When I was in college, I saw a bumper sticker on a car in front of me that has stuck with me over the last 15 years. It said:
A Thorough Knowledge of the BIBLE
is Worth More Than a college education
It was actually a college student who was driving the car. I wasn’t sure what to make of that bumper sticker. It was brash and seemingly over-confident in its assessment right down to its capitalization. Sure, the Bible is life-changing but could it really hold the key to everything that I would encounter as an adult? I dismissed it as the bumper sticker of a narrow-minded Bible thumper. But recently, I’m beginning to think differently.
I read a good amount of business and leadership material. Not sure why – it’s what I’m into at the moment. But what I’ve noticed is that most often, the “jewels” of HBR, leadership journals, or the Godins and Peters of the world can be found in the book of Proverbs. And it usually only takes two sentences instead of twenty pages. Proverbs is full of something that scholars call “aphorisms” – They are simply generalized pieces of wisdom and wit that stand the test of time. Sure, Solomon probably had something to do with writing them, but more likely he was involved in the process of collecting them. They already existed and were in use not just in Jewish circles, but in other religious/ethnic circles as well. Why? Because you can live your life by them. Here are some Proverbs and their business counterparts.
Dan Pallotta from Havard Business Review says this about workplace gossip:
In business, for some reason, we don’t appreciate that the stakes are just as high, despite the fact that we spend much of our waking lives at work. Think of the amount of energy that goes into people undermining other people — all working for the same company — through gossip, for example…But gossip kills possibility…We end up working harder to undermine our fellow workers than we work to make the business work out in the market place. Competitors couldn’t possibly thwart the possibility of our success to the degree we thwart it ourselves.
The book of Proverbs deals with this same issue in 1/3 the space:
Proverbs 14:15: “The gullible believe anything they’re told; the prudent sift and weigh every word” (Message).
Proverbs 16:28 “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends” (NLT).
Lots of people spend lots of money on business school — and it’s often a worthy investment. You can learn new skills, broaden your network, and postpone reality for two years. But I’ve always thought about offering a far cheaper business credential — enduring advice for managers of any kind that I call The Four-Word MBA.
Here it is:
Talk less. Listen more.
Give it a try. It’ll make you a better leader.
I love Daniel Pink’s writings, but this idea is already in a book I own:
Proverbs 12:15: “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others” (NLT).
Proverbs 19:20: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise” (NIV).
My kids aren’t ready for the Harvard Business Review yet. But they are old enough to absorb the wisdom found in a proverb. Why? Because it’s never too early to learn about people. And no matter what business we enter, we still have to build relationships with those around us. The book of Proverbs can give them a head start. I don’t know that my kids will slap that same bumper sticker on the back of their car once they arrive at college. But maybe that wisdom can translate into a foundation for living that will enhance the knowledge they gain once they are there. It’s just a guess. Check back in twenty years and we’ll see.