By Michael Dean Ester 

Information isn’t knowledge. Neither of them is wisdom. College offers the first in abundance and then — this is the sucky part — it tests your ability to fake the second. But the third? Search “wisdom” on your school’s homepage. Ouch. What if the life-changing wisdom you’re meant to receive this semester, the proverbial spark responsible for setting your ambitions and character ablaze, passes under your nose unnoticed because you’re busy spinning information into knowledge?

Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld summed up wartime intelligence gathering this way: “There are things we know we know. In addition, there are things we know we don’t know. But there are also things we don’t know we don’t know. Unknown unknowns.”

Rumsfeld may have unwittingly given your education a purpose.

The problem with the information age is too much. Information, I mean. In pursuit of wisdom, ancient scholars crossed deserts and climbed mountains to huddle over elusive parchment scrolls. Today’s scholars suffer no such scarcity. Not only is the world’s collected wisdom in the palm of your hand; it’s searchable. It’s also obscured by a digital tsunami of excrement masquerading as valuable content: Wisdom! LIVE NUDE WISDOM! “THE 12 WISEST BITS OF WISDOM! #8 WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING!”


There are things you know you know. You’re smart and capable. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be in college. There are things you know you don’t know. Isn’t that why you take classes? (Q: What must you know before you can teach a dog? A: More than the dog.) And, yes — this is the sucky part — there are things you don’t know you don’t know. Wisdom starts here.

You receive wisdom when you discover an essential truth and it alters your life forever. It happens when the cosmos unrolls the right scroll. Often unexpectedly. Follow this blog. Next time it’s my turn, I’ll tell you how to major in wisdom. A single paragraph of essential truth recently made me rip out my calendar and refocus my career as a campus speaker. Why? I learned something I didn’t know I didn’t know. And it changed everything.

Michael’s Leadership Speaking

The Reason You’re Here