A Word to the Un-Wise: 5 Keys to Wisdom and Wealth

UPDATED: March 25, 2016
PUBLISHED: February 23, 2015

In my never-ending quest for the inner causes of outer wealth, I believe I have discovered its bedrock foundation.

That foundation is wisdom. It is the fount from which all other success principles flow.

I think a lot about the concept of inner and outer success, and believe your outer world is a direct reflection of your inner world. Trying to change your outer world with no care for your inner one is like trying to remove your facial hair by looking in the mirror and shaving your reflection’s face. Things get messy and you still look like Ethan Hawke. (I tried making this a gender-neutral analogy, but it just wasn’t as funny. Sorry, ladies.)

Strive to move around outer things all you want, but if you ignore your inner world—your mind, soul and spirit—either they won’t budge or they will all revert to their previous condition very quickly.

Within us all, there is a space reserved for a very valuable commodity. This space is either empty or full, or somewhere in between. And this space is reserved for wisdom. 

Related: 16 Rich Habits

The point of this article is to stop chasing money and success… and to start chasing wisdom. Here are five ways to find it:

1. Cultivate humility.

If wisdom is the foundation of true and lasting wealth, then humility is very near the foundation of wisdom. I mean, how can you possibly receive wisdom if you think you already have it? Thinking “I’m wise” is the hallmark of the fool.

I know a lot of people. I can count on half of one hand the number of them I would consider truly wise. Wisdom is extraordinarily rare.

So be teachable. Be open. Don’t be a know-it-all. Remember Thomas Edison’s words: “We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything.” He was kind of smart.

I know a lot of know-it-alls that think they’re humble. Be aware of how easy it is to deceive yourself. Realize that most people think they’re good when they’re actually 100 percent self-interested. Narcissists don’t know they’re narcissists. That’s what makes them narcissists.

And stop thinking I’m referring to someone other than you in particular right now. I’m not saying you’re a narcissist, but are you? In order to know you need to…

2. Wake up and pay attention.

Become a keen observer of yourself, other people and events. Be both self-aware and socially aware. In other words, wake up. Most people are in a subconsciously self-induced trance. They think they’re moving about freely, when in reality they are a slave to circumstance. 

Constantly be observing, analyzing and processing the world around and within you. Always be looking for the deeper meaning of everything.

Ask yourself this question as often as possible: Why am I really doing this? Ask the same question of other people as well. Another good question to ask regularly is, What’s really going on here?

Related: Answer 6 Questions to Reveal Your Life Purpose

3. Recognize patterns.

“Pattern recognition is the essence of all human thinking.” – Ray Kurzweil

Now that you’re humble, awake and attentive, begin to recognize patterns.

When I do this… this happens.
When I do that… that happens.
When I say this in this situation… I tend to get slapped more often than not.

And so on.

4. Learn from mistakes.

The most important patterns you’ll want to be aware of will be the one’s involving mistakes—both yours and others. Learn from them, but preferably from others more than your own.

Mistakes are a good thing. It means you’re not sitting on your couch. Truly view them as a good thing. Stop acting surprised when they occur. How could they not? We are all flawed and far from perfect. The journey to perfection requires hundreds… thousands… of mistakes. So make as many as possible as fast as possible! They will get fewer and fewer the wiser you become. Each one is merely a guide to point you in the right direction. Really, and I mean really, see it that way.

You know you’re giving mere lip service to the whole “failing forward” concept when you are heartbroken over failure. People who have truly moved this truism from their heads to their hearts get excited when they fail. Why? Because they know that it is an opportunity to both grow in character and learn a very valuable lesson.

5. Become a knowledge collector.

Collecting stamps is cool. Collecting knowledge is even better.

I’m just kidding. Collecting stamps is not cool. I mean do it by all means… just don’t tell anyone. That would not be wise.

Personally I am a fiend for knowledge. I want to know everything. I’m in the middle of a 1,000- page book on the history of the Jewish people (I’m not Jewish), a collective biography of the most celebrated intellectuals in the history of the world, an instructional book on becoming a self-made billionaire, the Bible (always), a book on female hormones (so I can understand my 13-year-old daughter better… she’s currently 1 month old), and five other books.

How do you know you’re a real truth seeker? When you can write the paragraph above and not be lying. 

We’re in a knowledge economy. Do you want more money? I suggest you get more knowledge. If we were still in an agricultural economy, I would be suggesting you get more land. We’re not.

Related: Rohn: Read All the Books to Rise Above the Ordinary

Be humble.

Wake up.

Use all your knowledge to help you recognize patterns.

Apply all your knowledge to your life no matter how painful it might be.

Learn from all the mistakes you make in the process.

Do this and you will become wise. And wealthy.

“The wise have wealth and luxury.” Solomon

Preston Ely is founder and CEO of RealEstateMogul.com, an Inc. magazine "Fastest Growing Company." He has built and sold multiple businesses and was recently voted one of Fast Company's "Most Influential People On The Internet." He makes $0 a year teaching success principles; he makes millions of dollars a year applying them to his own life and businesses. He writes articles for SUCCESS.com for the fun of it. Follow him at PrestonEly.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.