with several chapters in section three of our book, Money: How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Enjoy It!  Due on the market in the Fall of 2008.


Recommended Books on Growing in Wisdom

  • Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Unabridged Dover Thrift Edition, Mineola, NY: 1996) - With only two years of formal education, Franklin describes how he became one of the wisest men ever. 
  • Copy This! : Lessons from a Hyperactive Dyslexic who Turned a Bright Idea Into One of America's Best Companies (Workman Publishing, New York: 2005). Great ideas on how those with difficulties in reading and writing can gain and pass on wisdom in nontraditional ways. 
  • Winning, by Jack Welch and Suzy Welch (Collins: 2005). Welch transformed one of the largest companies in the world into an idea-driven machine. He didn't assume that the best ideas would come from the top, but searched for great ideas at all levels. Great ideas for your business.
  • How to Win Friends & Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. First published in 1937, this book has sold 15 million copies and is today, 70 years later, as I write, still ranked #123 by Amazon! Why? Because Carnegie did some of the greatest research ever accomplished on personal relationships and told us about it with interesting, illuminating people stories. 
  • Sam Walton: Made In America, by Sam Walton and John Huey (Bantam: 1993). Wal-Mart beat out other discount retailers who were often better financed. I think a big part of the difference was Sam Walton's passion for retailing wisdom. He was as idea-driven as anyone I've ever studied. Whereas DaVinci was intensely curious about many things, Walton shows us what its like to be intensely curious about one thing: retailing. From formal education to learning from competitors to reading journals to talking to experts to drawing wisdom from his truck drivers (using free donuts as leverage), Walton was an incredible learner who can inspire us all. 
  • Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Now, Discover Your Strengths, By Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton (The Free Press, New York, NY: 2001). Management guru Peter Drucker lamented that "Most Americans do not know what their strengths are." Growing in wisdom involves knowing yourself. This book, and the accompanying free, Web-based StrengthsFinder Profile, is based on a Gallup study of over 2,000,000 people in the workplace. 

End Notes

  1. Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Unabridged Dover Thrift Edition, Mineola, NY: 1996), p. 62. 
  2. Ibid., p. 9.
  3. Ibid., p. 16. 
  4. Bill Gates Speaks: Insights from the World's Greatest Entrepreneur, by Janet Lowe, John Wiley and Sons, 1998, pp. 3-16; also Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry - and Made Himself the Richest Man in America, by Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews (Simon and Schuster, New York: 1994), pp. 31ff.
  5. Steven Spielberg, by Joseph McBride, Simon and Schuster, 1997.
  6. Gates, opt. cit., pp. 232, 253.
  7. Albert Einstein: A Life, by Denis Brian, 1996, John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
  8. Gates, opt. cit., pp. 80-83.
  9. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, opt. cit., pp. 45,46,79, 81.
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, by Humphrey Carpenter (First Houghton Mifflin paperback edition, New York: 2000), pp. 152-155.
  11. Jack Welch, with John A Byrne, Jack: Straight From the Gut (Warner Books, New York: 2001 (pp. 14-18)
  12. Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D., The Millionaire Mind (Andrew McMeel Publishing, Kansas City: 2001), pp. 87-131.
  13. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, opt. cit., p. 9. 
  14. Roger Lowenstein, Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist (A Main Street Book, New York: 1995), p. 28.
  15. Paul Orfalea and Ann Marsh, Copy This! Lessons from a hyperactive dyslexic who turned a bright idea into one of America's best companies (Workman Publishing, New York: 2005)
  16. The Millionaire Mind, opt. cit., p. 34. 
  17. Benjamin Franklin, opt. cit., pp. 63-72.
  18. Ibid., p. 
  19. David W. Latko, Everybody Wants Your Money (Collins: 2006)