Prompt 1: A Taxonomy of Wisdom

The fundamental objective for GameChangers GO is to make better decisions.

We all want to make great decisions for our careers, for our families, for our lives. Employers want employees to make better decisions at work. At the end of the day, success is defined by making great decisions.

To make better decisions, you have to know how to make decisions. And that quality and practice of good judgment in an uncertain world is known as wisdom.

For centuries, cultures regarded wisdom as a subject worthy of rigorous inquiry and study. It’s arguable, that wisdom was the ONLY subject that they studied. Immanuel Kant observed, “The Idea of wisdom must be the foundation of philosophy.” From Socrates and Plato to Buddha and Lao Tzu to any number of Native American elders, our greatest thinkers were answering the question: how do we flourish as humans? How should we live our lives?

Somehow we’ve hit a period where we, as a society, don’t ask these questions anymore. And that’s why you’re doing GameChangers GO.

In this first week, we’re going to explore the architecture of wisdom. The task is twofold.


Breakdown the qualities of wisdom. Wisdom, a subject of thousands of years of thought, has been defined thousands of ways by thousands of thinkers. Nonetheless, those many definitions have commonalities and recurrent themes. So your first task is to create a taxonomy of wisdom for yourself. While this list is not exhaustive, it should be a good start to start thinking:

  • Emotional regulation.
  • Temporal discounting.
  • Knowing what’s important – discernment.
  • Learning from failure, building habits from success.
  • Moral reasoning.
  • Compassion.
  • Humility.
  • Patience and self control
  • Dealing with uncertainty – emotional and intellectual.
  • Love
  • Higher Consciousness

Again, this list is by no means exhaustive. Or definitive. That’s your job. What is wisdom to you? Looking at the second task may be helpful.


Revisit a major decision from your life. While you may choose any decision you like, a decision that you regret or at least feel ambivalent about may provide more grist for the mill (although “regret” becomes an ambiguous word once you believe that your mistakes are where you learn).

How did you decide? What elements of the above list did you have? Which ones were missing? In building this new framework, would you have done anything different or at least thought through?

Note: Making wise decisions doesn't mean the result was positive. Consider this famous essay about the role of chance in how life plays out here. Related also is thestory of the Taoist farmer. Not every "good" result came from a good decision, just as not every bad result came from a bad decision. Separating good decision-making from outcomes is a key and difficult understanding.


Create a useable guide for yourself to make decisions. It can be a table, a graphical flowchart, or a list. The point is that it is usable. Using that piece, analyze the above major decision in your life. Would using your guide have helped you make a wise decision? That is the sine qua non of a good guide: it guides you into making a better decision. Would it resulted in a different outcome?

Post your project by Tuesday midnight (your cohort's time zone).

Comments on your fellow students' work due Thursday at noon. Keep in mind, Australians, that Americans are about half a day behind you, so their comments may be delayed in your time zone.

Addendum due Friday at 9am.

P.S. As I'm sure many of you already see, this is a pretty reductionist and mechanical way to understand wisdom. But it's an important first step to sharing a common vocabulary for this ineffable quality that we've started to study together. As we deepen our inquiry and deepen our relationships together, we'll be revisiting, deconstructing, and recalibrating our understanding of wisdom. But start here first.

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