For a while now, I have wanted to put together an editorial with some quotes from noted thinkers. Often, those who have gone before us in this adventure we call life, or our career, can help us if we take the time to listen. This column offers a few ideas on how we can learn from those sages that surround us or have gone before us.

Let’s start with a quote by Confucius, who said, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.” We’ll touch on all of these as we proceed.

Using the definition of reflection to be “consideration of some subject matter, idea or purpose,” you are reflecting as you read this column. In these columns, our goal is to provide information for reflection, which might help you individually or your company corporately.

I recently read an article in another publication about a man named Lee Anderson. Coincidentally, he has the same job title as do I, associate publisher and editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Anderson provides a work ethic that we can all reflect upon. At 85 years of age, he is about to complete his 60th year of employment at the paper. His complete story is not really the point, but what can we learn as we reflect on such an individual? Anderson is a steady worker and enjoys his job because he has been able to find pleasure at both challenges and tedium. Reflect on that.

Imitation is the easiest way to learn because we can look at what others are doing and do likewise. Much of what we do at Industrial Heating provides opportunity for imitation. The feature articles in this magazine may offer something you can imitate. The Heat Treat Doctor column almost always provides useful information for imitation.

Another opportunity for imitation in 2012 is our IH Training webinars. Beginning in March, we will provide four training webinars on the following topics: Heat Treating Stainless Steels Right, Facility-Wide Energy-Saving Approaches, Quenching for Induction Heating and All About Carburizing. Take advantage of these opportunities to hear from our experts and find something to imitate, which can help you do your job better.

IH Training also provides some of the third learning tool – experience. Our expert instructors each have decades of experience in the thermal-processing industry. You may just learn something from one of their mistakes that would prevent you from repeating it. Perhaps by listening for that hour, you may pick up a little industry wisdom. Another newspaper guy, Doug Larson, is quoted as saying, “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.”

A leader like Dan DiMicco, Nucor CEO, is an example of someone from whom we can learn wisdom. In a recent interview, DiMicco suggested some traits that helped him to successfully lead Nucor. They include but are not limited to: persistence, a can-do attitude, a strong work ethic and a sense of humor. Like Larson’s quote, DiMicco shares that one of his “professional credos” is, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.” He believes that you should give people “the tools, resources and training to do the job and then get the heck out of their way.” At IH, we try to provide some of those tools, resources and training to help you and your employees succeed.

Without delving into another related but different topic, let’s stay on the wisdom theme and take a look at some more quotes. Ben Franklin said, “The doors of wisdom are never shut,” and Socrates believed that “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

Albert Einstein said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Abraham Lincoln was considering how life’s experiences make us wiser when he said, “I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” Plato chimed in on the talking/listening theme when he said, “Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” Thomas Jefferson felt that “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”

Considering the future of our companies, George Bernard Shaw reflected, “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past but by the responsibility for our future.” And Peter Drucker’s advice was, “Long-range planning does not deal with future decisions but with the future of present decisions.” Reflect … and be wise. IH