In this extract from her book “Lessons from Wednesday” Ayanna Castro explains how wisdom comes at a cost
I remember a conversation with a newer member of my board of directors. They mentioned that prior to really getting to know me, they watched my live social media posts and concluded that people can’t give that type of commentary, advice or insight without living through something. At first, I thought, “They are just blowing smoke. That was just something nice to say.” They went on to say how very impressed they were on how I was willing to be transparent.
Choosing to be transparent
Truth is, I know a lot of people who have gone through some really traumatic things and they have yet to be transparent, but their wisdom shows up in different ways. Those people are usually the calm in the midst of the storm when something catastrophic happens. They tend to be stoic and may appear to be very standoffish, but they have the ability to selflessly work with people who experience a similar trauma.
They have gone through situations so traumatic that when they share their story, the response is usually, “Oh my God, I can’t believe you lived through that.” Those people have this kind of built-in type of wisdom that you can’t get from a textbook or any psychology book. You can’t read about that type of wisdom anywhere. When people say, “That was so insightful.” understand that they not only respect your wisdom, but they also appreciate knowing there’s a backstory behind that wisdom.
I often talk about being transparent and I think about someone I’ve been asking to write a book for years. Very early on in our friendship, he told me just a little bit of his story. I asked him when he was going to write his life story and he said, and I quote, “I’m too young for that, maybe in 20 years.” My response was “You don’t know what tomorrow has for you. And who says you’re going to be here in 20 years? Instead of holding on to your story and not sharing it, you could be helping God knows how many other people. You’re impacting people one by one when you can be impacting the masses with your story.” He didn’t have an immediate witty response, which let me know I struck a nerve and he knew I was telling the truth.
Your wisdom came at a cost, but it’s worth sharing
The wisdom that you gain from your life experiences, heartaches and hardships is not there to break you. It’s to make you stronger. And as you get stronger, you are then able to impart that wisdom to somebody else. Have you ever been in a situation where you can see the road that this person is getting ready to head down and you were able to just say, “Wait a minute, don’t do it”? You don’t say it in a “know-it-all” type of way, but as a “Baby, I’ve been there, done that and have a tee shirt” type of way. I’ve had conversations like that with other women about the things that I’ve gone through. Battling infertility for years, having two babies back-to-back while working full-time, then losing a job, losing a grandmother and my father’s murder happened all in two weeks. I am able to have that conversation from a place of wisdom.
Eyewitness and life witness wisdom
There’s a difference between eyewitness and life witness wisdom. Life witness wisdom holds far more weight than somebody telling you, “Oh, I read somewhere that in order to get over the grief of significant loss, you should…” (Insert eye roll here.) Did you live it? Here’s another thing, wisdom does not come with age. Wisdom comes through experiences. The wisdom that you gain from experiences can be imparted to anybody at any age and you can gain that wisdom at any time.
Think about the time that you touched something for the first time, and it was hot, and you burned your hand. You were probably pretty young, right? I bet you were able to tell your little brother or sister, “Don’t touch that. That’s hot. It burned me.” That’s wisdom you were able to share to keep your sibling from getting hurt…you were a child.
Think about the time when you disobeyed your parents and missed curfew. What happened the next time you were able to go out after you were no longer grounded? Your friends wanted to hang out a little bit longer and you said, “No, because last time we did that, I got grounded.” I’ve met some real inept and narrow-minded 50-year-olds who have nothing to offer. In their view, the situation didn’t provide a lesson, so they won’t share it. The worst thing that you could do is be stingy with your wisdom. Why would you let somebody else go through what you’ve gone through without sharing how you overcame it?
Wisdom comes at a cost
It’s not going to be pretty or easy. You’re going to cry and you’re going to hurt. You’re going to want to throw things, cuss, fuss and scream. But at the end of it, all the wisdom that you gain is worth it. I would not exchange a single tear, panic attack or anxiety attack. I wouldn’t exchange a single time that I’ve had to get rushed to the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack. The wisdom that I gained was worth it for as much as I may love other people, I love me so much more; and if I do not love me first and take care of myself, I cannot possibly love anybody else.
Don’t think about your current situation as a negative. If you are in a bad situation right now, think of it as a training day. It might turn into training week, training month or training year. For some of us, our training is lengthy. So much so that you may really want to have a conversation with God. “Like really? Is this what we’re going to do? I’m still going through this? I do not have the patience of Job, this is ridiculous. I am still going through this Lord?” But then you come through it and you’re able to tell the masses what they are going through is worth the journey and the wisdom that they will gain from it is priceless.
Be careful how you share your story
I encourage you not to be selfish with your experiences, but also to be careful with how you share your story. I am a huge fan of Dr. Brene Brown. Her studies reveal that being vulnerable is very hard to do because there is shame wrapped up in that vulnerability. You must be careful with whom you share your story because not everyone can bear the weight. There are certain people I know I can tell anything. There’s nothing I can tell them that will make them clutch their proverbial pearls and say, “Girl, I can’t deal with you no more.” Then, there are some who said they could handle it, were tested and failed miserably. It wasn’t necessarily what they said, but what I saw in their eyes that let me know they couldn’t handle it. So, guess what? I still love them, and they still have a certain level of access to me, but I know I can’t share everything with them.
Don’t be selfish with the knowledge that you gain from your painful experiences
Here’s something you might not realize. All that wisdom is stored in your little birdie. You might have a temporary lapse, but your little birdie never forgets. She/he will remind you when you’re about to do something that will set you up for a repeated lesson due to your self-imposed shenanigans. Sometimes, we must go through lessons one, two, three, four or five times because the first through fourth time you really did not get the true meaning of the lesson. But by the fifth time, you finally get it.
We can go through the same lesson repeatedly. Not because we’re a glutton for punishment, but so that when we have finally learned the lesson, for that final time, we’re then equipped and qualified to give that knowledge to somebody else. Too often, we have people in our lives who can only provide eyewitness wisdom; yet, we allow them to weigh in on major decisions. Be the person for somebody else who is equipped and qualified to give life experience wisdom.