The wisdom of choosing wise friends

Over the weekend, I spent a lot of time talking with Shannon Kamer by Skype. He lives only a couple of counties away from me here in Tennessee, but Skype provides a hands-free way for us to talk while we are exploring things on the Internet together. He was helping me set up WAMP5 on my system so that I could host a shadow version of my WordPress blog here on my own computer. As always, his help was invaluable in getting things to work properly. It was just the kind of hand-holding everyone can use when they are trying something new.

That experience impressed on me the value of choosing to associate with wise friends and smart people. The dilemma is that when you are dealing with someone who knows more than you do you tend to feel stupid by comparison, but in the end you expand your horizons in different ways than when you are the one sharing your expertise with others who may not know as much as you do. The humbling aspects of talking with someone like this are more than outweighed by the benefits of expanding your understanding. I think it’s a wise man who puts himself in the company of wiser friends.

In similar ways, though, there is also a benefit to sharing what you know with someone who doesn’t know as much as you do about a subject. It helps you sharpen your ability to make simple what to them seems complex, to hone your own explanations and understanding, because there is no better way to learn something than to try to teach it to someone else. And doing so is the obligatory tuition you pay for the privilege of having someone else share their knowledge with you.

Giving and taking, learning and teaching. They are the way we grow intellectually and stay alive and excited about life.

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